Monday, December 28, 2009

The New TBR Pile

It's maybe my favorite thing about Christmas -- snuggling up after the dinner's over and the dishes are done to try to read all my new books at once.

The first one I opened was a bit of a treasure - The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys -- forty vignettes "based on events that actually took place each time the historic Thames froze solid" -- events that span seven centuries, from 1142 to 1895.

This is an amazing and unexpected sort of book and I got right into it because our present opening was delayed by Justin's dog Ali Ali (who is really living up to his nickname 'Trouble Monkey') going outside and getting sprayed by one of our many skunks.

While Justin was bathing Ali with tomato juice followed by soap, all present-opening was suspended and I began reading this little gem. I finished it the next day and can recommend it highly.

I've also paged through this fantastic book on apples, filled with tempting recipes and beautiful pictures and through a beautiful little book of woodcuts and nature meditations by Gwen Frostic. (My late dear friend Eileen used to give me Gwen Frostic notecards, saying that they reminded her of me. I love it that my niece said this book, called For Those Who See, made her think of me.)

Ethan and Aileen outdid themselves with nifty books -- these two above will fall into the category of research, as well as fun reading.

I can't wait to get into the Tim Powers book -- having a special fondness for Blackbeard, as I've mentioned before.

And for an old English major, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew is a particular delight. I began leafing through it on Boxing Day night and found I couldn't stop reading. Everything I always wanted to know from the order of precedence at a formal dinner to how to address a marquis in direct written communication to what exactly the dance called 'Sir Roger de Coverly' is. (Turns out it's pretty much like our square dance called "The Virginia Reel" -- the same one I learned in fourth grade.)

Like Elizabeth and her family at Christmas in In a Dark Season, we usually put clues on our family gifts so that the recipient can have the fun of trying to guess what's in the package before ripping it open. Another present, also from Ethan and Aileen, had this cryptic little cartoon. Herodotus -- the first historian . . . hmmm. . .

What riches! Three of Gonick's wonderful cartoon histories! These are real history too -- and so much fun to read that you're likely to forget you're learning stuff. Some years ago I gave every young person I knew (including Ethan) Gonick's History of the Ancient World and kept a copy for myself.

If you wish you remembered more of what you learned in high school, here's a wonderful way to brush up your history I.Q. Highly, highly recommended!

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Poetry24 said...


You've got a nice haul of good reading material there. My curiosity was particularly roused by 'The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys'. I may have to take a closer look at that one.

Miss_Yves said...

Very interesting!
My choices :
The frozen Thames
What Jne Austen ate and what Dickens knew(The cover is cute)
(Translated in french!I can only read short stories in English)
I'll Speak you later to the books I'll receive for The new year .

Pat in east TN said...

WOW, you really lucked out with the varied assortment of books you got! I'm still too busy to dig into my new books, but I'm looking them over trying to figure out, "which one first, which one first". After our out of state trip Wednesday, I should be able to settle down and enjoy!

Stella Jones said...

You have received such a rich variety of reading matter this Christmas that I am sure you will spend many hours engrossed between those covers! I am intrigued by 'the frozen Thames' and would like to hear more about that one please at some future date.
We watched the new Harry Potter film over Christmas and enjoyed it very much. Now I am reading the last book to catch up on the story.
Do I take it you 'see into the future sometimes?'
Blessings Star

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Lovely selection of books Vicki. I couldn't help but chuckle about the tomato juice and the skunk. Ah, the joys of living in the country. We know.

Tess Kincaid said...

Yes, I love that snuggly-book week between Christmas and New Years!

Carol Murdock said...

Great books Vicki! I think I'd have to dig into the "Growing Up in Davie Country" first. I love reading those kind of books.I got one on The Great Smoky Mountains published in 1937. It's by Laura Thornborough. I thought I had all the books about the Smokies but this surprised me.My friend Maggie is good at digging up these old books!

Vicki Lane said...

THE FROZEN THAMES is a book I'm recommending to all my friends who like history, poetry, and just good writing in general. I should think that, as Brits, Martin and Star would particularly enjoy it -- 7 centuries of history presented in forty little vignettes. (Hint -- life wasn't ever easy.)

And since the vignettes are only a few pages each, Miss Yves, it might be enjoyable for you as well. (Who is the pretty child with you in your little picture?)

I still haven't read the last Harry Potter, Star, much less seen the movie. I so loved that series that I guess I'm putting off reading the ending.

I;m not sure what you mean about seeing into the future . . . I'm pretty sure the sun will rise tomorrow . . .

Would you believe, Sam, that Ali Ali got skunked again, the very next day? That makes about a dozen times this year. An example of the triumph of Hope (maybe it won't spray me THIS time) over Experience.

Pat, I'm looking forward to hear what you're reading -- and all the rest of you as well.

Carol, I don't know that book -- I do have quite a collection of books on the area, including several old ones (which are sometimes the most interesting.)

Unknown said...

Vicki - I am a somewhat reluctant expert on de-skunking dogs. First tell Justin - no water on the dog it just spreads the oil based mess around. Mix a box of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a watery paste along with a few drops of dish soap and coat the dog in the spot where the skunk got him - or all over if you can't determine the exact spot. Let the dog sit (not an easy task) for at least 15-20 minutes and the past will dry - then wash with dog shampoo - this works every time - smell gone!

Miss_Yves said...

The pretty child is my grandson ,(my daughter's son)
For his first steps , he choose ...Christmas Eve !

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks for the tip, Liz! John wants to know if the peroxide turns the dog blond.

A beautiful little boy, Miss Yves! How proud of him you must be!

Victoria said...

What a great selection of books you received! I'm going to try and hunt them up on Amazon, they all sound like good reads.

Poor Ali Ali. My dogs, Fiona and Bonnie, can sympathize. I use this stuff I get from the vet that's called "Skunk Out." Works every time.

Pat in east TN said...

I've used the same 'recipe' for de-skunking dogs and it works wonders, so much better then anything else I've tried.

Vicki Lane said...

I'm sure Ali Ali will give us ample opportunity to try out these other remedies. (Maybe we could get a grant . . .) Thanks, Pat and Victoria!

Tipper said...

Looks like you scored on the books! And funny you had your own skunk incident during Christmas :) They must be very active at the moment.

Vicki Lane said...

We are richly blessed with skunks, alas. Justin is keeping Ali Ali on a leash at night since that's when he always seems to get in trouble with the 'stinky kitties.'

Witch of Stitches said...

What Jane Austen Ate & Charles Dickens Knew - this has been around for a while, I bought a copy some years ago and still enjoy browsing through it.
Definitely a good and interesting read!
BTW - Happy New Year!

Vicki Lane said...

I loved it! There was much I already knew or had deduced, but it was great for filling in a few blanks! Happy New Year to you!