Thursday, June 11, 2009

Five people bought it at the university bookstore...

From Booking Through Thursday:

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

I suppose the obvious answer in my case would be art history books.  I don't really read them for "fun," since I consider them a part of my job or schoolwork, but that doesn't mean I don't care if they're good or not, either.  Here are some of my favorites:

De Chirico by Paolo Baldacci

This book talks about every detail of Giorgio de Chirico's art and life during his Metaphysical Period (about 1912-17).  It is exhaustively researched, illustrated out the wazoo, and well-written.  The only quibble I have is that there's no index.  But I guess you can't have everything.

Art, War, & Revolution in France, 1870-1871:  Myth, Reportage, & Reality by John Milner

This is a fascinating book that tells story of l'annĂ©e terrible through the journals and letters of artists and writers.  The Terrible Year was one in which France lost the Franco-Prussian War; its major cities--especially Paris--were sieged by the Prussians; and when the government finally surrendered, there was the Commune, which was essentially a civil war.  About 30,000 people died in the Paris Commune alone.  This book is full of interesting, grotesque, and heartbreaking illustrations; as well as personal and political drama.  Really a great read.

Since I can already tell your eyes are glazing over, let's change the subject a bit, shall we?  I also love to read books about ancient beliefs or religious practices, as long as they're not too dry or archaeological (that cuts the field down by a whole bunch).  Arcana Mundi by Georg Luck looks like it's going to be as dry as a smoker's cough (are those dry?), but it's surprisingly readable and full of interesting things.  It's essentially a compendium of primary writings of the Greeks and Romans on witchcraft, daemonology (the topic of daemons alone is enough to make me start geeking out), divination, oracles, and the like, which Luck has gathered together and translated.  These aren't the Greek and Roman writers you expect to encounter!  These are men who are struggling with ideas of theology and morals, and who are as challenged by their faith as many are today.  Really fascinating, and a great read.

Finally, I love haiku.  I think it might be the only form of poetry I can stand for an extended period.  I also love to buy haiku books like this one that are illustrated.  That way I get poetry and images in one--can't be that.

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