Tag: books

The Gentleman’s Personal Library

In September I posted about my decision to start a personal gentleman’s library made up of books on history, philosophy, science, and the biographies of great men. My goal is to have a respectable collection lining my study when I retire. A man must be surrounded by good books in order to make the most of deep brooding and solid contemplation. This collection is even more important to me now that I will be a father in the near future.A man’s collection of books is a heavy thing, taking up space both in the physical and intellectual realm and I believe that all men should strive to leave behind things that take up space and demand authority.

J R R Tolkien
2nd December 1955: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

It often seems that modern men and our possessions have been relegated to the margins of the household, either hidden away in garages or limited to juvenile toys. I’ve often noticed that when I visit other men’s houses there is almost no sign of their existence. With the exception of the occasional video game console, sports memorabilia if the wife is into sports, and the necessary clothing and toiletries, there is almost nothing that speaks of their habitation. Honestly, looking back, one can find more signs that a family dog lives there. A sad state.

20170928_211824.jpgA library anchors a man to the home and based on its makeup is a window into his intellectual history and development. So I challenge all men to look around their house, what do you leave behind, how will your children picture your presence when you are no longer here? I know that I want to be remembered as a man who loved reading, writing, conversation, and calm thoughtful relaxation surrounded by an ever-growing library.

I started the Barbarian Library with Andrew Robert’s outstanding single-volume biography Napoleon: A Life. From his birth in Corsica, through the French Revolution, Egyptian Campaigns, Republic, Empire, and finally exile and death on St. Helena, this book is a brilliant portrait of one of the greatest military and political minds to walk to Earth. This book was a fantastic starting point for my collection and I recommend that all who are interested in history, warfare, and leadership read this excellent biography. 20171205_191556492666654.jpg

Continuing with the focus on great men I ordered and received today, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. I chose this book after listening to the author being interviewed on the A Man’s Life podcast and finding his insights fascinating. Also, I chose Leonardo because in my twenties I studied painting and art history before being turned off by the college scene and postmodern art. I’ve avoided delving into art because it tends to leave a bitter taste in my mouth, but lately I’m slowly becoming interested in Medieval and Renaissance painting, architecture, and music, so I figured why not return to the topic by reading about one of the great masters.

Until next time friends, keep reading the best, writing your best, and enjoying life to the fullest.

 

Starting a personal library.

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Books have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My grandparents collected books and had a massive collection. Sadly almost all of it was left behind after my grandfather passed away and my grandmother emigrated to the United States. I still have the collected poems of Mihai Eminescu bought for me the year I was born and a two-volume set on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Dated 15Apr1983, 10 days before I was born.

My own collection is sadly a haphazard mishmash of paperbacks, short story collections, stuff I picked up wherever, and the occasional hardback. A few years ago my wife gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas and I fell in love with ebooks. I have over two hundred on my Amazon account, probably more if I count my wife’s collection.

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Ebooks are exceptionally convenient, easy to read in bed, and don’t take up space. The last point is important to me because space is valuable in Japan and being in the military means that I have to move around a lot.

But, all great men should have a personal library. A collection of good books worth passing down to one’s children and grandchildren. Physical books that represent solid permanence. So, I’ve decided to start a new collection consisting only of hardcover books focusing on history, philosophy, science, and great literature. I hope that by the time I retire and fulfill my plan of having a permanent study comparable to the private spaces of great men, my collection will be well suited to line the walls.

Yesterday the first piece arrived. For personal symmetry, I chose to begin my collection with a biography of Napoleon written by Andrew Roberts. I plan on adding a lot more in the coming years while pruning out the old paperbacks and substandard story collections that I won’t read again. I’m keeping an eye of for a collection of Shakespeare that is aesthetically pleasing.

 

Barbarian Book Club: 11 June 2017

Another month of reading has come and gone. The beautiful Japanese spring is ending and the rainy season is about to begin. I managed to finish two novels, one history book, and several short stories this month. Both of my fiction reads made up the closing chapters of their respective trilogies. The upcoming June rains will keep me indoors a lot so I expect to get in a bit more this month. Madouc

Madouc by Jack Vance. The closing chapter in Vance’s wonderful Lyonesse Trilogy. A fantastic ending to a great fantasy series. Madouc ties all the threads of the previous two novels and completes the trilogy elegantly. The novel focuses on the titular character, a scraggly red- headed child who is the fairy swapped changeling mistaken for the daughter of Princess Suldrun. Madouc is such a great character that following her adventures through the forest, through Fairy steadings, and through daily life at court was a blast. The Lyonesse trilogy was amazing, a painfully overlooked and under appreciated masterpiece that really deserves to be read more. I’m going to put together a thorough review of the series in the very near future.Nanoflower

