24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 – Veterans’ / Armistice Day: Task 2

Here’s hoping this year won’t see any more authors’ deaths, because too many of the great ones have already left us in 2019.  Those that stood out most to me:

 

Toni Morrison

(Feb. 18, 1931 – Aug. 5, 2019)

Toni MorrisonToni Morrison was the Nobel Prize-winning author of best-selling novels including Beloved, Song of Solomon, and The Bluest Eye.  She died at the age of 88.

 

Of all the great authors who died in 2019, she stood head and shoulders above the rest.  I reread her novel Beloved for Halloween Bingo and came away devastated and heartbroken all over again.  If you only ever read one book by Morrison, make it that one.  What a literary voice, and what an advocate for racial and gender equality the world has lost in her.

 

 

Judith Kerr

(June 14, 1923 – 22 May 2019)

Judith KerrJudith Kerr, who created the Mog picture books series, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and the semi-autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, died at age 95.

Even before I had first seen the images of children gassed at Auschwitz, Kerr’s book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit brought home to child-age me that genocide and persecution stops at no-one — rather, anybody, regardless how young, can become a victim.  once learned, it was a lesson I never forgot.

 

 

Herman Wouk

(May 27, 1915 – May 17, 2019)

Herman WoukHerman Wouk, who wrote the classic novel The Caine Mutiny, died at the age of 103, only 10 days before his 104th birthday.

What an age to have reached — a true witness to a whole century!  I’ve yet to read more of his work (yeah, I know …), but The Caine Mutiny was one of the first literary works to truly make me think about the nature of justice (and “justice” vs. “the administration of the law”) … and who could possibly not be left stunned with the gut-punch screen adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart?

 

 

Mary Oliver

(Sept. 10, 1935 – Jan. 17, 2019)

Mary OliverMary Oliver was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet beloved for her poems about nature and animal life. She died at the age of 83.

And instead of any further words, I’m just going to leave this here (I think BT may already have quoted it in her post for this task, too, but it definitely bears quoting twice):

 

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.


(Task: In keeping with the minute of silence, tell us about the authors who have passed this year that you will miss the most.)

 

Original post:
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24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 – Veterans’ / Armistice Day: Task 4

I took a short walk in the woods above Bonn yesterday late afternoon, just before sunset.  Here are a few impressions … duly beginning with the area map!


This shows the entire trail — I only went a short way, though, from the top left parking lot to a bit beyond the first “info station”.  It takes a few hours to complete the entire trail.

 

 

(Task: The Forest of Compiègne, just outside Compiègne, France, is the site of the signing of the 1918 Armistice.  It was also the site of the signing by the French of a truce with the Germans following the German invasion in 1940. – Find a green space in your local area (or favorite area), go for a walk or bike ride of a mile (or 1.61 km) and post a picture or screenshot of the map of where you walked / biked.)

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1994113/24-festive-tasks-door-6-veterans-armistice-day-task-4

24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 – Veterans’ / Armistice Day: Task 1

I’m decidedly more of a night owl than a lark, but this past week was an exhibit of the kind of situation where, while I was still working in a larger firm, people passing by my office early in the morning would have asked “Are you at your desk already or still?”  So, on one of those mornings I captured our backyard at sunrise from my mom’s balcony … and on the next morning I wandered down to the Rhine, which is just a few 100 metres / yards from my home, and snapped a few sunrise pictures there.

 

(Task: Sunrise services are a staple of this holiday: Take a picture of the sunrise where you live and share it with us.)

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1994088/24-festive-tasks-door-6-veterans-armistice-day-task-1

24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 – Veterans’ / Armistice Day: Book

Murder by Matchlight - E.C.R. Lorac Murder by Matchlight - E.C.R. Lorac, Mark Elstob

This is set in 1945 London, and it turns out the ravages of WWII are making themselves felt quite a bit.  So I’ve decided to use it as my book for Veterans’ / Armistice Day.

On a separate note, it’s quite different in tone from Bats in the Belfry (the only other book by Lorac I’ve read so far), and I really, really like it.

(Task: Read a book involving a war, battle, or where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover, or honor the ‘unknown soldier’ of your TBR and read the book that’s been there the longest.)

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1991204/24-festive-tasks-door-6-veterans-armistice-day-book

24 Festive Tasks, Door 6: November 11th Veterans’ Day/Armistice Day

Reblogged from: Mrs. Claus’ Tea House

17
3 - Melbourne Cup Day
21
9
12
24

22
15
1 - dia de los Muertos
13
18
6 - Veterans / Armistice Day

5 - Bon Om Touk
14
7
20
11
23

10
2 - Japanese Culture Day
19
16
8
4 - Guy Fawkes Night

I requested to do today’s door opening, as it is a holiday for many to reflect but more so for me and my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. My kids have school today, so I will be visiting both their classrooms to talk about the holiday (teachers asked if I would do this). Afterward, hubby and I are going out to eat and maybe head to Half Price Books to look around without being asked “are we leaving now?” twenty billion times. 
 
However you celebrate, I hope you have a great day!

 
Veterans / Armistice Day
Door 6:  Veterans / Armistice Day
 
Task 1: Sunrise services are a staple of this day: Take a picture of the sunrise where you live and share it with us.
 
Task 2: In keeping with the minute of silence, tell us about the authors who have passed this year that you will miss the most.
 
