Posted in Books, From The Editor's Desk, Writing

What is a Beta Reader’s Role?

Beta readers are people who are most likely to buy and read your book. They play an important role in your publishing journey, as they see your book raw, naked, and parts you wouldn’t even show your mother. Make sure they are on your plan, as they will look at it with fresh eyes and tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear.

My daughter is a beta reader for a series of books by my client, edward branley, since his “dragons” series (Dragon’s Danger, Dragon’s Discovery) is exactly in her age range. [Edward will tell you one of the characters is based on her. ] She tells him if it works, if it doesn’t and why it’s right or wrong. She makes suggestions to make it better.

The Book Designer has five tips for working with Beta Readers. I believe in all of them, so I’m sharing what they said:

  1. Don’t Give Them a Draft Your beta reader is still a reader — a reader who might tell other readers about your book. It’s important to treat your beta readers right, and that begins with what you ask them to read. Don’t give them your first draft. In fact, be sure that what you give them is the very best writing you can produce on your own. Write your draft and set it aside for at least a week. Go back to it and rewrite it if you need to. Then set it aside for another week — again. Revise, revise, revise, until it isn’t remotely possible for you to do any better.
  2. Your Manuscript, Their Way Before you send your manuscript to your beta readers, ask them what format they’d like it in. Beta readers might want to print your manuscript or read it on a Kindle. If they prefer the latter option, send them instructions for how to get your manuscript on an e-reader. Do whatever you can to remove any obstacles that will prevent your beta reader from carving out time to read your book.
  1. Give Them Guidance Let your beta reader know what kind of feedback you’d like from them. Develop a checklist with questions you’d like answers to. Do you want readers to comment on the strength of a character, or the organization of a concept? If you create a specific list of questions around content, beta readers won’t spend their time punctuating sentences. Adapt your revision checklist to meet the needs of each book your write.
  2. Don’t Take it Personally Remember, it takes a great deal of time to read and respond to a book. And your beta readers will have opinions that might sting a little. Be gracious for any feedback a beta reader gives you, even if you don’t agree with it. Ask yourself, “Will addressing this comment make for a better book?” If so, take their advice and apply it to your next revision. If not, whatever you do, don’t defend yourself. Your beta reader already knows your position (you’ve done as you’ve seen fit, as evidenced by your manuscript) but they don’t agree. Thank them for their comments and move on.
  3. Return the Favour Remember, you’re not paying your beta readers to read your book. They’re offering feedback because they want to help or they’re interested in your book’s premise or topic. If your beta reader asks you to be a beta reader in future, seriously consider returning the favour. And when it comes time to publish your book, give them a mention in your acknowledgements. Everyone likes to see their name in “print.”

 

Still confused as to why you need one, or what they are? Read on… 

What is a Beta Reader, and why do I need one?

http://www.smallbluedog.com/what-is-a-beta-reader-and-why-do-i-need-one.html

What makes a good beta reader?

http://www.smallbluedog.com/what-makes-a-good-beta-reader.html

The few, the proud, the beta readers

http://fiona-skye.com/the-few-the-proud-the-beta-readers/

Honestly, I’d tell you that you need a beta reader to help you revise your manuscript before you go looking for an editor. If you need one, I think I can point you in the right direction for that editor.

Note: beta reader featured image from Fiona Skye

 

Posted in book lists, Books, Friday Fun

Friday Fun ~ Questions for Bibliophiles: Name the book that…

I found this list of questions at Captivated~by~Fantasy, and thought I would ask you to answer them!  It is the Harry Potter Book Tag, but don’t feel as  though you have to keep it to the Harry Potterverse to answer.

potterspells

 Flagrate

A book that you found interesting but would like to rewrite

 Alohomora

The first book in a series that got you hooked

Accio 

A book that you wish you could have right now

Avada Kedavra

A killer book

Confundo

A book you find confusing

Expecto Patronum

Your spirit animal book

Sectumsempra

A dark, twisted book

Aparecium

A book that surprised you in a great way

Harry Potter Spells Image courtesy of Harry Potter Amino
Posted in book lists, Books, From The Editor's Desk, Writing

Umberto Eco and the Anti-library

umbertoeco
Umberto Eco image courtesy of Brain Pickings 

 

“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.”

― Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility

41a4OJ06jlL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

My anti-library Kindle list

Taleb’s book is part of my anti-library, ironically enough.

