Tag Archives: The Guardian

The teenage revolutionary, Cold War spies, Potterheads, and the writing of a sentence: newsletter, October 12, 2018

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,079) on October 12, 2018

The workshop on self-publishing that I conducted for the Blount County Public Library was well attended and lots of fun for me. The participants had much information and many ideas, and they were not shy about sharing it. Self-publishing (I prefer the word independent publishing) grows both easier and more complex by the day. What is happening is that authors are able, if they choose, to take more control over their work, and that is a good thing from my experience and point of view.

In addition to the workshop, much of my week was spent at the library working on various projects that I have undertaken as its writer-in-residence. You will be hearing more about those in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and are looking forward to a great weekend.


Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


The American Revolution from the common soldier’s point of view: Joseph Plumb Martin

Joseph Plumb Martin, an otherwise quiet New England farmer in the first half of the 19th century, did three remarkable things in his life:

— He lived to be 90 years old, dying in 1850.

— He wrote and published his memoirs, to little acclaim, when he was 70 years old in 1830.

— He enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776 when he was 15, then re-enlisted at 16, and was with George Washington’s army in every major engagement from the Battle of Brooklyn to the end of the war at Yorktown.

It is for these last two things that we remember him.

Martin produced the only full eyewitness memoir of life in the Continental Army written by a “common soldier.”

The memoir is anything but common, however. Despite his lack of education and shortcomings in the area of grammar and spelling, Martin had a sharp mind and an eye for key details. He had a good sense of himself, too, never taking his situation or his feelings too seriously. Martin maintained his point-of-view as a common soldier, not trying to explain the significance of the battles in which he participated but simply telling what he saw, what his comrades experienced, and what happened to his company.

Plenty happened. He was besieged and part of a siege. He went on long marches and spent many long, tedious days and night in camp. He went hungry and suffered bone-freezing cold. He shared the attitudes of his fellow soldiers and their resentments of the unsupportive civilian population.

Through it all, he kept a distance from the events he experienced, and he kept a sense of humor. Here’s a passage from his description of landing near Yorktown that turned out to be the final confrontation with the British:

Soon after landing we marched to Williamsburg, where we joined General Lafayette, and very soon after, our whole army arriving, we prepared to move down and pay our old acquaintance, the British, at Yorktown, a visit. I doubt not but their wish was not to have so many of us come at once as their accommodations were rather scanty. They thought, “The fewer the better cheer.” We thought, “The more the merrier.” We had come a long way to see them and were unwilling to be put off with excuses. We thought the present time quite as convenient, at least for us, as any future time could be, and we accordingly persisted, hoping that, as they pretended to be a very courtly people, they would have the politeness to come out and meet us, which would greatly shorten the time to be spent in the visit, and save themselves and us much labor and trouble, but they were too impolite at this time to do so.

Martin’s memoir, thought to be lost for many years, turned up in the 1950s and is now available in several editions. It is a valuable asset if you want to understand how America came to be.

The book reminds us that while we remember the generals and politicians who made the big decisions, they could have done nothing without the efforts of people like Joseph Plumb Martin.

Source: Ordinary Courage: The Revolutionary War Adventures of Private Joseph Plumb Martin 2nd Edition

 

Ben Macintyre, master of the true-espionage take

 Ben Macintyre has done it again.

His genre is 20th-century spycraft and espionage, and he had told some thrilling tales. (Operation Mincemeat, A Spy Among Friends, Agent Zigzag, Double Cross; see his Amazon author page)

Now he’s got another one — the story of Oleg Gordievsky’s betrayal of his KGB masters and the Soviet Union and Aldrich Ames, the CIA analyst and operative who very likely revealed Gordievsky’s betrayal to the Soviets. The title is The Spy and the Traitor.

The Guardian has this to say about Macintyre’s latest:

Ben Macintyre’s wonderful The Spy and the Traitor complements and enhances Gordievsky’s first-person account. It reveals the dramatic role played by MI6 in recruiting and cultivating a serving KGB insider – and keeping him alive against the odds. Gordievsky’s British contacts were a colourful bunch. Some were upper-class cold war adventurers. Others were gifted working-class linguists recruited from Oxbridge. Women played a crucial part. All realised Gordievsky was unique.Source: The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintrye review – the astonishing story of a cold war superspy | Books | The Guardian

The New York Times has reviewed Macintyre’s book, which you can find here.

If you like stories like this, you have to read Ben Macintyre. He is the master at telling this kind of tale.

 


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


 

Potterheads, take note: an exhibition at the New-York Historical Society

If you are a Potterhead, you will want to check out the Harry Potter exhibition at the New-York Historical Society.

Its title is Harry Potter: A History of Magic and includes “century-old treasures including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library and New-York Historical Society—with original material from Harry Potter publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives.” The exhibition comes from the British Library and will be in New York through January.

George Orwell, Joe Moran, and the complexity of the problem of writing a good sentence 

Joe Moran, an English prof in Liverpool, whose book First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing … and Life has been well received and reviewed, has written a marvelous essay on the sentence for The Guardian.

He begins it using the words and thoughts of George Orwell, who thought deeply about the use of the English language and who advocated its plain and straightforward use. Moran writes:

Orwell saw the plain English sentence as the sword of existential truth, a cure-all for the bad faith of modern life. But much of the time he didn’t even follow his own advice. “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out,” he ordered. Perhaps he should have written: “If you can cut a word, do.” How to write the perfect sentence | Books | The Guardian

Every writer who has taken the task of writing seriously has tested various ways of constructing a sentence well, has thought about what is best and what is not so good, and has attempted to learn from the successes and failure of others.

