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Category Archives: Book Hunting

Supercalifragilistic . . . Um . . . Oh, To Heck With It!

I remember the day I went from being a book lover to an actual reader. No, I don’t remember the exact day or date, just the experience. It was Mary Poppins Bookson a weekend and I was at my grandparents’ house in Santa Ana, California. I was sitting in my grandfather’s big, comfy chair totally absorbed in a beautiful, hard bound edition of the complete Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers. I sat in that chair for hours and devoured page after page about that magical nanny. It was the first large hardback book I ever read all the way through and, being only 9 or 10 years old at the time, I was quite proud of myself.

I bring this up because the other day at my favorite thrift store I came across three Mary Poppins books, in paperback, conveniently banded together. I think I paid fifty cents for all three. It’s been over 40 years since I read Mary Poppins, and with the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” (you DO know who Mr. Banks is, don’t you?) out on DVD now, I’m really looking forward to revisiting these stories.

By the way, P.L. Travers wasn’t your run of the mill children’s writer. She was what you might call an intellectual adventuress (among other things). She had a fascination with the world’s mythologies and traveled extensively.  Back in the 80’s she was a regular contributor to the quarterly publication Parabola, which explored various myths and legends and their effects on culture and religion. Though she is no longer with us, she definitely left her own mark on our culture.

Keep your eyes on the East Wind!

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Book Hunting, Children's Books, Favorite Books

 

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Big Classic on the American Prairie

Little House BooksOnce upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs

The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house, and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses. There were no roads.There were no people. There were only trees and the wild animals who had their homes among them.

I love this opening. Ernest Hemingway would love this opening. Heck, Hemingway would love this book. For all I know he may have read it. If he did, I’m sure he smiled.

The above sentences introduce the reader to a series of true American classics, the “Little House” series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. That’s right, “Little House on the Prairie” was not a single book but the second in a series of nine books about growing up in the American pioneer days. More than just books for young people, these books are considered by many to be valuable records of an important time in our nation’s history.

I’ve wanted to read these books for many years but put off starting until I had all nine volumes. Then a couple of weeks or so back, while browsing around one of our favorite thrift stores, I came across the reason I frequent such places. Sitting on a shelf in the children’s book section was a brand new boxed set of all nine “Little House” books put out by Scholastic Inc. I mean the paperback spines weren’t even creased! The price: $3.99. After I put my eyes back in my skull, I grabbed the set and hugged it to my chest.

So far I’ve read the first two books: “Little House in the Big Woods” and “Little House on the Prairie.” In straightforward, efficient prose, Laura tells the story of what it was like growing up in the late 1800s with her Ma and Pa and sisters, Mary and Baby Carrie. These books aren’t about plotting and characterization but rather they are the treasured recollections of a young girl plainly told. The chapters are connected episodes explaining what living on the nation’s frontier was like, including descriptions of the many skills they possessed and the labors they performed to get through the seasons, especially the long winters.

And, yes, you do get to know the characters, but they are revealed by their actions and responses to the situations they find themselves in. Very much like the way one comes to know a person in everyday life. Pa is confident in his abilities, possesses a joy for life and a deep love of his family. And he’s pretty good with a fiddle too. Ma is more subdued, an excellent cook, gardener, seamstress, and calm as a rock in the face of trials and unexpected encounters with bears. Mary, the older sister, is the good little girl, never raising a fuss. Of course, Laura is the one who’s curious about everything and willing to challenge Ma and Pa’s boundaries to find out what’s going on. And Baby Carrie is . . . well, a baby.

Though the chapters are episodic, they aren’t disjointed. The thread of a frontier life remembered connects them to each other and to the reader in a way that mere fiction seldom accomplishes. As I read each chapter, the more I kept in mind that these were Laura’s actual memories the more affecting her descriptions became. Whether because of encounters with Indians, prairie fires racing toward the house, the dangers of digging a well or of dealing with wolves or bears, one comes to realize that each day was truly an adventure for these brave families who chose to move westward. Even something seemingly as simple as Pa going to town could be cause for anxiety:

Before dawn, Pa went away. When Laura and Mary woke, he was gone and everything was empty and lonely. It was not as though Pa had only gone hunting. He was going to town, and he would not be back for four long days.

The simplicity and directness of Laura’s words convey a sense of vulnerability that’s hard to match.

I’ll be starting the third book, “Farmer Boy,” soon and I’ll do a review of that and a few more as I read them. But do yourself a favor and get these books and read them. Read them for yourself and to your children. They are true American classics and remind us of how the American character was formed and what it is that makes this country and its people something special. It is so important that we keep these memories alive, both for ourselves and, even more so, for our young.

 

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Book Hunting, Book Review, Children's Books, History

 

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A Disappointing Book That Will Hang on My Wall

The other day while my wife and I were shopping in one of our favorite thrift stores, I found what looked to be a Knights in Combatnifty little book. Titled “The Little Book of the Holy Grail,” (Barnes & Noble/The Book Laboratory, 2004), it purported to give some historical background to the grail legends and even “retells two of the most famous Grail stories.” It was also loaded with marvelous Medieval art related to the grail. Oh, yes. I bought it.

Sucker.

Disappointing could be taken as an understatement here. Let’s start with the writing. The author, whose name will not be mentioned as a courtesy, is supposedly an attorney with a Master’s degree in Theology. They should have taken a composition class or two.

The first section of the book, about the history of the grail legends, is pedestrian at best. It gets the facts across and that’s it. The recounting of the grail stories is where the eyes glaze over. Honestly, I’ve read better fifth grade book reports. I’d quote it but I want you to finish this post.

For the big finish, the final section of the book is called “Reclaiming the Feminine Aspect of Christianity.” Here the author tries to make Dan Brown look like a scholar by going over the same “was Jesus really married to Mary Magdalene?” road that’s been traveled to death. There’s even a chapter here titled “The Conspiracy Continues?” Honest.

The only saving grace for this book are the beautiful reproductions of grail-themed art. Yet even here, the book falls short. None of the artwork is identified by artist or title. The only thing the reader is given is a list of acknowledgements as to the sources of the paintings and drawings. Frustrating.

I was going to donate this book to another thrift store, but then I had an idea. I have purchased several nice wooden frames at another thrift store we frequent and I plan to use a very sharp utility knife to extricate my favorite pictures and place them in the frames. I’m still trying to decide where I will hang them, but I know they’ll look great wherever they wind up.

Nice save, if I say so myself.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Book Hunting, Book Review, History

 

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The History of the American Character

I have always loved American folklore. Thank goodness for Disney’s animated renderings of Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill IllustrationPecos Bill, the Uncle Remus stories and others. These tales, and my father’s guidance, led me further into my love of books and words. But there’s something else these wonderful “tall tales” did for me; they helped me to better understand, and to love, this country and its people.

These thoughts surfaced again in my mind last week after I came across a copy of “Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time,” by James Cloyd Bowman (The New York Review Children’s Collection). Originally published in 1937, this book is a compilation of tales about the mythical, larger-than-life cowboy arranged to form an episodic novel. The bold, eye-catching illustrations by Laura Bannon, many in bright, primary colors, add much to the overall feel of the stories.

As Bowman writes in his introduction:

These adventures of Pecos Bill constitute a part of the Saga of the Cowboy. They are collected from the annals of the campfire and the roundup. They preserve the glory of the days when men were men, and when imagination and wonder rode hand in hand to conquest and to undying fame.

These tales are vital examples of the broad humor of America that has been long in the making. The bigness of the virgin frontier expanded the imagination of the first settlers, and the hardness of the life developed their self-reliance.

It makes me think that in these times when so few of America’s youth understand what being an American is about, maybe the best thing to do is re-introduce our “tall tales” to a new generation.

It should couldn’t hurt!

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in Book Hunting, Ideas, Old Books

 

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Remember Me?

Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten ...

Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten 20th Century- Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello, folks.

Let me first apologize for my absence the past two weeks or so. Life has a way of throwing things at you and you have to deal with them whether you want to or not. The objects thrown this time had to do with the business my wife and I own. It wasn’t fun but we got through it.

Anyway, just because we had to deal with business emergencies didn’t mean I stopped my book-hunting habits! A junkie’s a junkie after all. And thanks to the Prescott DAV Thrift Store, I came up with some finds this past week.

My favorite is “The Harper Collins Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers Through the Ages,” compiled by Robert Van de Weyer (Castle Books, 1997.) At just over 400 pages, it has an abundance of prayers, poetry and meditations. Unlike many other prayer collections, this one is arranged by author rather than topic, which I really appreciate. Such spiritual luminaries as St. Augustine, Karl Barth, Henri Nouwen, Ignatius of Loyola, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Origen are included. There are even sections with Aztec, Sioux and Kalahari Bushmen prayers. Amazingly beautiful words here.

I also found two wonderful books on church history which are aimed at younger audiences. “The Church of Our Fathers” by Roland H. Blainton (The Westminster Press, 1950) and “I Will Build My Church” by Amy Morris Lillie (The Westminster Press, 1950) look to be for the 8 to 12 year old age range and have great illustrations, especially “Church of Our Fathers.” Thumbing through these books, I was reminded that much of the Church’s history is a grand tale of adventure. Today’s Church should be telling these stories to its young members. Talk about exciting and inspiring!

To complete the historical theme, I picked up a copy of Paul Johnson’s “A History of the American People,” (HarperPerrenial, 1999.) Johnson is a British historian who writes about America out of admiration rather than contempt, a refreshing change. His dedication explains his view:

This book is dedicated to the people of America – strong, outspoken, intense in their convictions, sometimes wrong-headed but always generous and brave, with a passion for justice no nation has ever matched.

If only more schools would use this as a textbook instead of the one by, say, Howard Zinn.

That’s all for now, folks. Again, sorry for not being more consistent but life is what it is. I’ll try to be better. In the meantime, keep reading!

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Book Hunting

 

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Old School Book Report

Jr High Literature Book TwoLast week my wife and I happened by an estate sale near our house, Now really, who can resist those? We sure didn’t. Unfortunately, it was the last day of the sale and much of the really good stuff (as far as my wife was concerned) was already gone or paid for. Luckily for Old Book Junkies like me, a lot of treasures are overlooked by the non-book lovers. And I thank them for their ignorance!

I snapped up two books this time, neither of which is particularly valuable except for the interest I have in their subjects. The first is an old literature textbook called, fittingly enough, “Junior High School Literature, Book Two,” (Scott, Foresman and Company, 1928.) I love thumbing through old textbooks to get a feel for what was being taught in our past and how. This literature book offered a nice view into what was being taught in our public schools 85 years ago.

The book was divided into four parts: The World of Nature, The World of Adventure, Freedom and Democracy and Literature and Life in the Homeland. Four parts, and two of them dedicated to the life and philosophy of the United States. How many of today’s textbooks could claim that?

Selections include “The American Boy” by Theodore Roosevelt, an explanation of the American experiment by Daniel Webster, an excerpt from George Washington’s farewell address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry W. Longfellow and Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”

The other volume was Albert Schweitzer’s autobiography, “Out of My Life and Thought,” (Henry Holt and Schweitzer BiographyCompany, 1949.) One of the last century’s most brilliant men, Schweitzer was a theologian, philosopher, musician and doctor. He was well known for his book “Quest of the Historical Jesus” and other volumes on theology. At 274 pages, it should be a crisp read.

That’s all for now, folks. Have a great week!

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Book Hunting

 

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I’ll Take “Book Hunting” For 100!

Unless I’ve miscounted or my blog program is lying to me, this should be my 100th post here at the Old Book Bible Story BookJunkie. 100. Didn’t know if I’d make it that long. Thanks to all of you who have read and/or followed me here. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your “likes” and comments. Hopefully, I can earn your continued patronage in the year ahead. Now, onward.

Once again I have been out among the thrift stores and library sales, and once again I have found some nice books. This past Friday my wife and I were at the Disabled American Veterans Thrift store, one of our favorite places to rummage around in. They have great items at great prices and for a great cause.

For example, I found a nice copy of “Egermeier’s Bible Story Book: A Complete Narration from Genesis to Revelation for Young and Old,” (1955, Warner Press Publication, Gospel Trumpet Company.) These versions of the biblical stories were first written and published in 1923 by Elsie E. Egermeier. The 1955 version I found was revised slightly by Arlene Hall.

Samuel gets a new coatElsie Egermeier’s intent was to “present these stories in such a simple, direct manner that her youthful readers will have no difficulty in comprehending their teaching.” It seems that this type of book, re-telling the key Bible stories in plain language for younger readers, was very popular in the early to mid-20th century. Some of the newer ones I’ve seen today tend to be cartoonish in their approach, particularly the illustrations. As you can see from this picture, that’s not the case with  “The Bible Story Book.” The book is full of wonderful color and black and white lithographs that don’t turn the stories into fairy tales. I have concerns about children seeing cartoon depictions of Moses or Jesus. Do they understand that they were real people and not some cartoon characters?

I also picked up a good, clean copy of “The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Expanded Edition,” (1977, Oxford University Press, Inc.) It is edited by the great Bruce M. Metzger and this expanded edition contains the third and fourth books of the Maccabees and Psalm 151. That’s right, Psalm 151, which is purportedly a psalm of David commemorating his battle with the giant Goliath. Is it true? God knows, but the psalm is great:

I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and removed

reproach from the people of Israel.

Whether you think the Apocrypha should be canonical or not, it is a marvelous enhancement to the Scriptures. I’ve always enjoyed reading it, particularly the Wisdom of Solomon and Tobit. This annotated copy of the Revised Standard Version is a great addition to my library.

Finally, I found a copy of the “Abingdon Bible Handbook,” (1975, Abingdon Press) by Edward P. Blair. This will be a useful reference book since it includes nice, brief summaries and backgrounds on each book of the Bible, as well as chapters on Bible translation, interpretation, history, archaeology and chronology.

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks again for hanging with me and I hope to have a lot more interesting things for all of you in the year ahead!

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Book Hunting, Children's Books

 

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Wonderful Find !

Christian Ed Books for KidsSo I stopped by my local library today and checked in the children’s section. They have a box by the children’s librarian’s door with free books and magazines they will eventually throw-away if no one grabs them. I’m all for giving unwanted children’s books a home!

Today I found 11 short paperback books published by The Westminster Press as part of their “Christian Faith and Life” series which is billed as a “program for church and home.” All of them appear to be from the 1950s and 60s and are illustrated in that classic 60s style art. I’m guessing the books are aimed at children in the 8 to 12 year-old age range. On top of everything else, they’re all in very good condition!

I have to say, after a brief skimming of a few of them, the theological concepts I found are clear and very well presented for children. Today’s churches could use these books!

I’ll try to share more of the contents with you as I have the chance to go through them.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Book Hunting

 

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Good Holiday Book-Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas all!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Book Hunting

 

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Score at the Thrift Store

Score at the Thrift Store

So by now, most of you know that I LOVE to shop for books at thrift and second-hand stores. One of the main reasons is because I just never know what I’m going to find. The element of surprise makes each trip an adventure and when I come across that special book or books, well . . .

Yesterday my wife and I went to the D.A.V. (Disabled American Veterans) Thrift in Prescott. This is one fabulous shop, with all sorts of nifty nic-nacs, old clothes, furniture and, of course, books. And I scored! I found some of the old “Companion Library” series of children’s classics published by Grosset & Dunlap back in the ’60s. What was wonderful about these volumes wasn’t just that they made available some of the all-time best stories for young people, but also the way they did it.

There were two tales per volume, but also two front covers. If you were looking at one cover and you wanted to see the second, instead of just turning it over, you would flip it upside down and THEN turn it over. Hard to explain with words, but if you saw one you’d understand. And these were the full versions of each story, not some abridged one.

So here’s what I snagged: The first volume has Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (it says “Revised and Slightly Abridged”. Oooops!) which was first published in 1727. along with Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The second volume has The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame sharing the covers with Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Finally, the third volume has The Adventures of Pinocchio by C. Collodi (in reality, Carlo Lorenzini, NOT Walt Disney) followed on the reverse side by the Howard Pyle version of The Story of King Arthur and His Knights.

There were several more of these wonderful books on the shelf when I left, but I didn’t want to be greedy. But if they’re still there next time, consider them gone. I’m going to build a nice library for my grandson and these books are a great way to do it!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Book Hunting, Children's Books, Old Books

 

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