Hiking a Trail One-Half Mile from Home

Friday, May 1, 2020

Friday Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times #7!

Guess what? In today (Friday's) New York Times, the "Books" section has an article, with links, "What Do Famous People's Bookshelves Reveal?" I was so excited to see it, and the links make the article, by the way.
Ways to get this article: Try the link, but if you don't get access, try this: The best way I know for non-subscribers to get an article is to google the title of the article in quotes and then The New York Times.
The lead of the article reads, "Bibliophiles do not approach bookshelves lightly. A stranger’s collection is to us a window to their soul. We peruse with judgment, sometimes admiration and occasionally repulsion (Ayn Rand?!)."

This week's bookshelf is from one of the craft room's bookcases. It's a hodgepodge of titles mostly, a number of which I haven't read.
One of these is Sara Donati's epic Into the Wilderness, the first in a series of five historical novels set in the early days of the U.S. It was first published in 1998, and is still in print. From the blurb on the back: "It is December 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered--a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as her own family."

For a complete change of pace I took down Gaston Dorren's Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages.  I have read parts of this book, but other books came calling. I keep meaning to come back because the polyglot in me has been nudging me to return to it. It was first published in the UK in 2014, and in the US in 2015. Dorren is a Dutch linguist, journalist, and polyglot, and this book, which he wrote in English, takes the reader on a tour of Europe telling fascinating stories about each language he meets along the way. It appealed to me especially because I wish I were a polyglot. If only I had the time to learn at least six new languages! I studied French more than any other language and can read it well, but speaking??? Very shaky and low confidence. I've also studied Russian and German but would be lost if I had to read a newspaper or converse. But I can pronounce correctly the names of all the Russian tennis players! Anyway, the appeal of languages draws me in. A fun book.

My next book is Alison Weir's Queens of the Conquest: England's Medieval Queens, Book One. I imagine if you live in the UK and know your history well, you are probably well-acquainted with Eleanor of Aquitaine, but there is also Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror, and Matilda of Scotland, Adeliza of Louvain, Empress Maud, and a few others. Why I haven't devoured this yet is a mystery.  This is precisely why I'm glad to be doing this bookshelf traveling. I'm becoming reacquainted with my library and have dozens and dozens of books I'd love to read.

My final book pulled from this bookshelf today is A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination by Philip Shenon (2013). The truly shocking fact is that before this book was published, loads and loads of facts about the investigation into President Kennedy's assassination were suppressed, only partially exposed, and hidden. In 1964, there were many, many young men and a few young women involved in the investigation who were staffers for the Warren Commission, and they uncovered evidence that never made it into the Commission's final report. These individuals enthusiastically told their stories to Shenon, in a last-ditch effort to reveal many truths before the former staffers ran out of time, literally. I read the first 100 pages (out of 550) and then dabbled in and out of the rest of the book. I must go back.

This book would be on my extensive Kennedy Family bookshelf in one of our oak living room bookcases, but there is no room there now. I hope to visit this overloaded shelf in a future Bookshelf Traveling episode at some point.


  1. Fabulous books, Judith! Would love to read Into the Wilderness... will look into that. And the languages book... wonderful. I loved French at school, also learnt a little Russian and realise now that I should've done something with langauges as a career. I also keep thinking that I would love to learn Latin. Perhaps after this crisis is over I should do something about that. Very intrigued by the Kennedy book, I have a couple on my tbr pile.