When I was a writing instructor, I would tell my students — many of whom were there because they thought they were weak at math — that the mathematician’s task in solving a calculus problem was child’s play compared to the complexity of the problem that a writer has in constructing a clear, readable sentence. Moran’s essay — well worth the time it takes to read it — reminded me of that belief.

It was a pleasant and timely reminder.

Proofreading The Writing Wright, volume 2: any takers?

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have put together a second volume of The Writing Wright and am about to bring it into being. I need a few volunteers to proof the final pages. What needs to be read is only about 11,000 words. And a small gift is involved. If you are interested, just reply to this newsletter or email me at jgstovall@gmail.com. You can find volume 1 of The Writing Wright here at Amazon.

 

Reactions

Tod W.: Write your newsletter on your own terms. Do not fuss over length. You have a great way of choosing characters out of history and highlighting aspects of their lives in such a manner that I at least find not only interesting but also as sparks to learn a bit more. I am reminded of a wonderful high school teacher who taught US History. He was also a Civil War buff. He had a large table and a bunch of little plastic soldiers, Monopoly houses, and green felt. He would set these all up at the beginning of each day, walking us through key battles, and explaining why they were important. He drew all of us into the drama and socio-political aspects far better than reading dry textbooks (though, of course, we still had to read). That was the first time I scored an A in any class. He was that good. Your writing has a similar effect.

Please keep entertaining and educating us through the nuggets you sprinkle in your newsletter.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention your wonderful watercolors that illustrate your articles. You are indeed a person of many talents.

Annamaria G.: My husband John and I enjoy your newsletter and look forward to future articles that both refresh and inform our understanding of the past and present.  Hopefully, your observations could serve to prevent our making similar mistakes in the future.  Or is that just wishful thinking?

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: George Orwell (caricature)

 

Best quote of the week:

Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) 


Helping those in need

Hurricanes on the coasts and a tsunami in the Pacific. All over and in between, people in this world need help. This  weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that the needs are never completely met takes on special urgency.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Benedict Arnold explained; Joseph Plumb Martin, pictured; and more about William Tecumseh Sherman: newsletter, October 5, 2018

 

 

 

William Davies: How feelings took over the world

Those of us concerned about the increasing irrationality of civic life and public debate –the denial of expertise, the “fake news” canards, the rush to believe rather than to examine, etc. — should pay some attention to why we have come to this state.

William Davies, a sociologist whose next book is –, has a perceptive essay in The Guardian that is filled with some thoughtful insights. Feelings and emotions, he writes, can conflict with the facts and evidence before us, and our inclinations are to ignore, or change, the facts to fit our feelings:

Unscrupulous politicians and businesses have long exploited our instincts and emotions to convince us to believe or buy things that, on more careful reflection, we needn’t have done. Real-time media, available via mobile technologies, exacerbate this potential, meaning that we spend more of our time immersed in a stream of images and sensations, with less time for reflection or dispassionate analysis. If politics and public debate have become more emotional, as so many observers have claimed, this is asmuch a reflection on the speed and relentlessness of current media technologies as anything else.

A major villain in this process, according to Davies, is speed — the time it takes to receive and process information, both with our devices and with our brains. The value of the “scientific method” — evaluating information with observation and experimentation — is that it is a slow process.

Take some time and read — with some deliberation — Davies’ essay: How feelings took over the world | Culture | The Guardian

A picture essay book on the necessity of libraries from The Guardian

What are libraries about?

Neil Gaiman and Chris Ridell have put together this pretty neat picture book that solidly answers that question.

Sit back and take a look. You will enjoy this.

 

Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures | Books | The Guardian

The Guardian’s August reading group: ‘the very finest detective story ever written’ 

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — tagged by no less than Dorothy L. Sayers as the “very finest detective story ever written” — is the August selection for The Guardian’s reading group.

The Moonstone is the first of the great English detective novels. The Guardian’s Sam Jordison, moderator of the reading group, says:

It’s 150 years this August since Collins wrapped up the story which he had been publishing in instalments in the periodical All the Year Round – having kept readers hanging on since January to learn the great secret at the heart of the book. William Tinsey, who published The Moonstone in book form, reported crowds of “anxious readers” waiting around his office, as well as “several” bets being taken on the book’s eventual outcome.

Reading it today, it’s easy to understand that fever of expectation . . .Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is our reading group choice for August | Books | The Guardian

Grab a copy and join in the discussion here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/series/reading-group. You can download a free copy of the book from Project Gutenberg.

The world’s biggest bully: the English language

Everybody speaks English. Or they should.

That’s the attitude that many English speakers have, and sometimes they’re not shy about expressing that attitude (in English, of course).

 writes about this attitude in a long and interesting essay this week in The Guardian. He says:

No language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of the globe. It is aspirational: the golden ticket to the worlds of education and international commerce, a parent’s dream and a student’s misery, winnower of the haves from the have-nots. It is inescapable: the language of global business, the internet, science, diplomacy, stellar navigation, avian pathology. And everywhere it goes, it leaves behind a trail of dead: dialects crushed, languages forgotten, literatures mangled. Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet | News | The Guardian

Mikanowski points out that the attitude that people should speak English has been around for a long time and cites Theodore Roosevelt, for one, who said in 1919 that there was room in America for only one language.

So, speak softly — but make sure it’s English you’re speaking.

Additional note: While I recommend this article as interesting and informative, I caution readers about assigning human qualities (like attitudes) to non-human items (such as a language). Languages don’t have attitudes; people do.

