By Bruce McKinney
There are books that are important and others that are valuable. For book collectors and dealers the everyday focus is on value. Readers place their emphasis on content. For many the summer is a chance to escape the hubbub and claptrap of everyday existence. At such moments many hope for an exceptional book to take along. The car is packed, the beach house waits. Friends will arrive soon enough. For the idle moments a few choice books can make all the difference. This month I've asked an interesting group of men and women, who spend their lives amid the printed word, for their recollections and recommendations for a great book or books to read. These are their thoughts.
I asked Joe Trenn of the Book Shed [Benson Vermont] and encountered deep enthusiasm for the works of Anthony Dymoke Powell [pronounced Pole]. He wrote the 20th century cult classic "A Dance to the Music of Time," a fictional account of English life between the world wars. Joe describes this set of twelve books as "Henry James in complexity, rewarding to those who read and reread them." Summers he travels to England to participate in the Powell society. Single volumes, as well as the entire set, are available online.
Michael Thompson of Michael R.Thompson Rare Books of Los Angeles. "For me its 'Language, Truth and Logic' by A. J. Ayer. I first read it around 1962. It totally destroys old school metaphysical philosophy. From it I became an empiricist, becoming less interested in philosophy, and more interested in books as objects. It’s a small book you can read in a few hours. I recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy and religion. It will be a struggle but also a revelation." For Mr. Thompson's partner Carol Sandberg "Everything else was just stories. Virginia Wolfe made me appreciate the value of the moment, left me in awe that someone could capture the feeling, the experience. All things Virginia Wolfe, that's my recommendation."
Vic Zoshak of Tavistock Books offers this: "Three titles, all of which I read years ago, immediately come to mind - RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE by Rita Mae Brown, a coming-of-age story of a young woman; NEUROMANCER by William Gibson - the hallmark title of the cyber-punk genre which forecast much of what we see in today's commercial society. And then there's 'Pillars of the Earth' by Ken Follett. It's a fantastic historical novel of a master mason who builds a cathedral in 13th (?) century England. I couldn't put the book down; a real page-turner, and totally out of genre for Follett." It was listed #33 on the BBC's Big Read, a 2003 survey with the goal of finding the 'Nation's Best-loved Book.' It was also selected for Oprah's Book Club in 2007."
Mary Cooper Gilliam of Franklin Gilliam Rare Books, Charlottesville, Virginia offers "Billy Lee Brammer's 'The Gay Place being related novels: The Flea Circus, Room Enough to Caper, Country Pleasures.' It's a very good story and his only book, considered a very good political novel, perhaps the best since 'All the Kings Men' [by Robert Penn Warren]. You can read it for fun and relevance today."