The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton. The third and final novel in Hamiltons post-cyberpunk, near future, corporate detective series, featuring the psychic veteran Greg Mandel. First, Hamilton is my favorite Science-Fiction writer. He writes massive, mind-blowing space operas intertwined with post-cyberpunk police procedurals that I can’t get enough of. If you haven’t read the Commonwealth novels, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, you need to correct yourself and start them right now. The Greg Mendel files are Hamiltons first books, not nearly as polished, but full of the proto-ideas that will come to the forefront of his more ambitious novels. The Nano Flower centers around a missing husband who sends a message to his powerful corporate boss wife in the form of a flower. A flower that once analyzed is revealed to be unknown alien DNA, setting off a massive race to achieve First Contact between worldwide corporate interests. We have power suited mercenaries, massive airships, orbiting asteroid stations, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of awesome sci-fi action. SPQR.jpg

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. If you love in-depth, exciting history, that makes you picture the events of the past. If you love reading about Ancient Rome, Republican Rome, and the Roman Empire in an eye-opening exciting way, this book is NOT for you. SPQR is a muddled, bore fest of a book, poorly written and injected with the author’s personal political views. At one point she rambles on, comparing the Pirates of the Republican era to today’s Islamic terrorism, implying that they are nothing but political boogeymen used by our leaders to justify self-serving military action. Her idiotic rant did not age well because the very same day I read that chapter the London Bridge terrorist attack occurred. Even ignoring modern day political opinion interjected without purpose, the book lacks any sort of an engaging narrative. It jumps around without rhyme or reason, focuses on trivial matters while ignoring critical events. For example, Trajan’s war with the Dacians gets about one line of text. More space is dedicated to an irrelevant discussion on the spelling of Boudica. Do yourself a favor and skip this historical turd. Download Dan Savage’s podcast The Death Throes of the Republic. The first 15 minutes of his podcast is more vivid and enlightening than all 600 pages of SPQR.

 

Read: 9 April 2017

I read moderately these past few weeks, a bit less than I usually do, but that’s mostly because of vacations and long work days. I also focused on short story collections and magazines, which take up a lot of time.

9 April 2017

Neuromancer by William Gibson. This is one of my favorite books so when I came across the $1.99 Kindle price I grabbed the digital version for a reread. Written in 1983, Neuromancer.jpgNeuromancer and I are the same age and I wanted to see if it still held up now that I have gotten a bit older. Aside from some edgylordy descriptions and 80’s style fatalism, the novel reads like something written today. Crisp, well written, and full of great scenery and action. It’s even more impressive once you take into account that half of the crap in the book that seems cliche was actually first created by Gibson. Cyberpunk is one of my favorite sub-genres and this novel was the original cyberpunk piece.

Suldrun’s Garden (Lyonesse #1) by Jack Vance. Another novel from 1983, Jack Vance’s first part of the Lyonesse trilogy is fantastic. A melancholy and remorseful fantasy novel, unlike anything popular today, reminiscent of pre-Tolkien fantasy with magic and fairies suldrunsgardenboth marvelous and sinister. This novel was so good I read the whole thing in one sitting, and now I’m waiting for a good day to do the same for the sequel. If you want to read fantasy different than the gritty hyper-realistic stuff out right now or the overwrought high fantasy of the 80s and 90s, give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It by John Ferling. A fantastic overview of the American WhirlwindRevolution in the context of the times. This book puts a lot of focus on the cultural aspect of the Revolution and the events that led up to hostilities. It goes into significant detail, covering the major battles and even a few of the lesser known engagements. A fantastic read about a historical period that gets burdened with romanticized accounts due to it being covered mostly in the early years of one’s education.  I have a new found love for 17th and 18th-century history, specifically focused on the Colonies so this scratched that itch. I have a history of the French and Indian War and one focused on Colonial Spies waiting on my Kindle right now.

That’s about it for the past few weeks. I’m about to start Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister and then go through some histories. Then I think I might return to Robin Hobb for Liveship Traders.

Appendix N

My love of fantasy didn’t start with the venerable pipe smoking Hobbit so loved by many. No, my love was forged in the dankest dungeons. Tested by hideous beasts and malevolent creatures; Mind Flayers, Beholders, and Displacer Beasts. The adventure of Sword and Sorcery was where my imagination flourished. Barbarians, Sorceresses, Thieves, and Assassins, adventuring through hostile jungles and exotic cities excited me.

Returning to Fantasy as an adult I found it lacking, a barren wasteland of boring faux literary pretentiousness. Magazines filled with story after story of pointless naval gazing or countless re-imaging of fairy tale classics. I almost gave up on the whole genre, dwelling in the world of mystery and thrillers for entertainment.
Then I came across several blogs discussing The Pulp Revolution and Appendix N. I wasn’t alone in my dislike of modern Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Not only did I find others that felt the same, I found a new movement to break away from the stale pseudo-lit cancer that has gripped Fantasy and Science Fiction with its Lich-like hands.

So, I am excited to read this book. Use it as a starting point to re-read some old classics and find stuff from the past. I hope that going back to the origins of the type of Fantasy I love will help me focus my own writing and allow me to contribute towards an adventurous revival in the 21st century.

 

APPENDIX N: A LITERARY HISTORY OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the various works of science fiction and fantasy that game designer Gary Gygax declared to be the primary influences on his seminal role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. It is a deep intellectual dive into the literature of science fiction’s […]

via JUST RELEASED: Appendix N by Jeffro Johnson — Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog