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#1 Christian

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 03:46 PM

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.

#2 Kyle

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 04:16 PM

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.

#3 Chashab

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 05:15 PM

Pretty cool, tis! Best not tell my wife though — she'll be jealous that her parents didn't do this!

#4 yank_eh

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 07:31 PM

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.

#5 Christian

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:10 PM

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

#6 Christian

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 12:25 PM

My wife doesn’t read this board (I hope!), so I’m posting this for feedback.

We didn’t adopt the book stacks idea for our kids this past Christmas, but as I was contemplating how to use a 20%-off coupon I had that was about to expire. This is from an independent bookshop (that shall remain nameless, for the benefit of nardis!:)) that offers this discount for every $100 I spend there, and I reach that total very infrequently these days—making me long to use my “reward” coupon before it expires, even though using the discount simply means spending more money at the store. It’s a trap, and I yet I feel good about falling into it, supporting this store when I can, rather than the big chains.)

Anyway, it occurred to me, while browsing at the store and searching for an excuse—a justification—to spend money there, that in addition to buying a Valentine’s Day card for Sarah, I might buy her some music, or a book, for our anniversary in March.

Trouble was, when I’d sounded her out about such possibilities, she’d already told me she had nothing in mind along those lines.

But then it occurred to me that we’d been discussing for about a year now an idea, spurred by Susan Wise Bauer’s “The Well Educated Mind”, that we needed to spend some time reading classic books, and giving ourselves a mutual “classical education.” This desire dovetailed with our desire to watch less television. We could, we thought, spend time at night reading great books, and even do so *together*!

Would such an idea actually work? If so, how? Would we tire of the books early on? Would reading the books aloud to each other turn out to be grating, rather than intellectually stimulating? We’d only know once we tried it out.

But we haven’t tried it out. Not yet.

So my idea was to buy a few books that we could read together—a gift to both of us. One of my choices, “Beowulf” (Seamus Heaney translation), is a book I’ve wanted to read, but which Sarah is cool toward. Another, “Bleak House,” (I *think* it’s that edition, but I’m not certain) is a book that Sarah has expressed interest in reading since seeing a recent BBC adaptation of the work. The third, “Don Quixote” (Grossman translation) is more of interest to me, but not something she’s objected to.

I bought three titles mainly to minimize the chances of us not moving ahead with this project due to possible lack of interest in our initial choice. It’s always good to have a backup.

No doubt I’ll receive some advice as to my gift-buying motivations, but what I’m after here is a recommendation for which three of these books you think might best be read aloud. All three are classics, but I have no idea which translations work best when read aloud. Is anyone familiar with these stories, and these particular translations? Where should Sarah and I start?


#7 Andy Whitman

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 01:03 PM

QUOTE(Christian @ Feb 8 2007, 12:25 PM) View Post
No doubt I’ll receive some advice as to my gift-buying motivations, but what I’m after here is a recommendation for which three of these books you think might best be read aloud. All three are classics, but I have no idea which translations work best when read aloud. Is anyone familiar with these stories, and these particular translations? Where should Sarah and I start?

Honestly, Christian, I can't imagine reading any of these three books aloud. They're too daunting. In the case of Don Quixote and Bleak House, they're too long (unless you don't mind finishing in 2009), and in the case of Beowulf, you're dealing with an archaic language that will be be both difficult to pronounce and to comprehend.

Which is not to say that it wouldn't be worthwhile to read them together. They're just going to be difficult to read aloud together.

My wife and I trade books with one another and discuss them together fairly frequently. I look forward to those times. We haven't tried the reading aloud approach, possibly because I have a hearing loss, and possibly because I'm just not that enamored of either of our sonorous tones. smile.gif But I very much enjoy our book discussions. If you're dead set on reading aloud, you might want to try something considerably shorter -- say Goodnight, Moon or The Little Prince. Those always worked well with our kids.

#8 Christian

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 01:32 PM

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.gif

#9 Andy Whitman

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 01:42 PM

QUOTE(Christian @ Feb 8 2007, 01:32 PM) View Post
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.

#10 Mark

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 01:59 PM

QUOTE(Christian @ Feb 8 2007, 01:32 PM) View Post
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.gif

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.

#11 Mark

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 03:30 PM

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

#12 Christian

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 03:47 PM

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. smile.gif [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.

#13 Christian

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 10:24 AM

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.

#14 Christian

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 04:48 PM

Anyone giving a book stack this Christmas?

#15 Andy Whitman

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 10:21 AM

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



#16 M. Leary

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 04:54 PM

QUOTE (Alan Thomas @ Dec 26 2008, 02:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
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, 26 December 2008 - 05:01 PM.


#17 LibrarianDeb

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 10:25 PM

QUOTE (MLeary @ Dec 26 2008, 03:54 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Alan Thomas @ Dec 26 2008, 02:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
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.

#18 Anders

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 12:13 AM

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

#19 M. Leary

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 12:15 AM

QUOTE (LibrarianDeb @ Dec 26 2008, 11:25 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
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."

#20 Jason Panella

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 01:30 PM

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.)