Taleb’s quote above fascinated me, and I bought the book to read, but with the editing business going strong and the fact-checking side of the house prepping for the next issue of Genome Magazine, it’s on my TBR pile.  The good news is, now that school has resumed, perhaps the TBR pile can be dug into, perhaps at the beach?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s  The Theory of Colours

51pJ2FYoEKL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_

I have done some research on color theory and psychology, and my colors around the world blog post utilizing this as a reference. One of Goethe’s most radical points was a refutation of Newton’s ideas about the color spectrum, suggesting instead that darkness is an active ingredient rather than the mere passive absence of light.

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1

Light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of color… Color itself is a degree of darkness. 

 

Leon Leyson’s The Boy on the Wooden Box

51Ejqa1njgL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_

The Boy on the Wooden Box is on my Kindle since my son Jason went to hear Leon Leyson’s widow, Lis, speak on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Fullerton Public Library. Leon Leyson was the youngest person ever saved by Oskar Schindler.  He was #289 on Schindler’s List. Be sure to read Jason’s take on Lis Leyson’s speech.

As a history major in my undergrad days, this time period has always had a deep impact on me. I am sure it will be eye-opening and emotional.

I’m reminded of Marlon Brando’s famous Playboy interview with Lawrence Grobel, in which he says that he used to read all the time, but finally stopped because information was of no use to him. Grobel interviewed him on his island in Tahiti; Brando told him that he no longer read anything except Shakespeare. Everything that was worth knowing was contained in Shakespeare. Brando said:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1I used to read an awful lot. Then I found that I had a lot of information and very little knowledge. I couldn’t learn from reading. I was doing something else by reading, just filling up this hopper full of information, but it was undigested information. I used to think the more intelligence you had, the more knowledge you had, but it’s not true. Look at Bill Buckley; he uses his intelligence to further his own prejudices. Why one reads is important. If it’s just for escape, that’s all right, it’s like taking junk, it’s meaningless. It’s kind of an insult to yourself. Like modern conversation–it’s used to keep people away from one another, because people don’t feel assaulted by conversation so much as silence. People have to make conversation in order to fill up this void. Void is terrifying to most people. We can’t have a direct confrontation with somebody in silence–because what you’re really having is a full and more meaningful confrontation.

 

Epictetus’ The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness 

the-art-of-living

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Epictetus‘ (c. AD 55 – 135) influential school of Stoic philosophy, stresses that human beings cannot control life, only their responses to it, keeping the focus on progress over perfection, on accomplishing what can be accomplished and abandoning unproductive worry over what cannot.

What’s on your Anti-Library List? 

Let me know either by commenting here, or on twitter @bookdoctordara.

Posted in Books, Chained Libraries

Malatestiana Chained Library – Cesena, Italy

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain 

cesena5
Malatestiana Library center aisle with rosette windows. Photo courtesy of  Ivano Giovannini 

 

The Malatestiana Library, known as the Biblioteca Malatestiana in Italian, was the first European civic library open to the public, and still open today.  This means it belonged to the Commune, and not the Church. Built in 1447, it is the oldest library in Europe.

Malatestiana Library is what is known as  a humanistic-conventual library.  This means that they have preserved its structure, furnishings, and codices (manuscripts of hand-written books) since its opening in the mid-15th century, all of this despite wars and natural disasters. This became a model and inspiration for monastic libraries.

The reading room itself, known as the Aula del Nuti, after its architect Matteo Nuti. He designed the rectangular plan with three naves surmounted by barrel and groin vaults is still accessed through the original wooden doors, which need two separate keys to open. Wandering Italy blog, explains, “Originally, one key belonged to the abbot, the other by a representative of the city; the sacred and the profane.”

iw_bibliotecacesena_101-665x1009
Original wooden doors opening. Photo courtesy of Italian Ways

According to Italian Ways, “with its 17,000 autographs and letters, and 250,000 volumes – including 287 incunables, about 4,000 books from the 1500s (‘cinquecentine’), 1,753 manuscripts from the 16th and 19th century, and even the smallest book in the world that can be read without a magnifying glass: a letter by Galileo Galilei to Christina of Lorreine, printed in 1897 and bound in just 15 x 9 mm.”

In 2005, it was recognized as the first UNESCO Memory of the World site in Italy. It is a “rare example of a complete and wonderful collection from the 15th century, just before printing became popular in Europe.”