Task 3: Rosemary is for remembrance, but it’s great for chasing away moths, silverfish and other bugs that can damage books (and linens). Make a sachet with some rosemary, lavender, dried basil, etc. to keep on your bookshelves – post a picture of the results and let us know what combinations of herbs you used. A list of possibilities can be found here: https://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/12-plants-that-repel-unwanted-insects
 
Task 4:The Forest of Compiègne, just outside Compiègne, France, is the site of the signing of the 1918 Armistice. It was also the site of the signing by the French of a truce with the Germans following the German invasion in 1940. – Find a green space in your local area (or favorite area) and go for a walk or bike ride of a mile (or 1.61 km) and post a picture or screenshot of the map of where you walked / biked.
 
Book: Read a book involving a war, battle, or where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover, or honor the ‘unknown soldier’ of your TBR and read the book that’s been there the longest.
 

 
NEW: Once you’ve completed a task or tasks, please use the handy form, located in the spoiler tags (to keep things tidy) to let us know. This will make tracking points MUCH easier for the 24 Tasks Team.
[spoiler]

* Required
 

Blog Name: *

 
Festive Task Door Completed: *
Choose
Dia de los Muertos
Japanese Culture Day
Melbourne Cup Day
Guy Fawkes Night
Bon Om Touk (Korean Water & Moon Festival)
Veterans / Armistice Day
Winter Solstice (Yule / Yaldā Night / Dongzhi / Soyal)
Hanukkah
Festivus
Christmas
Kwanzaa
New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day
Hogswatch
Twelfth Night / Epiphany

 
I’ve completed the following task for this holiday: *
Choose
1
2
3
4
5
BONUS TASK

 
Have you completed some of the tasks for this holiday already? *
Choose
Yes
No

 
If you have completed tasks previously, which ones? * (Required if answered yes to the previous question.)
Book
T1
T2
T3
T4
BONUS
 
(Optional) Link to your blog post:

space
[/spoiler]
 
Previous door’s tasks are “beneath the fold”

 

Previous Doors’ Tasks and Books

 

 
Dia de los Muertos
Door 1:  Dia de Los Muertos
 
Task 1: Compose a limerick or short poem in honor of a favorite book character.
 
Task 2:  If you like Mexican food, treat yourself to a favorite dish – and / or make yourself a margarita – and share a photo.
 
Task 3: Write an epitaph for the book you most disliked this year.
 
Task 4: Do you have any traditions or mementos of happy memories of a loved one that you feel like sharing?
 
Book: Reread a favorite book by a deceased author or from a finished series, or read a book set in Mexico or a book that either has a primarily black and white cover or all the colors (ROYGBIV) on the cover, or a book featuring zombies.
 

 

 
Japanese Culture Day
Door 2:  Japanese Culture Day
 
Task 1: Tell us about a cultural festival or event in the area where you live.
 
Task 2: Try a flavor of Kit Kat other than chocolate and report back if you liked it.
 
Task 3: Try your hand at folding a paper crane. Instructions: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-Paper-Crane-1/
 
Task 4: If you like Japanese food, treat yourself to a favorite dish.
 
Book: Read a graphic novel or a book set in a school or academic setting.
 

 

 
Melbourne Cup Day
Door 3:  Melbourne Cup Day
 
Task 1: Pick your ponies.*
 
Task 2: Roses are the official flower of Flemington Race Track; write your own “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poem for one of your favorite or most hated books of all time.
 
Task 3: Aussies shorten everything, so Melbourne Cup Day is just called “Cup Day” – post a picture of your favorite cup or mug for your daily fix of coffee, tea or chocolate.
 
Task 4: Prepare your favorite dessert – in a cup! Post a photo of it for us to enjoy vicariously.
 
Book: Read a book about horses, with a horse or with roses on the cover, about gardening, or set in Australia, or written by an Australian author.
 
* Ponies (horses) running the race will be posted here by Darth Pedant, guest hosting for MurderByDeath, as soon as they’re announced, or thereabouts. The official field is published on November 3rd.

 

 
Guy Fawkes Night
Door 4:  Guy Fawkes Night
 
Task 1: Make a list of the top 3 treasonous crimes against books that an author can commit.
 
Task 2: Start a revolution: What one thing would you change about the book reading world? (Be it publishing, distribution, editing, cover art, bookstores – anything having to do with books.)
 
Task 3: Make a little straw (or wood / cloth / wool / fabric) effigy of the book character you like least.
 
Task 4:

How do you order the books on your shelves?
 
Book: Read a book set in the UK, a political thriller, a book involving any monarchy or revolution, a book about arson or related to fires and burning, a book whose plot involves costumes / fancy dress, or that has masks on the cover, or that is self-published.
 

 

 
Bon Om Touk
Door 5:  Bon Om Touk
 
Task 1: List / tell us about your favorite rainy day reads.
 
Task 2: String up some fairy lights around your books / bookcase / kindle and share a picture of the results.
 
Task 3: Dragons and dragon-like serpents (imugi) are important to Korean mythology (as they are to that of other Asian peoples). So – which are your favorite literary dragons (fictional, mythological, whatever)?
 
Task 4:The South Korean flag features images of ying / yang (the blue and red circle in the center) and four sets of three black lines each representing heaven, sun, moon and earth and, in turn, the virtues humanity, justice, intelligence and courtesy. Compile a list or stack – 4 books minimum – composed of books that either have opposing words in their titles (e.g., war / peace; asleep / awake – not necessarily both words in the same title), or that feature the words “heaven,” “sun,” “moon,” “earth,” “humanity,” “justice,” intelligence,” and / or “courtesy.”
 
