Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Biblioholics Anonymous

I dearly love my book collection.  I haven't counted in awhile but I'm guessing I have somewhere in the region of 1000 hardcover books. The majority of them are signed first editions. We moved into a new rental home last year and did so pretty major downsizing.  I still have many of my books in boxes because I don't have enough room to put them on shelves. Because of that fact (and our ongoing financial troubles), I have decided to weed my collection.

(image source)

I'm going to start selling off the bulk of my books. I have 44 listed so far and I plan to list about ten a week. The holiday season is coming up!!! If you would like to own part of the Life by Candlelight collection, visit my Alibris storefront.  I sell under the name of "Biblioholics Anonymous."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Something Personal

See what is going on in my life over here.

Monday, October 22, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I vaguely remember Julia Child's television program from my childhood. And I certainly remember Dan Akroyd's famous Saturday Night Live impersonation. But she didn't really register on my radar until Julie Powell's JULIE AND JULIA experiment came out along with the following movie.  Meryl Streep's interpretation of Julia Child seemed so charming and exuberant and I really wondered if the real Julia Child was even close to that.  Since this year marks what would have been Julia's 100th birthday, I thought it very appropriate to read Bob Spitz's new biography.

It took me awhile to get through this book.  Spitz is extremely thorough and filled the book with details about much more than Julia's life.  I learned about the early days of public television and the early years of Pasadena and its first families.  I learned about the ins and outs of the publishing business.  Even more than that, however, I learned a great deal about Julia Child that both surprised and charmed me.  I marveled at her liberal political leanings and her late marriage and late career start.  I also never knew how involved she was with Planned Parenthood and also in establishing American-based culinary schools. I gained a new appreciation for the work she put into her cookbooks and the level of testing and detail that went into them.  I loved the fact that Julia always remained true to herself and never stopped working. The way she built her empire was fascinating.  There is so much to admire about Julia Child and this biography inspired me to look for her cookbooks and try some of her recipes. 

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  While this biography is dense and slow-going, it is also fascinating and filled with interesting detail. Spitz crafted a book about much more than Julia Child. It is also the story of the American housewife and the changing attitudes towards food and homemaking along with the influence of television in the lives of Americans.  A fascinating look at a fascinating woman. This would make a great Christmas gift.

Friday, October 05, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

At first glance, this looks like a book about a young man watching his mother struggle through cancer and eventually succumb to it.  It will draw inevitable comparisons to books like TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.  However, it is much much more than that. This isn't a sad, maudlin account of the end of someone's life.  It is the story of the connection forged between a man and his mother through their passionate love and books and how those books shaped and affected their lives. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved a book. Bibliophiles will recognize kindred spirits in Will Schwalbe and his mother.

When Will's mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he beings accompanying her to her treatments and they begin a "book club" to pass the time.  Both of them have always been passionate readers but books take on a new significance for them.  Each book that they read brings up questions about faith and courage and gratitude and what makes a life well lived.  It is through reading these books that Will and his mother are able to broach issues that may have been difficult for them to approach otherwise.  The books become a method of communication for mother and son.  The two of them learn a great deal about each other through their book club.

These are two people who understand the power of the written word. They understand how books can connect us and teach us and open our minds to new ideas. They see how books never stop allowing us to learn and grow---even at the end of our lives.  END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB is moving and funny and sad and heartwarming all at the same time.  I found myself underlining passages and making a list of books for myself based on what Will and his mother were reading. (There is a master list at the back of the book.)  This isn't just a story about dying or a story about a life well-lived. It is a story of the relationship of a mother and son and their love of books.  As CS Lewis said, "we read to know we are not alone."

BOTTOM LINE:  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. One of my favorite books this year.  If you consider yourself a bibliophile, this one must go on your reading list.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

After Neill Bassett's father committeed suicide ten years ago, he left behind thousands of pages of secret journals that are as detailed as they are banal.  There are no hidden revelations or secret thoughts in these journals. They are simply the day-to-day accounts of a country doctor.  However, these journals provide the perfect ingredients for an artificial intelligence project that Amiante Systems is working on.  As not only the owner of the journals but also as a reasonable interpreter of them, Neill manages to parlay his father's legacy into a job with Amiante. Outside of work, Neill struggles to navigate various relationships following his divorce soon after his honeymoon.  He can't seem to connect with anyone except for the artificial version of his father that Amiante is cranking out.  As "Dr. Bassett" becomes more complex, Neill begins to trick himself into thinking that he can find closure with his father through his interactions with the computer.  He just has to find the missing ingredient that will pull everything together.

I thought this book had a clever premise.  It felt very timely considering the fact that more and more of our relationships are carried out through electronic devices.  It becomes harder and harder to establish authenticity and real connection.  As Neill discovers, it can be easier to to engage with artificial intelligence than deal with the complexities of real people.  That being said, the book lacked genuine feeling for me.  I found it difficult to connect with the characters. (in much the same way that they have difficulty connecting with each other)  I think Hutchins had some really good ideas but the whole thing just didn't gel for me.  Something was missing and I can't quite put my finger on it.

BOTTOM LINE:  Not recommended. A great idea that didn't quite get there. I think most readers may have a hard time getting through the story although Hutchins does have a lot of clever and interesting ideas.