Archives for category: Reading

Not sure I find any of these suggestions (from The Peabody Institute, via The Digital Reader, and E-Book Friendly) very helpful. But there you are. “Don’t finish” is all well and good, but I find it really hard to do; plus I always worry that it might become habit-forming.

In the end, if you don’t want to do it, you won’t do it.

Shelf Awareness alerts us to this Bustle post on 19 books to read based on your drink of choice. Though I have no principled objection to either drinking or reading I’m not sure how good an idea this is. Too many drinks might tend to slow you down rather than enhance your reading experience — unless you’re one of those who read in order to fall asleep. Certainly the idea shouldn’t be used as encouragement to open a bar/bookstore. The risk of spilling coffee on unsold books must haunt owners of bookstores with coffee bars; but spilled liquor would be an almost certain result of encouraging boozy browsing. Rings from the bottoms of beer mugs do not enhance the value of a novel. But could an aroma of mint julep coming from that copy of Absalom, Absalom! perhaps work as a subliminal sales enhancer?

Not sure that this concept is worth much: choosing books appropriate to the drink you are consuming seems like mixing apples and oranges, or maybe grape and grain. A book takes so much longer to read than any drink to consume. If you persist in downing vodka shots while reading War and Peace you will never finish the book, and may possibly die in the attempt. Maybe it’s an insidious plan by the liquor industry to make us all to go on benders.

The Wine Society advises us that Robert Louis Stevenson called wine bottled poetry, which frankly seems a bit naff to me — but it was a long time ago. They provide a few literary wine references. No doubt you can come up with lots more (but some would say these are already too many).

The idea of a book-of-the-month + wine-of-the-month club does seem to have potential. A package of a book plus a bottle of wine related in some way to this month’s book selection would be a welcome sight. I’d sign up for such double serendipity. The problem however is that book publishers are not allowed to ship wines, and wine stores don’t need to bother with such troublesome procedures to sell their wares. If you see Penguin Random House buying a liquor store, keep your eyes open.* Might it be called Random Public House?

The nearest we effectively get to a wine/book club is a book club (in the sense of a reading circle) which meets to discuss the month’s reading over a bottle of wine. I dare say there are some such groups which strive to make a link between the wine served and the book read.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then go ahead, drink up while reading away. Just chose something that doesn’t demand your full attention. However well it all starts off, you won’t be able to bestow it for too long. Chose a thriller rather than a philosophical tract perhaps. Maybe short stories would be best: see Pub lit.

See also Writers and the bottle.


* About a week after I drafted this along comes the news, via Publishers Lunch, that Penguin Random House has acquired T-shirt company Out of Print Clothing. The new building-annex will be reporting in to the VP of publishing innovation development. PRH indicates that this signals “its intent to greatly expand its author- and imprint-brand-based merchandising capabilities.” Can that liquor store be far behind? After all brands expand.

In a related (?) story Publishing Perspectives also tells us Bertelsmann (PRH’s parent) Education Group has acquired the Idaho-based WhiteCloud Analytics, which specializes in performance management in healthcare.

Sent via The Digital Reader, this infographic comes from Global English Editing.

If you find it hard to make out, click on the link to Global English Editing above where you’ll be able to read a larger version.


Too many kids fall behind in reading early in their school career; indeed probably before they even get to school. Exposure to books, and adults who read books, is important in forming the habit of reading. I guess using the barber-shop, a bit of a social center, as a vehicle could work. Certainly the charitable organization Barbershop Books believes it will. Barbershop Books was founded in Harlem, but has already expanded way beyond New York City having active locations in 10 other states.

The theory behind the initiative is that “African-American boys who don’t often see black men reading a book” should be exposed to books in their regular environment. “Barbershops are some of the only places kids go to on a regular basis . . . There’s already that rapport there, already that relationship with the barber. Why not ask the barber to encourage them to read?”

(If you don’t see a video at this point, because you get this via email, please click on the post’s title in order to see it in your browser.)

There are similar initiatives in Ypsilanti, where Fuller Cut offers a discount to any boy who will read aloud while having his hair done, and in Mobile, Columbus, Jackson, Dubuque, Baton Rouge, Muskogee, — all over.

Did gentlemen really wear ties when they went camping? I guess they might have, if they were plus-four wearers too.

One worries about eyestrain in those deep shadows.

Courtesy of Literary Hub.

Twitter (who else) has told us the exciting news that our president has actually enjoyed a book. The man who claims to be too smart to need to read books has tweeted his appreciation of one — Reasons to Vote Democrat by Michael J. Knowles. The joke of course is that this is a blank book. Ha, ha, ha; or as he puts it “Ho! Ho! Ho!”, perhaps trying to elbow in on Santa-Clausian ratings. As The Guardian says in its “review” of this and other examples of the satirical-wannabe genre, “These blank books make the Ladybird parodies, and the Blyton-spoof Five on Brexit Island, look like Jonathan Swift.”

The fact that we are able to persuade people to hand over cash for this sort of thing (a remark which might of course apply to much of trade publishing) is a tribute to the publishing industry’s ability to make money out of moonshine. Of course a blank book does give you something in which to draw pictures, write a diary or commonplace book, take lecture notes, or in the case of my own crazy Dynasts project,* write out a fair-copy of a classic text.

Publishers used to make up dummy copies of many (maybe most) of their books so that they could make sure the jacket would fit. These dummies consisted of blank pages, in the paper and number required for by the book waiting to be printed, bound in a case using some bit of cloth left over in the bindery. Usually you wouldn’t waste time stamping the spine, so it would only be a hand-written annotation in the front that would tell what book this dummy was representing. Many of them were rather nice objects, and I have over the years accumulated quite a collection of them, many of which were passed on to granddaughters as pastime projects. (I fear they showed signs of inhibition when faced with a leather-bound volume stamped Holy Bible on the spine.) Unfortunately publishers have now managed to figure out that measuring carefully works just as well as making a full dummy and costs a lot less.

Blank books have been a staple of the marketplace since the later years of last century. Moleskine appeals to the top end of this market, where customers seem to think that writing in a Moleskine will make them write like Hemingway. But buying one of these “satirical” books with a jokey title on its spine is perhaps a less than ideal way to acquire a notebook. It often seems that people have money to burn.


* For any who care I can now report I am about half way through, on page 359. We are up to 1809 (Part 2, Act II, Scene IV), and are now having to recognize that there may not be enough pages in my dummy OED volume to take us to the end of the drama. It’ll be a close run thing. The problem will have to be dealt with when we eventually get there. I’m having to resist the urge to use less and less illustration. Just drafted the bayonet charge of the English down the hill at Talavera. The pencil sketch is made from the camera lucida app, and then inked over, which has been half done here.

If Ray Kurzweil says it’s possible who am I to disagree? Cathy O’Neil’s piece at reports on an interview of Kurzweil by Neil deGrasse Tyson in which the claim is made that books may well one day be directly uploaded to your brain via some tricky nano-bots floating around in your bloodstream.

But I’m not sure the examples given are the right ones. Uploading The Brothers Karamazov or War and Peace directly to your brain would of course save a lot of reading time — but then so too would not starting them in the first place. Is what we get from these books, or any novel, the sort of thing that would be provided by the entire text suddenly appearing in your mind? One has to assume that the entire text would be instantly and completely available to you upon upload, something which is not my experience with the conventional method of upload, reading. By the time you’ve reached chapter 100 you may hate that character you loved at the start, and you may now be a little hazy about what went on in chapter 2. If it was an important thing this might necessitate a refresher return to the beginning. Nothing wrong with this: it’s just how it is, and is part of the pleasure of reading. Our minds cannot remember everything all of the time, and our attitude towards people develops as we get to know them better, or indeed as we see more or less of them. As you read through a book you develop expectations, hopes and fears concerning the characters and the events to which they are exposed. A nano-robotic one-off upload would bypass all this and leave you with the whole thing, just sitting there. With any story it’s more about the journey than it is about the arrival.

Now if direct upload isn’t the way we want to interact with fiction, it may well be better suited to things like The Driver’s Handbook, The Elements of Electronics, How to Win at Poker, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plumbing Repair, Sibley’s Guide to Birds. Just imagine living with someone who had ingested the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Talk about a know-it-all — though we probably wouldn’t, because by then knowing everything would no doubt be boringly commonplace.

Link via The Digital Reader.

See also Direct to consumer

Hans Holbein

Literary Hub brings us this handy ready reckoner so you can figure out how many books you’ll be able to read between now and your actuarially forecasted death. I was actually quite encouraged by my result, especially as they seem to make no adjustment for the obvious fact that after you stop working you have a lot more time available for reading.




25 and female: 86 (61 years left)
Average reader: 732
Voracious reader: 3,050
Super reader: 4,880

25 and male: 82 (57 years left)
Average reader: 684
Voracious reader: 2,850
Super reader: 4,560

30 and female: 86 (56 years left)
Average reader: 672
Voracious reader: 2,800
Super reader: 4,480

30 and male: 82 (52 years left)
Average reader: 624
Voracious reader: 2,600
Super reader: 4,160

35 and female: 86 (51 years left)
Average reader: 612
Voracious reader: 2,550
Super reader: 4,080

35 and male: 82 (47 years left)
Average reader: 564
Voracious reader: 2,350
Super reader: 3,670

40 and female: 85.5 (45.5 years left)
Average reader: 546
Voracious reader: 2,275
Super reader: 3,640

40 and male: 82 (42 years left)
Average reader: 504
Voracious reader: 2,100
Super reader: 3,260

45 and female: 85.5 (40.5 years left)
Average reader: 486
Voracious reader: 2,025
Super reader: 3,240

45 and male: 82 (37 years left)
Average reader: 444
Voracious reader: 1,850
Super reader: 2,960

50 and female: 85.5 (35.5 years left)
Average reader: 426
Voracious reader: 1,775
Super reader: 2,840

50 and male: 82 (32 years left)
Average reader: 384
Voracious reader: 1,600
Super reader: 2,560

55 and female: 86 (31 years left)
Average reader: 372
Voracious reader: 1,550
Super reader: 2,480

55 and male: 83 (28 years left)
Average reader: 336
Voracious reader: 1,400
Super reader: 2,240

60 and female: 86 (26 years left)
Average reader: 312
Voracious reader: 1,300
Super reader: 2,080

60 and male: 83 (23 years left)
Average reader: 276
Voracious reader: 1,150
Super reader: 1,840

65 and female: 87 (22 years left)
Average reader: 264
Voracious reader: 1,100
Super reader: 1,760

65 and male: 84 (19 years left)
Average reader: 228
Voracious reader: 950
Super reader: 1,520

70 and female: 87.5 (17.5 years left)
Average reader: 210
Voracious reader: 875
Super reader: 1,400

70 and male: 85 (15 years left)
Average reader: 180
Voracious reader: 750
Super reader: 1,200

75 and female: 89 (14 years left)
Average reader: 168
Voracious reader: 700
Super reader: 1,120

75 and male: 87 (12 years left)
Average reader: 144
Voracious reader: 600
Super reader: 960

80 and female: 90 (10 years left)
Average reader: 120
Voracious reader: 500
Super reader: 800

80 and male: 89 (9 years left)
Average reader: 108
Voracious reader: 450
Super reader: 720

imagesAccording to The Independent, President Obama recommended 79 books to us in one way or another. The total is really more than that: although Self Reliance, Team of Rivals and All the Light We Cannot See are in the list twice, there are several series listed as well which must inflate the total well beyond a hundred.

My earlier post POTUS picks links to yet more book recommendations President Obama made to us. The guy could sure read fast. There are also links in that post to his conversations about books with Marilynne Robinson.

Whatever the number of books he recommended, we should be grateful on this Inauguration Day to have had such a well-read and thoughtful president. The 45th President will probably not be recommending books. Tweets seem to be his favored medium: so sad.