An offer you can’t refuse: The Guardian’s top 10 books about gangsters

If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a sucker for “top 10” or “10 best” lists — especially when it comes to books about topics that interest me. So here’s a good one.

Crime novelist Ron Reynolds has written an intelligent and entertaining piece for The Guardian on his top 10 books about gangsters. He begins, of course, with The Godfather, a book I read many years ago and a movie I’ve seen enough to have most of the lines memorized (much to the irritation of my wife).

Reynolds himself has a mea culpa:

I never set out to write about gangsters. My first novel, The Dark Inside, was based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, a 1946 serial-killing case. The sequel, Black Night Falling, saw my protagonist, Charlie Yates, drawn back to Arkansas, to the town of Hot Springs – a real-life mob town in the 1940s where illegal gambling and prostitution flourished. That’s when serendipity came into play . . . Source: Top 10 books about gangsters | Books | The Guardian

This is a good list and a good, short read.

Tolkien exhibit looks into a vast imagination

In 1930 J.R.R. Tolkien, a veteran of the trenches in World War I and by then a professor at Oxford University, was marking student papers when he noticed that one of the exam books had a blank page at the end.

On that page he wrote: “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”

That began a remarkable literary adventure that seven years later produced The Hobbit. It took another 17 years for the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to appear.

What those works and others by Tolkien showed was a vast imagination that created a world into which millions of readers would get lost.

Where did all that was involved in the Middle-earth realm come from? What were the roots and routes of his imagination? Serious readers have pondered those questions for many years.

Some of the answers may be found at an exhibit of Tolkien-related artifacts — maps, drawings, manuscripts, and personal items — that will give readers a clue as to how the mind of this literary magician worked. The exhibit has opened at the Weston Library in Oxford, England. It is the first such exhibit in more than 25 years and will be open until October. After that, it’s coming to New York and then to Paris.

The exhibit has been reviewed by The Guardian, which you can read here: How Tolkien created Middle-earth | Books | The Guardian

It is all too easy to believe in the myth of the professor as the one true god of a world he knew in its entirety. The truth, however, is more complex. Tolkien was not always sure of himself. A notebook page reveals that Gandalf once had the Elvish name Bladorthin, meaning grey wanderer. Gandalf, it turns out, was the original name of Thorin Oakenshield. Tolkien flickers between names in the text, as if torn. “He spoke about sub-creation,” McIlwaine says, “and I think this tied into his religious beliefs that all talents and gifts come from God. God is the one creator, and what we do is in imitation of that. Tolkien was a very humble man.”

So, if you are a citizen of Middle-earth, you might want to check out these links or even try to see the exhibit yourself. You’ll probably understand a bit more about where you came from.

Spending his life as a ‘Reporter’: Seymour Hersh 

My Lai. If you know anything at all about the war in Vietnam, you know this word.

It was the village where more than 100 unarmed civilians were killed by American soldiers during a 1968 offensive. The word has taken on literal and symbolic meaning.

We might not know the word at all if it had not been for the efforts of a remarkable, single-minded reporter named Seymour Hersh.

The story of how Hersh, then a broke freelance, stumbled on the appalling events at My Lai is familiar by now: when a military lawyer told him that a soldier at Fort Benning in Georgia was facing a court martial for killing at least 109 Vietnamese civilians, Hersh simply rocked up at the base and went door to door until he found 26-year-old Lt William L Calley Jr (he later followed this up with an even more amazing interview, this time with Paul Meadlo, a farm kid from Indiana who had shot many of the civilians before losing a leg himself). Reading about it here, though, you’re reminded all over again of just how hard it was to get such a scoop published. The first report was rejected out of hand by many media organisations, among them the New York Times, and carefully rewritten – Hersh sold it through a tiny agency – by others seemingly made nervous and resentful by it. Source: Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh – review | Books | The Guardian

The My Lai massacre story was one of many major scoops that Hersh broke in his remarkable career. Now he has written a memoir, Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh, and the quote above is from a review in The Guardian by Rachel Cooke.

Hersh has done what reporters are supposed to do: he has found things out that people — often powerful people have wanted to keep hidden — and he has reported those things. He has not always been right, and he has rarely been gentle.

But as a matter of personal and symbolic pride, he has never been invited to the White House for dinner.

Related:

See this earlier reference to My Lai in one of our March newsletters

Handel, down and out; ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ up and away; more Shakespeare and Vietnam: newsletter March 9, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,116), on Friday, March 9, 2018.

Hi,

You may think that I am obsessed with William Shakespeare, that I just can’t leave him alone. Actually, it’s the other way around. He won’t leave me alone.

The last three newsletters have had items about The Bard, ending last week (I thought) with a grand finale about what he looked like. I was ready to move on the 18th century and tell you something about George Frederick Handel. But then Will popped up the news again this week. So what’s a Shakespeare lover like me to do?

Still, I am going to tell you something about Handel, and about what may be THE most beloved painting in the world today, and about Vietnam. Then there’s the grand giveaway you won’t want to miss. Anon, let the newsletter begin.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

George Frederick Handel: finished, washed-up . . . but then . . .

You will have to work pretty hard during this month of March to avoid hearing some of the music of George Frederick Handel. Handel’s Messiah oratorio is standard fare during the Lenten and Easter season, and everyone knows that you are supposed to stand during the Hallelujah chorus (although no one knows exactly why).

