A Year in Books/Day 54: The Prospect Before Her

  • Title: The Prospect Before Her A History of Women in Western Europe Volume One 1500-1800
  • Author: Olwen Hufton
  • Year Published: 1995 (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.)
  • Year Purchased: 2002-2004
  • Source: Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller Company
  • About: A lengthy, serious study of what girls could expect from their lives, from the cradle to the grave, between the years 1500-1800 in Western Europe. This isn’t the most well-made volume, and is falling apart at the binding, but the scholarship and writing are first-class.
  • Motivation: I’m a feminist. I dig history and women’s studies.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 91: “The women involved were drawn not from the city of Lyons, unless they were the master’s daughters, but from the mountainous villages of the Forez, Besse and Bugey and parts of the Dauphine. They were known as silk-maker’s servants because they lived in (often sleeping under the looms) and like domestic servants they were paid on an annual basis or when they left the employment of the master. Like servants they started in their early teens and expected to work for about fifteen years before having saved enough to embark on matrimony.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

A Year in Books/Day 46: Scotch Whisky

  • Title: Scotch Whisky A Liquid History
  • Author: Charles MacLean
  • Year Published: 2005 (Cassell Illustrated)
  • Year Purchased: 2009
  • Source: A dear friend.
  • About: The history of Scotch, covering the years 1494-1994.
  • Motivation: This book was a thank you gift from a close friend. My (now) husband and I love Scotch. In fact, my appreciation of and knowledge about the beverage helped him fall in love with me. Although this is the stuff of another story or ten, our mutual love of the drink has been a pretty constant thread in our relationship. Aw, romance!
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 37: “In 1707 Scotland was one of the poorest and most backward countries in Europe. Agriculture was at the stage it had reached centuries before; manufacturing, as we understand the term, did not exist. Even the gentry lived in relatively straitened circumstances-an average gentlewoman would possess no more than three or four fine dresses throughout her lifetime.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9 1/2


A Year in Books/Day 45: Haunted London

English: Exterior of The Langham, London

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  • Title: Haunted London
  • Author: Richard Jones
  • Year Published: 2004 (Barnes & Noble Books)
  • Year Purchased: 2005
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: A photograph-rich travel book that blends traditional history with paranormal research.
  • Motivation: I’m a history-mad Anglophile with a penchant for off-the-beaten-path adventure.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 23: “A forerunner of London’s grand hotels, the Langham Hotel was built in 1864. Its Victorian splendor was host to such famous names as Mark Twain, Arnold Bennett, Napoleon III of France, and the composer Dvorak -who managed to offend the sensibilities of the management when, in an attempt to save money, he requested a double room for himself and his adult daughter.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

A Year in Books/Day 43: The Big Bam

  • Title: The Big Bam The Life and Times of Babe Ruth
  • Author: Leigh Montville
  • Year Published: 2006 (Doubleday)
  • Year Purchased: 2010
  • Source: History Book Club
  • About: A first-rate biography of Babe Ruth, written by a first-rate sports writer, Leigh Montville (‘Ted Williams’). A good biography is easy enough to find. If you can manage to locate one that combines in-depth research with a nuanced understanding of human psychology, all blended together with sports knowledge and the ability to tell a damn fine story, then you are likely in the presence of greatness.
  • Motivation: I grew up watching baseball with my Grandpa (the Indians, not the Yankees). It remains one of my favorite past-times, evoking fond memories whilst simultaneously creating new ones. I love a good character study and, wow, is Babe Ruth’s life perfect fodder for that!
    Babe Ruth, full-length portrait, standing, fac...

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  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 122: “The Los Angeles Times reported that this was the biggest national rumor since the famous “Fake Armistice” story of November 7, 1918, which at first sent people into the streets in celebration of the end of the world war, then resulted in a number of riots when the news turned out to be false. The Babe rumor, while it did flash through poolrooms and boardrooms everywhere in the country, had a much quieter finish as baseball officials immediately denied it.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10

A Year in Books/Day 42: Vermeer

  • Title: Vermeer The Complete Paintings
  • Author: Norbert Schneider
  • Year Published: 2001 (Taschen)
  • Year Purchased: 2002/2003
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: Mid-way between a coffee table book and scholarly treatise, this small, slim volume is a surprisingly stunning study of the legendary Dutch master’s entire output (35 paintings). Norbert Schneider has serious chops as an art historian, yet manages to present technical details, sociological factors and biographical information in a straightforward and engaging manner. He takes you considerably deeper than ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. His beautifully nuanced precision is well worthy of Vermeer.
  • Motivation: I have wildly eclectic taste. Though my preferences twist and turn, slither and lurch to a thousand and one different places, doubling back before shooting off in another hundred seemingly random, sometimes contradictory directions, one thing is always indisputable: I like what I like. And I like Vermeer. In fact, I have an overall fondness for Dutch painting. A quick thumb-through of this lush little gem and I was sold.
  • Times Read: Countless
  • Random Excerpt/Page 36: ” A peeled lemon in ‘Woman and two men’ lies on a silver dish next to a jug which has been placed on a white cloth in an arrangement which is almost like a still life; the purpose if the lemon was to reduce the effect of love potions.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10++
    Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid (1658–1660)

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A Year in Books/Day 41: Mary Queen of Scots

  • Title: Mary Queen of Scots
  • Author: Marjorie Bowen
  • Year Published: First Edition-1934/This Edition: 1971 (Sphere Books Limited)
  • Year Purchased: 2001
  • Source: Book Harbor, Westerville, Ohio
  • About: A fine biography that gives the Scots queen her full due. A true classic.
  • Motivation: I have a largish collection of Tudor-themed books. Although I have never been strongly attached to Elizabeth’s cousin, I thought it was time to give a few feet of shelf space to the House of Stuart. I’m glad I did.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 200: “It was Sir Henry Killigrew who brought the official warning and the secret complaint to Edinburgh. He had his notes to make on the affairs, domestic and politic, of the young Queen of Scots who should, by the birth of her son, have been at the height of her triumph.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10
    Mary, Queen of Scots, who conspired with Engli...

