Quiz of the Month – June 2017

Below are the partial titles of 30 fiction and nonfiction books along with the names of their authors.  See if you can complete the titles.  As always the answers to the quiz can be found on my Quiz Answers page.

  1.  A Connecticut Yankee . . . – Mark Twain
  2. Around the World . . . – Jules Verne
  3. The Sword . . . – T. H. White
  4. Watership . . . – Richard Adams
  5. The Gang That . . . – Jimmy Breslin
  6. Riders of the . . . – Zane Grey
  7. Guns, . . . – Jared Diamond
  8. All the Light . . . – Anthony Doerr
  9. Astrophysics for People . . . – Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  10. The Very Hungry . . . – Eric Carle
  11. One Flew Over . . . – Ken Kesey
  12. The Bonfire . . . – Tom Wolfe
  13. Tinker, . . . – John Le Carré
  14. The Heart . . . – Carson McCullers
  15. The Manchurian . . . – Richard Condon
  16. Midnight in the Garden . . . – John Berendt
  17. The Man Who Mistook His Wife . . . – Oliver Sacks
  18. I Know Why . . . – Maya Angelou
  19. The Old Man . . . – Ernest Hemingway
  20. The Fault . . . – John Green
  21. The Emperor . . . – Siddhartha Mukherjee
  22. Friday the Rabbi . . . – Harry Kemelman
  23. One Hundred Years . . . – Gabriel García Márquez
  24. The Phantom . . . – Gaston Leroux
  25. The Girl with . . . – Stieg Larsson
  26. The Strange Case of . . . – Robert Louis Stevenson
  27. Things  . . . – Chinua Achebe
  28. The Talented . . . – Patricia Highsmith
  29. Their Eyes . . . – Zora Neale Hurston
  30. The Master . . . – Mikhail Bulgakov
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Quotes of Note

“Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it. For them there is no winter food problem. They have fires and warm clothes. The winter cannot hurt them and therefore increases their sense of cleverness and security.” – Richard Adams, Watership Down

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

“There are many lessons in my fantastic journey. As I approach my eighth decade, with more fans and adulation than I could ever deserve, I can say with certainty that to be interesting you have to be interested. You can watch the parade that is life—and live vicariously through others, as many do—or you can get in and participate in your own journey. And the best time to go for broke is when you’re already there.” – Jonathan Goldsmith (a.k.a. The Most Interesting Man in the World)

“Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one. It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices. Its only admonition is: Despair more. It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own.” – Jill Lepore, “A Golden Age of Dystopian Fiction” in The New Yorker magazine

“When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business.” – Flannery O’Connor

“The course of life is fixed, and nature admits of its being run but in one way, and only once; and to each part of our life there is something specially seasonable; so that the feebleness of children, as well as the high spirit of youth, the soberness of maturer years, and the ripe wisdom of old age—all have a certain natural advantage which should be secured in its proper season.” – Cicero, “On Old Age”

“My dear Laelius and Scipio, we must stand up against old age and make up for its drawbacks by taking pains. We must fight it as we should an illness. We must look after our health, use moderate exercise, take just enough food and drink to recruit, but not to overload our strength. Nor is it the body alone that must be supported, but the intellect and soul much more. For they are like lamps: unless you feed them with oil, they too go out from old age. . . the intellect becomes nimbler by exercising itself.” – Cicero, “On Old Age” (This prescription for good health is as true today as it was when Cicero wrote it over two thousand years ago.)

“They [authors] may use all kinds of facts to support their tissue of lies.  They may describe the Marshalsea Prison, which was a real place, or the Battle of Borodino, which really was fought, or the process of cloning, which really takes place in laboratories, or the deterioration of a personality, which is described in real textbooks of psychology, and so on.  This weight of verifiable place-event-phenomenon-behavior makes the reader forget that he is reading a pure invention, a history that never took place anywhere but in that unlocalizable region, the author’s mind.  In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane—bonkers. We believe in  the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices, we watch the Battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon.  Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.