  2. Hi Cath,
    Since I "uncovered" Into the Wilderness, I'm very drawn to it as well. I must read it!
    How interesting to know that you loved French! That makes sense really, considering your affinity for all sorts of fiction and nonfiction set in France. And did you do some Russian! A tough language, for sure, but so interesting, n'est-pas?
    And how fascinating that you ARE indeed into languages. Believe me, it is not too late to pursue them, not by any means whatsoever!
    And oh, Latin is such a rewarding language. I did take two years of it in high school, but although it helped me learn German (can you believe that unlikely fact?), I could never converse in it the way my older brother and my mother's cousin could. But, truth be told, I don't think conversing in Latin is the point at all.
    Cath, I don't think you need to wait for all of this to be over to study Latin. Indeed, NOW is the perfect time to study it. So many online resources! Online language study is the rage now.
    I would love to study a language now if I had a buddy... In other words, if you find yourself to be in the mood, you could study your favorite language and I would select one to pursue and we could encourage each other on.
    I wish I were interested in Latin now, but I think I'm apt to return to German or Russian, in addition to keeping up with my reading in French. Wouldn't that be kind of a fun project? Oh, do shoot me down if you have no interest! I won't mind a bit, although my brother David, who does pharmaceutical research on Alzheimer's at Harvard and who is a specialist in geriatric psychiatry, says: New language learning and learning to play or playing a new musical instrument are excellent for OLD BRAINS! Hah!

    1. At last some time to come and answer your comment. I don't know where the weekends go...

      Yes, I was a French fiend at school, top of the class every year, sorry don't mean to sound boastful just stressing how much I enjoyed it. I just wish I'd continued with it past the age of sixteen. I did a year of Russian when I was about 15. A group from my year were going on an educational cruise to Russia. Unfortunately my mother couldn't afford to send me (one parent family) but the they opened the Russian lessons to anyone who wanted to attend so off I went (ran). So slowly but surely all the other students gave up and for the last 6 weeks or so it was just me and the teacher who 'was' Russian and was over from the local Grammar school to teach us. By the time the lessons finished I was reading from Russian children's books and translating as I went along. Happy days.

      I own a book entitled 'Learn Latin' by Peter Jones which I bought a few years ago and which I must investigate properly to see what I can pick up. Plus, look at online resources. I'm also keen to improve my French as I'd like to go back to France at some stage ( we used to visit my late sister-in-law who lived there) and it would be nice to be able to converse or at the very least be understood in shops. My French is quite basic, I could not, for instance, read an adult book, but probably an easy children's one. (In fact I reviewed one for an American living in Provence last year.) I even looked into local tutors and found quite a few living locally so I may go down that route. Whatever, I need to go down *a* route and do something that will stretch my brain a bit, but also be useful.

      I was speaking to my grandson on the phone on Friday and he's just chosen his options for GCSEs. You'll love this, he's doing German. He's been doing it for a couple of years and really likes it. Hmm, wonder if I can get him to teach me when lockdown ends...

      I'll stop here or you'll be asleep. LOL

    2. Cath,
      I think you have extraordinary language ability, by my estimation as a former teacher (though not of a foreign language). I enthusiasticly encourage you to "try on" reacquainting yourself with French, and introducing yourself to Latin, and whatever else you fancy. How fortunate you were to have the individual attention of a devoted Russian teacher! Such happy memories indeed. I'm not totally positive which language I'm going to throw myself into at this point. The last few days I've been dabbling in German, but I'm curious to go forth in Russian and to keep up with my reading ability in French.
      My mother's cousin was incredibly adept with languages. He went to Harvard, became fluent in Latin, Greek, Arabic, French, and Spanish. And then he planned a vacation in Italy. And my mother asked him, "Can you speak Italian?" And he said, "I'll know when I get there!"
      And I am very enthused about your grandson choosing German. Such great literature to read in German, really. And yes, are you interested in studying German? I could be convinced!

  3. Lingo looks fascinating. I am delighted to find that I have a love of languages in common with you and Cath. I did French, German and Latin at school. I wish I'd kept up with them. I did start Amo, Amas, Amat by Henry Mount in an attempt to revise my knowledge - now maybe the time to go back to it again. And Alison Weir's book looks great - l don't know much about that period.

    1. Hi Margaret,
      Just today, I dug into reviewing German, especially pronunciation, starting off with the Manga online language learning site. It is offered for free to those with New York Public Library cards. I spent a couple of hours, and I mostly concentrated on pronunciation, getting my tongue around words which encompass all the vowel sounds in German.
      French is second nature to me, maybe because I started intensively studying it when I was twelve right on through college. My goal is to select a French novel and play with that, perhaps. We'll see.
      As we've said, this is a good time for playing around with languages.
      Margaret now I'm going to go back to your blog and respond on what you've written by adding below.

