Monthly Archives: December 2012

Good Holiday Book-Hunting

Moby-Dick coverI guess I must have been a good boy this past year because I’ve been having very good luck in my book-hunting the last few weeks. Between my favorite thrift stores and the local library, I’ve acquired some very nice volumes to add to my library.

Perhaps my favorite is an annotated copy of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick or The Whale,” (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1976, 1967.)  It was illustrated by Warren Chappell and includes a commentary by Howard Mumford Jones, who taught at Harvard University from 1936 until 1962. It’s a hard cover with the dust jacket still in decent condition. It also has a nice inscription reading, “A classic worthy of you, your attention, and retention. Merry Christmas, 1975. Jack and Margaret.”

I guess you could say it was re-gifted. Thank you very much.

But wait, there’s more! Anyone familiar with Winston Churchill knows that not only was he a brilliant leader, but he was also an accomplished writer and historian. Perhaps his most famous work is his four-volume “History of the English-Speaking Peoples.” Fortunately for me, Barnes & Noble put out a well-done single-volume of that massive undertaking back in 1994. It was arranged by noted historian Henry Steele Commager and follows the main stream of Churchill’s work. Commager included the chapters on Alfred the Great, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Henry VIII,  Elizabeth I, and George Washington, among many others. Purists may sniff at me – I have a friend who has read all four volumes more than once – but for someone with limited time it’s the perfect format.

Finally, for now at least, I picked up what looks to be a fascinating read, “The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family,” (HarperSanFrancisco, 2003). It was co-written by two pretty big names in the fields of biblical archaeology and theology: Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington III. It’s the story of an ancient limestone ossuary, or burial box, that bears the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” As the promo on the back cover of the book says, “Could this be the first tangible proof of Jesus’ existence?” I love this kind of book!

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll fill you in another time on more of the books I’ve managed to get my hands on. Plus with Christmas around the corner, you can guess what I might find under the tree!

Merry Christmas all!


Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Book Hunting


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Not Just For Dwarves

The Badger simply beamed on him. “That’s exactly what I say,” he replied. “There’s

English: Hardwick House Toad Hall? The author ...

English: Hardwick House Toad Hall? The author of Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame died at nearby Pangbourne in 1932, and would have known this section of river whilst writing his most famous book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

no security, or peace and tranquility, except underground. And then, if your ideas get larger and you want to expand – why, a dig and a scrape, and there you are! If you feel your house is a bit too big, you stop up a hole or two, and there you are again! No builders, no tradesmen, no remarks passed on you by fellows looking over your wall, and, above all, no weather. Look at Rat, now. A couple of feet of floodwater, and he’s got to move into hired lodgings; uncomfortable, inconveniently situated, and horribly expensive. Take Toad. I say nothing against Toad Hall; quite the best house in these parts, as a house. But supposing a fire breaks out – where’s Toad? Supposing tiles are blown off, or walls sink or crack, or windows get broken –  where’s Toad? Supposing the rooms are drafty –  I hate a draft myself – where’s Toad? No, up and out of doors is good enough to roam about and get one’s living in; but underground to come back to at last – that’s my idea of home!”


Kenneth Grahame, from “The Wind in the Willows”

1 Comment

Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Quotations


Tags: , , , , , ,

More Educational Folly

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days back I posted on a textbook I found. “The Garden in the Wilderness”  explored the themes found in the first few books of the Bible and how they have influenced the literature of Western civilization. It was from the 70s, and I wondered if schools would even use such a text today.

Well, it turns out our schools are going to be using even less literature now. If this article in The Telegraph is correct, our children will be exposed to fewer works of fiction. It seems such works as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Catcher in the Rye” (which I am not a particular fan of, by the way) will be replaced by what are being called “informational texts.” These new texts could explore such things as proper insulation levels and invasive plant species. Wow.

The change will supposedly happen by the 2014 school year. The reason for the change is that schools want to better prepare students for the work force.

Is that what we as a culture view education as being about?. If so, we are in worse trouble than I thought.

Any thoughts out there?


Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Education, Reading, Worries


Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Word in the Wilderness

The Garden and the WildernessI’ve had a very successful week or so as far as finding some great books at thrift stores and library sales. Fortunately I’ve had the means to purchase the ones I really wanted. Not that any of these were particularly expensive, but times are a bit tight, after all. I’ll be doing another post soon to share these finds, but I wanted to do this post on one book that really started me thinking.

Now, this book isn’t anything rare or expensive. Nothing like that at all. But it is somewhat unique in that I doubt you would find anything like it being published today. Or used, for that matter. The book is titled “The Garden and the Wilderness,” and it was published in 1973 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It was a high school textbook in a series from HBJ called “Literature: Uses of the Imagination.”

What this textbook does is take excerpts from the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (from The New English Bible, one of my favorite translations) and arranges them with writings from such authors as Carl Sandburg, Edwin Muir, Dylan Thomas, Loren Eiseley and William Blake, among others. The selections include essays, poetry, plays, short stories and folk songs. As the book’s introduction explains:

The Bible has enormous importance historically and as a sacred book. but it is also literature, with a central place in any serious study of the works of the human imagination. We hope that in years to come you will be stimulated to move from this volume and its companions to the Bible itself, and that some of you will even study the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek as paths to the rich absorbing writings found there.


Nearly 40 years ago, this textbook was used in some school, I can’t say for sure if it was a public or parochial school, though my hunch is that it was a public school. Here’s my question: Do you think such a book would find a place in any public school today? Would studying the rich themes of the “book of books” be considered too religious for our children? Despite the role these words played in the founding of our civilization?

In our increasingly secular American society, faith themes and ideas are increasingly marginalized, pushed aside, forgotten and ignored. The “war” isn’t on Christmas, but on religion in general.

The Word is, indeed, in the wilderness.


Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Education, Ideas, Old Books


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,