Book: Read a book by a Korean author or set in Korea, that takes place at sea or on a river, where the plot involves a festival, where the moon or rain plays a pivotal role in the plot, or with rain, water or the moon on the cover.
 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1990241/24-festive-tasks-door-6-november-11th-veterans-day-armistice-day

My Personal Literary Canon, Part 2 — also: 24 Festive Tasks, Door 5, Task 3 ("Veteran" Readership)

The authors by whom I’ve read the most books don’t coincide exactly, but substantially with those that I’d also consider part of my personal canon; i.e., the books that have most impacted my thinking and / or to which I find myself returning again and again, be it for inspiration, comfort, or whatever other reasons.  So, since I’ve always wanted to follow up with a post of my own on Moonlight’s original “personal literary canon” post, somewhat late in the game I’ve decided to use this “24 Festive Tasks” entry (and Mawlid, Task 2 — literary pilgrimages) to finally get around to it.  At the risk of some serious rambling and long lists of name-dropping:

 

The Classics

William Shakespeare: I wasn’t a fan of his in high school, though I did very much like Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet (the latter, actually quite a bit better than I like it right now); but once I’d been bitten there was no stopping me.  I’ve seen many (though not yet all) of Shakespeare’s plays performed live, some repeatedly, I own the BBC “Complete Shakespeare” set featuring all plays attributed to him at the time of production in the late 1970s / early 1908s, and no other single author (not even the much more prolific Agatha Christie; see below) is taking up as much space on my bookshelves and DVD racks.  For a few years before there was such a thing as WordPress and Blogger, I actually owned a website called “Project Hamlet” — chiefly dedicated to my personal take on the Prince of Denmark’s story, but also featuring information on Shakespeare himself.  Hosting and renewing the domain got too expensive after a while, so I let the domain expire, but I’m still hoping to resurrect it some day as a WordPress blog.

 

Jane Austen: I’ve read all seven of her completed novels, as well as some of her juvenalia (The History of England, which she wrote at [gasp] age 13, is a compete and utter hoot) and letters (well, Selected Letters in the Oxford Classics edition).  I’ve also read her uncompleted novels (Sanditon and The Watsons) at least once, but probably should refresh my recollection of those at some point. — It’s been said before by more authoritative voices, but unfortunately bears repeating time and again: Whoever dismisses Austen as “only a romance” or “only a chick-lit” writer probably hasn’t read a syllable by her in their lives and can get stuffed.  On general principles (there’s no such thing as “only romance” or “only chick-lit), but as importantly on Austen’s behalf: she was a sharp-eyed social observer and a satirist of the first order, who just happened to make women’s stories her focus because she was a woman herself … and who wrote about love, marriage and the hunt for moneyed gentlemen, because these (especially marriage, and the need to marry well regardless of a love match) were the factors that literally everything in a woman’s life depended on in Regency society — as it had, for the better part of Western history until then.

 

The Brontë Sisters: I fell in love with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre before I’d ever even heard of Jane Austen, and to this day this book, and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley) exemplify 19th century women’s — and indeed every woman’s — struggle for self-respect, independence, and the attempt to square the circle and maintain these achievements even in marriage.  Emily’s Wuthering Heights is a bit to (melo)dramatically overwrought to be my kind of jam, but I love her poetry … and the siblings’ (including their brother Bramwell) juvenalia are bursts of imagination and simply a complete hoot.

 

Elizabeth von Arnim:  I have by far not yet read all of her books, but enough of them to know that every single one of those that I do read makes me want to break out in a (very uncharacteristical) radiant smile.  Elizabeth’s Adventures in Rügen also was one of those books that inspired me to visit a place that a famous author had visited, and trace her steps there.

 

Thomas Mann / the Mann family: I read all of Thomas Mann’s novels (yes, including all four novels of the Joseph tetralogy) and short stories eons ago when I was in university — which is long enough ago for me to have forgotten a lot of details, especially of that part of his literature that I haven’t revisited since, but I’m still partial to Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain, Doctor Faustus and Felix Krull, as well as some of his better known short stories (including and in particular, Death in Venice and Mario and the Magician).  The Manns — all of them, but especially Thomas — were held to be national treasures in my family, so it’s just as well I actually did take to their books; in addition to Thomas’s books also his brother Heinrich’s Man of Straw and Blue Angel, as well as his son Klaus’s Mephisto.

 

John Steinbeck: I came to Steinbeck via the James Dean movie adaptation of East of Eden and was an instant fan — perhaps because I was allowed to discover his books for myself, instead of having them presented to me as “Must Read” / Important literature in school.  Few authors have such an unmatched insight into the human soul, and the ability to present complex situations and emotions precisely and down to the last nuance, with very sparing words (yes, I know East of Eden is a brick, but just take a look at The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men).  Steinbeck, along with that part of my family who used to live in the American Southwest (Texas, but still …) on and off when I was growing up are also chiefly responsible for my interest in California, long before I’d ever actually visited the Golden State for the very first time.

 

Oscar Wilde: Much more than the master of the witty one-liner and some of the most charming and heartrending fairy tales ever written, Wilde was actually a widely-read and -educated literary and social critic, journalist, conversationalist and focal point of London society long before his plays conquered stages at home and abroad.  He may have espoused the idea of letting each literary work stand for itself and define its own merit (“l’art pour l’art” / “art for its own sake“), but it is impossible to miss the profound underlying humanity of his works — in his plays as much as in the products of his imprisonment, such as De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Goal.  And while there are many great biographies of Wilde in book form, for a first take you can’t do any better than watching the movie Wilde starring (who else?) Stephen Fry (whom Wilde’s grandson and editor Mervyn Holland has called “a wonderful Oscarian figure”).