Handel was born in Germany in 1685, studied music is several places including Italy, and came to London in 1710 to seek his musical fortune. London had a thriving and avid musical audience, and Handel — one of the great organists of the day as well as a composer — quickly became the toast of the town with his keyboard genius and his mastery of the highly popular Italian-style opera. During the next 25 years he achieved great success and made plenty of money.

By 1741, however, things weren’t so good. London’s musical tastes had changed — Italian opera was no longer the in thing — and Handel’s productions met with repeated failures. He was facing bankruptcy, and his health was increasingly fragile. Critics descended, and even the Church of England pounced, criticizing his secular productions.

Handel, everyone said, was finished, washed-up.

Then in August, 1741 — just when Handel wondered if he could ever mount another production — his friend Charles Jennens, a poet, handed him a libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ.

What happened after that showed that Handel was no one-tune keyboard tickler. You can read about it in this post on JPROF.com,

What’s your favorite piece by Handel? Lots of people would name the Hallelujah chorus, but there is much to choose from: Royal Water MusicRoyal Fireworks Music, etc. Personally, I like the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s oratorio Solomon. You can hear that one and the Hallelujah chorus in my post about Handel on JPROF.com.

The Roosevelts and radio

The item last week about the mastery of radio by both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt drew this response from a newsletter reader:

Fred F.: President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanore was the “First Family” of Radio. Then we had President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife Jackie were the “First Family of TV. What a rich history we had due to the electronic marvels of Radio and TV.

Vietnam, Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and the Pentagon Papers

The New York Times this week has an interesting article by Rick Goldsmith about the origin of the Pentagon Papers. It begins with the story of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense, and Daniel Ellsberg, then a State Department official, being on the same flight from Saigon to Washington in October, 1966. McNamara and Ellsberg spoke to each other during the flight, and in the conversation, McNamara expressed doubts that the strategy the U.S. was then pursuing in Vietnam was working.

When the flight landed in Washington, McNamara was met by reporters as soon as he got off the plane and was asked about his trip and the American strategy. He told the reporters exactly the opposite of what he had said to Ellsberg: that what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam was working and that they were making progress in defeating the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

The article is well worth reading.

I have written a reaction to the information in the article and posted it on JPROF.com, in case anyone is interested.

More on Shakespeare’s sources

An independent Shakespeare researcher in Great Britain, according to a recent article in The Guardian, thinks he may have found a sample of Shakespeare’s actual handwriting. John Casson says he was looking through François de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, a 1576 French text many believe to be a source for Shakespeare’s plays, when he noticed some hand-written notations on the pages of a story of a Danish prince whose father was murdered by the prince’s uncle.

This recalls an item we discussed a couple of weeks ago about a new book identifying possible sources for Shakespeare’s writing.

There’s a problem with John Casson, however. He doesn’t believe Shakespeare wrote the plays that are attributed to him. He thinks it was Sir Henry Neville, a courtier of Elizabeth I.

Correction from last week: I said that Shakespeare’s birth is celebrated on April 26. Wrong! A sharp-eyed reader informs me it April 23. I stand corrected — and I thank the reader: Jean T.

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’

Few of the world’s great works of art — even Leonardo’s Mona Lisa — can match Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring for admirers and adherents. A best-selling novel and stage play have been written about this enigmatic painting from the great Dutch master.

The painting was created in about 1665, but for the first two hundred years of its life, few people knew of its existence. Where it was all that time is also a mystery. Today it is the star of the show in the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland, where the gallery is conducting a close — really close — look at the painting.

Read more about all this to-do in this post on JPROF.com.

 

Dictionaries — still the one, after all these years

Last week’s item about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (read the JPROF.com post here) brought in these interesting tidbits:

Helen P.: Dictionary response. When my husband joined a French company in late 90’s, management was given French classes at work. I loaned him my mother’s french/english dictionary from when she took college French prior to WWII. One week after he turned in his assignment he was called on the carpet, threatened with harassment charges. Yes, the teacher was young female and very upset at what she said was incredibly filthy. She did not relent until he brought the book in and showed the phrase he used. Yes, language changes, and not always for the better.

Sunny S.: As with many things in life, I wish the English language, and therefore the dictionaries which catalog the meanings of all those delightful words, would stay the same! I, too, still have the (Webster’s Collegiate) dictionary and thesaurus given to me in high school. The thesaurus is especially well-used and loved!

Giveaways

Art of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter reades. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available: https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

We had one late entry in the name-the-newsletter sweepstakes last week — this one from my good friend Dan C. in Las Vegas: Seventh Inning Stretch.

Any reactions?

I like this one but still tend to favor the Hot Stove League. Seventh Inning Stretch might be good for something else I have in mind, which I will reveal when it’s developed a bit more.

I’d still like to hear from anyone who has an opinion or a suggestion.

Author! Author!

From time to time, I mention authors and books I think newsletter readers might be interested in. If you are a newsletter reader and have written a book you’d like for me to highlight, I am glad to do so. Send me an email. A description or blurb and an Amazon link would also be helpful.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: George Frederick Handel

Handel’s musical genius was widely recognized during his life, but by all accounts he was an affable, generous man — even though the performers he hired for his operas could drive him into fits of rage. He was also a workaholic who pursued his musical ideas into exhaustion and eventually ill health.

Best quote of the week:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882) 

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com
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You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletterShakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

Hardback books: what’s the point? Money, prestige, space

Why do publishers continue to issue hardback books when most books are either paperbacks or digital.

The Guardian of London put this question to Phillip Jones, editor of the Bookseller, and got the answer, or answers, you might expect.

Money, first and foremost.

