Fall Reading List Part Two: Vintage Non-fiction


Last week I shared a list of 6 vintage fiction books I’m planning to read this fall, this list is Part Two: half a dozen non-fiction vintage books for my fall reading list. 

For those of you that are curious the oldest publishing date in this list is from 1912; 104 years ago.

Three of the books are history, one is historical poetry, one is a Christian devotional, and one is a classic economic work.

So from top to bottom the books are:

  1. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  2. The Book of Comfort by J. R. Miller
  3. Brave Men by Ernie Pyle (I just finished this one!)
  4. The Banditti of The Plains by A. S. Mercer
  5. Battle At The Cowpens by Arthur Magill
  6. The Good Years; From 1900 to The First World War by Walter Lord

 

While all the books look like they will prove to be interesting, I am quite curious about The Good Years as I’ve read a book by Walter Lord before, and found his writing style to be very pleasant and alive. If this book proves to be so as well it’s going to be some fun history.

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Fall Reading List 2016~Vintage Books


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I have many, many books I’m planning to read this fall, but I thought I’d do a list of half a dozen of the vintage books I’m going to read this season.  Now, you may notice that all mystery books are absent from this list, but I do have many planned for this season (to be shared later) as fall is THE season for mysteries!

So, here is the list, and, quite naturally, a steaming cup of tea goes along with them.

  1. Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry
  2. Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther
  3. Cabin Fever by B. M. Bower
  4. The Ranch of The Wolverine by B. M. Bower
  5. The Happy Family by B. M. Bower
  6. The Home Place by Fred Gibson

These books are stunning vintage pieces that I’m debating on whether to keep for my shelves, or to be generous with and make them available to you all in the shop.  I also have stacks of non-fiction, primarily on the topic of history, that I’m planning to dig into this fall as well. And of course one never knows what treasures one will find tomorrow…

What is on your reading list this Fall?  Have you read any of the above books?




“Towards Zero”~Agatha Christie Book Review


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Mysteries are my favorite type of pleasure reading. Anytime I want a relaxing and delightful jaunt into the world of crime and detectives I find myself reaching for a mystery novel. Agatha Christie is among the first authors I reach for.

I appreciate her mysteries for many reasons, among them are; a fresh story every time, lovely character studies, unique plot twists, unpredictable endings, and crispy dialogue all tossed into a charming location full of deadly murder and mayhem.

She specialized in writing the “manor mystery” where a group of strange folks from all walks of life are thrown together in a location and forced to stay there. It is a common story setting and one of the best no matter whether it takes place among a group of stagecoach passengers, passengers on a ship, an island out at sea, a snowbound train depot, or the ever suspenseful English manor.

Toward Zero, is very much like that. A group of unusual characters all convene in an elderly lady’s house on seaside cliffs during the month of September, and the suspicious thoughts quickly turn into hard tension, and then murder. Everyone is a suspect. And I dare the reader to guess the culprit before it is revealed!

In reading many Agatha Christie novels I’ve thought a lot on what makes her books so appealing. I think a large portion of it can be attributed to her wide knowledge of people. From reading her books it is clear that she must have watched and studied the people around her until she had a vast resource of realistic characters. Couple that with cleverness and her excellent craftsmanship with words, and you get the people and their amusing characters that make her books stand out. When trying to solve her mysteries, it usually comes down to trying to get an understanding of personalities, how each of the people think, their reactions, and what makes them tick. If you can figure out the people, you can figure out the mystery!

Towards Zero is full of fascinating people that makes a jolly good read. Among them are:

  • An 80 year old specialist of criminology, who knows too much; he could never write a memoir—and live.
  • An eccentric old lady who is royalty in her own domain—the mansion. And who has a secret delight that her guests don’t realize they are fodder for…
  • A flashy, stunningly beautiful girl who is dissatisfied with life and her husband. And jealous. And money hungry. Pure dynamite.
  • An intelligent reader who would do anything to have some adventure or travel, but is housebound taking care of an old lady…or so she thinks until a squad of guests descend on the grounds one September.
  • A handsome, athletic young man who has been trailing his old sweetheart for year after year—despite the undeniable fact that she is married.
  • A quiet lady with a scar…a hidden past…a mysterious manner…a reserved passion no one would ever guess, with the one possible exception of her ex-husband
  • The ex-husband. A wealthy man who has to live for two weeks in the same house with his first and second wives.
  • A farmer from Malay. A quiet man with a hidden purpose…deliberate enough to cross an ocean to carry it out.
  • A suicidal gent on a secret mission in South America, who just stops by to visit the place where once he tried to take his life, a man who would lose his job, wife, and friends rather than tell a lie, but who had a unique exception for one kind of deceit…

Put all of those folks together in a party, start having them be mysteriously murdered, and the result will be neither predictable nor calm!

Towards Zero is one with of her lesser-known books, it has neither of her famous detectives; Poirot or Marple, but is one of the five “Superintendent Battle” cases. It was originally published in 1944.  For a delightful couple of hours dig into this old mystery and you will be surprised at the sudden twists! Agatha Christie could make her readers sympathize with and love a character, and then turn bitterly against him in a matter of seconds. Such was her talent, and…but that is for you to find out in this classic whodunit. Below are a few quotes from the book.