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: My first introduction to Scotland (Edinburgh and elsewhere), decades before I ever visited.  I binge-watched the  1970s’ TV adaptation of Kidnapped (running under the name The Adventures of David Balfour) as a teenager and was instantly captured, but have since learned in other books, too, just how acute an observer of human nature — and of Scottish society — Stevenson was.  When I finally visited Scotland for the first time, even more than a century later I still felt instantly at home, not least thanks to Stevenson (and Ian Rankin — see below).

 

Greek Mythology: Believe it or not, the heroes and gods of Greek mythology were actually the very first childhood heroes I can recall, and I never stopped regretting we hardly saw any ancient classic literature on our high school curriculum (which instead was crammed with the mandatory 1970s/80s reform agenda).  But seriously, why would have wanted to read about other kids who didn’t know anything more about life than I did myself if I could read about deities like Zeus’s clever daughter Athena and her equally fiendishly clever protégé Odysseus instead?  I’ve since revisited the Greek classics in every form I could find and they still hold a special place in my heart.

 

Mysteries

Arthur Conan Doyle / Sherlock Holmes: Still the grand master — both the detective and his creator — that no serious reader of mysteries can or should even try to side-step.  I’ve read, own, and have reread countless times all 4 novels and 56 short stories constituting the Sherlock Holmes canon, and am now making my way through some of the better-known /-reputed Holmes pastiches (only to find — not exactly to my surprise — that none of them can hold a candle to the original), as well as Conan Doyle’s “non-Holmes” fiction.  Oh, and for the record, there is and always will be only one Sherlock Holmes on screen, and that is Jeremy Brett.

 

The Golden Age Queens of Crime

Agatha Christie: Like Sherlock Holmes, part of my personal canon from very early on.  I’ve read and, in many cases, reread more than once and own (largely as part of a series of anniversary omnibus editions published by HarperCollins some 10 years ago) all of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories published under this name, as well as her autobiography, with only those of her books published under other names (e.g., the Mary Westmacott romances) left to read.  As with ACD’s Holmes, there is only one defining screen incarnation of both of Christie’s major detectives to me: David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.  (And I’m happy in the knowledge that in the latter respect, Dame Agatha and I would seem to be in agreement.)

 

Dorothy L. Sayers: My mom turned me onto Sayers when I was in my teens, and I have never looked back.  I’ve read all of her Lord Peter Wimsey novels and short stories, volume 1 of her collected letters (which covers her correspondence from childhood to the end of her career as a mystery writer), and some of her non-Wimsey short stories and essays.  Gaudy Night and the two addresses jointly published under the title Are Women Human? are among my all-time favorite books; not least because they address women’s position in society decades before feminism even became a mass movement to be reckoned with, and with a validity vastly transcending both Sayers’s own lifetime and our own. — Next steps: The remainder of Sayers’s non-Wimsey stories and of her essays, as well as her plays.

 

Ngaio Marsh: A somewhat later entry into my personal canon, but definitely a fixture now.  I’ve read all of her Inspector Alleyn books and short stories and reread many of them.  Still on my TBR: her autobiography (which happily is contained in the last installments of the series of 3-book-each omnibus volumes I own).

 

Patricia Wentworth: Of the Golden Age Queens of Crime, the most recent entry into my personal canon.  I’d read two books by her a few years ago and liked one a lot, the other one considerably less, but Tigus expertly steered the resident mystery fans on Booklikes to all the best entries in the Miss Silver series, which I’m now very much looking forward to completing — along with some of Wentworth’s other fiction.

 

Georgette Heyer: I’m not a romance reader, so I doubt that I’ll ever go anywhere near her Regency romances.  But I’m becoming more and more of a fan of her mysteries; if for no other reason than that nobody, not even Agatha Christie, did viciously bickering families as well as her.

 

Margery Allingham: I’m actually more of a fan of Albert Campion as portrayed by Peter Davison in the TV adaptations of some of Allingham’s mysteries than of her Campion books as such, but I like at least some of those well enough to eventually want to complete the series — God knows I’ve read enough of them at this point for the completist in me to have kicked in long ago.  I’ve also got Allingham’s very first novel, Blackerchief Dick (non-Campion; historical fiction involving pirates) sitting on my audio TBR.

 

Josephine Tey:  I have barely read half of Tey’s books so far (if that), but her tone and topics definitely strike a chord with me.  So I have acquired every book of her Inspector Grant series and I am hoping to complete the series soon — and also, to dive into some other books by / related to Tey.

 

Contemporary Mysteries

P.D. James

 

Ian Rankin

 

Michael Connelly

 

[Text to be supplied — I’m being called away just when I’m finally getting ready to complete this post!]

 

Historical Mysteries

I’m a history nerd, and with that comes a love of historical fiction; yet, the only two series of historical fiction that I would well and truly consider part of my personal canon are both mystery series as well:

 

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael: He may be a monk when we meet him, but nobody epitomizes “father figure” to me more than Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael.  Way above and beyond Peters’s unfailingly spot-on historical research and her intimate knowledge of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and the Welsh borderland (the Marches), I love this series for Cadfael’s humanity, his insight into human nature and acceptance of every person on their own terms, as well as, of course, his warmth, intelligence, and broad-mindedness.  And nobody else could have embodied Cadfael like Derek Jacobi, whom I first encountered in that series (not, like others, in I, Claudius) and became an instant fan.