Hardback books are highly profitable. Publishers reckon they can sell a hardback for twice (or more) the price of a paperback, but a hardback doesn’t cost nearly twice as much to produce. Plus this:

If a hardback becomes a bestseller, the publisher will often delay the paperback release even though that limits the book’s sales potential.

Prestige is the second big reason.

A hardback book sends a message of depth and quality — a message that reviewers need if they are going to pay attention to the book.

The hardback is a mark of quality and a demonstration of intent on behalf of the publisher: it shows booksellers and reviewers that this is a book worth paying attention to.

Finally, space.

Hardback books take up more space in bookstores and draw more attention.

The hardback is the prop forward of the book world: it bashes its way through a crowded marketplace giving the book/author a foothold before the pacier paperback races through.

Well, this is all interesting and not too surprising, but it’s all pretty old-world stuff — especially the part about space in a bookstore. On Amazon and other digital bookstores, the hardback takes up about as much space as any other item.

And their price looks pretty huge.

Still, folks who like to have books on their shelves at home or in the office like hardbacks. It’s prestige and space. Forget the cost.

Source: Book clinic: why do publishers still issue hardbacks? | Books | The Guardian

Shakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,151) on Friday, March 2, 2018.

Hi, 

We left February behind this week and are headed for spring. My reading and browsing have ranged far and wide, so there is a lot to share. Thanks to all who have written to say they enjoy the newsletter and look forward to getting it each week. I appreciate that more than I can say, and I am always delighted to hear from you.

We welcome about 500 or so new readers this week. I hope you newbies will stick around and maybe join in the conversation.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

What did Shakespeare look like?

The simple answer is: We don’t know, exactly.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than that. William Shakespeare was born in April 1564; we don’t know the exact date, but we celebrate his birthday on April 26. He died in 1616 at the age of 52. During his lifetime, he achieved some fame and fortune, and it is quite likely that a gentleman of his standing would have commissioned a portrait of himself. If he did, that portrait was not mentioned in his will or by any of his family members and is lost to us today.

BShakespeare-Chandosut we have an idea of his appearance from two sources. One is a half-length statue commissioned by his family and placed in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown, in 1622. The other is an engraving that appeared in the frontispiece of the first published collection of his plays, The First Folio, pirnted in 1622 and published a year later. Both of these would have been seen by people who knew what Shakespeare looked like.

During the next 400 years, six portraits have made some serious claim to represent Shakespeare’s likeness. One, the Chandos portrait (right), is accepted by many but not all scholars as close to genuine. The others have had adherents but are generally dismissed by today’s scholars.

On JPROF.com this week, I have written a piece on what we know about Shakespeare’s appearance and a little about each of the portraits that have made the claim to be genuine. And, just to make life interesting for myself, I produced my own watercolor of Shakespeare. Check it out at the bottom of this newsletter.

Finally, last week I asked if you had a favorite word or phrase that Shakespeare first used or coined. A couple of your chimed in:

Peggy G.: Bravo and Huzzah ( spelling ) So, “Out damned spot” is my favorite Shakespeare quote ( insert your dogs name I place of spot ) 

And from LuAnn R, check out the Best Quote of the Week — a few Shakespearean lines — below.

 

The first Roosevelt America heard after Pearl Harbor

All during the day on Sunday, December 7, 1941 — the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — no serious consideration was given to having the president speak to the nation via radio. Franklin Roosevelt spent the afternoon and evening meeting with government and military officials and working on his address to Congress, a request for a declaration of war that would be delivered the next day.

Across the hall from the Oval Office, Eleanor Roosevelt was preparing to go on the air. She had a regularly scheduled radio program on Sunday evening, and she was rewriting the introduction to that show in light of what had happened at Pearl Harbor.

Both Eleanor and Franklin were masters of radio. Their mastery is well documented in an American Public Radio radio show titled The First Family of Radio. You can hear that show at this post on JPROF.com and find out what Eleanor Roosevelt said to America on the first day of its participation in World War II — and what she did immediately after the broadcast.

 

Inside the making of the greatest dictionary of the English language

When I turned 18 in 1966, just a week or so before I headed off to the University of Tennessee as a freshman journalism major, my sister gave me a copy of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. It was an incredibly wonderful gift that I used frequently during and after my college days. Today, a half century later, it sits on my shelf, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Samuel Johnson

 Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloguing that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.

Samuel Johnson (right) recognized this inability to tame the language in the preface to his great dictionary (1755) when he wrote: “We laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.” More about Samuel Johnson here on JPROF.com.

The Guardian of London newspaper has a “long read” look at the history of dictionaries in English and the efforts of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to keep up with the language in this digital age. Highly recommended.

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

Art of the ArcaneArt of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter readers. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available:https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4

 

Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

For a couple of weeks now I have been asking about a name for this newsletter, and many of you have responded. Last week I proposed The Hot Stove League for consideration. Here are some of the responses to that:

Peggy G.: As to the name for your newsletter… how about the “Pot-bellied Stove League” I live on the West coast so there are more pot-bellies sitting around a barbecue, the league infers that you ( not you,you ) but, us are not alone.

Fred F.: How about “A Day on the Porch”? We used to gather on the back porch in the shade and talk about everything that happened that day. That’s when I had a family gathered around me and had fun doing everything together. Perhaps not what you were looking for, but that’s what we called it then.

Robin K.: Name for the newsletter popped into my head when I saw this subject in my inbox – sorry, I have a rather irreverent sense of humor – “Jim’s Jabberings.” Or Jabbering?? Mostly tongue in cheek, but I do like the alliteration!

