What books would you rescue from a burning building?

There are novels you read over and over again, books that seems to resonate through you, novels you’d brave fire for. Blogger Alison-Goodman calls them talisman books, those “that ward off the disappointments and insecurities of everyday life.”

There are probably three talisman books I’d rescue from a burning building.
Burning books you'd rescueThe ones I would save

1) Epic dreams

My dogeared paperback copy of Lord of the Rings – yes, I know the book is replaceable easily enough, it isn’t as if it’s out of print or anything like that, and anyway I could probably quote you the entire damned book chapter and verse if you asked.  But sometimes it isn’t JUST THE BOOK.

And this book – broken-spined, tattered, beloved – this book was probably one of the first thing that made me kneel at the altar of fantasy and begin SERIOUS worship there. Tolkien made me realize that the big epic dreams that crowded my imagination were FOR REAL, and were valuable. This book is the physical embodiment of that realization for me. It’s a talisman, not just because of its identity but because of what it represents, the kind of hugeness and wonder and awe and the way it made me cognisant of my place in this world.

2) I’d like to say … 

I’d like to say “Tigana” by Guy Gavriel Kay, because it’s one of the best BOOKS I’ve ever read, genre quite aside, the writing and the story make this book amazing for me, and so does the visceral emotional connection I feel to the underlying themes of the book.

I’d like to say “Nine Princes in Amber”, the now out-of-print paperback edition that made Roger Zelazny lift his eyebrows in utter astonishment when I gave it to him to sign and ask me where on earth I’d got that copy because it had been out of print for YEARS – because of the legacy that Zelazny left me during the writing workshop which he presided over and which I had the privilege to attend (in the year that he died).

I might, in fact, say all too many names and hesitate before my bookshelf too long and burn up with my beloved books before I could decide which of the novels on the shelf would be worth the saving.

In the end I might reach for a volume of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, because all stories live inside that book, and I could read them and dream up the rest of a lost world by his tropes.

3) My grandfather’s scribbles

My third choice would be a book that’s irreplaceable. It’s a really disreputable ancient and ill-favored old-fashioned hardcover book with dull gray covers which give nothing away and which have been chipped away at the corners and on the spine – a broken down book, loved well long before I had my hands on it, with scribbled commentary in the margins and on the bottom of the pages. You’d think it was worthless if you set eyes on it; you might expect to see it for ten cents at a yard sale and probably wouldn’t take it if it was pressed into your hands for nothing at all. You’d think it had no value beyond being something to start a bonfire with.

You’d be wrong.

This is the book that lived beside my grandfather’s bed, the book that he read and re-read and re-read, the scribbles in the margins are his thoughts, and in his hand. He’s been gone more than twenty years. He’ll never speak to me again except through this book, and I WOULD go through fire to get it.

Those are talisman books in the purest and most glittering sense of the word. There are many many books that I love, and have adored over the years.

There were the books which drew my tears – “Les Miserables”, Howard Spring’s “My Son, My Son”, Karl May’s “Winnetou” (although it took me YEARS to unlearn all the “facts” I though I knew about the American Indian culture in general and the Apache in particular after I finished reading his work). Others include Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”, almost ANYTHING by Ursula le Guin, a book not many people reading this will have heard of but whose title translates as “The Time of Death” by a writer of my own tongue and tribe by the name of Dobrica Cosic and another book by one of my own, Ivo Andric’s “Bridge on the Drina”.

Lest you should think that I spent my entire reading life weeping, there are books that drew my laughter – Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat”, T. H. White’s “Once and Future King”.

And there are the comfort books I return to because I have loved them and  because I know them and because if I am tired or ailing, I know I can go back to them and find solace there – “Song of Arbonne”, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, Mary Stewart’s Merlin books, “Shadow of the Moon” by M. M. Kaye or any fat historical novel by Sharon Penman (but particularly “Here Be Dragons”), Barbara Kingsolver’s “Poisonwood Bible”, lots of stuff by Pearl Buck, books by Henryk Sienkiewicz, John Galsworthy, Boris Pasternak, Nikos Kazantzakis, Daphne du Maurier. Of more recent vintage, Catherynne Valente whose poetic vision enthralls me or Neil Gaiman whose dark and sardonically twisted tales and characters draw me in and China Mieville whose surgical command of the English language leaves me breathless and humbled.

I am a certified bookworm, rarely without a book halfway through somewhere in the house, often several in different parts of the house. And if I’m not reading them, I’m writing them.

4) What I am

Would you forgive me if I added #4 to my Talisman Book list, above? One of my own, a hardcover edition of “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, the book to remind me what I am,  what the culmination is of all the gifts that all my other books have poured like gems into my waiting spirit.

The truth is that I haven’t actually re-read the whole thing, not once, since it was first published. Possibly I am too afraid to, afraid of what I will find within those pages whose origins lie so deep within myself, afraid of all the things I will possibly – no, probably – find in there that I would have done differently, or would change even now if I could. But even if I never read those words that I wrote again in their entirety I’ll take a copy with me. And show it to people, after, if I lose the power of speech and they ask me who or what I am. Because that is what I am. Will always be. I am the creator of THIS THING, this book, this collection of words, this story… this talisman.