“Is it any wonder that no truly respectable society has ever trusted its artists?” – Ursula K. Le Guin, “Introduction” to The Left Hand of Darkness

“To my creditors, who remain an eternal source of inspiration.” – Book Dedication by Author Michael Moorcock

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” – Dorothy Parker

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Y Is for Yesterday

Detective novelist Sue Grafton is nearing the finish line of her A to Z series featuring Casey Millhone.  An article about the series in USA Today also features an excerpt from her latest installation Y Is for Yesterday.

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This autumn spy novelist John Le Carré, 85, will publish his final book featuring George Smiley.  He will also make a rare public appearance to discuss his most famous creation.

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Team of Rivals

The Independent has compiled a list of 32 books that will make you a more well-rounded person – just in case you’re lacking in roundedness.

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The two startup founders of theSkimm have created an equivalent to The Oprah Book Club and millennials love it.  Business Insider has the details of a phenomenon that has 5 million email subscribers to its daily newsletter.

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Into the Water

Paula Hawkins, author of the extremely popular novel Girl on the Train, has written a new novel titled Into the Water.  You can read a short excerpt of it here.

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James Patterson routinely co-writes novels with others, but this time he is working on a mystery novel with a former president: Bill Clinton.  “Unbelievable,” you say?  Believe it.

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I'd Die for You

Though it’s almost unbelievable, a new book containing a number of heretofore unpublished short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald has recently been published.  Written at a bleak time in Fitzgerald’s life, some of the stories reflect his state of mind, while others are startling for their humor.

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In 18th century Europe reading in bed at night was equated with asking for God’s punishment.  Why?  An Atlantic article explains.

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Have you ever heard of Jilly Cooper?  Well, you should learn a bit about her since she is being compared favorably to Charles Dickens.

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An article in Time magazine has some interesting (and perhaps unsettling) facts about the age at which our brains and bodies perform best. Read the article at your own risk.

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Can you name two things that Sigmund Romberg, Rudolf Friml, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Lorenz Hart, Leonard Bernstein, Steven Sondheim, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerry Herman, Burton Lane, Yip Harburg, and Jerome Kern have in common? Tune in to Music on the Sunny Side on Sunday, June 4th between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. CT and you’ll find out.  If you’re in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area, you can listen at 90.3 FM.  We’re also on the internet at WBRH.

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The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, June 4,  2017 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  The featured guest will be author and journalist Matt Taibi.  His recent books include Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus and The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

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The Little Paris Bookshop

I recently read two novels about traveling bookshops.  The first book is Parnassus on Wheels (1917) by Christopher Morley and the second is The Little Paris Bookshop (2013) by Nina George.

Parnassus on Wheels is the story of Helen McGill, a single woman in her late thirties who lives on a farm with her brother.  When a traveling bookseller named Roger Mifflin tells her that he wants to sell his wagon and its many books so he can go back to New York, she decides to buy it and to set out on an adventure.  Not only does she find adventure, she also finds love.  Roger has a knack for finding out what books people might want to read and then pulling out an appropriate book from his vast collection.  Helen tries to duplicate Roger’s technique with varying results.

One of the many funny incidents in the novel occurs when Helen tries to sell books to various people who say they don’t need any more books because they recently bought a 20 volume set entitled The World’s Great Funeral Orations from another traveling bookseller.

The Little Paris Bookshop is the story of Jean Perdu (literally John Lost) who specializes in finding out what people need to read for their wellbeing and then insisting that they purchase only the books he recommends.  He has a gift for determining what books others need to read to heal their wounded psyches, but is unable to heal himself from the crippling loss of his lover who left him 21 years before the events in the novel.  Jean, like Helen McGill, has a mobile bookshop.  His is on a barge in the Seine River in Paris.  After he finally reads a letter his lover had sent him shortly after she left, Jean decides to travel on his barge to the town where she lived.  He, like McGill, has many adventures along the way and finally finds peace and love.  This novel is much more complex that Morley’s novel and much more graphic.

Both novels, but especially The Little Paris Bookshop, are about something called “bibliotherapy“: the idea that reading books about a problem you have can actually heal you.  Jean Perdu is definitely more than a bookseller, he is a “bibliotherapist.”

The idea of books being a therapeutic tool is not new. In fact, it goes all the way back to ancient Greek times.  An inscription above the door of the library at Thebes announced that therein was “Medicine for the Soul.”  The word “bibliotherapy” was not coined, however, until essayist Samuel Crothers recommended that books be used as therapy in a 1916 Atlantic Monthly article.  In that article Crothers described his proposed treatment technique and named it “bibliotherapy.”  While some embrace the idea of books as a therapeutic tool, many others dismiss it as being useless – and a possible source of malpractice law suits.

In an appendix in The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, lists books that she thinks could be useful in curing your emotional maladies.  It is titled “Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy: From Adams to Von Arnim,” and is described as, “fast-acting medicines for minds and hearts affected by minor or moderate emotional turmoil.” She goes on to say that it is, “to be taken in easily digestible doses (between five and fifty pages) unless otherwise indicated and, if possible, with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap.”

Below are a few of her recommendations:

Barbery, MurielThe Elegance of the Hedgehog.  An effective cure in large doses for if-such-and-such-happens-ism.  Recommended for unacknowledged geniuses, lovers of intellectual films, and people who hate bus drivers.

Cervantes, Miguel deThe Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.  To be taken when your ideals clash with reality.  Side effects: Anxiety about modern technology and about the destructive effects of machines, which we fight as though they were windmills.

Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking, trans. Tony Ross. Effective against acquired (rather than innate) pessimism, and a fear of miracles. Side effects: Diminished numeracy skills; singing in the shower.

Twain, MarkThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  To overcome adult worries and rediscover the child within.

You may find Parnassus on Wheels (which is in the public domain) a bit trite, but it’s an easy,  fun book to read.  The Little Paris Bookshop is much more substantive.

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Words at Play


Perhaps you have never heard of a lexicographer named Kory Stamper, but she is very popular with word nerds.  In addition to her public relations duties with Merriam-Webster she gives talks about words and has recorded numerous short YouTube videos about them.

Recently Stamper completed a book titled Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries that is receiving excellent reviews.  A Mentalfloss article lists 10 things they learned about the dictionary from Stamper.  Many of her YouTube videos are available here.

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Going to Hell in a Hen Basket

Book TV recently aired a panel discussion on the English language featuring Robert Alden Rubin, author of Going to Hell in a Hen Basket: An Illustrated Dictionary of Modern Malapropisms, and Allan Metcalf, author of From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generation.  Rubin spoke first and presented a very funny lecture on malapropisms complete with his own delightful drawings (which also appear in his book).  Metcalf then spoke about various words, but you may find his delivery a bit dry – especially after Rubin’s performance.

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We often use idioms, but we seldom bother to analyze them.  When we do, we often find that they are nonsensical.  For instance, what does it mean to “beat around the bush”?  Now, consider the distress of English speakers who attempt to translate foreign language idioms into English.  The literal translations often leave us clueless as to the intent of the conglomeration of words.  Here are 21 examples.

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The Word Detective

Lexicographer John Simpson has penned a book, The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary, that is both a memoir about his 37 years working on the Oxford English Dictionary, and a wonderful book about the words he finds most interesting.  A Guardian article about Simpson is a must-read for all word lovers.

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Quiz of the Month – May 2017

Below are 30 book titles.  Some are current while others are quite old.  Most are fiction, but a few are nonfiction.  The vowels have been removed from each word in each title.  Can you reconstruct the titles?  And for extra credit, can you name the author (or authors) of each book?  The answers are on my Quiz Answers page.

