Tag Archives: random

I Like Books with Pictures

1 Aug

There, I said it. One of the few things that I brought with me from Bulgaria and that I still keep, despite periodic, merciless purges, are two of my favorite childhood books—The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen and La Fontaine’s Fables. You can find both books in any bookstore, even in the bestseller emporium that is Barnes&Noble. But I keep them because of the pictures by Libico Maraja and Cremonini. They are rich, detailed, perhaps a bit too old fashioned by today’s standards, but they still make me want to read the stories again and again, so I can get to the points that each illustration makes unforgettable.

Books

I am a grown up now, but I still can’t help myself when I see a book with beautiful illustrations. Sometimes the illustrations do the book justice. Sometimes they actually are better than the book itself. Either way, I end up buying them (for the kids, of course):

Anything by Paul or Josh Kidby

Luckily they mostly illustrated Terry Pratchett, so that is a no-brainer. Josh’s are manic, crazy, busy, chaotic as the Discworld itself. Paul’s have this self-mocking quality, as if Havelock Vetinari himself drew them.

josh_kirby_discworld_017

Chris Riddle

446muddleearth

All of Chris Riddle’s characters have the curious expression of a little kid. While some books are brilliant (Muddle Earth and Something Else need to be read by every parent to every kid; The Emperor of Absurdia is just plain fun), others do not make much sense (the Ottoline series). He also made Gulliver’s Travels look really good. Unfortunately, the story is still the same.

Illustrated books for adults

Sacre Bleu002These are few and far between. Christopher Moore’s Sacre Bleu, Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery and Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk are on my bookshelves because of the illustrations. They are all better because of the illustrations, too.

Then there are those books that beg for illustrations but which for whatever reasons – something as trivial as cost, or as self-conscious as fear that they would not be taken seriously – lack them. Think about it – wouldn’t My Name is Red, Wolf Hall or The Passage be better with pictures that show the obsession, intrigue and horror?

A picture is worth a hundred words, after all…

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Note Taking, or Rediscovering the Wheel

3 Apr

I like reading and I read quite a lot. But I am not good at remembering and this deficiency is only made worse by the constant distraction (self-inflicted or not) of online content, social media, apps, push notifications, email and so on. So recently, I started making a concerted effort to take notes of things. The incentive for that was the failed book club – I realized that to be able to comment on what I read, I need to write my thoughts down. Otherwise, I remembered the plot, but all the other more insightful (or simply a bit less obvious) observations went “poof” in a matter of minutes. When I started to write things down, I also thought about them more. Instead of just moving on, I paused to reflect and describe what I felt. And then I started taking similar notes at work, around the house, while taking the kids swimming…

685px-Commonplace_book_mid_17th_centuryI read Where Good Ideas Come From and had an epiphany (or what its author would call serendipity) – I was reinventing the commonplace book. I had never heard of the commonplace book. When I was getting my fill of 19th and 20th century literature and science, I was still in Bulgaria, so the term must have been translated to a “diary” or just plain notebook. But what a fascinating idea. Have a notebook to write things down. Not a digital to-do app, a mind-map tool or an email, but an actual notebook.

What’s my point? I am not sure. What I know is that if I did not have my newly created “commonplace” book, I would probably have already forgotten things like:

  • David Sedaris’ brilliant New Yorker essay on going through the hassle of immigration bureaucracy, let alone this vivid and hilarious:  “The picture in my stolen one [passport] was not half bad. But in the new one I looked like a penis with an old man’s face drawn on on it.”
  • My own reflections on how crowdsourcing resembles the creation of folk art. Grimm’s tales are just the recorded version of a story, to which everyone contributed, changed the plot, the ending, or the name of the prince.
  • How LinkedIn editorial attempts and posts like “5 tips to succeed” and “10 things to avoid” remind me of Dear Abby advice columns for people who are looking for a job or marketers (who else goes to LinkedIn?)

This may sound like rediscovering the wheel. But I bet for the people that actually had forgotten about it, rediscovering the wheel was huge. Bigger than sliced bread. What is sliced bread? Write it down less you forget.

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