 

C.J. Sansom / Matthew Shardlake: I binge-read the first three Shardlake books and consider myself an instant fan ever since.  Shardlake and his associates are engaging characters, and nobody does the Tudor court and its manifold machinations like C.J. Sansom.  Can’t wait to see where he is going to take the series now that Henry VIII is dead and the reign of his children has been ushered in.

 

Fantasy

I’m not a major reader of fantasy (and even less so, science fiction), but three authors are most definitely part of my personal canon, because their books vastly transcend the boundaries of that (or any) genre:

 

J.R.R. Tolkien: I first read The Lord of the Rings when I had barely turned 13, and The Hobbit a year or two later.  Frodo and Gollum between them may have taken The Ring back to Mount Doom, but it has never lost its pull on me and never will.  The Peter Jackson movie adaptations of The Lord of the Rings are not perfect, but I’ve become a big fan of theirs, too, and wouldn’t want to miss them from my personal movie library now, either. (The adaptations of The Hobbit are a different matter, Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield notwithstanding.)

 

Terry Pratchett: I’m a relatively late Discworld devotee, but I’m seriously wondering what took me so long.  Pratchett’s literary genius, sense of humor, and fiendish way of mixing social commentary, send-ups of iconic topics, genres, characters and other literary conventions, and clever, surprising plotlines into a creation all of its own is unmatched — and though I have a fair way to go yet to finish the Discworld novels, I already know that I’ll regret that moment when it comes at last.

 

J.K. Rowling / Harry Potter: I’m instinctively turned off by hype of any kind, so you can probably imagine my initial reaction to Harry Potter, quite probably the most hyped literary series of the past 20+ years.  But Harry and his friends won me over on their own merits … well, and those of J.K. Rowling’s writing.  I revisited the entire series earlier this year and was enchanted all over again — so much so that I splurged and invested in the recently-published hard cover boxed set, as well as the boxed set of “Hogwarts Library” books (Phantastic Beasts, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard), as well as starting the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw “collectors’ editions” series of the Harry Potter books.

 

Children’s / YA Literature

Astrid Lindgren: When I was barely old enough to read, Pippi Longstocking taught me that girls don’t have to be afraid of anybody and they can go everywhere they set their minds to.  I still believe that to this day. — Some of my childhood friends and I also loved her Noisy Village (Bullerbyn, or in German, Bullerbü) series well enough to emulate the characters and stories in our games.

 

The Three Investigators: The series I blame like practically no other for turning me into a mystery fan.  For my money still one of the best-ever conceived mystery series … and an honest-to-God crime hunt with input from Alfred Hitchcock himself; what’s not to like?  (The German incarnation was called “The Three ???” [or “The Three Question Marks“], incidentally, and featured a red, white and blue question mark on each book cover.)

 

Enid Blyton: I didn’t read anywhere near all of her books and series, but her Five Friends series satisfied basically the same youthful reading desires as did The Three Investigators … and I was also a dedicated reader of her St. Clare’s / O’Sullivan Twins series, even after I started attending a school that offered both full and half board in addition to “ordinary” class attendance, and from personal experience concluded that her version of a boarding school was wildly fictitious — which didn’t stop me from wishing, however, that just a few of the things from her books were actually happening in my school, too.  (We did make good on the “secret nighttime parties” thing on some school trips at least.)

 

Ellis Kaut / Pumuckl: Like Pippi Longstocking and the Bullerbyn children, Ellis Kaut’s creation, the kobold / gnome Pumuckl who some day suddenly decides to take residence in a Munich master carpenter’s workshop, was a very early companion of my childhood — and I would dearly have loved to meet him and to believe that the footsteps that one day showed up on the beach where we were vacationing were really his.  Alas, they were only a Pumuckl-style prank that my cousins played on me

 

Max Kruse / Urmel: The last, but by no means least literary companion of my early childhood was the dinosaur baby Urmel, who hatches on an island “right under the equator” where a Dr. Dolittle-like professor is living with his merry band of tallking animals, all of which have a particular (and very funny) phonetic quirk associated with the sounds they ordinarily make as animals.  A childhood friend first turned me onto the Urmel stories as they were presented in a TV program by Germany’s most famous puppet theatre company (they’re still in existence and in business) — I instantly had to have the books as well.

 

Guilty Pleasures

Karl May: Another writer whose books I swallowed hide and hair as a child — and whose protagonists were among my very first childhood heroes — was German Western / travel adventure writer Karl May.  Never mind that he only ever visited the places he wrote about later in life (if at all), and never mind that his writing is replete with the facile clichés of his time, his novels were / are gripping enough to have spawned an enormous fan base in Germany to this day, complete with annual productions of stage adaptations of his most famous books in several outdoor theatres dedicated entirely to his works; and the 1960s and 1970s screen adaptations of his Westerns propelled his two major heroes (the Apache chief Winnetou and his white “blood brother”, a German-born trapper / mountain man known as Old Shatterhand) to even greater iconic stature.