Joan H.: Just read the latest newsletter and wanted to let you know I like The Hot Stove League. Of course I also like Jim’s Jottings.

W.: I HATE HATE HATE HATE ….. that name. Hot Stove sounds like a romance title. I am not creative but something like The Prof’s thoughts

Angie L.: After reading the newsletter today, I thought of another possible name.” Inside the Stove”

Cynthia G.: I think you’re on the right track with The Hot Stove League, because it includes your readers.

Janet K.: I like the Toasty Stove. Hot Stove is a show on MLB Network.

Sapphire L.: I think that I really like “The Hot Stove League”. It really is a name that stands out from the crowd and is unique. You should stick with that name, if you want.

Debie C.: I really like The Hot Stove League.

Erin S.: The Professor’s Prose heehee

There’s no consensus yet, but the tide of opinion seems generally toward The Hot Stove League. I’m leaning that way myself. If there are other opinions out there, I would love to hear them.

Vietnam, 1968: The Walter Cronkite broadcast

One of the seminal events in America’s long involvement in Vietnam occurred 50 years ago this past week. CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite — often called “the most trusted man in America” — narrated a prime-time documentary that called into question the American government’s rosy predictions about the war’s progress. Cronkite did not come out against the war. Rather, he said:

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

Even this mild statement was a stunning blow to the story that the administration of Lyndon Johnson had been trying to sell to the public. Author Mark Bowden, writing for the New York Times, has an excellent article about Cronkite’s broadcast and its effects on the events that followed.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Mr. Shakespeare

 

 

I have done a good bit of reading this week about what we know concerning the appearance of William Shakespeare. I decided to weigh in with my own contribution. I have not been taken with the portraits that I have seen as I think they lack character and personality. So, the watercolor painting above is what I think.

Best quote of the week (contributed by reader LuAnn R.):

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

William Shakespeare, philosopher and writer (1563-1616)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin,and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletterA name for this newsletter; more on Shakespeare; the lost eloquence of the sports page

 
 

Inside the making of a dictionary

When I turned 18 in 1966, just a week or so before I headed off to the University of Tennessee as a freshman journalism major, my sister gave me a copy of the New Webster Seventh Collegiate Dictionary. It was an incredibly wonderful gift that I used frequently during and after my college days. Today, a half century later, it sits on my shelf, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Samuel Johnson Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloguing that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.

Samuel Johnson (right) recognized this inability to tame the language in the preface to his great dictionary (1755) when he wrote: “We laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.”

The Guardian of London newspaper has a “long read” look at the history of dictionaries in English and the efforts of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to keep up with the language in this digital age. 

Highly recommended.

And speaking of Samuel Johnson . . . .

Samuel Johnson was an unlikely candidate to be a leading figure in the development of English, and yet he is rated as second only to Shakespeare in his contributions.

After nine years of work, Johnson produced the Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. It was not the first attempt at compiling, defining, and standardizing the spelling of the words in the English language, but it was to date the most elegant. The dictionary had 43,000 definitions and 114,000 quotations from all of English literature.

Johnson’s reputation was secured when he met a young Scottish lawyer, James Boswell, who became devoted to him. Boswell had a remarkable memory, and after Johnson died in 1784, Boswell wrote a two-volume biography of him that is still considered one of the greatest biographies in the English language.

The death of a great mystery writer; and more crimes against English; newsletter Jan. 5, 2017

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,662) on Friday, January 5, 2017.

Special note: If you have unsubscribed to this list previously, I apologize for this email. I had some problems with the list this week — due mainly to my incompetence — and some unsubscribers may have been added back in. Click on this link Unsubscribe or the one at the bottom of the email to get off this list, and I will do my best to see that you don’t get any more emails from me.


Hi,

The holiday season is officially over, and a new year has begun. I wish all of you the very best in 2018. The watercolor at the end of the newsletter gets back into landscape mode, and this week I stray a bit from the true-crime podcast recommendations.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

A is for Alibi and G is for Grafton; Sue Grafton dies at age 77

Sue Grafton secured her place in the pantheon of great mystery writers in the 1980s when she began publishing novels that began with a letter of the alphabet and featured a tough-talking but vulnerable female detective named Kinsey Millhone. The novels were well-written, the plots were well-structured, and Kinsey Millhone was so well-drawn that millions of readers — male and female — could easily identify and sympathize with her.

Grafton died last week after a two-year battle with cancer. She had just published the 25th in her Kinsey Millhone series, Y is for Yesterday. Her family said she had selected the title for her next book, Z is for Zero, but had not made any progress in writing it.

I have written a tribute to her on JPROF.com.

On her website, SueGrafton.com, the author included some of the journal notes that she kept while writing some of the books, and they are fascinating to read. I have included some of those written for H is for Homicide in the tribute. As a result, I’m currently in the middle of that book, one that I have never read.

Note: Last week, we promised to take a look at Raymond Chandler. Due to Grafton’s death, we’ve put that on hold for a week.

The 100 best nonfiction books of all time?

Writer Robert McCrum, co-author of The Story of English (1986), has compiled a list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, and the list was recently published in The Guardian (The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list | Books | The Guardian), a well-respected newspaper and news website in Great Britain.

Such lists are always arguable, and this one is particularly daunting, but we owe McCrum some debt of thanks for bringing these books to our attention.

I have included the final 25 on his list in a post on JPROF.com. See what you think.

