From Way, Way Back in Your Book Backlog

Extollager

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A comment from J. D. Worthington in the Lovecraft "Strange High House in the Mist" thread prompts me to ask: What are some books you have had for the longest time, do intend to read, or at least haven't definitively decided not to read, but haven't read yet?


For me, the list would include several books from Ballantine's Adult Fantasy series, including (title, purchase date or date of acquisition)

Fletcher Pratt's The Blue Star (10 March 1973)
Hope Mirrlees' Lud-in-the-Mist (16 April 1977)
Hannes Bok's The Sorcerer's Ship (25 Feb. 1976) and Beyond the Golden Stair (24 Feb. '76); my sense is that these were more or less among the turkeys of the series
William Morris's The Sundering Flood (14 June 1982, and I think I will give this a try before too long)

Others:

E. R. Eddison's Mistress of Mistresses (14 Feb. 1974)
Patrician McKillip's Forgotten Beasts of Eld (18 Oct. 1975)
Avram Davidson's The Phoenix and the Mirror (17 May 1980)
Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place (17 August 1974)
Lord Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman (15 July 1977)
David McDaniel's novel for Ace's series on TV's The Prisoner; he wrote #2 (8 Jan. 1980)
The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction 8th Series (27 Jan. 1972, but I still have read only a little of it)

Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon (6 May 1976)
Arthur O. Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being (6 May 1980)
Ivan Turgenev's Rudin (Sept. 1978 -- Penguin Classics)
Tacitus's Annals of Imperial Rome (3 Aug. 1979, Penguin Classics)
Suetonius's Twelve Caesars 2 July 1979, PC)
Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil (22 March 1977)
Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, 1928 Modern Library edited version (11 Sept. 1976)
William Thackeray's Henry Esmond (no purchase date, but late 1970s or 1980 or so; orange-spine Penguin English Library)
George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (15 Aug. 1980; orange-spine Penguin)
C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, 2nd Ed. (24 Dec. 1975)

A more recent acquisition, and one I paid $30 for, is The Lady Ivie's Trial for Great Part of Shadwell in the County of Middlesex in 1684 ed. by Sir John C. Fox and with a preface by M. R. James. This features the notorious hanging judge, George Jeffreys. It's a 1929 Oxford UP book and I received the mail-ordered copy on 25 Feb. 1999; it would be one of the first books I ordered via the Internet.

James writes, "The State Trials.... contain a vast deal of reading of absorbing interest not only to the professed lawyer or historian but to the lay person. That, I suppose, has long been recognized: how can a series of dramas fail to be interesting, in each of which the interests or the life of some man or woman are at stake, and in which every class of the community comes on the stage and says its say? ..... those of the period of the Popish Plot, the reign of James II, and the years immediately following the Revolution are undoubtedly the richest; and I would say, among them the trials in which the figure of Jeffreys appears. Things are never dull when he is at the bar or on the bench." The present book is apparently not technically a State Trial but was included in a series thereof for some reason or other. It involved a property dispute. The attraction of the book is largely for its transcription of how people actually spoke.
 
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Montero

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Other than Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbons, none really. :)

Would comment that I saw you had Busman's Honeymoon by Sayers on your list. Just in case you are not aware, it is book 3 after Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night.

I rather like all the Sayerses and have re-read them all several times so...... :)
 

GOLLUM

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For me, the list would include several books from Ballantine's Adult Fantasy series, including (title, purchase date or date of acquisition)

Fletcher Pratt's The Blue Star (10 March 1973)
Hope Mirrlees' Lud-in-the-Mist (16 April 1977)
Hannes Bok's The Sorcerer's Ship (25 Feb. 1976) and Beyond the Golden Stair (24 Feb. '76); my sense is that these were more or less among the turkeys of the series
William Morris's The Sundering Flood (14 June 1982, and I think I will give this a try before too long)

Others:

E. R. Eddison's Mistress of Mistresses (14 Feb. 1974)
Patrician McKillip's Forgotten Beasts of Eld (18 Oct. 1975)
Avram Davidson's The Phoenix and the Mirror (17 May 1980)
Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place (17 August 1974)
Lord Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman (15 July 1977)
David McDaniel's novel for Ace's series on TV's The Prisoner; he wrote #2 (8 Jan. 1980)
The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction 8th Series (27 Jan. 1972, but I still have read only a little of it)

Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon (6 May 1976)
Arthur O. Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being (6 May 1980)
Ivan Turgenev's Rudin (Sept. 1978 -- Penguin Classics)
Tacitus's Annals of Imperial Rome (3 Aug. 1979, Penguin Classics)
Suetonius's Twelve Caesars 2 July 1979, PC)
Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil (22 March 1977)
Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, 1928 Modern Library edited version (11 Sept. 1976)
William Thackeray's Henry Esmond (no purchase date, but late 1970s or 1980 or so; orange-spine Penguin English Library)
George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (15 Aug. 1980; orange-spine Penguin)
C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, 2nd Ed. (24 Dec. 1975)

A more recent acquisition, and one I paid $30 for, is The Lady Ivie's Trial for Great Part of Shadwell in the County of Middlesex in 1684 ed. by Sir John C. Fox and with a preface by M. R. James. This features the notorious hanging judge, George Jeffreys. It's a 1929 Oxford UP book and I received the mail-ordered copy on 25 Feb. 1999; it would be one of the first books I ordered via the Internet.

James writes, "The State Trials.... contain a vast deal of reading of absorbing interest not only to the professed lawyer or historian but to the lay person. That, I suppose, has long been recognized: how can a series of dramas fail to be interesting, in each of which the interests or the life of some man or woman are at stake, and in which every class of the community comes on the stage and says its say? ..... those of the period of the Popish Plot, the reign of James II, and the years immediately following the Revolution are undoubtedly the richest; and I would say, among them the trials in which the figure of Jeffreys appears. Things are never dull when he is at the bar or on the bench." The present book is apparently not technically a State Trial but was included in a series thereof for some reason or other. It involved a property dispute. The attraction of the book is largely for its transcription of how people actually spoke.
Those are some interesting books Extollager!

On Pratt The Blue Star is not as strong an entry as The Well of The Unicorn IMO but still worth a read. J.D. and Teresa have both read this book in recent times as I recall. I also have a DVD based on the book but have not watched it yet.

Hope Mirlees' Lud-In-The-Mist as I've indicated in previous correspondence is in my experience one of the great works of 20th Century Fantasy. The two Boks are very strong in their use of imagery but not overly strong in terms of plot. I have those two in the Ballantine edns. as well. The William Morris I'm in the process of sourcing as I collect the majority of his ouevre...so I can't comment on that one. The Eddison is part of the well known Zimiamvia trilogy as I'm sure you are already aware of...that's one I'm still to tackle in full. I'm a fan of Eddison's Worm Ouboruos, a high water mark in fantasy to my way of thinking....but an acquired taste. The Beagle as I recall is one of his better known works and quite well respected. I've read The Last Unicorn which I liked quite a bit. Forgotten Beast of Eld is one of my favourite Mckillip novels. I've become a big fan of her work in the past few years. Davidson, whom I regard as one of the greats of the SFF Genre, I'll be surprised won't be worth reading in this instance. The Phoenix and The Mirror is part of a longer running series and whilst it's not one I have read it is considered, as I understand, to be a classic. Not familiar with McDaniel and that Dunsany I've already commented on.

I'm a fan of Dorothy L Sayers having recently acquired Her Complete Stories collection albeit I'm not familiar with that particular work? I'm not at all familiar with LoveJoy as a writer and Turgenev I'm only now beginning to discover. Of Tacitus and Suetonius I've read some extracts of theirs a long while ago when I was in my 'Roman phase'. Hamsun I know you're not as big a fan of as am I but Growth of the Soil is arguably his greatest work, so it's one I would urge you to read! Rabelais's work is considered a classic of World Literature and I've greatly enjoyed what I've read so far of my rather mammoth looking 'collected works of Francois Rabelais'. I've only read Thackeray's Vanity Fair and that particular George Elliot is not my favourite of his novels. The C.S. Lewis sounds interesting as does that Trial piece.

Sorry, I know I was supposed to post unread books I've had for a long time but I always get carried away when I see lists of this nature. Hopefully my brief ramblings assist you in some small way as to which of those books to read and in what order.

Cheers.
 
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Extollager

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Would comment that I saw you had Busman's Honeymoon by Sayers on your list. Just in case you are not aware, it is book 3 after Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night.