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My Personal Literary Canon, Part 2 — also: 24 Festive Tasks, Door 5, Task 3 ("Veteran" Readership)

The authors by whom I’ve read the most books don’t coincide exactly, but substantially with those that I’d also consider part of my personal canon; i.e., the books that have most impacted my thinking and / or to which I find myself returning again and again, be it for inspiration, comfort, or whatever other reasons.  So, since I’ve always wanted to follow up with a post of my own on Moonlight’s original “personal literary canon” post, somewhat late in the game I’ve decided to use this “24 Festive Tasks” entry (and Mawlid, Task 2 — literary pilgrimages) to finally get around to it.  At the risk of some serious rambling and long lists of name-dropping:

 

The Classics

William Shakespeare: I wasn’t a fan of his in high school, though I did very much like Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet (the latter, actually quite a bit better than I like it right now); but once I’d been bitten there was no stopping me.  I’ve seen many (though not yet all) of Shakespeare’s plays performed live, some repeatedly, I own the BBC “Complete Shakespeare” set featuring all plays attributed to him at the time of production in the late 1970s / early 1908s, and no other single author (not even the much more prolific Agatha Christie; see below) is taking up as much space on my bookshelves and DVD racks.  For a few years before there was such a thing as WordPress and Blogger, I actually owned a website called “Project Hamlet” — chiefly dedicated to my personal take on the Prince of Denmark’s story, but also featuring information on Shakespeare himself.  Hosting and renewing the domain got too expensive after a while, so I let the domain expire, but I’m still hoping to resurrect it some day as a WordPress blog.

 

Jane Austen: I’ve read all seven of her completed novels, as well as some of her juvenalia (The History of England, which she wrote at [gasp] age 13, is a compete and utter hoot) and letters (well, Selected Letters in the Oxford Classics edition).  I’ve also read her uncompleted novels (Sanditon and The Watsons) at least once, but probably should refresh my recollection of those at some point. — It’s been said before by more authoritative voices, but unfortunately bears repeating time and again: Whoever dismisses Austen as “only a romance” or “only a chick-lit” writer probably hasn’t read a syllable by her in their lives and can get stuffed.  On general principles (there’s no such thing as “only romance” or “only chick-lit), but as importantly on Austen’s behalf: she was a sharp-eyed social observer and a satirist of the first order, who just happened to make women’s stories her focus because she was a woman herself … and who wrote about love, marriage and the hunt for moneyed gentlemen, because these (especially marriage, and the need to marry well regardless of a love match) were the factors that literally everything in a woman’s life depended on in Regency society — as it had, for the better part of Western history until then.

 

The Brontë Sisters: I fell in love with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre before I’d ever even heard of Jane Austen, and to this day this book, and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley) exemplify 19th century women’s — and indeed every woman’s — struggle for self-respect, independence, and the attempt to square the circle and maintain these achievements even in marriage.  Emily’s Wuthering Heights is a bit to (melo)dramatically overwrought to be my kind of jam, but I love her poetry … and the siblings’ (including their brother Bramwell) juvenalia are bursts of imagination and simply a complete hoot.

 

Elizabeth von Arnim:  I have by far not yet read all of her books, but enough of them to know that every single one of those that I do read makes me want to break out in a (very uncharacteristical) radiant smile.  Elizabeth’s Adventures in Rügen also was one of those books that inspired me to visit a place that a famous author had visited, and trace her steps there.

 

Thomas Mann / the Mann family: I read all of Thomas Mann’s novels (yes, including all four novels of the Joseph tetralogy) and short stories eons ago when I was in university — which is long enough ago for me to have forgotten a lot of details, especially of that part of his literature that I haven’t revisited since, but I’m still partial to Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain, Doctor Faustus and Felix Krull, as well as some of his better known short stories (including and in particular, Death in Venice and Mario and the Magician).  The Manns — all of them, but especially Thomas — were held to be national treasures in my family, so it’s just as well I actually did take to their books; in addition to Thomas’s books also his brother Heinrich’s Man of Straw and Blue Angel, as well as his son Klaus’s Mephisto.

 

John Steinbeck: I came to Steinbeck via the James Dean movie adaptation of East of Eden and was an instant fan — perhaps because I was allowed to discover his books for myself, instead of having them presented to me as “Must Read” / Important literature in school.  Few authors have such an unmatched insight into the human soul, and the ability to present complex situations and emotions precisely and down to the last nuance, with very sparing words (yes, I know East of Eden is a brick, but just take a look at The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men).  Steinbeck, along with that part of my family who used to live in the American Southwest (Texas, but still …) on and off when I was growing up are also chiefly responsible for my interest in California, long before I’d ever actually visited the Golden State for the very first time.

 

Oscar Wilde: Much more than the master of the witty one-liner and some of the most charming and heartrending fairy tales ever written, Wilde was actually a widely-read and -educated literary and social critic, journalist, conversationalist and focal point of London society long before his plays conquered stages at home and abroad.  He may have espoused the idea of letting each literary work stand for itself and define its own merit (“l’art pour l’art” / “art for its own sake“), but it is impossible to miss the profound underlying humanity of his works — in his plays as much as in the products of his imprisonment, such as De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Goal.  And while there are many great biographies of Wilde in book form, for a first take you can’t do any better than watching the movie Wilde starring (who else?) Stephen Fry (whom Wilde’s grandson and editor Mervyn Holland has called “a wonderful Oscarian figure”).

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: My first introduction to Scotland (Edinburgh and elsewhere), decades before I ever visited.  I binge-watched the  1970s’ TV adaptation of Kidnapped (running under the name The Adventures of David Balfour) as a teenager and was instantly captured, but have since learned in other books, too, just how acute an observer of human nature — and of Scottish society — Stevenson was.  When I finally visited Scotland for the first time, even more than a century later I still felt instantly at home, not least thanks to Stevenson (and Ian Rankin — see below).