The Independent‘s list is as follows:

1. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan

2. H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald

3. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

4. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson

5. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

6. All That Is, James Salter

7. All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

8. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert

9. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri

10. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

11. Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow

12. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

13. Moby Dick, Herman Melville

14. Shakespeare’s Tragedies

15. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch

16. Gilead, Marylinne Robinson

17. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson

18. The Bible

19. Lincoln’s Collected Writings

20. Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois

21. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson

23. Gandhi’s autobiography  (#22 is missing from the list)

24. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

25. Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam

26. The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton

27. Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith

28. Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

29. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

30. The Quiet American, Graham Greene

31. Working, Studs Terkel

32. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer

33. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

34. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

35. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston

36. Redwall series, Brian Jacques

37. Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park

38. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

39. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

40. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

41. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin

42. The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson

43. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos

44. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande

45. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell

46. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan.

47. The Hardy Boys series, Edward Stratemeyer

48. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

49. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

50. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

51. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

52. Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin

53. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

54. Various writings of Reinhold Niebuhr

55. Lush Life, Richard Prince

56. Philosophy & Literature, Peter S Thompson

57. Collected Poems, Derek Walcott

58. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

59. To the End of the Land, David Grossman

60. Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein

61. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris

62. John Adams, David McCullough

63. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

64. Plainsong, Kent Haruf

65. The Way Home, George Pelecanos

66. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution, Thomas L Friedman

67. What Is the What, Dave Eggers

68. Netherland, Joseph O’Neill

69. Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, Jeffrey D. Sachs

70. Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alte

71. FDR, Jean Edward Smith

72. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, Steve Coll

73. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels

74. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin

75. Fates and Furies, Lauren Goff

76. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

77. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie

78. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

79. The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin


I fondly remember the Lecturae Dantis, a series of lectures from 1969 to 1984  at Cambridge University which would read and explicate one canto of the Divine Comedy at a time. I always meant to go to more of them. Fortunately CUP published a couple of volumes containing some of the lectures. The term originally referred to live readings of the cantos, but has evolved to include academic commentary. Lots of places have them, and here’s a link to the series at St Andrews University, where you can view the lectures on most of the 100 cantos (they are up to Paradiso 3).

1465028Publishing Cambridge links to this new University series, Cambridge Vertical Readings in Dante’s Comedy, which covers three cantos in each lecture, one from Inferno and the same numbered canto from Purgatorio and Paradiso. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given interest in numerology, there are connections between cantos numbered the same in the three parts as well as significance in multipliers and sums of the numbers. There are links to 32 (thus far) lectures. Is it numerologically significant that the one missing item from the set appears to be Cantos 32?


I’ve alluded to the typeface Dante™ before. It was designed by Giovanni Mardersteig for the Officina Bodoni between 1946 and 1954. Dante got its name from the first book it was used for in 1955, Boccaccio’s Trattatello in Laude di Dante. Officina Bodoni was a fine press printer run by Mardersteig: it’s named after Bodoni — it is not to be mistaken as a continuation of Bodoni’s own Parma operation. Mardersteig was born Hans Mardersteig in Weimar in 1892. In 1922 he founded his press in Switzerland, moving on to Verona five years later. The design of Dante was influenced by Francesco Griffo’s work, and Mardersteig also designed a font called Griffo, as well as one called Zeno. His press printed high-quality work, including work for The Limited Editions Club. After his death in 1977 his son, Martino Mardersteig took over the operation of Stamperia Valdonega, their more commercial operation, but occasionally would print a book on his father’s hand presses under the Officina Bodoni imprint. John Dreyfus’ Giovanni Mardersteig: An account of his work, printed and published by Officina Bodoni in 1966, is unavailable at Amazon.

A recent book, still available in the stores, in which Dante was used is Paper: Paging through history by Mark Kurlansky. This is the colophon, which shows a paragraph set in Dante.


There’s a link to a reading of Caroline Bergvall’s VIA: 48 Dante Variations at my earlier post Translation — Style.