True crime podcasts (sort of): Uncivil

Uncivil. This week, I stray in my podcast recommendations from the strict true-crime paths and recommend something that would be more easily classified as history. Uncivil takes a look at untold or rarely told stories connected with the American Civil War, and it often looks at them with a point of view different from anything you might have heard before. Here is how Uncivil describes itself:

America is divided, and it always has been. We’re going back to the moment when that split turned into war. This is Uncivil: Gimlet Media’s new history podcast, hosted by journalists Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. We ransack the official version of the Civil War, and take on the history you grew up with. We bring you untold stories about covert operations, corruption, resistance, mutiny, counterfeiting, antebellum drones, and so much more. And we connect these forgotten struggles to the political battlefield we’re living on right now.

Uncivil (in my defense) occasionally deals with crime. Listen to the fascinating episode about the Yankee counterfeiter who nearly wrecked the Confederate economy. It’s No. 7: Paper on the list on this page.

See what else we’ve recommended below the signature of this newsletter.

Giveaways

A New Year & A New Gift Card Giveaway. We about to start a giveaway that has a $350 Amazon Gift Card prize. The giveaway is set to run Jan. 1-15, and it’s one simple entry. On Monday, click on this link below for your chance at a $350 Amazon Gift Card: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/77deea0969/? Now you have a chance to get what you REALLY wanted for Christmas.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

Crimes against English (continued)

I continue to receive reports from readers about crimes against English. This from Jean T. in the United Kingdom:

There is a huge misuse of the word “of” instead of “have” as in “you would of” instead of “you would have”. I don’t know if this is only in the UK but it’s on the radio and tv now. Very grating.

Then a couple of days later, I received this, also from Jean, who obviously is traveling:

Another irritating mistake is mixing up “your” and “you’re”. We’ve been in New Zealand and yesterday saw a camper van with the slogan beautifully painted saying “gambling is only a problem if your losing “

About to arrive in Australia – then home to cold England

Thanks, Jean. Safe travels.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: A Walk in the Woods

This is my first landscape for a while.

Congratulations to the football teams from Alabama and Georgia for winning their playoff games. They will meet in the national championship game on Monday night.

Best quote of the week:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter


 

Previous true-crime podcast recommendations


The Vanished.
 What about people who go missing, usually under suspicious circumstances, and are never found? They simply vanish. If that fascinates you, this is the podcast you will want to listen to regularly. Host Marissa Jones does a fine job of researching, interviewing, and writing this show on a weekly basis. The podcast is partnered with Wondery and has an excellent audio quality. The latest episode involves a young Atlanta-area woman, Jenna Van Gelderen, and has a maddening account of how law enforcement agencies in the area bungled the investigation of her disappearance

 

Crimetown. This multi-episode podcast takes a close look at former mayor Buddy Cianci and organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island. Cianci began his political career as a reformer but found that even though he had been elected mayor, real power in Providence lay outside city hall. The podcasts are hosted by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, and they use a wealth of audio interviews with city officials, lawyers, friends of Buddy, crime bosses, mistresses, show girls, and wise guys to tell a mesmerizing story. And unlike many podcast episodes which last an hour or more, most of these are 30-45 minutes long.

S-town. The makers of This American Life and Serial have done it again. They have created a podcast series that begins in one direction and zigs and zags through a variety of fascinating scenes, situations and characters. You think it’s about murder or small-town corruption, but by episode 3, it’s headed off somewhere else. The story comes from Woodstock, Alabama — just up the road from Tuscaloosa where I used to live — and begins with John B., an unhappy resident there, calling reporter Brian Reed and asking him to investigate the cover-up of a murder that has occurred in Woodstock. Once you have listened to episode 1, you’ll be on the roller coaster and won’t be able to get off.

Casefile, a well written and well delivered podcast from Australia, deals with stories of real crime under the moniker: “Fact is scarier than fiction.” Casefile is this week’s true crime podcast recommendation. Casefile deals with crimes from all over the world, not just Australia, but their native cases are often the most interesting and intriguing. The narration is delivered by Anonymous Host, an unnamed voice whose Australian accent is positively charming. The podcasts are well-researched and tightly written and are a pleasure to listen to. Casefile has a large following around the world and has gathered a number of prestigous awards. After listening to a few episodes, it’s easy to see why. Start with Episode 66: The Black Widow and get hooked.

True Crime All the Time , hosted by Mike Ferguson and Mike Gibson, or “Gibby,” presents some fascinating cases, and the hosts are well informed (though not experts of any sort). Both have engaging personalities, and a big part of the fun is just hearing them play off of each other. Try episode 45, the case of Adolpho Constanzo and Sara Aldrete. It’s typical of Mike and Gibby’s approach. (Be careful; some of this episode is graphic and hard to take.)

Real Crime Profile, with three excellent hosts, have discussions of criminal cases that are riveting and insightful. The link provided above is to a list of some of the recent podcasts. Start anywhere. You will be fascinated. (Real Crime Profile on Facebook.)

Dirty John: Christopher Goffard, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written and narrates a series called Dirty John. It’s the story of Debra Newell and John Meehan and is a true crime podcast of the highest order. It will take you a while to get through it, but once you start, you’ll likely be hooked. The reporting is thorough, the interviews are fascinating, and the story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. The ending is well worth the journey. Here’s a link to part 1, “The Real Thing.”

Sword and Scale. This website and podcast, according to its own description, is about “the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it.” The folks associated with Sword and Scale have spent a lot of time producing interesting and informative podcasts about serious crimes. One episode I listened to was episode 90. It was an hour well spent.

Do you have any true crime podcast recommendations to share with fellow readers?

