Book Stacks

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Here's an interesting holiday idea.

Maybe the Hamakers should make this part of our annual gift-giving to our daughters. They do love books. But they already have so many.

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The book stack idea is great. I still remember the joy I had when I was in second grade and I received the boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia. I don't remember anything else from that year, but I remember those books.

You can always put a date in the corner of the book, "Christmas 2006", to help remember that year, They can then serve as a time capsule as well.

Something that helped me be an active reader as a youth was the summer reading program the library put on. They had different themes each year, but it basically amounted to this - for every 100 pages you read, you got to put a decoration on a GIANT wall. One year the theme was "under the sea". So, for every one hundred pages you read, you placed a fish on the wall. It became a badge of honor to see how many fish I could put up when we made our ever-other-week trip to the library. Not to mention how impressive it was to see all those fish filling up an entire room. But I suppose this is for a different topic.

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Pretty cool, tis! Best not tell my wife though

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I want someone to tell my wife and family about this now. I'd be a happy man with nothing but a stack of books under the tree.

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Did anyone follow through with the Book Stacks idea for Christmas? What was your experience?

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My wife doesn

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No doubt I

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Should there be a smiley face after your final sentence, Andy?

I take your point. Maybe it'll be best for us to read the same book, but quietly, to ourselves, and not aloud. We were trying to make this into a shared time together, rather than the two of us sitting in separate chairs or separate rooms, reading the same text.

Plus, if we were to do that, we'd need two dang copies of each book. I'd need another coupon! ::blush::

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Should there be a smiley face after your final sentence, Andy?

Yeah, sorry. That came out wrong. That's more a reflection on my lack of enthusiasm for reading aloud (the shorter the better), and not intended at all as a slam on either you or your wife. My apologies.

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Should there be a smiley face after your final sentence, Andy?

I take your point. Maybe it'll be best for us to read the same book, but quietly, to ourselves, and not aloud. We were trying to make this into a shared time together, rather than the two of us sitting in separate chairs or separate rooms, reading the same text.

Plus, if we were to do that, we'd need two dang copies of each book. I'd need another coupon! ::blush::

Christian, I can't comment on any of those three books (even though I picked up Bleak House after the BBC miniseries, and have yet to tackle it), but I applaud the reading-aloud idea. My wife and I did this years ago, before we had kids, and it was a cool way to get each other interested in authors and writing styles neither of us would have naturally gravitated toward.

Interestingly, before we were married, we tried reading the same book separately, and it didn't work very well. One of us would invariably get bored or busy, and slow down, then stop. Barring great discipline, it's too easy to stop reading a book you haven't chosen for yourself.

Unfortunately, we dropped the reading-aloud activities once we had kids. We regularly read aloud to both kids (I can even do some pretty convincing British accents while reading the Harry Potter books to our daughter!), and I guess reading to each other fell off our radar screen. Now I'm inspired to pick it up again! Not only does it "force," in a benevelont and beneficial way, each spouse to read works they might otherwise ignore, it's also a nice little bonding experience. Quite literally, you end up listening to each other.

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So, Christian - how did this turn out? Did you choose one of those books? A different one? Or scrap the idea altogether?

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I e-mailed Susan Wise Bauer about my choices. She's out of the country and couldn't respond, but someone at her publisher did provide a detailed, reassuring response, which I reproduce below, in part:

First of all, I think it is a great gift idea.

I also think your online friends are a bit nutty. :) [Ed. -- Hah!] I have read DQ (also inspired by the WEM), and it is a very plot-driven book--so it makes for a good read aloud. I, too, purchased Grossman's translation. I read it with two other friends who used different translations. We compared passages and read bits aloud and Grossman's translation is much smoother and more engaging. Perhaps your friends were acquainted with other versions, but it think this version of DQ would be very suitable for reading aloud. (Plus, you can snicker together at the bawdy parts.)

Did you buy the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf? That is the one that Susan recommends. My husband read that translation, after reading another, and said the Heaney translation was far superior. As to whether it will be a read-aloud hit, I couldn't say (not knowing your wife). Beowulf is an action adventure. Does she like those? (Did she like Lord of the Rings?) If so, then I say YES, read it aloud. It was composed orally in the 8th century--it's supposed to be read aloud!

As to Bleak House...I, too, have seen the BBC production. It was really good. I confess I have never read this book. But Susan's mother, Jessie, decided to read the novel after she saw the movie. She really enjoyed it and said it was worth the undertaking. She also said she was glad she saw the movie version first. There are so many characters to keep track of...it helps to have an understanding of the plot before you start the book.

As to which book you should start with, I think you and your wife should decide that together. There is a definite argument for beginning with DQ, since it was the first novel. When you read books chronologically you get a sense of how the novel has developed, what its roots are, and what twists on literary conventions the author is making.

But since your wife actually told you she wanted to read Bleak House, that would be a good starting place, too. If she enjoys reading BH aloud, she'll be open to reading more books with you as well (and maybe taking a chance on a book that isn't exactly up her alley).

--I won't give her the books for another 10 days, but for now, I'm reassured. I'll report back on her reaction.

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And So It Begins

We started reading Beowulf last night. I pushed to read that one first, and it looks like the decision will pay off. Not too long, nicely translated (as best as I can understand these things), and a good form of prep for this fall's film adaptation.

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Anyone giving a book stack this Christmas?

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I received a book stack yesterday, as I do just about every Christmas. And my wife and kids came through in a big way. It's almost as if they know me or something:

The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories -- Leo Tolstoy

Bob Dylan -- Performing Artist (1960 - 1973) -- Paul Williams

Bob Dylan -- Performing Artist (1974 - 1986) -- Paul Williams

Bob Dylan -- Performing Artist (1986 - 1990 and Beyond) -- Paul Williams

The Complete Short Stories -- Oscar Wilde

Daniel Deronda -- George Eliot

The House of the Dead -- Fyodor Dostoyevksy

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I'll give her a book stack sometime in these 12 days, perhaps Ephiphany (appropriate). On the other hand, while I want to build up her library, we do have a good public library.