 

Greek Mythology: Believe it or not, the heroes and gods of Greek mythology were actually the very first childhood heroes I can recall, and I never stopped regretting we hardly saw any ancient classic literature on our high school curriculum (which instead was crammed with the mandatory 1970s/80s reform agenda).  But seriously, why would have wanted to read about other kids who didn’t know anything more about life than I did myself if I could read about deities like Zeus’s clever daughter Athena and her equally fiendishly clever protégé Odysseus instead?  I’ve since revisited the Greek classics in every form I could find and they still hold a special place in my heart.

 

Mysteries

Arthur Conan Doyle / Sherlock Holmes: Still the grand master — both the detective and his creator — that no serious reader of mysteries can or should even try to side-step.  I’ve read, own, and have reread countless times all 4 novels and 56 short stories constituting the Sherlock Holmes canon, and am now making my way through some of the better-known /-reputed Holmes pastiches (only to find — not exactly to my surprise — that none of them can hold a candle to the original), as well as Conan Doyle’s “non-Holmes” fiction.  Oh, and for the record, there is and always will be only one Sherlock Holmes on screen, and that is Jeremy Brett.

 

The Golden Age Queens of Crime

Agatha Christie: Like Sherlock Holmes, part of my personal canon from very early on.  I’ve read and, in many cases, reread more than once and own (largely as part of a series of anniversary omnibus editions published by HarperCollins some 10 years ago) all of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories published under this name, as well as her autobiography, with only those of her books published under other names (e.g., the Mary Westmacott romances) left to read.  As with ACD’s Holmes, there is only one defining screen incarnation of both of Christie’s major detectives to me: David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.  (And I’m happy in the knowledge that in the latter respect, Dame Agatha and I would seem to be in agreement.)

 

Dorothy L. Sayers: My mom turned me onto Sayers when I was in my teens, and I have never looked back.  I’ve read all of her Lord Peter Wimsey novels and short stories, volume 1 of her collected letters (which covers her correspondence from childhood to the end of her career as a mystery writer), and some of her non-Wimsey short stories and essays.  Gaudy Night and the two addresses jointly published under the title Are Women Human? are among my all-time favorite books; not least because they address women’s position in society decades before feminism even became a mass movement to be reckoned with, and with a validity vastly transcending both Sayers’s own lifetime and our own. — Next steps: The remainder of Sayers’s non-Wimsey stories and of her essays, as well as her plays.

 

Ngaio Marsh: A somewhat later entry into my personal canon, but definitely a fixture now.  I’ve read all of her Inspector Alleyn books and short stories and reread many of them.  Still on my TBR: her autobiography (which happily is contained in the last installments of the series of 3-book-each omnibus volumes I own).

 

Patricia Wentworth: Of the Golden Age Queens of Crime, the most recent entry into my personal canon.  I’d read two books by her a few years ago and liked one a lot, the other one considerably less, but Tigus expertly steered the resident mystery fans on Booklikes to all the best entries in the Miss Silver series, which I’m now very much looking forward to completing — along with some of Wentworth’s other fiction.

 

Georgette Heyer: I’m not a romance reader, so I doubt that I’ll ever go anywhere near her Regency romances.  But I’m becoming more and more of a fan of her mysteries; if for no other reason than that nobody, not even Agatha Christie, did viciously bickering families as well as her.

 

Margery Allingham: I’m actually more of a fan of Albert Campion as portrayed by Peter Davison in the TV adaptations of some of Allingham’s mysteries than of her Campion books as such, but I like at least some of those well enough to eventually want to complete the series — God knows I’ve read enough of them at this point for the completist in me to have kicked in long ago.  I’ve also got Allingham’s very first novel, Blackerchief Dick (non-Campion; historical fiction involving pirates) sitting on my audio TBR.

 

Josephine Tey:  I have barely read half of Tey’s books so far (if that), but her tone and topics definitely strike a chord with me.  So I have acquired every book of her Inspector Grant series and I am hoping to complete the series soon — and also, to dive into some other books by / related to Tey.

 

Contemporary Mysteries

P.D. James

 

Ian Rankin

 

Michael Connelly

 

[Text to be supplied — I’m being called away just when I’m finally getting ready to complete this post!]

 

Historical Mysteries

I’m a history nerd, and with that comes a love of historical fiction; yet, the only two series of historical fiction that I would well and truly consider part of my personal canon are both mystery series as well:

 

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael: He may be a monk when we meet him, but nobody epitomizes “father figure” to me more than Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael.  Way above and beyond Peters’s unfailingly spot-on historical research and her intimate knowledge of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and the Welsh borderland (the Marches), I love this series for Cadfael’s humanity, his insight into human nature and acceptance of every person on their own terms, as well as, of course, his warmth, intelligence, and broad-mindedness.  And nobody else could have embodied Cadfael like Derek Jacobi, whom I first encountered in that series (not, like others, in I, Claudius) and became an instant fan.

 

C.J. Sansom / Matthew Shardlake: I binge-read the first three Shardlake books and consider myself an instant fan ever since.  Shardlake and his associates are engaging characters, and nobody does the Tudor court and its manifold machinations like C.J. Sansom.  Can’t wait to see where he is going to take the series now that Henry VIII is dead and the reign of his children has been ushered in.