If you want to see what books and manuscripts are in the Biblioteca Malatestiana, and can’t travel to Italy (on my bucket list!) check out the Open Catalogue of the Malatestiana Project, which has lots of manuscript images under the “Collection” link.

Biblioteca Malatestiana Antica
Piazza Maurizio Bufalini, 1, 47521 Cesena FC, Italia
Info and Hours

Note:
Featured image courtesy of Jerome Levine for The Boston Globe.

For Further Reading:All the UNESCO registered Memory of the World sites

Posted in book lists, Books

IMO… 12 Black Authors Everyone Should Read

A friend posted about a novel quiz he took and realized that he didn’t know any of the Black Authors. He asked for suggestions as to what he should read.  This got me thinking, and I thought I would share my reply. Bear in mind, this is MY OPINION. Let me know in the comments below of any that you recommend.

Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Native Son.


Frederick Douglass’ memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

51ZQqp9g80L._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings1

James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son (set during the civil rights movement)


Octavia Butler’s Kindred

510g3Qp95uL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_

W.E.B Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folks

41Rb+6wdF5L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Invisible_Man

Alex Haley’s Roots, The Saga of an American Family and The Autobiography of Malcolm X


Langston Hughes’ Not without laughter

152660._UY400_SS400_

Did you know? The play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry was named for a line from a Langston Hughes poem.

imgres-1.jpg

Harlem
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God 

url

Toni Morrison’s Beloved

51srBOCdgBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

BONUS:
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an editor and writer for The Atlantic. I mentioned him in my Just the Facts… About Fact-Checking blog post.

Also … Both Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison are mentioned in my Literary Arts Postage Stamp series of posts on the blog. Feel free to go take a look at them.

For Further Reading:

10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read by PBS.org. This has little biographies and blurbs on most of the authors I listed above, and a few that I didn’t know about.

22 Contemporary Authors You Absolutely Should be Reading by Isaac Fitzgerald

Posted in Books, Cookbooks, Monday Musings

A Thyme and Place Cookbook by Tricia Cohen & Lisa Graves

61XFjdNX5jL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_
A Thyme and Place: Medieval Feasts and Recipes for the Modern Table

 

Remember back in April when I went to the book launch for Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom?

Lisa Graves has now teamed up with her best friend Tricia Cohen for a wonderful cookbook, A Thyme and Place: Medieval Feasts for the Modern Table. Tricia did the recipes, and Lisa did the illustrations.

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting both Lisa and Tricia that day at the book launch. They are warm, funny, wicked smart, and talented.I would hang out with them anywhere, anytime. [They need to come West more often, however.]

 

Revive your inner period cook and master the art of gode cookery with thirty-five recipes celebrating festivals throughout the year!

Fancy a leap back in time to the kitchens in the Middle Ages? Return to when cauldrons bubbled over hearths, whole oxen were roasted over spits.  Common cooking ingredients included verjuice, barley, peafowl, frumenty, and elder flowers. You, too, can learn the art of gode cookery—or, at least, come close to it.

With gorgeous and whimsical hand-drawn illustrations from beginning to end,  A Thyme and Place is both a cookbook and a history for foodies and history buffs alike. Cohen and Graves revive old original medieval recipes and reimagine and modify them to suit modern palates and tastes. Each recipe is tied directly to a specific calendar holiday and feast so you can learn to cook:

• Summer harvest wine with elder flower, apples, and pears for St. John’s Day (June 21st)
• Right-as-rain apple cake for St. Swithin’s Day (July 15th)
• Wee Matilda’s big pig fried pork balls with sage for Pig Face Day (September 14th)
• Roasted goose with fig glaze and bannock stuffing for Michaelmas (September 29th)
• Peasant duck ravioli and last of the harvest chutney for Martinmas (November 11th)


FRIED PORK BALLS WITH SAGE CREME

This dish was adapted from an original, circa 1390, recipe:

Sawge yfarcet. Take pork and seeþ it wel, and grinde it smal, and medle it wiþ ayren & brede ygrated. Do þerto powdour fort and safroun wiþ pynes & salt. Take & close litull balles in foiles of sawge; wete it with a batour of ayren & fry it, & serue it forth.