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A Year in Books/Day 40: The World’s Most Notorious Women

  • Title: The World’s Most Notorious Women Secrets, lies, murders, and scandals….The Notorious Acts of Women
  • Author: None listed. I cannot say that I blame them (see below).
  • Year Published: 2001/This Edition 2002 (ALVA PRESS)
  • Year Purchased: 2003/2004
  • Source: Via mail/unknown source
  • About: When I bought this book for a dollar or two, my hopes were admittedly pretty low. I thought it would be an easy, quick, silly beach-type read. Little did I know then how wrong I was. This is, without any doubt, the shoddiest book I have ever seen or read. If writing 2,000 words enumerating exactly how awful it is, in every damn way, was not wildly out of proportion to its inherent insignificance, I would probably do so. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 39: Elizabethan Cross Stitch

  • Title: Elizabethan Cross Stitch
  • Author: Barbara Hammet
  • Year Published: 2004 (A David & Charles Book)
  • Year Purchased: 2005
  • Source: Likely a book club of some sort
  • About: Yes, this is a craft book. It contains 25 cross stitch patterns based on Elizabethan designs. Scintillating, I know.
  • Motivation: The Elizabethan is one of my favorite eras. I was piqued by the ever-so-slight historical bent. As an adult I can barely sew on a button. As a child, I was a very intermittent but quite excellent cross stitcher. Also, deep down, I know that there is a craft-beast waiting to be unleashed. If only I had the time. Apparently, I don’t. I completed a stunning pin cushion for my Grandma circa 2007. My second project ( a pillow based on a garden) has been in the planning stages since then. Sigh.
  • Times Read: 1 (or, as much as you can actually read a book containing cross stitch patterns)
  • Random Excerpt/Page 5: “The embroidery of the Elizabethan period is characterized by great richness and originality. The works are often more complex than modern ones, often on a finer scale and frequently allude to historical figures, but in them we recognize the beginning of all the embroidery we know today.”
  • Happiness Scale: 7

A Year in Books/Day 38: Bedside Book of Famous French Stories

  • Title: Bedside Book of Famous French Stories
  • Edited By: Belle Decker and Robert N. Linscott
  • Year Published: 1945 (Random House)
  • Year Purchased: 1991
  • Source: Columbus Public Library, library sale
  • About: A compilation of French short stories by such heavyweights as Honore de Balzac, Prosper Merimee, George Sand, Anatole France, Emile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre.
  • Motivation: Even as a teenager, I had an affinity for short stories. I think I knew that, as a writer, it would be my most natural (fiction) medium. This book was my introduction to the work of those listed above. Prior to that, they were just enticing but empty names. I also really love old books. I picked up an 80-year-old copy of Zola’s ‘Nana’ at the same sale. It was a good day.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 23: “The old lady meanwhile, passive as a child and almost dazed, sat down on her chair again. But the honest pastry-cook came back directly. A countenance red enough to begin with, and further flushed by the bake-house fire, was suddenly blanched; such terror perturbed him that he reeled as he walked, and stared about him like a drunken man.”
  • Happiness Scale: 7 1/2
    English: Emile Zola, French writer, at the beg...

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A Year in Books/Day 37: The Reel List

  • Title: The Reel List An Irreverent Guide Arranged by Uncommon Categories, from Rock ‘n’ Roll to Revisionist Westerns
  • Author: Lynne Arany, Tom Dyja, and Gary Goldsmith
  • Year Published: 1995 (A Detal Book/Published by Dell Publishing)
  • Year Purchased: 1996/1997
  • Source: Little Professor Book Company
  • About: The subtitle gets to the point better than I could. I’ll add that some of the categories are a hoot, and let them ‘speak’ for themselves-The Butler Did It; Hot Rock Rip-Offs & Other Capers; The Aesthetics of Elvis; Adulteries to Remember.
  • Motivation: One of the points you will see me assert repeatedly is how much I love movies. I really, really do. Mostly old ones, but I digress. I also love lists. No, let me take that a step of 932 further: I need lists. They are a lifelong and basic requirement to my happiness and well-being, one of the tools I use to keep my untidy and wildly fertile mind in some semblance of order. This book is a winner on dual fronts.
  • Times Read: 2
  • Random Excerpt/Page 110: “The best thing about movie cats is that precious few of them belong to sensitive tykes with no friends. These cats have sex, work for the FBI, come from outer space, even rise from the dead, and the last thing they’d ever do is wander cross-country to find a beloved owner. Apparently these inert lumps of fur can be interesting when they want to be.

    A photograph promoting the film Jailhouse Rock...

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