 

Fantasy

I’m not a major reader of fantasy (and even less so, science fiction), but three authors are most definitely part of my personal canon, because their books vastly transcend the boundaries of that (or any) genre:

 

J.R.R. Tolkien: I first read The Lord of the Rings when I had barely turned 13, and The Hobbit a year or two later.  Frodo and Gollum between them may have taken The Ring back to Mount Doom, but it has never lost its pull on me and never will.  The Peter Jackson movie adaptations of The Lord of the Rings are not perfect, but I’ve become a big fan of theirs, too, and wouldn’t want to miss them from my personal movie library now, either. (The adaptations of The Hobbit are a different matter, Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield notwithstanding.)

 

Terry Pratchett: I’m a relatively late Discworld devotee, but I’m seriously wondering what took me so long.  Pratchett’s literary genius, sense of humor, and fiendish way of mixing social commentary, send-ups of iconic topics, genres, characters and other literary conventions, and clever, surprising plotlines into a creation all of its own is unmatched — and though I have a fair way to go yet to finish the Discworld novels, I already know that I’ll regret that moment when it comes at last.

 

J.K. Rowling / Harry Potter: I’m instinctively turned off by hype of any kind, so you can probably imagine my initial reaction to Harry Potter, quite probably the most hyped literary series of the past 20+ years.  But Harry and his friends won me over on their own merits … well, and those of J.K. Rowling’s writing.  I revisited the entire series earlier this year and was enchanted all over again — so much so that I splurged and invested in the recently-published hard cover boxed set, as well as the boxed set of “Hogwarts Library” books (Phantastic Beasts, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard), as well as starting the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw “collectors’ editions” series of the Harry Potter books.

 

Children’s / YA Literature

Astrid Lindgren: When I was barely old enough to read, Pippi Longstocking taught me that girls don’t have to be afraid of anybody and they can go everywhere they set their minds to.  I still believe that to this day. — Some of my childhood friends and I also loved her Noisy Village (Bullerbyn, or in German, Bullerbü) series well enough to emulate the characters and stories in our games.

 

The Three Investigators: The series I blame like practically no other for turning me into a mystery fan.  For my money still one of the best-ever conceived mystery series … and an honest-to-God crime hunt with input from Alfred Hitchcock himself; what’s not to like?  (The German incarnation was called “The Three ???” [or “The Three Question Marks“], incidentally, and featured a red, white and blue question mark on each book cover.)

 

Enid Blyton: I didn’t read anywhere near all of her books and series, but her Five Friends series satisfied basically the same youthful reading desires as did The Three Investigators … and I was also a dedicated reader of her St. Clare’s / O’Sullivan Twins series, even after I started attending a school that offered both full and half board in addition to “ordinary” class attendance, and from personal experience concluded that her version of a boarding school was wildly fictitious — which didn’t stop me from wishing, however, that just a few of the things from her books were actually happening in my school, too.  (We did make good on the “secret nighttime parties” thing on some school trips at least.)

 

Ellis Kaut / Pumuckl: Like Pippi Longstocking and the Bullerbyn children, Ellis Kaut’s creation, the kobold / gnome Pumuckl who some day suddenly decides to take residence in a Munich master carpenter’s workshop, was a very early companion of my childhood — and I would dearly have loved to meet him and to believe that the footsteps that one day showed up on the beach where we were vacationing were really his.  Alas, they were only a Pumuckl-style prank that my cousins played on me

 

Max Kruse / Urmel: The last, but by no means least literary companion of my early childhood was the dinosaur baby Urmel, who hatches on an island “right under the equator” where a Dr. Dolittle-like professor is living with his merry band of tallking animals, all of which have a particular (and very funny) phonetic quirk associated with the sounds they ordinarily make as animals.  A childhood friend first turned me onto the Urmel stories as they were presented in a TV program by Germany’s most famous puppet theatre company (they’re still in existence and in business) — I instantly had to have the books as well.

 

Guilty Pleasures

Karl May: Another writer whose books I swallowed hide and hair as a child — and whose protagonists were among my very first childhood heroes — was German Western / travel adventure writer Karl May.  Never mind that he only ever visited the places he wrote about later in life (if at all), and never mind that his writing is replete with the facile clichés of his time, his novels were / are gripping enough to have spawned an enormous fan base in Germany to this day, complete with annual productions of stage adaptations of his most famous books in several outdoor theatres dedicated entirely to his works; and the 1960s and 1970s screen adaptations of his Westerns propelled his two major heroes (the Apache chief Winnetou and his white “blood brother”, a German-born trapper / mountain man known as Old Shatterhand) to even greater iconic stature.

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Colin Dexter: The Riddle of the Third Mile

24 Festive Tasks: Door 5 – Veterans’ / Armistice Day, Book


For Veterans’ / Armistice Day I’m claiming the very first book I revisited after the beginning of the 24 Festive Tasks game: Colin Dexter’s The Riddle of the Third Mile had long been one of my favorite entries in the Inspector Morse series, but Samuel West’s wonderful reading not only confirmed that status but actually moved it up yet another few notches.  (Samuel West is fast becoming one of my favorite audiobook narrators anyway.) The fact that due to the progress of medical research a key element of the mystery would have been much easier to solve these days does not impede my enjoyment in the least … changing social mores aside, half the Golden Age crime literature, including many of the great classics by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and even, on occasion, Arthur Conan Doyle would be deprived of substantial riddles if they were set today. — The book qualifies for this particular “24 Festive Tasks” square, because some of the characters’ and their siblings’ encounter as British soldiers at the battle of El Alamein (1942) forms the prologue to the book and an important motive for their actions in the world of Oxford academia and Soho strip clubs, some 40 years later.

 

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