I am someone who loves books. Someone who loves reading them, who grew up to live and breathe writing them. A once-and-future writer – with hands and spirit overflowing with the talismans of language, of words. Someone who was lucky enough to have had poetry poured into my soul when I was just a child, and who was allowed to wander through the wild wood of story unfettered and free to taste of whatever fruit or stream I could find. I grew up in an  Eden of Word – and I still live there today.

With all my talismans safe beside me.

So – what are YOUR talisman books?

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Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories.

Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?- Eileen Gunn

More from Wired HERE

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Dare you date a bookworm?

11 things you should know about bookworms, Kim Quindlen warns at Thought Catalog

e.g. 6. When we see your apartment, the first thing we will look for is your bookcase, and we will spend several minutes looking through your collection, trying to get to know you better. If you don’t have a single book in your apartment, we might be a little concerned.

But forget that ‘little concerned’ nonsense. No books? Run!

Read the article HERE

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Just saying.

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Scientists have traced a genetic descent from the 5,500 year-old remains to a woman still living on British Columbia’s northern coast, Abroad in the Yard reports.
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Read the article HERE

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Kay Nielsen’s Stunning 1914 Scandinavian Fairy Tale Illustrations
At rest in the dark woodsAt rest in the dark woods

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova examines the illustrations in the book, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales illustrated by the Danish artist.

Read the article HERE

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19 Science-Fiction And Fantasy Novels By Women Of Color

Tired of seeing women of color underrepresented in mainstream sci-fi and fantasy? Anjali Patel asks at Buzzfeed. Try these:
Joplin's ghostecx.images-amazon.com / Via google.com

Joplin’s Ghost, by Tananarive Due: Despite nearly being killed by a piano at her parent’s nightclub when she was ten, Phoenix Smalls is set on pursuing a life of music as an R & B singer. However, after a visit to Scott Joplin’s house in St. Louis, a string of bizarre events leads Phoenix to believe that she might be haunted by the King of Ragtime himself.

See the others HERE

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Dose offers us

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THIS ‘n THAT
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Check it out HERE

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Think Fast. Spell Faster.

Letters of Boom: A simple, addictive word game based on sorting letters, spelling words and blowing stuff up. A combination of fast anagramming, strategic choice, and intense impact.

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I know all writers go through this but this is DOROTHY PARKER…?!?
Dorothy Parker~~~
Real-life ‘Eye of Sauron’ will open up over Moscow skyscraper tower
Eye of SauronOne doesn’t just walk into Siberia… uh… Mordor… er…never mind…

See the eye HERE

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE bed book~~~~~
Alma Alexander     My books     Email me

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Why fiction?

The Forgotten Perks of Reading Fiction
reading perksThe Digital Age has heightened the habit of skimming everything we read, Soli Salgado writes at Utne. But, he suggests, we lose something invaluable when we do.

Books, especially fiction, “introduce you to places, characters and events that would take years, maybe lifetimes, to experience in reality. Within a few books, you’ve become a citizen of the world, exposed to countless alternative realities.”

He cites a study that showed that the brains of readers reacted the same way to events in a novel as if it were truly occurring in their own lives. “You’re not just digesting text, but actually living the story.”

And besides, “reading a captivating book for as little as six minutes can reduce stress by 60 percent.”

Read the article

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What is it about bookshops

UK historical crime novelist Sara Sheridan shares her favorite things about bookshop:

I was introduced to the library when I was six or seven and that was a shock. I  thought my love of reading was unusual…and I blithely assumed that there were, I don’t know, perhaps a hundred books in the world…Walking into the library I felt quite overwhelmed at first. I’d read every book we had at home – but this was going to  take longer.

…my top ten favourite things in bookshops:

1 a comfortable chair to curl up in
2 somewhere to wander – shelves that go round corners or up stairs
3 …..

Read the article

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Modern Beauty in the Natural World
Keeping-the-WildIn response to those who claim that wild nature is no more, and that human-caused extinction is nothing to be concerned about, Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of the Earth (Island Press, 2014), edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist and Tom Butler, presents essays from scientists, writers and activists who have a powerful point to deliver about the importance of nature.

Read the article

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No coffee?!? I’ll never write again!

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change

Coffee2

As worsening drought and extreme weather devastate crops, you may begin seeing global warming when you open your fridge.

 

Missing could be…

 

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10 Words Every Book-Lover Should Know

The word for a book-lover is a ‘bibliophile’, first used in 1824. Alternatively, there is the more ancient word, ‘bookworm’ , which dates back to 1580.

But what words should every good bibliophile and bookworm know? ‘Interest Literature’ offers some of their favorites.

Including: BIBLIOBIBULI, H. L. Mencken’s word for people who read too much. (Is there such a thing as reading too much?!)

Read the article

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THIS ‘n THATearth 'n moonThe Earth And The Moon, In A Single Frame

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Self-Penned Obituary:Walter George Bruhl Jr. …is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker…His spirit was released from his worn-out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe...”

Read the rest

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE F. Scott Fitzgerald~~~~~
Alma Alexander
My books

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