Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mysteries at the Beach

We're at the beach this week. I have two reading customs when going to the beach. First I bring a canvas bag of many of the books I have been wanting to get to all year and haven't found time for. Despite the idea of all that time to read at the beach, of course it doesn't work out that way and most return home unread but the thirty or forty books come every year anyway.

Second, I indulge in mysteries. Most my life, my preferred reading has been basically factual. History, Science, Exploration, Military, Maritime History, Poetry (OK that one is not non-ficiton per se). The exceptions have primarily been P.G. Wodehouse and in recent years, mysteries. P.G. Wodehouse I'll read anytime in the year. Mysteries are mostly a beach indulgence.

Georges Simenon's Maigret has been with me to the beach a number of times but never been read. I just finished Maigret Sets a Trap and found that I quite enjoyed the book. I especially enjoyed his evocation of Paris in the heat of late summer and Simenon's attention to the little observations that powerfully evoke the scene.
"Before long they sat down to dinner. It was a hot evening, but toward the end of the meal it started to rain, a light gentle rain, and its rustling sound outside the open windows formed an accompaniment to the rest of their talk."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Contributions from Garner

Garner just came in to afflict me with his most recent riddles. Some of which are good and some of which are bad, and some of which are good-bad.

What starts with an E, ends with an E, and only has one letter in it?

Words are to Books as Ordinates are to Maps - Discuss

I have always loved fooling around with maps; tourist maps, gasoline station maps, huge Times Atlases, historical atlases, fine old NGS maps from the thirties, ordinance maps - they are all grist for the mill. I especially like maps that provide comparisons (size on the map relative to GDP or population for example) and that measure things other than geographical (religion, language, colloguilisms for example).

And now, courtesy of Coyote blog via Instapundit, I have come across a site that should thrill any map lover - strange maps. My hat is off to the creator of the blog which should entertain all map lovers out there. Take a look at the world from a whole new angle.

Boy Wanted

Boy Wanted
by Frank Crane
Boy's Own Paper
February 1921

A boy who stands straight, sits straight, acts straight, and talks straight.

A boy who listens carefully when spoken to, who asks questions when he does not understand, and does not ask questions about things that are none of his business.

A boy whose fingernails are not in mourning, whose ears are clean, whose shoes are polished, whose clothes are brushed, whose hair is combed, and whose teeth are well cared for.

A boy who moves quickly and makes as little noise about it as possible.

A boy who whistles in the street but not where he ought to keep still.

A boy who looks cheerful, has a ready smile for everybody, and never sulks.

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says,"I do not know"; and when he has made a mistake says, "I'm sorry"; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, "I'll try".

A boy who looks you right in the eye and tells the truth every time.

A boy who would rather lose his job or be expelled from school than tell a lie or be a cad.

A boy who is more eager to know how to speak good English than to talk slang.

A boy who does not want to be "smart" nor in any wise attract attention.

A boy who is eager to read good, wholesome books.

A boy whom other boys like.

A boy who is perfectly at ease in the company of respectable girls.

A boy who is not a goody-goody, a prig, or a little Pharisee, but just healthy, happy, and full of life.

A boy who is not sorry for himself and not forever thinking and talking about himself.

A boy who is friendly with his mother and more intimate with her than with anyone else.

A boy who makes you feel good when he is around.

This boy is wanted everywhere. The family wants him, the school wants him, the office wants him, the boys and girls want him, and all creation wants him.

Reading Diaspora

An article in the New York Times this weekend describes the reading habits and book collections of CEOs of several major companies.

Readers are everywhere. Thank goodness.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Top Favorite Books by Enthusiastic Readers

Last week, one of the national papers in the US asked readers what were their favorite books from their childhood. They received more than a thousand responses. The top ten favorites by number of mentions were:

Nancy Drew by Carolyne Keene

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Little Women by Lousia May Alcott

Tom Swift by Victor Appleton

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Reading Mother - Strickland Gillian

The Reading Mother
Strickland Gillilan

I had a Mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

Coincidences - Twice in a Week

I may have been aware of them before but the coincidence of coming across their exploits twice in a week has caught my attention. I was aware that the US military in World War II was a segregated institution. I might have been aware, but never focused on the fact that there were segregated engineering battalions and regiments building the far flung infrastructure for fighting the war.