 

‘I like a good detective story,’ he said. ‘But, you know, they begin in the wrong place! They begin with the murder. But the murder is the end. The story begins long before that– years before sometimes– with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day.’

“You’ve no idea what horrors most companions are. Futile boring creatures. Driving one mad with their insanity. They are companions because they are fit for nothing better. To have Mary, who is a well-read intelligent woman, is marvelous. She had really a first-class brain–a man’s brain. She has read widely and deeply and there is nothing she cannot discuss. And she is just as clever domestically as she is intellectually. She runs the house perfectly…”“

“I suppose, like most young people nowadays, boredom is what you dread most in the world, and yet, I can assure you, there are worse things.”

“It’s extraordinary, the amount of misunderstandings there are even between two people who discuss a thing quite often – both of them assuming different things and neither of them discovering the discrepancy.”

 

This book is very entertaining and fun (Does anyone else relish the descriptions of the guests rooms, wardrobes, and the state of neatness or disarray like I do? I love it when detectives search a room, and Agatha Christie catches all the details that would be the logical state considering that persons mind, worldview, and character, for one’s mind does affect one’s room…) 

For a chilly fall evening nothing beats a good mystery and a steaming cup o’ tea. Treat yourself to a couple of Agatha Christie’s books this autumn season and give your deducing powers a little exercise! It might make you want to don your suit and hat for a visit to an old country house…

Have you read Towards Zero or any of the Superintendent Battle series? Let me know in a comment below!


This review was written for The Agatha Christie Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Little Bits of Classics



New Books In The Shop Today!


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These books were just added to the shop today–all three of them are children’s books, but the decades they were published in are as unique as the volumes themseves: late 1800’s, 1910’s, and 1950’s…think you can guess which one is from which era? Drop your guesses in the comments below BEFORE you click the links and see the publication dates in the shop! 🙂


 


Quote of The Week!


Here’s a great quote for your week folks! It’s great to read once, and it’s great to read aloud over a dinner with your friends. It could make for some interesting discussions, debates, and possibly a few quotes of your own will be formulated during the ensuing talk!

Chas Spurgeon Quote

Well, there you have it. If you have any favorite quotes that pertain to books or reading share them in the comments below! If you came up with a great quote of your own over your hearty conversation with your chums on the topic, share it below as well and I may choose to feature it in a future post!




Vintage Book Review~David Harum


David Harum

By E. N. Westcott

David Harum Book

John Lenox, a promising man in his 20’s, is suddenly cast into two life-changing situations. His father dies, and with his passing John no longer has any money with which to live on or to pursue his training as a lawyer. The second situation is more pleasant, but even more difficult; John has fallen in love with a sweet girl—but does not have the finical means to offer her marriage even if he could otherwise make a successful winning of her heart.
This story follows his trials and moral tests of character through 6 years in New York State.

The title of the book; “David Harum”, comes from the employer and mentor of John— Mr. David Harum, an old country banker and sharp horse-trader who is filled with stories of his own life and struggles which he willingly shares with all who are interested. He’s a likable old fellow and has every bit as much (if not more) to do with the story than John himself. As the book progresses he becomes a mentor type of figure in John’s life…

I found this book to be quite enjoyable and a charming story. It is, a story of American life in New York during the 1800’s and also a character study of an old banker. And what makes it so fascinating is when in was written. It’s not some modern fiction set back in history, but is a fictional story written about the times that the author lived in and experienced first hand. The author, Westcott, wrote the book and finished it while on his deathbed. It was published posthumously that same year: 1898.

The characters and dialogue are quite real and show that the author understood human nature well; and the story, while moving at a slightly slower pace in some parts, manages to stay interesting throughout and leave you quite interested in how everything will turn out in the seemingly unsettling end.

The book in these photos is from 1898, the original publication year, and is a fine hardcover with a frontice-piece by an uncredited artist (although you can almost make out his signature in the corner…).

I currently have an 1898 copy available for purchase in the shop here!

If you’ve read David Harum, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts on the book!




History, Etymology, and The Case For Unabridged Books


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In looking at a mail-order catalog one day, I came upon a page where the company was selling republished vintage books by a favorite children’s author of mine. Glancing down at the description I was very surprised that the company was recommending that before you let your children read the books you should go through them with a bottle of white-out and mark out all of the words that have changed meaning over the years, and are now misunderstood, or considered derogatory or offensive.

I am passionate about unabridged books, particularly children’s books of yesteryear. Here’s why. Or rather, here’s one reason why. This post only deals with the vocabulary aspect abridging books, it doesn’t even touch the other important issues of grammar, old English, or “tedious” passages.

Now, when folks change the vocabulary in a antique book, it is usually for one of three reasons:

  1. It has changed in definition (or a new definition has become the norm and the old had faded into antiquity).
  2. It has changed in connotation. Or gathered new connotations.
  3. It has virtually disappeared from the culture, and hardly anyone knows what it means, or even what it is anymore. No one uses it in writing or in speech.