I rather like all the Sayerses and have re-read them all several times so...... :)
I'm pretty sure that I have read all of the Lord Peter novels except this one and the one about the advertising agency. At least I have read quite a few of them. Somehow this one still remains unread! It was mostly in the Seventies that I read those books. If I revisit them, it will almost be like reading them for the first time, except for Nine Tailors, which I have read at least twice.
 

Extollager

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Sorry, I know I was supposed to post unread books I've had for a long time
Thanks for your thoughts on my list -- yes, I know that the Mirrlees is well regarded by some people of taste! I'm glad I have it on hand.

I do hope you'll post about some of the unreads that dwell in your lair.
 

Grunkins

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David Copperfield by Dickens
Billy Budd by Melville
Black Holes & Time Warps by Kip Thorne
The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

And lots of others I'm sure. There are some books I've been toting around since my early 20s.
 

Gordian Knot

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I'd been willing to be that one book in particular a lot of people already have, but have never read it. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Gazillions have been sold, yet I rarely find anyone who has read it cover to cover.

I have!
 

Extollager

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I'd been willing to be that one book in particular a lot of people already have, but have never read it. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Gazillions have been sold, yet I rarely find anyone who has read it cover to cover.

I have!
I wouldn't take you up on that bet, because you're probably right. But yes, I've read it too; have read the First Age material, the Silmarillion proper, five times, and am inclined to think it is better each time.

I've suggested elsewhere that people reading Tolkien for the first time might want to read him in publication order rather than according to the chronology of Middle-earth history. You get a sense of unfolding depth that way and are eased into the more daunting material.

The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
The Road Goes Ever On (Tolkien contributed an appendix to the "sheet music" by Donald Swann, in which he shed some light on his mythology -- a precious glimpse for Tolkien fans in the late Sixties!)
Bilbo's Last Song (this is a poem, originally written by JRRT for his secretary, Joy Hill; there is a musical setting of it in the most recent Road Goes Ever On edition; it was first published as a poster, shortly before Tolkien's death)
The Silmarillion (published four years after Tolkien's death)
Unfinished Tales -- I think these texts probably represent something close to Tolkien's final intentions for them and so could be considered "canonical"; this was published around eight years after Tolkien's death

But I think I would modify that slightly to suggest the reading of The Children of Hurin before The Silmarillion because it is relatively highly readable.

Tolkien's letters may be explored for lots of interesting material, notably the great, long 1951 draft of a letter to Milton Waldman.

Then The History of Middle-earth -- the greatest part of which twelve- volume set still lies ahead for me! (Talk about backlog!) I mean to start The Book of Lost Tales (the first two HoME volumes) within the month or thereabouts.
The way I see it, the HoME set may be read around in according to a reader's interests. Thus, while I have so far read little of Tolkien's various takes on the First Age from throughout some six decades of his writing life, I've read some of the material more than once. For me, of special interest have been The Notion Club Papers (in the Sauron Defeated volume), The Lost Road, the scrap of an abandoned sequel to The Lord of the Rings, called The New Shadow (I agree with Tolkien about it being something to drop, but it's interesting) and Tal-Elmar (these two in The Peoples of Middle-earth, the Myths Transformed musings about the origin of the Orcs, etc. in Morgoth's Ring, and perhaps the gem of the HoME as far as I have read it, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (also in Morgoth's Ring), an outstanding late work that, however, should not be read until one has digested a great deal of Tolkienian lore. This piece concerns the divided destinies of two peoples who, nevertheless, may become entangled by love, namely Elves and Men.

But most of the 12-volume set is indeed backlog for me. The most recently-acquired volumes are ones I've owned for almost eleven years!
 
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Extollager

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Here, I'll stir the pot a little more, but I'd really like to see if others have similar accounts of backlog!

First, perhaps my farthest-back item:

A. E. van Vogt's Triad -- this was an SF Book Club offering (dustjacketless, alas)
that was given to me before June 1969. I have read Slan in it and have more or less read The Voyage of the Space Beagle (some of the material therein I read as separate stories, I think); but to this day I haven't read the third novel, The World of Null A.

Some other old'uns that I haven't yet read:

Borges' The Book of Imaginary Beings (26 July 1974)
William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley (24 July 1981)
Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies of Men and Books (21 July 1980)
Two by Rider Haggard: Mr. Meeson's Will (June 1975) and Wisdom's Daughter 22 Jan. 1977) -- though I have read a lot of Haggard
Isaac Bashevis Singer's The Family Moskat (11 Feb. 1977) -- though I have read quite a bit of IBS
Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard (17 Oct. 1979)

Around 1982 I read Paul Fussell's book Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars, and that I suppose got me going on travel books, a genre I'm still interested in; I won't list here ones I have read, but rather some of the ones that I haven't read even yet, in the Penguin Travel Library series that so fascinated me:

Wilfrid Thesiger's Arabian Sands (1 May 1985)
Two by Patrick Leigh Fermor: Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece (14 June 1986)
and Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese

I also have a copy somewhere of Carlo Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli
that was passed to me over 30 years ago... I really ought to find that and give it a try.

And -- I have to start this, like now: Thomas Traherne's mystical book Centuries (5 Feb. 1979).


OK, I realize there are people on Chrons who are younger than the acquisition dates of some of these books, but maybe some people here would like to say something about their own Books On Hand From Way Back!
 
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Extollager

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Ulysses
War and Peace
The Idiot
Yeah, I had an unread copy of Ulysses for ages, don't know if I still do. War and Peace is wonderful, one of my favorite books, and The Idiot (in the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation, anway) was well worth reading, but it took me more than one try!
 

j d worthington

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I'd been willing to be that one book in particular a lot of people already have, but have never read it. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Gazillions have been sold, yet I rarely find anyone who has read it cover to cover.

I have!
I have encountered quite a few who have read it, though the number who liked it is much lower. Myself... like Extollager, I've read it several times over (ten? fifteen?* something like that, since I got it when it was first published here in America), and would say it improves with each reading.

I will put in a note about Ulysses: I approached that one with some trepidation, given its reputation; and, save for the opening, which is a tad dry, found it to be a wonderful read: funny, bawdy, poetic, touching, astonishing, and frankly a difficult book to put down....

I would have to go back and dig out things I've not read yet, though I never got around to the last few Ballantine books; nor one or two of the old Howard paperbacks I got back in the early 1980s. I also still haven't read David R. Bunch's collection, Moderan, which I've had a copy of since the late 1970s. There are certainly quite a few others, but I'lll have to post a list of some of those as time permits....


*I even read it once aloud, to my mother, who was dealing with cataracts at the time.
 

Alex The G and T

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I read LOTR 20 times. I could not get engaged with The Silmarillion. Never made more than about of a third of it.

***
I possess a pristine, early edition of Finnegan's Wake. I find it unreadable.

I don't mean that it's a terrrible story; I mean that it's written in a foreign language.

It's allegedly written in English. Isn't it? WTF?
 

GOLLUM

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II will put in a note about Ulysses: I approached that one with some trepidation, given its reputation; and, save for the opening, which is a tad dry, found it to be a wonderful read: funny, bawdy, poetic, touching, astonishing, and frankly a difficult book to put down....
Was that an annotated edition? If the answer is No I'll be even more impressed...I found the annotations, of the section I have so far read, to add a lot to my understanding and therefore appreciation of the text.

Finnegans Wake as has already been pointed out I find to be far tougher going.

I'm not sure if I have come across any author who experimented with the written word to the extent Joyce did?
 

Extollager

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Gollum, with your fondness for the "black Penguins," you'll be interested in this I expect: my first one was King Harald's Saga, bought in Sept. 1970 and still unread, although I have read many sagas.
 

Extollager

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Some more items from the long-term backlog:

Angus Wilson's Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (to judge by the handwriting in the margins, this book once belonged to my favorite professor from my undergrad years; the book was bought second hand in the town where he had been a teacher; 7 Jan. 1978)
Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica (27 May 1978)
Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country (18 March 1978)
Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier (10 April 1981)
W. B. Yeats's Autobiographies (4 Aug. 1981)
George Eliot's Adam Bede (4 Aug. 1981 -- bought at same library sale as the Yeats)

I began to write the dates of acquisition in my books in the very early 1970s. Thus I know the date in 1970 when I bought Lord Dunsany's At the Edge of the World, a landmark in my reading life. Lately I have dropped the practice.

I hope more people will post about their backlogs.
 
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