A Year in Books/Day 19: Twilight at Monticello

  • Title: Twilight at Monticello The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson
  • Author: Alan Pell Crawford
  • Year Published: 2008 (Random House)
  • Year Purchased: 2010
  • Source: Book-of-the-Month Club
  • About: A microscopically close telling of the third President of the United States’ final years.
  • Motivation: Honestly? This was automatically sent to me after I forgot to mail in the silly little book club card declining the honor. I kept it and finally decided to read it a few months later.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 196: “Jefferson had envisioned his “academical village” as a beacon of Enlightenment learning in the New World. By late 1820, however, he had come to regard the University of Virginia as an outpost of strict construction, fighting a rearguard action to determine how the U.S. Constitution was to be interpreted and applied. These may or may not have been mutually exclusive educational functions. But if they could not be reconciled, it was clear to Jefferson which should take precedence.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9
    Thomas Jefferson 3x4

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A Year in Books/Day 18: A Simple Story

  • Title: A Simple Story
  • Author: Elizabeth Inchbald
  • Year Published: 1791/this edition 1988 (Oxford University Press)
  • Year Purchased: 2006
  • Source: A now-defunct Buffalo, New York bookstore
  • About: An audacious yet thoughtful novel by a truly trailblazing female writer, ‘A Simple Story’ should be read by anyone claiming an interest in women’s history or fine literature.
  • Motivation: See above. Elizabeth Inchbald, a woman writing at a time when that was hardly a blessing, needs to be rediscovered. I squealed when I saw this book sitting in the stall. This edition also boasts a lovely Vigee Le Brun reproduction on the front cover.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 1: “It is said, a book should be read with the same spirit with which it has been written. In that case, fatal must be the reception of this-for the writer frankly avows, that during the time she has been writing it, she has suffered every quality and degree of weariness and lassitude, into which no other employment could have betrayed her.”
  • English: English novelist, actress, and dramat...

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    Happiness Scale: 9

A Year in Books/Day 17: King of Comedy

  • Title: King of Comedy
  • Author: Mack Sennett with Cameron Shipp
  • Year Published: 1954/This Edition: 1990 (Mercury House)
  • Year Purchased: 1994/1995
  • Source: Walden Books
  • About: This autobiography of one of the progenitors of film-and the creator of The Keystone Kops and
    English: This image of Mr Sennett was publishe...

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    Sennett Bathing Beauties-needs to be taken with a generous grain of salt. Fortunately, even a well-scrubbed telling of the heady early days of Hollywood-where Sennett oversaw Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand at the start of their careers-remains considerably more entertaining than fiction.

  • Motivation: Mabel Normand, Mabel Normand, Mabel Normand! Oh, and a genuine-behind-the-scenes peek at movie-making when it was still being invented and defined.
  • Times Read: 3
  • Random Excerpt/Page 138: “We became scientists in custard. A man named Greenburg, who ran a small restaurant-bakery near the studio, became a pie-throwing entrepreneur. Our consumption was so enormous that this man got rich. After several experiments he invented a special Throwing Pie, just right in heft and consistency, filled with paste and inedible. He lost most of his eating customers when he began to sell them throwing custards by mistake.”
  • Happiness: 9 for atmosphere/6 for veracity

A Year in Books/Day 16: Secrets of the Flesh

  • Title: Secrets of the Flesh A Life of Colette
  • Author: Judith Thurman
  • Year Published: 1999 (The Ballantine Publishing Company)
  • Year Purchased: 2005/2006
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: This perceptive, well researched biography of the great French writer and sensualist is the one to top.
  • Motivation: Colette was intelligent, talented, witty, complex , contradictory, fluid and far ahead of her time. Perhaps best of all, she was never boring.
  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 215: “Colette herself thought it “worth remarking” that the intimate friends of her years as a vagabond, “the true and faithful ones,” were all “luckless and irremediably sad.” She considered that it might be “the solidarity of unhappiness that unites us” but decided that it wasn’t. She “attracted and retained the depressives, the solitaires,” she reasoned, because they were simply fellow misfits, unencumbered by families or convention, and “dedicated to a life of seclusion or wandering, as I am.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9 1/2
    Writer Colette

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A Year in Books/Day 15: Monarchs of the Nile

  • Title: Monarchs of the Nile
  • Author: Aidan Dodson
  • Year Published: 1995/Revised Edition 2000 (The American University in Cairo Press)
  • Year Purchased: 2002/2003
  • Source: History Book Club
  • About: A sequential history of Egyptian rulers.
  • Motivation: History geek in the house here. As a child, I loved reading about Egypt. I decided to rekindle the spark with this book.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 88: “His son buried him in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the walls of the burial chamber adorned as if a huge papyrus had been unrolled against them. Within, Tuthmosis III was laid to rest in a magnificent quartzite sarcophagus, perhaps the finest of its kind ever made: it was so admired that a thousand years later an Egyptian nobleman named Hapymen would have its decoration copied onto his own coffer, now in the British Museum.”
  • Happiness Scale: 7
    Thutmosis III statue in Luxor Museum