 

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The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: a list from The Guardian

Robert McCrum, the co-author of The Story of English (1986), has compiled a list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, and the list was recently published in The Guardian (The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list | Books | The Guardian), a well-respected newspaper and news website in Great Britain.

Such lists are always arguable, and this one is particularly daunting, but we owe McCrum some debt of thanks for bringing these books to our attention.

To my mind, numbers 76, 97, and 100 should appear on any list, but the others can be debated.

Rather than burden you with the entire list, here are the last 25. (I don’t know that the order is important, but these seem a level above the others, particularly number 100.

75. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (1793)
The US founding father’s life, drawn from four different manuscripts, combines the affairs of revolutionary America with his private struggles.

76. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)
This radical text attacked the dominant male thinkers of the age and laid the foundations of feminism.

77. The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD by James Boswell (1791) This huge work is one of the greatest of all English biographies and a testament to one of the great literary friendships.

78. Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)
Motivated by the revolution across the Channel, this passionate defence of the aristocratic system is a landmark in conservative thinking.

79. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789)
The most famous slave memoir of the 18th century is a powerful and terrifying read, and established Equiano as a founding figure in black literary tradition.

80. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White (1789)
This curate’s beautiful and lucid observations on the wildlife of a Hampshire village inspired generations of naturalists.

“Mary Wollstonecraft.
Pinterest
 Mary Wollstonecraft. Photograph: Alamy

81. The Federalist Papers by ‘Publius’ (1788)
These wise essays clarified the aims of the American republic and rank alongside the Declaration of Independence as a cornerstone of US democracy.

82. The Diary of Fanny Burney (1778)
Burney’s acutely observed memoirs open a window on the literary and courtly circles of late 18th-century England.

83. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1776-1788)
Perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most influential history books in the English language, in which Gibbon unfolds the narrative from the height of the Roman empire to the fall of Byzantium.

84. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)
Blending history, philosophy, psychology and sociology, the Scottish intellectual single-handedly invented modern political economy.

85. Common Sense by Tom Paine (1776)
This little book helped ignite revolutionary America against the British under George II.

86. A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson (1755)
Dr Johnson’s decade-long endeavour framed the English language for the coming centuries with clarity, intelligence and extraordinary wit.

87. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume (1739)
This is widely seen as the philosopher’s most important work, but its first publication was a disaster.

88. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)
The satirist’s jaw-dropping solution to the plight of the Irish poor is among the most powerful tracts in the English language.

89. A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe (1727)Readable, reliable, full of surprise and charm, Defoe’s Tour is an outstanding literary travel guide.

90. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke (1689)
Eloquent and influential, the Enlightenment philosopher’s most celebrated work embodies the English spirit and retains an enduring relevance.

Samuel Johnson, circa 1754.
Pinterest
 Samuel Johnson, circa 1754. Illustration: UniversalImagesGroup/Getty

91. The Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer (1662)
Cranmer’s book of vernacular English prayer is possibly the most widely read book in the English literary tradition.

 

92. The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys (1660)
A portrait of an extraordinary Englishman, whose scintillating firsthand accounts of Restoration England are recorded alongside his rampant sexual exploits.

93. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk by Sir Thomas Browne (1658)
Browne earned his reputation as a “writer’s writer” with this dazzling short essay on burial customs.

94. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651)
Hobbes’s essay on the social contract is both a founding text of western thought and a masterpiece of wit and imagination.

95. Areopagitica by John Milton (1644)
Today, Milton is remembered as a great poet. But this fiery attack on censorship and call for a free press reveals a brilliant English radical.

96. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne (1624)
The poet’s intense meditation on the meaning of life and death is a dazzling work that contains some of his most memorable writing.

97. The First Folio by William Shakespeare (1623)
The first edition of his plays established the playwright for all time in a trove of 36 plays with an assembled cast of immortal characters.

98. The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1621)
Burton’s garrulous, repetitive masterpiece is a compendious study of melancholia, a sublime literary doorstop that explores humanity in all its aspects.

99. The History of the World by Walter Raleigh (1614)
Raleigh’s most important prose work, close to 1m words in total, used ancient history as a sly commentary on present-day issues.

100. King James Bible: The Authorised Version (1611)
It is impossible to imagine the English-speaking world celebrated in this series without the King James Bible, which is as universal and influential as Shakespeare.

 

Here is McCrum’s biography as listed on the Guardian site:

Robert McCrum is an associate editor of the Observer. He was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly 20 years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber. He is the co-author of The Story of English (1986), and has written six novels. He was the literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008, and has been a regular contributor to the Guardian since 1990

Author: I didn’t want to resort to self-publishing, but it’s an exhilarating change

Louise Walters: My debut novel did very well with conventional publishers, but they weren’t interested in the ‘difficult second’ – so I’m going it alone

Source: I didn’t want to resort to self-publishing, but it’s an exhilarating change

Louise Walters describes what it’s like to have a second novel turned down after success with a first novel. Here’s her conclusion:

Footing the bill to bring out the book means the responsibility is on my shoulders, but at the same time it’s incredibly freeing. I can market this book in any way I choose; I have real input into every decision regarding my work; I’ll even earn a fairer share of the proceeds from each sale. There’ll be no more six-figure sums of course, but it doesn’t matter. That was yesterday. I’m concerned with tomorrow. My second novel will be out there, available to those who want to read it. And I’ll be nurturing my own career and not relying on a debut-centric, celebrity-obsessed publishing industry. It’s only a book, after all, and self-publishing is a whole lot of fun. (quoted)