– Recipes from “Forme of Cury”

For the meatballs:

2 cups uncooked ground pork

1 large egg, beaten

7 tablespoons panko

12 teaspoon allspice

14 teaspoon ginger

14 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground saffron

1 14 teaspoons salt

4 fresh sage leaves, finely cut; plus a dozen sage leaves, whole

For the tempura batter:

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

12 cup seltzer water

Salt, to taste

Lard (can substitute canola oil)

12 whole sage leaves

For the sage creme:

2 tablespoons butter

1 large shallot, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

34 cup mead

34 cup heavy whipping cream

For the meatballs: Mix meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mold the mixture to form meatballs. Parboil meatballs for 10 minutes. Place meatballs on paper towel to cool.

For the tempura batter: While meatballs are boiling, create the tempura batter by mixing together the flour, cornstarch, seltzer and salt to taste. Mix until smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Melt a hunk of lard in a heavy pan. After the lard has heated over medium to medium-high heat, take two forks and toss the cooled meatballs into the tempura batter.

Turn the meatballs gently in the lard until the tempura is golden. It does not have to look perfect … as long as it tastes good. When the meatballs are finished, toss the whole sage leaves in the tempura batter and give them a quick fry in the hot lard.

For the sage creme: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy pan. Toss in the minced shallots and minced sage. After the shallots are soft, pour in the mead and stir. Pour in the whipping cream and stir. Boil down by half until thick, on medium-high heat.

Garnish the meatballs with the creme and a piece of crispy sage.

VIRILE CHICKPEAS

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Zest (1 tablespoon) and juice of one lemon ( 14 cup)

2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1 cup chicken stock

12 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 cup shredded cheddar

14 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in saute pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary to hot pan, cook until fragrant, then add the lemon zest (it smells sooo good).

Stir and add the chickpeas to mixture. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, spinach, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Cook until the liquid is gone.

Remove from heat, add to a serving plate and finish with the cheddar and parsley.

BACON JAM

1 12 pounds thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large sweet onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 mission figs, chopped (optional)

12 cup dark-brown sugar, firmly packed

12 cup apple-cider vinegar

14 cup honey

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons Drambuie or bourbon

18 teaspoon salt

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon. Cover and cook for approximately 25 minutes. Check on the bacon with some frequency, giving in a stir each time.

After the bacon begins to crisp, remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Turn the heat off when the bacon is fully crisp. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Let the fat in the Dutch oven cool for a few minutes and then — hear us — save the stuff in a container for future cooking.

Leave all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the Dutch oven. Turn the heat back to medium. Add onions and garlic, scrapping up any delicious bacon bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until soft. After they are soft, add the figs.

Drop the heat to medium low and add the brown sugar, cider vinegar, honey, ginger, pepper and Drambuie. Cook for 10 minutes, just enough time for the mixture to start to get jammy.

Adjust the heat to medium for 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Lower heat to medium low and add the bacon. Cook for 20 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add mixture to food processor and chop to desired texture.

All recipes ©2016 Lisa Graves and Tricia Cohen

On June 7th, the cookbook was released in bookstores across the country.

Be sure to follow Lisa and Tricia on their Facebook page as they Deconstruct History: One Bite at a Time.

Tricia Cohen grew up in a house with two kitchens, surrounded by family, food, and love. In her adult life, she continues to share her love for food with the community as a hostess, gourmet home cook, and sous chef.

Lisa Graves is the author and illustrator of the series Women in History, as well as the illustrator of The Tudor Tutor She is the creator of Historywitch.com, a site dedicated to illustrations of history’s most fascinating characters.

For Further Reading

Feehan grads’ ‘A Thyme and Place’ cookbook updates Middle Ages cuisine

Friendship helps ‘Thyme and Place’ cookbook authors get through family tragedies

Posted in book lists, Books, In the News

Friday Recap: Literary In the News

I decided today would be a good day to do a “Literary Recap: In the News”. There were so many good articles this week on various literary things, that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to let you see my top four.

Let’s begin with Maurice Sendak… 

Let the Wild Rumpus start! Today is Maurice Sendak’s birthday, June 10th.  He would have been 88.

wildrumpuspstr.

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Continue with William Gibson… 

5 Essential William Gibson Reads

Neuromancer (1984) was one of the best books I ever heard on audiotape (back in the day before Audible). When my husband and I were driving across country, we sat in the parking lot of the hotel for an hour and a half because we were so into Neuromancer and didn’t want to wait until the next day to hear the rest.

neuromancer


Follow that with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time…

About Pysanky, the Hand-Drawn Style of The Wheel of Time: Patterns of the Wheel

If you are a fan of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, (and who isn’t?), check out the Coloring Art based on Jordan’s The Wheel of Time by Amy Romanczuk.