Every one of those reasons looks like a valid reason on the surface. However, there is one major problem with all three of them. History.

It is important to understand history. In all areas. Economics. Novels. Battles. Culture. Film. Music. Worldviews. Fashion. Architecture. The list goes on. It has been often said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, and that is true. Also, those who don’t know history don’t tend to make advances into the future with many sound foundations or longevity to their plans. Intentional people go places. Educated intentional people, with a sound grasp of history, go the places they set out to go, while typically strongly affecting or even changing the course of things. But enough of that.

My main point is that you need to understand history, and that “edited” vocabulary harms that in two distinct ways:

  1. It causes a misinterpretation of history. If people edit out all possibly “offensive” elements of the cultures that came before us, so that we never have to see them, and we never study etymology and understand the definitions of the past then we will make grave errors of interpretation when we look back at history. Then when we come across an unabridged work we are surprised by the words that people used and misjudge both the intent and character of the individual as well as acquire a skewed picture of the culture and therefore of the history of that era as a whole. That leads to modern day writers publishing books with slander about men in previous generations, as has happened in many biographies published recently. Many of the falsehoods in them spring directly from an ignorance of the etymology during that time, which changes the appearance of the man’s character and how he is perceived throughout history from now on. Truth is important, and the nation that has a false view of history will suffer. It may seem like little changes in what a word means is not so important, but as in the case of biographies, those little things change history. And the biographies are just one example of it’s many effects. Another example is the songs of the old American songwriters, which, unless viewed with a knowledge of how the meaning of words has changed, will give every person who hears them a false view of the times they came from, and what the culture was like.
  2. It fosters ignorance, and causes us to be unable to understand primary source documents or other things that have not been “fixed” for us. This leads to one of two things. Either we just never read things that haven’t been updated (which only fosters more ignorance in our lives and means that most primary source documents are never going to be read) or we fall into the trap of point #1, and, because of our reading only edited text previously, we will not understand the true meaning of what we have just read and will come away with a false view of reality and history. For example, anyone who attempts to read the classic economic work The Road To Surfdom by F. A. Hayek will come away with a false view of his economic teachings on account of the complete change in what the word “Liberal” means. It means almost the exact opposite of what it used to, and, without a proper knowledge of that, you will come away from his book confused and thinking the opposite ideas than he had intended. Now, here is where folks say “Well, if it was only published in edited an updated versions then you would have no confusion at all”. That fosters a ignorance of history, and the historical usage of words. It also leaves that individual completely unfit to pick up anything that has not been “pre-digested” for him. Then what happens when that individual finds an old journal in the attic…? Or your father’s grail diary? Or discovers an unknown and hidden letter from a founding father of our country?¹ Or an old letter in the pocket of a soldier’s uniform? Or between the crumbling pages of a book? He’s not equipped to accurately understand them…

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So what is the solution to the eradication of old vocabulary from books which is causing parents to hesitate when placing a vintage book in the hands of their children?

The solution is very simple, but does take some work–as do all skills worth gaining. Educate yourself. Almost everybody has access to a dictionary. And the internet is even faster (not to mention housing the old dictionaries that will give you the old definitions!). It has never been easier to find the history of a word, it’s connotations, or the changes it has gone through than it is right now in our current culture. Yes, there is false information out there, but with a few searches and ten minutes or less of studying you should be able to spot them.

As far as children are concerned, read a couple of vintage books aloud to them. Explain the words and the importance of getting your definitions right; then step back and let them at it.

One great thing that I have seen a few publishers do that entirely solves the problem, without altering the original history, is to put a handy little footnote with all the info about the modern meaning vs. the meaning of the word in the book. “Quite nice”, as Watson would say.

Now, go buy those lovely antiques, read them, enjoy them, and learn from them. Our culture will be the better for it. Then when you are reading a page written years ago, you will be perfectly equipped and able to tackle anything with a keen understanding, whether you’re on your next mission, are making an adventurous discovery, are tucked away on the grounds of your estate, or curled up by the fireplace.



¹And that does still happen in America. Just this year a family in the South discovered an authentic, never-before-seen letter by Thomas Jefferson–in their attic.

 

 

 

Box 13 Is On Instagram!


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For all you instagrammers who love old books: hop on over to @boxthirteenbooks to see the official Instagram page for my shop. The content you will see in my feed over there will consist of all manner of personally curated book related posts; from my book hauls and the many adventures I had acquiring them, to quotes, and of course the new books that are about to be added to my shop. I have several grand giveaways planned for the future over there as well!

This summer has been extraordinary busy, yet undaunted, I am making the most of every moment and living life to the hilt! Many book-hunting treks have been conducted under a blazing sky at high noon– and much research and study has taken place far into the night in all manner of places. All of which is resulting in grand stacks of musty, long-forgotten antiques and a tremendous amount of knowledge of books and publishers throughout history. . .

And now I have a place to chronicle some of the events and cases for you–so head on over to my Instagram account and give it a follow, or just drop a comment and introduce yourself!