Thursday, December 23, 2010

BBC Top 100 Books

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time lately reading bookish blogs. When I ran across The Written Nerd and saw Nevil Shute's name on a list of books, I had to join in the fun. The author listed BBC's top 100 books and said:
Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses...

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens 
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo 

(Actually, A Town Like Alice was the movie. The book was titled The Legacy.)

Wow, I thought I was well-read, but now I'm rather humbled. I counted audio books, but not movies. I've seen so many of these as movies that I had to stop and remember if I actually read the book.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A cold day at High Point Museum

I love to visit the High Point Museum when they have their living history days. This last one was pretty cold, yet a lot of visitors crowded into the Hoggatt House to see spinning, weaving and other crafts.

When I visited the Folk Park in Northern Ireland, the lady told me that it took 10 spinners to keep a (professional) weaver busy. At High Point, the guide reiterated that men usually did the weaving, and it took six women spinning to supply him with thread. She said another way to look at it was that the farmer did his weaving a couple of months in winter, and used up the thread that the family had spun all year.

Between combing the wool or flax, spinning, weaving and sewing, it took a whole year to make a new garment. That's why people didn't have many changes of clothes!

I love to watch people spin; it's almost hypnotic. I think she's using a New Zealand spinning wheel in this picture, which is where most new ones are made. They had a great wheel against the wall, similar to mine, and the lady told me it would likely never be functional because it's missing a part called the "mother." Those parts were delicate and old ones are hard to find. This is a close-up of the mother on her newer wheel. According to the Joy of Handspinning website, the whole assembly is the mother and that spinning part she described is the flyer.

A museum volunteer makes candles.
My aunt was impressed with the children who, dressed in period costumes, were not only making potpourris and candles but also answering questions. One little girl explained that people only took baths a few times a year, so they carried potpourris to hold to their noses against the smell.
We drank some warm wassail and had a great time.

The museum used to say that the Hoggatt House was built in the mid-1700s —about the time Quakers settled in the Piedmont — by my ancestor, Philip Hoggatt. A couple of years ago, they took wood bore tests of the logs and the results indicated that the house is not that old. Now, they say that the house was built in 1801 by one of Philip's other children (not my ancestor).

That may be true, but as I asked one of the volunteers, "What about the provenance?" Scientific tests are great, but that doesn't mean to throw out all the past research, documentation and even oral history.

Maybe I'm in denial. I used to love walking into the Hoggatt House and feeling that connection across the generations, as if a little piece of it belonged to me. But it's still a great place to visit — especially when history comes to life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 wrap-up

A funny thing happened at the end of nanowrimo 2009 — we didn't stop writing.

Oh, we relaxed over the holidays, and we didn't have that word-count deadline to push for. But two of us were finishing or editing our novels and decided to meet weekly. And two more joined us to work on short stories and writing projects. We met all year in the local Barnes & Noble cafe, and by July, we were psyched for another nanowrimo!
Wrimos at the High Point Library

That excitement carried over into the most active nanowrimo group our region's ever had. In addition to our B&N write-ins, Aislynn and Elizabeth planned Monday night writes at the High Point Library (whilst some Greensboro folks met simultaneously at Panera Bread), Darren planned Sunday write-ins at our traditional nanowrimo coffee dives in G'boro, and I planned (with lots of help) a local Night of Writing Dangerously at the Archdale Library. We had 11 writers typing away at that event, buoyed by pizza, chocolate, coffee, door prizes and wi-fi. We even had a used book sale to browse through during breaks.

Most of us met the "Tentacle challenge" by using tentacles somewhere in our stories!
photo and tentacles by Don Morgan
Since I've been working on the novel about my ancestors for at least two nanowrimos, I took a break this year and wrote a memoir about "my year in a foreign country in the middle of North Carolina." I finished my draft of Siler City Blues with 56,224 words.

Most of it looks awful and boring, but at about 25K words I think I may have written some good stuff. I'll look at it later.

For now, after a four-month break and a lot of nanowrimo inspiration, I'm ready to get back to my novel.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A friendly bookstore on Friendly Avenue

Greensboro seems to be richer in book stores than I thought. Right across from Guilford College, I had often glimpsed a sign that said "Books" as I drove down Friendly Avenue. That's all I had time to read near that busy intersection, and every time I vowed to check the place out in the future. I finally stopped in this week. I made sure to get in the right lane and found a little parking lot on the side.

Empire Books has been around about five years, according to owner Mark Wingfield. A pile of boxes and books near the entrance instantly caught my attention. He had just acquired the collection of an aviation enthusiast, and the top book was one that I have at home, minus the signatures (I know the subjects, not the author, from my former career in aviation).

Interested, but not wanting to add to my own collection, I turned to the aisles of tall bookshelves and skimmed the good variety of subjects. An old Star Trek fan-fic I had never seen before, Vulcan!, "jumped" into my hands. I didn't see many antiques, but there was a nice history collection and I picked up a couple of the recent non-fiction bestsellers.

I got up my nerve and asked the proprietor if a wanna-be-bookseller could pick his brain. At first he seemed as if he had to tear himself away from the endless work of cataloguing, but he turned out to be very nice. For the first time ever, a professional bookseller took me seriously and answered questions without trying to discourage me. It probably helped that I've been researching the book trade a little and had specific questions — about shelves, online services, full-time bookselling. He gave me some honest answers and recommended a web service, all without any hint of elitism.  

I had just come from a job interview and I have another one today, both for part-time positions. If I get both jobs, I won't have time to man a bricks-and-mortar shop. My near-term life and vocation are still in flux. But whatever I decide to do, I'll be visiting Empire Books again.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Arctic Ireland

You know how you look for a book on Amazon or eBay, knowing that it's probably out of print or hard to find? And sure enough, they don't have any copies, but you can put it on your "wish list." I was looking up something else on Amazon and happened to click on my wish list. To my surprise, several copies of of a book I wanted were now available. No pictures, no "look inside," but one of them was inexpensive and from a highly rated seller, so I ordered it.

Arctic Ireland, The extraordinary story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41, by David Dickson, arrived today and I couldn't wait to unwrap it! I wrote earlier this year about that coldest winter, during which my ancestor Joshua English and his family lived in Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland.

I immediately looked in the index for Moate. Sure enough, this book also mentions that 20 houses burned down in that small village during the drought that accompanied the Great Frost. No details, unfortunately. But, although the footnotes are all lumped together by page, I can generally figure out that the source was a Dublin newspaper, which is more than I had before.

Even though there's only that brief mention of Moate, now I have a whole book to read for background information, which will hopefully inspire me to get back to my novel. I took a break from my work-in-progress in August. Now that NaNoWriMo is over (that's a future post), it's time to get back to work.