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A Year in Books/Day 14: Literary Feasts

  • Title: Literary Feasts Inspired Eating from Classic Fiction
  • Author: Sean Brand
  • Year Published: 2006 (ATRIA Books)
  • Year Purchased: 2008
  • Source: Daedalus Books
  • About: A tantalizing cornucopia of literature’s finest culinary scenes, complete with all necessary ingredients to recreate them.
  • Motivation: Classic literature + food. Need there be anything more?
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 35: “Of all the feasts in this book, Swann’s way is the most obsessively sensitive and gratuitously nostalgic. It is not about flavor, and certainly not about portion-size-it is only a small mouthful that sets Swann off on his multi-volume reverie. This tea reminds the serious gastronome of the exquisite pleasures of simple things simply done, and the extraordinarily range of memories that can be revived by simple tastes.”
  • Happiness Scale: 7 1/2
    Marcel Proust in 1900

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A Year in Books/Day 13: The Hulton Getty Picture Collection 1920s

  • Title: The Hulton Getty Picture Collection 1920s
  • Author: Nick Yapp
  • Year Published: 1998 (Könemann)
  • Year Purchased: 2005
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: A photographic stroll through the 1920s, with enlightening chapter introductions and detailed captions.
  • Motivation: I’m mad for history; I write extensively on Jazz Age subjects, including silent cinema, dead writers and flappers.
  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 206:”The ‘hands on knees crossover’ step from the most famous and enduring dance of the Twenties-the Charleston. The monkey was not obligatory.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10
    English: Violet Romer in flapper dress

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A Year in Books/Day 12: Bizarre Books

His Excellency Lord Aberdeen

Image via Wikipedia-Lord Aberdeen, quite the humorist.

  • Title: Bizarre Books A Compendium of Classic Oddities
  • Authors: Russell Ash & Brian Lake
  • Year Published: 2007 (Harper Perennial)
  • Year Purchased: 2010
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: This books features the best of the worst titles that England has produced, in one handy, uproarious little volume. All of these works were written and published in all seriousness.
  • Motivation: ‘Jokes Cracked by Lord Aberdeen’, ‘An Irishman’s Difficulties with the Dutch Language’ and ‘How to Avoid Work’ are all reproduced on the front cover. I’m also obsessed with lists.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 132: “While Dick knelt down, ready to fire, Syl could not help but clutch his wonderfully-got bag of marbles.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9 1/2


A Year in Books/Day 11: Born for Liberty

  • Title: Born for Liberty A History of Women in America
  • Author: Sara M. Evans
  • Year Published: 1989 (The Free Press)
  • Year Purchased: 2001/2002
  • Source: Unknown
  • About: An intelligent, critical study of the changing nature of women’s place in American society.
  • Motivation: I’m a feminist who enjoys a good, solid read on the subject.
    Suffragists picketing the White House, January...

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  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 85: “By the 1830s the social worlds occupied by the genteel and by the working classes were distinct and rarely overlapped. A lack of familiarity with one another’s cultural patterns-and with the circumstances that explained them-quickly evolved into suspicion or contempt. Middle-class reformers often viewed the lower classes as a breed apart, and readily condemned their ideas of domestic comfort and standards of morals far below their own.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

A Year in Books/Day 10: The Filmgoer’s Companion

Lars Hanson

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  • Title: The Filmgoer’s Companion Third Edition
  • Author: Leslie Halliwell (with a Foreword by Alfred Hitchcock)
  • Year Published: 1970 (Hill and Wang New York)
  • Year Purchased: 1990’s
  • Source: Antique Building, The Ohio State Fair
  • About: A dense, 1,072 page listing of nearly every player in movie history (up to the 1960’s), complete with pertinent biographical and career data, this is an info junkie’s dream. There is nothing extraneous, with Halliwell offering up facts and not opinions.
  • Motivation: I love old movie stars, especially those of the once-famous-now-obscure variety. For this reason, I collect vintage fan magazines and out-of-print, pre-1990’s genre books. Every cinema buff should own one edition of ‘The Filmgoer’s Companion’.
  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 7: “Speaking personally, I don’t know whether it is more flattering or disturbing to find oneself pinned down like a butterfly in a book which recounts all the macabre details of one’s career. But being a stickler for detail myself, I must, and do, submit; and I wish the enterprise well.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10+++ (although IMDB is splendid, sometimes only a book will do)
    English: Studio publicity photo of Alfred Hitc...

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