Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Exactly Ten Books

This is a list (with short descriptions) of books that have come into my library since I finished my last "10 Books A Day" post. So here's what I've been reading and reviewing lately.

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. In which the wizards under Mustrum Ridcully must field a soccer team in order to secure a hefty financial bequest for their college, two star-crossed lovers from opposing soccer clubs alike in gracelessness and indignity try to get together, and goblins are getting the same Pratchett makeover that his trolls have benefited from. I'm still in the middle of reading this and enjoying it enormously.

King Arthur and His Knights (compiled) by Elizabeth Lodor Merchant. Apparently edited from Blanche Winder's great edition, with doses of verse from the likes of Tennyson thrown in for good measure. A good but odd sort of volume.

The Mammoth Book of the Supernatural by Colin Wilson. Another chunky overview of the field by Wilson, who knows how to get to the meat of a matter, present it , and give his idea of what the implications are without being a mystagogue.

Wizards by John Matthews. I cannot resist the subject, especially when presented in a lavishly illustrated edition with pictures ranging from medieval manuscripts to the latest movies. Though I wish they used less purple, orange, and bright green on the cover.

Wizards: A History by P. G. Maxwell-Stuart. A much more scholarly approach to the subject of the figure of the wizard, as distinguished from the witch. You can tell right away it's serious because it has a) footnotes and b) only illustrations in black and white.

The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel. This is the paperback tie-in for the movie, a reprint of the 1975 edition that I read in middle school so many years ago. Keel is great, and greatly suggestive, in that he never declares he has figured out what is going on. He never says that aliens are real, that aliens are false, that aliens are something else entirely from extraterrestrials. He basically says that there's some weird s**t going on, something is messing with us, and make of it what you will.

Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia by Carol Rose. A companion volume (and published before) her Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia. This book takes on the more ethereal denizens of the mythical realms. Scholarly but not boring, full of great old illustrations, and more complete than lesser compendiums (covering more world mythologies than simply European), this is a beautiful browser that any folklore lover should have.

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings by Ursula K. LeGuin. Part of a juvenile series about winged cats.

Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary. I had this book in grade school. Has great illustrations by Louis Darling. The amazing Beverly Cleary is 93 years old now. I was never much into her books, but kind of nibbled around the edges.

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, illustrations by Ernest H. Shepherd. Who of course illustrated The Wind in the Willows and the Winnie-the-Pooh books. This and the last two books were all from a grade school teacher's garage sale, and carry the nostalgic scent of the class room on them. This book is an elderly one, and has the particularly hardy covers and re-inforced spine necessary to last over much handling. I never had a copy with the Shepherd illustrations in it, so it fulfills several criteria for collection for me.

Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials by Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Ian Summers, and Beth Meacham. This book has been hovering around my awareness for thirty years or so. I've always kind of wanted a copy, but not enough to expend hugely on it. So when I saw this one at a garage sale for ten cents I snapped it up, and it now sits next to my Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy. It's main feature is of course Barlowe's solid illustrations of aliens of various kinds, presented in an almost textbook format, with scale showing how they compare to humans and other aliens.

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