At the beginning of the week I was watching a documentary on the History Channel about the building of the Alaskan Highway from Dawson Creek, Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska (a distance of some 1,500 miles) in WWII as part of the effort to improve the ability to defend Alaska from attack by Japan. The construction was an amazing feat performed by about 11,000 troops from several engineering regiments, a third of whom were segregated black engineering regiments. Construction started from both ends in April, 1942, and met up 1,500 miles of road later in October, an astoundingly brief seven months after beginning.

So that was pretty impressive. The fact that a third of the troops were part of segregated engineerings units is an interesting historical fact but somewhat incidental to a hugely impressive engineering feat. They collectively accomplished an amazing outcome.

A couple of days later I am reading Time-Life's Bombers Over Japan, part of their World War II series. In January, 1944, the US B-29 bombers are just beginning to show up in India and China where they will be based for the initial bombing raids on Japan later that year. However, before they can be deployed, airfields and supply routes have to be built to service them and progress has been slow and beset by problems. Army General Wolfe has been dispatched to untangle the mess and starts in India.
Wolfe flew to General Stilwell's headquarters in the Burmese jungle and borrowed a batallion of black American construction engineers who had been working on the Ledo Road, the land supply link between India and China that Stilwell was building through Burma.

Using this batallion, Wolfe quickly completed the construction of a B-29 airfield in Calcutta, India.

I had never heard of this before and am fascinated by the idea of black American troops pulled from the segregated cities and countryside of the US, laboring through the jungles of southeast asia building these huge and hugely critical infrastructure projects. I am particularly intrigued by what their experience might have been in India, a country with its own complex history of caste and race segregation and at that time with the further complexity of being under British colonial rule.

There must be some stories in there somewhere. I know the Alaska Highway story has been told in a couple of books but have never seen anything about the experience of black engineering batallions elsewhere in the world.

And what a coincidence to come across both these incidents in the same week.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Counting Books

For the past week or so I have been working on book lists of one sort or another, both creating them as well as examining what makes for a useful list. As part of that process, and as part of a reality check, I collected book lists from twenty-eight randomly selected libraries, these lists being compiled by librarians. The nature of the lists were not so much the best of the best (I am working on that as a separate exercise) but rather lists of recommended books based on the experience of those librarians.

Some of these lists were just a couple of dozen books for a single grade, some lists reaching to a hundred or more titles and covering several grades. I am still in the process of cleaning up the data but have completed infant through Grade Three. I thought you might be interested in some of the initial observations, allowing for the fact that this is not a particularly rigorous analysis; while randomly selected, these lists were the ones that were readily available.

The outcome that struck me most was how little consensus there was between the lists. Had I been asked, I would have guessed that if you put 10 librarians in a room and asked them to create ten lists of recommended books for young children, 80% of the titles would have shown up on two or more of the lists (compared to 23% in the sample actually collected). I would have also guessed that at least a quarter of the titles would have shown up on the majority of lists (as opposed to none, in this sample).

From the twenty eight library lists covering infant to Grade Three, there were a total of 2,736 unique titles recommended. 77% of all titles mentioned were only mentioned once.

Of the total 2,736 titles mentioned, there were only 633 books (23%) that showed up on two or more lists out of the twenty-eight.

This is almost the inverse of what I would have expected.

The number of titles mentioned more than once had, what seemed to me, an astonishingly low average citation rate of 2.8, i.e. if a book was chosen by more than one librarian, it was on average chosen by about three of them (out of twenty-eight).

No book showed up on a majority of lists (more than fourteen of the twenty-eight). The highest number of citations were garnered by Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad are Friends which were each mentioned by 12 out of twenty-eight librarians.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; and Goodnight Moon each came in with ten citations.
There were only twenty-five titles that showed up on at least a quarter of the lists.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz

Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger and illustrated by Tony Ross

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish and illustrated by Fritz Siebel

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Corduroy by Don Freeeman

Curious George by H.A. Rey

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca

Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective by Donald Sobol and illustrated by Leonard Shortall

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume and illustrated by Sonia O. Lisker

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Borwn and illustrated by Clement Hurd

Horrible Harry in Room 2B by Suzy Kline and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

Jumanji by Chris van Allsburg

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minark and illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard and illustrated by James Marshall

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

The Napping House by Don & Audrey Wood

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron and illustrated by Ann Strugnell

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Take it all with a pinch of salt, while I did my best to collect lists created for similar purposes by similarly qualified practitioners, done independently of one another, etc. this is not a scientifically controlled sample. You can read much or little into the results but I find them interesting and will be writing these up in more detail in later entries (and lists).

Monday, July 9, 2007

Founding Father of Book Lists?

In 1771, Thomas Jefferson was requested by Robert Skipwith to prepare a list of books: "I would have them suited to the capacity of the common reader who understands but little of the classicks and who has not leisure for any intricate or tedious study. Let them be improving as well as amusing and the rest let there be Hume's history of England, the new edition of Shakespeare, the short Roman history you mentioned and all Sterne's works."

Skipwith asked that the total list be constrained by a purchase estimate of twenty-five pounds sterling. Like any good book lister, Jefferson set out to prepare such a list, overshot the price estimate by double, couldn't stop adding to the list and finally suggested "therefore it might be as agreeable to you have framed such a general collection as I think you would wish and might in time find convenient to procure. Out of this you will chuse for yourself to the amount you mentioned for the present year and may hereafter as shall be convenient proceed in completing the whole." See below for a transcript of the correspondence and book list.

A Virginia Gentleman's Library
As Proposed by Thomas Jefferson to Robert Skipwith in 1771.
Robert Skipwith to Thomas Jefferson
Dear Sir,
This I have left at the Forest to remind you of your obliging promise and withal to guide you in your choice of books for me, both as to the number and matter of them. I would have them suited to the capacity of the common reader who understands but little of the classicks and who has not leisure for any intricate or tedious study. Let them be improving as well as amusing and the rest let there be Hume's history of England, the new edition of Shakespeare, the short Roman history you mentioned and all Sterne's works. I am very fond of Bumgarden's manner of binding but can't afford it unless Fingal or some other of those new works be bound up only after that manner; that one, Belisarius, and some others of the kind I would have if bound in gold. Let them amount to about five and twenty pounds sterling, or, if you think proper, to thirty pounds.
With the list please send to me particular directions for importing them, including the bookseller's place of residence. Your very hble servant,
Robt. Skipwith
To Robert Skipwith with a List of Books
Monticello, Aug. 3, 1771
I sat down with a design of executing your request to form a catalogue of books to the amount of about 50 lib. sterl. But could by no means satisfy myself with any partial choice could make. Thinking therefore it might be as agreeable to you have framed such a general collection as I think you would wish and might in time find convenient to procure. Out of this you will chuse for yourself to the amount you mentioned for the present year and may hereafter as shall be convenient proceed in completing the whole. A view of the second column in this catalogue would I suppose extort a smile from the face of gravity. Peace to its wisdom! Let me not awaken it. A little attention however to the nature of the human mind evinces that the entertainments of fiction are useful as well as pleasant. That they are pleasant when well written every person feels who reads. But wherein is its utility asks the reverend sage, big with the notion that nothing can be useful but the learned lumber of Greek and Roman reading with which his head is stored?
I answer, everything is useful which contributes to fix in the principles and practices of virtue. When any original act of charity or of gratitude, for instance, is presented either to our sight or imagination, we are deeply impressed with its beauty and feel a strong desire in ourselves of doing charitable and grateful acts also. On the contrary when we see or read of any atrocious deed, we are disgusted with it's deformity, and conceive an abhorence of vice. Now every emotion of this kind is an exercise of our virtuous dispositions, and dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body acquire strength by exercise. But exercise produces habit, and in the instance of which we speak the exercise being of the moral feelings produces a habit of thinking and acting virtuously. We never reflect whether the story we read be truth or fiction. If the painting be lively, and a tolerable picture of nature, we are thrown into a reverie, from which if we awaken it is the fault of the writer. I appeal to every reader of feeling and sentiment whether the fictitious murther of Duncan by Macbeth in Shakespeare does not excite in him as great a horror of villany, as the real one of Henry IV. by Ravaillac as related by