This is always a conflict for me, Alan. On the one hand, I have a massive personal library (currently around 2100 volumes, pared down from a once debilitating load of almost 3700). As most of these are of an academic nature, they are resources I use very regularly. On the other hand, I have a hard time keeping around works of fiction and biography. Unless they are very formative books, or parts of series I collect, I tend to pass things along.

Libraries are such a key part of my life that I want my children to learn their merits as well. Amassing so many books at home can make one miss out on the communitarian aspects of borrowing and sharing books and all the learning that comes with them. We pay so much taxes for libraries, and with good reason.

The wonderful, eternal struggle.

Edited by MLeary

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I'll give her a book stack sometime in these 12 days, perhaps Ephiphany (appropriate). On the other hand, while I want to build up her library, we do have a good public library.

Libraries are such a key part of my life that I want my children to learn their merits as well. Amassing so many books at home can make one miss out on the communitarian aspects of borrowing and sharing books and all the learning that comes with them. We pay so much taxes for libraries, and with good reason.

The wonderful, eternal struggle.

That makes this librarian very happy.

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My Christmas book stack will give me some good reading for a few weeks here in Thailand. English libraries are minimal, though one of my duties at our international school is improving the selections in the meagre library.

The Tao of Pooh - Benjamin Hoff

God's Politics - Jim Wallis

On Belief - Slavoj Zizek

Is Christianity Good for the World? - Hitchens/Wilson

The Tales of Beadle the Bard - J.K. Rowling

The Oxford Book of Essays - Various (Ed. John Gross)

Plus a couple of cook books

Vegatarian Gourmet

Thai Cusine

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That makes this librarian very happy.

Always keep your librarian happy. Seeing a library as your personal book collection is like the Steven Wright quip: "I have the world's largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world... perhaps you've seen it."

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I got a book stack for Christmas. I'm pleased with it (though I know I won't get around to reading some of these for probably half a year, at least).

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations, Christopher Lasch

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Raymond Carver

John of the Cross: Selections (w/ forward by Ron Hansen!)

The Mission Song, John Le Carre

The Widow of the South, Robert Hicks

Blue Shoe, Anne Lamott

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert D. Putnam

The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies

(I also found David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls for a dollar at Half Price Books. I still can't believe this.)

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I don't know if it counts as a book stack, but I received

John Steinbeck - The Pearl and Burning Bright

Karl Barth - Word of God and Word of Man

from Santa.

Lindsay and I talked of starting a Book Stack for Rory, but ended up not doing so. As it turned out she got a fair number of books anyway. Also, we frequent the library with her anyway (usually twice per month) and books are one luxury we usually don't feel bad about buying for her. It's working so far, she's 2 1/2 and absolutely loves "reading". It's amazing how many books she's memorized. The other day I caught her reciting almost an entire Amelia Bedilia book.

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The kids got a bevy of books, including The Tale of Despereaux, from several relatives.

I didn't get a stack, but I did get a curious title, which Debthelibrarian might enjoy: Free for All: Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library, by librarian Don Borchert. My brother purchased this for me on a whim, figuring that although I'm not a librarian, I might recognize a lot of truth in what Borchert has to share. I tore through half the book (I have the paperback; the link is to the hardback) in a day. Lots of fun!

In the next couple of days, I'm hoping for more price-slashing, which will make my few gift cards go further. I didn't receive David Thomson's Have You Seen?, so that's my priority pick-up.

Edited by Christian

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With Amazon gift cards I just bought my own book stack. Yes, it is extremely theology heavy.

Thomas F. Torrance - Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ

Paul D. Molnar - Incarnation and Resurrection: Toward a Contemporary Understanding

John Webster (ed.) - Theology After Liberalism: Classical and Contemporary Readings

Wolfhart Pannenberg - Introduction to Systematic Theology

Jurgen Moltmann - Trinity and the Kingdom

Donald Bloesch - A Theology of Word & Spirit

Aside from the obvious fact that I picked them out myself, I'm really excited for these books as they're not readily available for borrowing. I'm especially excited for Torrance's and Molnar's books as I believe they will be very helpful for my own research interests.

I've enjoyed what I've read of Webster and his edited work comes highly recommended by a professor.

I count myself as a big Moltmann fan and will continue to chip away at his expansive number of delightful works.

I find Pannenberg to be a good person to read in chorus with Barth and his introduction to Systematic Theology seemed a cheaper alternative than all three volumes of his proper Systematic Theology.

I've already read three of the seven volumes of Bloesch's Christian Foundations series. Bloesch does a good job of providing a survey of representative Christian thinkers on given areas of Christian Dogmatics and offering his opinion on where they suceed and fail yet giving room for the reader to make up his or her own mind. Any of these volumes are a great resource to have sitting on your shelf. I went with this volume as I am particularly interested in the doctrine of revelation at this point.

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My current book stack. The titles are hard to read -- now you know why I never post photos! -- but if you can discern them, guess which book my wife added to the stack before snapping the picture? (No peeking at the text that lists the titles.)

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New Holiday Tradition Revolves Around Reading

This holiday season I am putting my column where my heart is, and so I'm asking "Ask Amy" readers to celebrate by giving a book to a child, through a homegrown campaign called, "A Book on Every Bed."

Here's how it works:

Take a book.

Wrap it.

Place it on a child's bed so it's the first thing she sees on Christmas morning (or whatever holiday you celebrate).

That's it.

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