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Category Archives: Literature

A podcast with Ken

Regular readers here will remember Ken, who lived here at the abbey on and off for a number of years and who wrote his books here. He’s featured in a new podcast from The Art of Manliness that I think is brilliant. The podcast is about Ken’s first book, Walden on Wheels. Podcast #980: Walden […]


Netflix What is it about Alexander that continues to fascinate us? Wasn’t he just another ruthless conquerer? Or did he, in a mere ten years, leave the Mediterranean more civilized than he found it, setting the stage for the classical age, and changing the course of Western culture, by humbling the Persians and elevating the […]

Tom Swift

The end sheets of the 1954 editions Starting in 1910, books in the Tom Swift series (written for teenagers) have sold more than 30 million copies, according to the Wikipedia article. And yet I don’t recall ever having seen a Tom Swift book in a (used) bookstore until yesterday. My brother had six or eight […]

Potatoes to the rescue

Barley biscuit, with potato in the dough My quest for bread that is both truly good and truly healthy probably will go on for the rest of my life. Bread is probably my favorite food. I could live on San Francisco sourdough bread, Havarti cheese, wine, and strawberry preserves. Though I probably wouldn’t live for […]

Can this old book be saved?

The 1943 wartime edition of The Joy of Cooking, worn out. It takes a lot to wear out a book, but I wore out my copy of The Joy of Cooking that I had bought back in the 1970s. Even when I bought it it wasn’t a young book. It’s the 1943 wartime edition, probably […]


I just finished Kenilworth. It’s the ninth of Sir Walter Scott’s twenty-six Waverley novels that I have read. What stands out is his treatment of Elizabeth I. Scott’s Elizabeth I must surely be one of the most terrifying characters in English literature — absolute power and the willingness to use it. I found myself often […]

A complete set of the Waverley novels, 1876, Edinburgh

⬆︎ Click here for high-resolution version. The books were a birthday gift For my 75th birthday, a friend who now lives near Edinburgh brought me a stunning gift that he had carried in his luggage across the Atlantic. It’s a complete 13-volume set of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, bound in leather, printed in the […]

Two recently published books

Tolkien’s letters Just last week the new edition of Tolkien’s letters was released. There was a previous edition of Tolkien’s letters (1981, a book that I have had for years), but the new edition adds about 150 new letters, bringing the total number of letters to 500. In many ways, I find the letters of […]

A minor repair on a deserving book

The injured book A few days ago, I mentioned here that I am very enthusiastic about a five-part BBC series from 2012, Parade’s End. (The series can be streamed on HBO Max.) The series is visually beautiful, perfectly cast, and brilliantly written, with some of the best dialogue I’ve ever encountered. I don’t yet know […]

All the Light We Cannot See

This Netflix series is just barely over the threshold of watchability. The characters are sweet, but cloying, often to the point of being irritating. The dialogue was some of the worst I’ve encountered in a long time. Most of the scenes are about 30 percent too long. It’s one of those stories that tries to […]