In a Book-Buying Mood

 

I dislike acquiring stuff. You only own things in part; in part the things own you. I also have too many unread books already. My shelves are nearly full. And despite my best attempts to convince myself otherwise, I want more books.

I’ve been jotting down a list of books that I need to look up and read sometime. A couple quick notes from it:

  • Something by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov is known primarily for writing “Lolita,” but for reasons that ought to be obvious, I’ve got no desire to read that particular book. The @KirkianWanderer tells me that his other stuff is worth looking into, so I figured I’d give it a shot. My local library has exactly “Lolita” on its shelves. Okay, checked the local bookstore. It’s got two copies of “Lolita” on its shelves. Figures.
  • “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot. This one comes from the “Young Heretics” podcast, which was on Ricochet before seeking greener pastures elsewhere. Eliot wrote “The Waste Land” [1] [2] before his conversion to Christianity, and “Four Quartets” [3], [4] afterward. When I checked the library, it didn’t have either, and the bookstore had three copies of “The Waste Land” but none of “Four Quartets.” Also figures.
  • The Horatio Hornblower Series by C.M. Forrester. I figure this one will be fun. After that, perhaps I’ll read the Master and Commander series, but I’d like to get them in the right order.
  • “Shadows of the Mind” by Roger Penrose. I read his “The Emperor’s New Mind” last year and wrote up about it on Ricochet. I haven’t tracked down his sequel yet. I need to sooner or later.

My list constitutes what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would have termed the “known unknowns,” the books that I know I ought to be reading. What books out there constitute the unknown unknowns, the books I don’t know that I ought to read? I figure I could do worse than throw the question to the discerning, intelligent, well read, and easily flattered Ricochetti.

What books should I be buying?

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There are 48 comments.

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  1. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    The Hornblower series is excellent.  You need to add the Aubrey Maturin (Master and Commander) to the list as well as the Richard Sharpe series.  I really like CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series, but that’s Sci Fi.

    • #31
  2. J Ro Member
    J Ro
    @JRo

    Those Arthur Conan Doyle adventures that are never in the shops (almost completely overshadowed by Sherlock Holmes), The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and The Adventures of Gerard are excellent war stories recollected by a comically vain but courageous French officer in the Napoleonic wars. There are two or three publishers making them available but I see them so rarely I always buy a copy and pass it to any friend who has never read them.

    For more serious history, I recently discovered Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution to be powerfully irresistible (written by an important and passionate participant) and surprisingly insightful regarding our current political struggles.

    • #32
  3. J. D. Fitzpatrick Member
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

    Regarding the Iliad, I’m going to make a pitch for Stanley Lombardo. After reading his translation, I found the Lattimore inflated and tortuous. One thing about the KJV is that the language is simple and direct. 

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

    3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

    4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

    5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

    Simple, straightforward. 

     

    Lattimore Iliad

    Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus

    and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,

    hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls 

    of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished

    since that time when first there stood in division of conflict Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus. 

     

    Lombardo Iliad

    Rage: 

    Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,

    Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks

    Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls

    Of heroes into Hades’ dark,

    And left their bodies to rot as feasts

    For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done. 

     

    Lombardo seems to be taking lessons from Orwell on diction: cut the Latinate words that fall like soft snow upon prose, blurring the outlines of the thought. 

    Lattimore: devastation, multitudes, accomplished

    Lombardo: black and murderous, countless, done

    Every choice is either shorter and punchier, or more vivid, or both. 

    • #33
  4. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Philip Bobbit’s Shield of Achilles

    I’ll add it to the list. 

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I’m well behind on my reading but I’ve been meaning to read Michel Houellebecq. Probably Serotonin or Submission.

    I dunno; looking those two up and reading the description they sound like novels about, among other things, thoroughly unpleasant narrators. The other things might be interesting, I’m not convinced they’re worth hanging around the main characters for.

    What I’m saying is I ain’t no Houellebecq girl.

    • #34
  5. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Harry Turtledove did an alternate history series starting with the South winning the Civil War and running through the end of WWII

    I read Guns of the South because Balzer left it on his bookshelf. I might look for more.

    John Stanley (View Comment):

    I very highly recomend “Tower of Skulls” by Richard B. Frank.

    This is one of the best non-fiction books on the start of the China-Japan struggle in the 1930’s, and how that land war resulted in December 7th, 1941.

    I’ll add it to the list.

    • #35
  6. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):
    If you like the excellent Hornblower series, you might also enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s outstanding Sharpe series.

    Noted, but one series at a time. I’m going to read Hornblower before I get to the derivatives. I mean, aside from David Weber’s because that one I’ve already read.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Then Walter Lowrie is the Kierkegaard translator for you.

    I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m in the market for a Kierkegaard translation.

    • #36
  7. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    J Ro (View Comment):
    Those Arthur Conan Doyle adventures that are never in the shops (almost completely overshadowed by Sherlock Holmes), The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and The Adventures of Gerard

    Good thought. My high school library had a copy of his The Lost World, but like an idiot I put it down when I realized it wasn’t the Michael Creighton book of the same name.