 

Pysanky, a word derived from the Ukrainian word “to write”, are created using a wax-and-dye resist process similar to batik, though on eggshell instead of cloth.

Patterns-of-the-Wheel-coloring-page-small
Copyright 2016 Amy Romanczuk

Download a print version of this page here if you would like copies for you and your family! (PDF is 1.2 MB.)

Finally: BookMarks: Answer to Rotten Tomatoes? …

LITHUB’S BookMarks: The Book World’s Answer To Rotten Tomatoes?

LitHub has launched BookMarks, a site developed as the book world’s answer to Rotten Tomatoes. Once a book has been reviewed three times by an “important outlet of literary journalism,” those reviews are aggregated, fed through a rubric, and a grade given. It could be a really handy tool for those who like to know what the book world is thinking about a book without taking the time to read through all of the (often problematic) reviews.

Literary Hub- BookMarks

Happy Reading! 

Note: Newspaper Cuts image courtesy of Emily Huff at ATextures
Posted in Books, Chained Libraries

The Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral

6c2f5ebfafe34c4a9979e932b10cc5d1

As a history major in undergrad, and a book lover for more years than I care to count, finding the notice on Chained Libraries on Atlas Obscura tickled my fancy.  I’ve officially added a ton of places to go visit on my bucket list now –Sorry, Hubby!   The below information comes directly from the Hereford Cathedral website, as who better to describe what is there than the curators of the Library themselves? If, one day I actually get to see this in person, I’ll be sure to re-blog and tell you my own personal thoughts. Until then… Happy exploring.


The Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral is a unique and fascinating treasure in Britain’s rich heritage of library history.

There were books at Hereford Cathedral long before there was a ‘library’ in the modern sense.

The cathedral’s earliest and most important book is the eighth-century Hereford Gospels; it is one of 229 medieval manuscripts which now occupy two bays of the Chained Library.

image_large
Hereford Gospels (detail) courtesy of Hereford Cathedral Library and Archives

This is the oldest complete book in Hereford Cathedral Library. It dates from around the year 800 AD and may be the earliest surviving book made in Wales. It contains the first four books of the New Testament: the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These narratives of the life, death and resurrection of Christ are regarded by Christians as their most precious and sacred writings.
Chaining books was the most widespread and effective security system in European libraries from the middle ages to the eighteenth century, and Hereford Cathedral’s seventeenth-century Chained Library is the largest to survive with all its chains, rods and locks intact.

Image
Hereford Gospels (detail) courtesy of Hereford Cathedral Library and Archives

A chain is attached at one end to the front cover of each book; the other end is slotted on to a rod running along the bottom of each shelf. The system allows a book to be taken from the shelf and read at the desk, but not to be removed from the bookcase.

The books are shelved with their foredges, rather than their spines, facing the reader (the wrong way round to us); this allows the book to be lifted down and opened without needing to be turned around – thus avoiding tangling the chain.

There is an interactive website you can take a 360-degree tour of the library.

Did You Know?

There has been a working theological library at the cathedral since the twelfth century, and the whole library continues to serve the cathedral’s work and witness both as a research centre and as a tourist attraction.

The Chained Library has about 1500 books which date from the late fifteenth- to the early nineteenth-centuries. Fifty-six of them are incunabula, i.e. books printed before 1500. They are chiefly concerned with theology, biblical studies, law and church history.

Have you been to Hereford Cathedral and seen the Chained Library in person? Tell me in the comments, or on my twitter page .

Stay tuned for more on unique and amazing libraries around the world!

Posted in Books

Don’t Panic! Towel Day 2016

434d5be11a2999e6f708a1d834bbee71
In case of Interstellar Travel: Break Glass and Don’t Panic

“A towel…is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

the-ultimate-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy

 

Note: 
Featured image from The Telegraph

Posted in Books, Did You Know ?, Science

That “Old Book Smell”

If you ever wandered up into the attic to look at your grandparent’s old books, or through a used bookstore perusing the shelves, you know that smell.  When you open one of the tomes and flip through the pages, did you ever wonder what causes that “Old Book Smell“? It is sort of a hint of vanilla, maybe a little grassy smell, with some mustiness?

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for second hand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.
Perfumes: The A-Z  Guide by Luca Turin

 

aroma-chemistry-the-smell-of-new-old-books-v2
The Aroma of Books infographic courtesy of Compound Chem

 

In the 1920s and 1930s, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), an Austrian writer, journalist and playwright was one of the most popular writers in the world, at the height of his career. In The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, author George Prochnik explains:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1[H]e often seemed more concerned with the smell, look, and feel of his work than with the actual words. Printer’s ink struck him as the most fragrant odor on earth — “sweeter than attar of roses from Shiraz.”

Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

Prolific author Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), of Fahrenheit 451The Martian Chronicles, and many other works both inside and outside the realm of science fiction whose career spanned over 70 years, believed:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever.

tdy-120606-bradbury-obit-01.grid-6x2
Ray Bradbury circa 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images)


New York Times
 tech blogger Nick Bilton wrote about wandering into a West Village bookstore on a visit to New York:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time. The scent of physical books—the paper, the ink, the glue—can conjure up memories of a summer day spent reading on a beach, a fall afternoon in a coffee shop, or an overstuffed chair by a fireplace as rain patters on a windowsill.

Be sure to check out The New York Times [LENS] which has a beautiful slideshow of old, discarded books.

NYT
By Kerry Mansfield. From “Discarded Books, Recovered Nostalgia” – New York Times

 

For Further Reading: 

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers’  Is It More Than Old Book Smell?

Smithsonian Magazine “That ‘Old Book Smell’ is a Mix of Grass and Vanilla”

Matija Strlič’s Study in 2009: Material Degradomics: On the Smell of Old Books

Stefan Zweig: Grand Budapest Hotel’s Inspiration

The Smell of Books

The Science of “The Smell of Books”

Note:Old book bindings at the Merton College library, photo by Tom Murphy VII distributed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

.

 

Posted in Books, Writing

“The Life of a Book” by Don DeLillo

 

Don DeLillo is the National Book Foundation‘s 2015 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution To American Letters. The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional impact on this country’s literary heritage.

He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize for his complete body of work, and the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2010, he was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Prize. The Angel Esmeralda was a finalist for the 2011 Story Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In 2012, DeLillo received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for his body of work.

In the video clip above, you can hear Don DeLillo’s speech that he gave on the evening of November 18, 2015, at the National Book Awards Ceremony. I have transcribed it below.

Books.

This is why we’re here this evening.

Lately I’ve been looking at books that stand on two long shelves in a room just down the hall from the room where I work.

Early books, paperbacks every one, the first books I ever owned, and they resemble some kind of medieval plunder.

Old and scarred, with weathered covers and sepia pages that might crumble at the touch of a human finger. I’m the human in the story, and when I lift a book from the shelf, gently, I understand again the power of memory that a book carries with it.

What is there to remember? Who I was, where I was, what these books meant to me when I read them for the first time.

The House of the Dead. Dostoyevsky. First Dell printing, June 1959. Fifty cents.

Adventures in the Skin Trade. Dylan Thomas. Badly bruised copy. First printing, May 1956.

Cover illustration includes a woman wearing black stockings and nothing else. There are numbers scrawled on the inside of the front cover. Did I writes these numbers? Do I remember the naked woman more clearly than I recall the stories in the book? A Signet book. Thirty-five cents.

Words on paper, books as objects, hand-held, each wrinkled spine bearing a title. The lives inside, authors and characters. The lives of the books themselves. Books in rooms. The one-room apartment where I used to live and where I read the books that stand on the shelves all these years later, and where I became a writer myself.

Many of these books were packed in boxes, hidden for years. Maybe this is why I find myself gazing like a museum goer at the two long rows in the room down the hall.

Reflections in a Golden Eye. Carson McCullers.

The margins of each page resembling the nicotine stains on a smoker’s hand back in the time when the book was written. Bantam Books, fourth printing, 1953. Twenty-five cents.

Are any of the writers of these old frail volumes still alive? I don’t have to study the authors’ names to think of recent departures. Friends: Gil Sorrentino and Peter Matthiessen and Edgar Doctorow. Others I did not get to know nearly as well. Bob Stone and Jim Salter.

Book. The word. A set of written, printed or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers. An old definition, needing to be expanded now in the vaporous play of electronic devices.

But here are the shelves with the old paperbacks, books still in their native skin, and when I visit the room I’m not the writer who has just been snaking his way through some sentences on a sheet of paper curled into an old typewriter.