    2. Hi Margaret,
      I drooled over your post of favorite cookbooks. I must see how I can get a hold of the one on pies by HairyBikers AND the one entitled Home Baking Cookbook. The recipe you featured in the photo, "Crunchy Fruitcake" definitely caught my eye! I must pursue forthwith! Thank you!

  4. Hi Judith - glad you found my post - I forgot to add the link. I hope you find the Hairy Bikers and the Home Baking Cookbook - I bought that one secondhand recently. It's published by Parragon books Ltd 1407554549 (ISBN13: 9781407554549), if that's any help.

    1. Margaret,
      Did you buy the Home Baking Cookbook secondhand online by any chance? These days that's how I'm getting almost all of my secondhand books. And I have been thinking that I don't know when, if ever, public libraries will be able to host book sales. Social distancing would be absolutely impossible without a drastic scheduling overhaul. I don't know if a library could make it work indoors or outdoors.
      And thank you so much for the ISBN! That fruitcake would taste great about now.

  5. Into the Wilderness sounds good. I just read an historical fiction book (Instruments of Darkness) set in England, but a portion of the story involved soldiers who were fighting in American during the revolutionary war (1775). I realized how little I know about that time in our history.

    Queens of the Conquest also sounds very interesting, I want to learn more about those times. But don't know if I am up to adding a new nonfiction book to my shelves when I don't read the ones I have.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      No question about it, I think the best way for anyone to be introduced to a historical time period in any region or country is via historical fiction. And for me, seeing the movie Dr. Zhivago when I was 14, which enthused me to read the huge novel at 15, which led to my studying Russian history and Russian language in college, and onward! A novel written by an author who knows her research is the best. And yeah, I know, nonfiction can be downright difficult to trudge through without that story incentive.
      There are loads of great historical novels set during the Revolutionary War.
      Also Sharon Kay Penman has written many, many historical novels that I've loved set during the late medieval period in England. They are long!

  6. And I am working on my Bookshelf Traveling post today, hope I finish it soon. I spent all of yesterday shopping online for masks, doing laundry, working on my back "yard" and accompanying my husband and son to Costco although I did not go in. And cooking a bit, trying to perfect a pulled chicken barbecue recipe we have been playing with for years.

    1. I sympathize with you shopping for masks. I've been using a scarf that is in a shape that tugs down neatly over my mouth and nose, but...not ideal. And you know, I do know how to sew, but my heart is NOT into making masks. I will order some online. Would you let me know if you find a site that sells good ones?

  7. That is such an interesting set of books. I would be interested in all of them. Like you I would love to be able to speak multiple languages, but only learned French, German and Latin and have taught myself some Dutch. Watching Scandi crime shows and dramas has made me realise that so much of their vocabulary is very similar to Scots words.

    1. Katrina,
      And you have ONLY learned French, German, and Latin! That's quite a lot. How interesting that Scandinavian languages share something with Scots words, but as we know from history, that's totally understandable!

  8. I've been meaning to read Into the Wilderness for a few years now--on my TBR shelf and everything.

    The Alison Weir is also very compelling - love those medieval strong women!

    1. Hi Jane,
      I must read it, too. I am such a mood reader that I hop from book to book and finish those, then hop on without considering what I have on my bookshelves. Would like to read Into the Wilderness soon.

  9. I really liked Into the Wilderness, although it must be 20 years since I read it. As I recall, it is a sort of homage to The Last of the Mohicans, which I have never read but loved a BBC miniseries as a teen. I think once you sit down with it, Judith, you won't be able to put it down. However, I do agree it is harder to make a commitment to lengthy books these days. The day before the bookstores closed in Boston I bought the new Sharon Kay Penman, an author I love, but it is still in its plastic bag. Admittedly, I have been working fairly hard from home and trying to coax my staff into being very busy too...