    J. D. Fitzpatrick (View Comment):
    Regarding the Iliad, I’m going to make a pitch for Stanley Lombardo.

    Being among other things a remarkably cheap man, I’m seeing the following translations available on Project Gutenberg:

    Pope
    Buckley
    Cowper
    Butler
    Lang
    Derby
    Collins

    • #37
  8. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    J Ro (View Comment):
    For more serious history, I recently discovered Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution to be powerfully irresistible (written by an important and passionate participant) and surprisingly insightful regarding our current political struggles.

    Two points. One:

    Knock Knock
    Who’s there?
    Trotsky
    Trotsky who?
    Good answer comrade; good answer.

    Two, I’m intrigued by Trotsky’s notion of permanent revolution. He may have something there, though you can’t really tell with Trotsky. He’s the kind of guy who will tell you neither war nor peace without explaining how that makes any sense at all. I might give his history a shot, though I have an ironclad rule about commies. That is, they lie.

    • #38
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher (View Comment):
    … I have an ironclad rule about commies. That is, they lie.

    Sound principle. Some facts are inconvenient, therefore they must be “curated.” That was Winston Smith’s gig in 1984.

    • #39
  10. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    I read That Hideous Strength years ago and have a dead tree copy. It’s one of my favorite books. I tried, a few years ago, to get it on Kindle, but it wasn’t there. So glad for this post, Hank Rhody Freelance Philosopher,  because it led me to check and find out it’s now available on both Kindle and Audible. Thank you.
    Just got both, and the Audible, so far (3 chapters in)  is especially enthralling. I think people who have already read the book will enjoy listening to it on Audible even more than they would if they hadn’t already read it.

    Another book I enjoyed recently is one about the Civil War: A Disease in the Public Mind, by Thomas Fleming.

    • #40
  11. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher (View Comment):

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):
    If you like the excellent Hornblower series, you might also enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s outstanding Sharpe series.

    Noted, but one series at a time. I’m going to read Hornblower before I get to the derivatives. I mean, aside from David Weber’s because that one I’ve already read.

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Then Walter Lowrie is the Kierkegaard translator for you.

    I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m in the market for a Kierkegaard translation.

    Sharpe is not a derivative of Hornblower.  Sharpe is a British rifleman during the Napoleonic wars, not a naval captain.

    • #41
  12. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Philip Bobbit’s Shield of Achilles

     

    His concept of the “market-state,” vs. the conventional “nation-state” is worth considering.

    The evolution of the constitutional order is also intriguing. War < constitution < statehood. The chicken, or the egg? 

    • #42
  13. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    I just finished Colleen McCollough’s Masters of Rome series.  I enjoyed it very much.

    • #43
  14. Julia1492 Member
    Julia1492
    @Julia1492

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Philip Bobbit’s Shield of Achilles

    And now this very interesting looking book is on its way to me. This is why I love Ricochet. :-) 

    • #44
  15. J Ro Member
    J Ro
    @JRo

    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher (View Comment):

    J Ro (View Comment):
    Those Arthur Conan Doyle adventures that are never in the shops (almost completely overshadowed by Sherlock Holmes), The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and The Adventures of Gerard

    Good thought. My high school library had a copy of his The Lost World, but like an idiot I put it down when I realized it wasn’t the Michael Creighton book of the same name.

    There’s a very professionally read audio book of ACD’s version available for free in the Apple Books app. (Version 3)

    • #45
  16. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    J. D. Fitzpatrick (View Comment):

    Regarding the Iliad, I’m going to make a pitch for Stanley Lombardo. After reading his translation, I found the Lattimore inflated and tortuous. One thing about the KJV is that the language is simple and direct.

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

    3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

    4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

    5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

    Simple, straightforward.

     

    Lattimore Iliad

    Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus

    and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,

    hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls

    of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished

    since that time when first there stood in division of conflict Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.

     

    Lombardo Iliad

    Rage:

    Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,

    Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks

    Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls

    Of heroes into Hades’ dark,

    And left their bodies to rot as feasts

    For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done.

     

    Lombardo seems to be taking lessons from Orwell on diction: cut the Latinate words that fall like soft snow upon prose, blurring the outlines of the thought.

    Lattimore: devastation, multitudes, accomplished

    Lombardo: black and murderous, countless, done

    Every choice is either shorter and punchier, or more vivid, or both.

    A worthy critique, certainly.

    • #46
  17. Julia1492 Member
    Julia1492
    @Julia1492

    Julia1492 (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Philip Bobbit’s Shield of Achilles

    And now this very interesting looking book is on its way to me. This is why I love Ricochet. :-)

    This book arrived while I was in Texas for Christmas. I picked it up at the front desk this morning and holy cow, it’s a big book! I’m excited to start it, though.

    • #47
  18. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Julia1492 (View Comment):

    Julia1492 (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Philip Bobbit’s Shield of Achilles

    And now this very interesting looking book is on its way to me. This is why I love Ricochet. :-)

    This book arrived while I was in Texas for Christmas. I picked it up at the front desk this morning and holy cow, it’s a big book! I’m excited to start it, though.

     

    I constantly refer to the chart on page 346. And not just for when I was reading this book. I go back to this when I read almost any history. Very intriguing stuff.

    • #48
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