Davila? And whether the fidelity of Nelson and generosity of Blandford in Marmontel do not dilate his breast and elevate his sentiments as much as any similar incident which real history can furnish? Does he not in fact feel himself a better man while reading them, and privately covenant to copy the fair example? We neither know nor care whether Lawrence Sterne really went to France, whether he was there accosted by the Franciscan, at first rebuked him unkindly, and then gave him a peace offering: or whether the whole be not fiction. In either case we equally are sorrowful at the rebuke, and secretly resolve we will never do so: we are pleased with the subsequent atonement, and view with emulation a soul candidly acknowleging it's fault and making a just reparation. Considering history as a moral exercise, her lessons would be too infrequent if confined to real life. Of those recorded by historians few incidents have been attended with such circumstances as to excite in any high degree this sympathetic emotion of virtue. We are therefore wisely framed to be as warmly interested for a fictitious as for a real personage. The field of imagination is thus laid open to our use and lessons may be formed to illustrate and carry home to the heart every moral rule of life. Thus a lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity that ever were written. This is my idea of well written Romance, of Tragedy, Comedy and Epic poetry. -- If you are fond of speculation the books under the head of Criticism will afford you much pleasure. Of Politics and Trade I have given you a few only of the best books, as you would probably chuse to be not unacquainted with those commercial principles which bring wealth into our country, and the constitutional security we have for the enjoiment of that wealth. In Law I mention a few systematical books, as a knowledge of the minutiae of that science is not necessary for a private gentleman. In Religion, History, Natural philosophy, I have followed the same plan in general, -- But whence the necessity of this collection? Come to the new Rowanty, from which you may reach your hand to a library formed on a more extensive plan. Separated from each other but a few paces the possessions of each would be open to the other. A spring centrically situated might be the scene of every evening's joy. There we should talk over the lessons of the day, or lose them in music, chess or the merriments of our family companions. The heart thus lightened our pillows would be soft, and health and long life would attend the happy scene. Come then and bring our dear Tibby with you, the first in your affections, and second in mine. Offer prayers for me too at that shrine to which tho' absent I pray continual devotions. In every scheme of happiness she is placed in the foreground of the picture, as the princi-pal figure. Take that away, and it is no picture for me. Bear my affections to Wintipock clothed in the warmest expressions of sincerity; and to yourself be every human felicity. Adieu.
Observations on gardening. Payne. 5/
Webb's essay on painting. 12mo 3/
Pope's Iliad. 18/
-- -- -- -Odyssey. 15/
Dryden's Virgil. 12mo. 12/
Milton's works. 2 v. 8vo. Donaldson.
Edinburgh 1762. 10/
Hoole's Tasso. 12mo. 5/
Ossian with Blair's criticisms. 2 v. 8vo. 10/
Telemachus by Dodsley. 6/
Capell's Shakespear. 12mo. 30/
Dryden's plays. 6v. 12mo. 18/
Addison's plays. 12mo. 3/
Otway's plays. 3 v. 12mo. 9/
Rowe's works. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Thompson's works. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Young's works. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Home's plays. 12mo. 3/
Mallet's works. 3 v. 12mo. 9/
Mason's poetical works. 5/
Terence. Eng. 3/
Moliere. Eng. 15/
Farquhar's plays. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Vanbrugh's plays. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Steele's plays. 3/
Congreve's works. 3 v. 12mo. 9/
Garric's dramatic works. 2 v. 8vo. 10/
Foote's dramatic works. 2 v. 8vo. 10/
Rousseau's Eloisa. Eng. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
-- -- -Emilius and Sophia. Eng. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Marmontel's moral tales. Eng. 2 v. 12mo. 12/
Gil Blas. by Smollett. 6/
Don Quixot. by Smollett 4 v. 12mo. 12/
David Simple. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
these are written by Smollett
Roderic Random. 2 v. 12mo. 6/ }
Peregrine Pickle. 4 v. 12mo. 12/ }
Launcelot Graves. 6/ }
Adventures of a guinea. 2 v. 12mo. 6/ }
these are by Richardson.
Pamela. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Clarissa. 8 v. 12mo. 24/
Grandison. 7 v. 12mo. 9/ }
Fool of quality. 3 v. 12mo. 9/ }
Feilding's works. 12 v. 12mo. £1.16
by Langhorne.
Constantia. 2 v. 12mo. 6/ }
Solyman and Almena. 12mo. 3/
Belle assemblee. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Vicar of Wakefeild. 2 v. 12mo. 6/. by Dr. Goldsmith
Sidney Bidulph. 5 v. 12mo. 15/
Lady Julia Mandeville. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Almoran and Hamet. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Tristam Shandy. 9 v. 12mo. £1.7
Sentimental journey. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Fragments of antient poetry. Edinburgh. 2/
Percy's Runic poems. 3/
Percy's reliques of antient English poetry. 3 v. 12mo. 9/
Percy's Han Kiou Chouan. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Percy's Miscellaneous Chinese peices. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Chaucer. 10/
Spencer. 6 v. 12mo. 15/
Waller's poems. 12mo. 3/
Dodsley's collection of poems. 6 v. 12mo. 18/
Pearch's collection of poems. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Gray's works. 5/
Ogilvie's poems. 5/
Prior's poems. 2 v. 12mo. Foulis. 6/
Gay's works. 12mo. Foulis. 3/
Shenstone's works. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Dryden's works. 4 v. 12mo. Foulis. 12/
Pope's works. by Warburton. 12mo. £1.4
Churchill's poems. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Hudibrass. 3/
Swift's works. 21 v. small 8vo. £ 3.3
Swift's literary correspondence. 3 v. 9/
Spectator. 9 v. 12mo. £ 1.7
Tatler. 5 v. 12mo. 15/
Guardian. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Freeholder. 12mo. 3/
Ld. Lyttleton's Persian letters. 12mo. 3/
Ld. Kaim's elements of criticism. 2 v. 8vo. 10/
Burke on the sublime and beautiful. 8vo. 5/
Hogarth's analysis of beauty. 4to. £ 1.1
Reid on the human mind. 8vo. 5/
Smith's theory of moral sentiments. 8vo. 5/
Johnson's dictionary. 2 v. fol. £ 3
Capell's prolusions. 12mo. 3/
Montesquieu's spirit of the laws. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Locke on government. 8vo. 5/
Sidney on government. 4to. 15/
Marmontel's Belisarius. 12mo. Eng. 3/
Ld. Bolingbroke's political works. 5 v. 8vo. £ 1.5
Montesquieu's rise & fall of the Roman governmt. 12mo. 3/
Steuart's Political oeconomy. 2 v. 4to. £ 1.10
Petty's Political arithmetic. 8vo. 5/
Locke's conduct of the mind in
search of truth. 12mo. 3/
Xenophon's memoirs of Socrates. by
Feilding. 8vo. 5/
Epictetus. by Mrs. Carter. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Antoninus by Collins. 3/
Seneca. by L'Estrange. 8vo. 5/
Cicero's Offices. by Guthrie. 8vo. 5/
Cicero's Tusculan questions. Eng. 3/
Ld. Bolingbroke's Philosophical works. 5 v. 8vo. £ 1.5
Hume's essays. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Ld. Kaim's Natural religion. 8vo. 6/
Philosophical survey of Nature. 3/
Oeconomy of human life. 2/
Sterne's sermons. 7 v. 12mo. £ 1.1
Sherlock on death. 8vo. 5/
Sherlock on a future state. 5/
Ld. Kaim's Principles of equity. fol. £ 1.1
Blackstone's Commentaries. 4 v. 4to. £ 4.4
Cuningham's Law dictionary. 2 v. fol. £ 3
Bible. 6/
Rollin's Antient history. Eng. 13 v. 12mo. £ 1.19
Stanyan's Graecian history. 2 v. 8vo. 10/
Livy. (the late translation). 12/
Sallust by Gordon. 12mo. 12/
Tacitus by Gordon. 12mo. 15/
Caesar by Bladen. 8vo. 5/
Josephus. Eng. 1.0
Vertot's Revolutions of Rome. Eng. 9/
Plutarch's lives. by Langhorne. 6 v. 8vo. £ 1.10
Bayle's Dictionary. 5 v. fol. £ 7.10.
Jeffery's Historical & Chronological chart. 15/
Robertson's History of Charles the Vth. 3 v. 4to. £ 3.3
Bossuet's history of France. 4 v. 12mo. 12/
Davila. by Farneworth. 2 v. 4to. £ 1.10.
Hume's history of England. 8 v. 8vo. £ 2.8.
Clarendon's history of the rebellion. 6 v. 8vo. £ 1.10.
Robertson's history of Scotland. 2 v. 8vo. 12/
Keith's history of Virginia. 4to. 12/
Stith's history of Virginia. 6/
Nature displayed. Eng. 7 v. 12mo.
Franklin on Electricity. 4to. 10/
Macqueer's elements of Chemistry 2 v. 8vo. 10/
Home's principles of agriculture. 8vo. 5/
Tull's horse-hoeing husbandry. 8vo. 5/
Duhamel's husbandry. 4to. 15/
Millar's Gardener's diet. fol. £ 2.10.
Buffon's natural history. Eng. £ 2.10.
A compendium of Physic & Surgery.
Nourse. 12mo. 1765. 3/
Addison's travels. 12mo. 3/
Anson's voiage. 8vo. 6/
Thompson's travels. 2 v. 12mo. 6/
Lady M. W. Montague's letters. 3 v. 12mo. 9/
Ld. Lyttleton's dialogues of the dead. 8vo. 5/
Fenelon's dialogues of the dead. Eng. 12mo. 3/
Voltaire's works. Eng. £ 4.
Locke on Education. 12mo. 3/
Owen's Dict. of arts & sciences 4 v. 8vo. £ 2.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Childhood favorites for Charles Bayless, Management Consultant

Charles Bayless was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1950's but grew up around the world as father's career in the oil business took them to Venezuela, Nigeria, Libya, the UK, and Sweden. Returning to the US his career for twenty years was in management consulting as a Partner at Ernst & Young and then as a Vice President of Capgemini. He is the co-founder of Through the Magic Door and, as might go without saying, an avid reader.

Which books did you read (or were read to you) as a child that you remember best and why?

There were many stories and books but there were a handful that standout in my memory. The Little Engine That Could was certainly one of these and I recall why. I liked the story, but somehow what kept me coming back were the illustrations; all those toys and fruits and handsome engines just captured my young eye. Other picture books included The Night Before Christmas, an edition of a children's illustrated Bible, and a book at my grandparents house about a wild chipmunk. I can't remember the title but it was realistically illustrated and captured the romance and hardness of wildlife in a fashion that frightened, stirred and inspired a small child without frightening him off.

Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, books by Paul Gallico, Jules Verne's Mysterious Island and Ballantine's Coral Island, and Alfred Hitchcock anthologies were favorites at the Independent Reader level. Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki, The Great Escape, Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, Daphne DuMaurier's short stories were all favorites at more of a Young Adult level.

Which books had the most influence on your thinking and character?

I have got to believe that that illustrated children's Bible has got to be right up there. I have a much greater knowledge of the Bible than I can attribute to adult reading and I think it must have been acquired at that young age.

While I read it only a couple of times and wouldn't necessarily say it was a favorite, I was fascinated by Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and the whole idea of not being bounded by unacknowedged conventions. Also around the Independent Reader level were a whole series of science or reference books: Guiness Book of World Records, Can Pigs Swim?, Time-Life reference books, Horizon Junior Library. There was just a raw pleasure at acquiring interesting information that helped make sense of the world.

Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror opened my eyes to how a gifted historian can recreate a world far removed in time. It was also one of those books that make the connection that, no matter that my visceral sense was of the Middle Ages being almost an unimagenably different time, people are people across the ages. You can't underestimate the differences that stand between your life and theirs but you can't deny that there is also a recognizable commonality

Are there any books related to your profession or calling that you think children ought to consider reading?

I can't really think of any for younger children related to management consulting other than those books about doing science experiments. There is always a solution: it might not be easy, you might not like the choice, but there is an outcome that you can accomplish. Any books on risk or on world history are good foundations for management consulting. There is nothing new under the sun and the more history you have read, the more likely you are to see patterns with the issues and problems clients face to day.

What books are you reading and enjoying today?

I always have twenty or thirty books going at the same time. In the past year I have been on a classic mysteries kick - Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, Georges Simenon, and the like. Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes, and Constant Battles by Steven A. LeBlanc have each been real pleasures to read in the past year but also fascinating for their information and ideas.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Maintaining standards

Those cheery academicians at Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest maintain an archive of past winners for the worst opening sentence.

Mentioned in the July/August edition of Archaeology Magazine, (which I would recommend to any of you with 10 year olds or older, who are very interested in archaeology), is a site,, with a lot of information nicely, organized. As a ten - twenty year old I was fascinated by language and alphabets. I don't know why I am using the past tense. I still am, other things just crowded in the way. Anyway, neat resources to feed an interest in writing, alphabets and language.

Pseudonym finder

Here's a useful little site for finding the nom-de-plume of an author or, alternatively, the real name.