  1. B_n-H_r
  2. D_n   Q__x_t_
  3. Fr__k_n_m_cs
  4. _   T_l_   _f   Tw_   C_t__s
  5. Th_   Z__k__p_r’s   W_f_
  6. Th_   Sw_rd   _n   th_   St_n_
  7. _r__nd   th_   W_rld   _n   80   D_ys
  8. Fl_w_rs   f_r   _lg_rn_n
  9. _   B___t_f_l   M_nd
  10. S_l_nt    Spr_ng
  11. Th_   M_rd_r   _f   R_g_r   _ckr_yd
  12. Th_   W_r   _f   th_   W_rlds
  13. Th   G_rl   Wh_   Pl_y_d   w_th   F_r_
  14. P_t   S_m_t_ry
  15. Th_   St_pf_rd   W_v_s
  16. Th_   H__s_   _f   th_   S_v_n   G_bl_s
  17. Th_   S__nd   _nd   th_   F_ry
  18. Th_   Gr__t   G_tsby
  19. Th_   P__s_nw__d   B_bl_
  20. G_ns,   G_rms,   _nd   St__l
  21. Th_   _mp_r_r   _f   _ll   M_l_d__s
  22. Th_   F__lt   _n   __r   St_rs
  23. _nn_   K_r_n_n_
  24. G_n_   w_th   th_   W_nd
  25. M_d_m_   B_v_ry
  26. Z_rb_   th_   Gr__k
  27. Th_   M_nch_r__n   C_nd_d_t_
  28. Th_   T_l_nt_d   Mr.   R_pl_y
  29. M_dn_ght   _n   th_   G_rd_n   _f   G__d   _nd   _v_l
  30. Th_   _mm_rt_l   L_f_   _f   H_nr__tt_   L_cks
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Hemingway Didn't Say That

Who said, “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes”?  Mark Twain?  Nope, not according to researcher Garson O’Toole.  Seven years ago Mr. O’Toole started a website called Quote Investigator.  Recently he published a book entitled Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar QuotationsThe New York Times has a review of the book, and NPR recently featured Mr. O’Toole on All Things Considered.

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Quirk lists the most dangerous libraries in pop culture including one that houses all the books that people dreamed of writing but never did.  Would you have a book in that library?

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The National Geographic Channel has a new series entitled Genius.  The first season’s programs are about Albert Einstein.  The series was inspired by Walter Isaacson’s 2007 bestseller Einstein: His Life and UniverseDiscover magazine features an interview with the creators of the series.

The first episode aired Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET, and new episodes will air each Tuesday night at that same time.  You can watch the first episode free for a limited time at the National Geographic website, or you can catch reruns on the National Geographic channel at various times during the week following each episode’s premier.  Find out everything you need to know about the series here.

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City on Fire

Granta, the venerable British literary magazine, recently published a list of the 21 best American novelists under the age of 40.

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When I mention reading ebooks to people, I often get the reply that they prefer the feel and smell of real books – even old books.  According to a Reader’s Digest article scientists think they’ve discovered why people like the smell of old books. Hint: think “chocolate.”

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The Telegraph has published a fascinating literary map of London.  On it, the names of hundreds of fictional characters are place in the areas of London that they’re most associated with.

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Literary Hub has an interesting article that features authors talking about the books that made them want to write.  You’ll recognize some of the books, but others – perhaps many others – will be added to your “books to read” list.

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I recently reformatted the page “Readings I’ve Enjoyed” on my website because the formatting mysteriously disappeared.  The content was there, but each article had become one long, long paragraph.  There are some articles there that you might enjoy including the short stories “To Build a Fire” by Jack London and “Boule de Suif” by Guy de Maupassant.

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I’ll once again host Music on the Sunny Side on WBRH-FM on Sunday morning, May 7 from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. CT.  The entire show will be devoted to movie music.  Some selections will be from soundtracks while others will be performed by notable singers and musicians who “covered” the originals.  Be sure to join me for a morning of beautiful music from some of the world’s greatest movies.

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The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, May 7, 2017 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  The featured guest will be author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.  His books include StarTalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond, and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

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