That’s the guy who lives down the hall.

Here, I’m not the writer at all. I’m the grateful reader.

Thank you for this honor.

In The Paris Review interview, he explained why he became a writer:

Maybe I wanted to learn how to think. Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them. Maybe I wanted to find more rigorous ways of thinking. We’re talking now about the earliest writing I did and about the power of language to counteract the wallow of late adolescence, to define things, define muddled experience in economical ways. Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools. A young writer sees that with words and sentences on a piece of paper that costs less than a penny he can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions. How much of this did I feel at the time? Maybe just an inkling, an instinct. Writing was mainly an unnameable urge, an urge partly propelled by the writers I was reading at the time.

Don DeLillo’s Backlist
Americana, 1971
End Zone, 1972
Great Jones Street, 1973
Ratner’s Star, 1976
Players, 1977
Running Dog, 1978
Amazons, 1980
The Names, 1982
White Noise, 1985
Libra, 1988.
Mao II, 1991
Underworld, 1997
The Body Artist, 2001
“Pafko at the Wall” (novella), 1991
Cosmopolis, 2003
Falling Man, 2007
Point Omega, 2010
The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, 2011

For Further Reading

The 2015 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution To American Letters

The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Adventures in the Skin Trade by Dylan Thomas

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers

Gil Sorrentino

Peter Matthiessen

Edgar Doctorow

Bob Stone

Jim Salter

Posted in Book Launch, Books

‘Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom’ Launches in Pasadena

On Saturday, April 16th, I had the pleasure of going to Pasadena for the launch of Dr. Lois P. Frankel’s book, Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom: Witty, Wicked and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives.

IMG_5096
Ageless Women, Timeless Women: Witty, Wicked and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives

What made Saturday more exciting was that I finally got to meet Lisa Graves, who illustrated this book. I have worked with Lisa in the past on her History Witch coloring books, and it was just wicked awesome to chat and share a glass (or two) of champagne #bubbles! [And, for those of you who worry, I brought my handsome husband along, so there was no driving for me!]

Lisa Graves and I. Cheers!

Lisa’s illustrations highlight the stories and the quotations. It ties the whole book together in gorgeous muted watercolors. I love everything she does.

Lisa introduced me to Dr. Lois, and [disclaimer] I edited this book. [/disclaimer]. It has to have been one of my all-time favorite books to edit, so thank you Lisa and Dr. Lois for letting me be a part of this project.

Focusing on women over 70, including some centenarians, Dr. Lois photographed and interviewed women around the world. She collected their advice, reflections and memories, capturing it in Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom for future generations.

At the event, it was heartwarming to see and meet some of the women that were featured in the book. They all have led such interesting and fascinating lives. One can learn so much just by listening to their stories.  The beauty of editing this, for me, was the deep connection and emotion that came from reading the stories and their quotations.

Photo portraits of the women featured in the book

 

Stacks of books – notice the photo placed next to it?

 

Quotation with illustration by Lisa Graves

I must mention the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, where the launch was held. Built in 1905, the Blinn House is a cultural landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places.  Warm mahogany and oak, with wisteria motif throughout, including the gorgeous fireplace and leaded-glass accents, made this a warm and inviting place to relax and enjoy.

blinn-house
The historic Blinn House

 

Cultural Landmark

 

teaserbox_889632703
Blinn House Fireplace – photo courtesy of  http://www.blinnhouse.org

 

The fused glass artwork in the Blinn House

The food was spectacular as well.  I’m not ashamed to admit to you I would have eaten the entire platter of grapes rolled in goat cheese and walnuts, if I could have. Delectable.  They also served salmon crepes, endive with herb and cream cheese dollop, Greek chicken skewers with yogurt dip, and beef sliders, among other items. There were “book cover” cookies for dessert.  What a great idea to remind you of the sweet time you had at the launch.

Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom book and matching cookie cover

 

The ‘book cover’ cookies. They were almost too good to eat.

If you are looking for a book to have on the coffee table, to celebrate your mom, your grandmother, your sisters, or your daughters, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. Keep one, give one as a gift. You can find it to purchase at the following locations.

Crafty Sisters Collection – where you can also ask for Dr. Lois to inscribe it personally, or on Amazon.

Also, be sure to check out Dr. Lois Frankel, and Lisa Graves as well, on her History Witch page, and Amazon.