Christmas Books

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It occurred to me recently that, despite getting a ton of books for Christmas, I have yet to mention any of them here. And since it’s likely that some or all of them will show up in future blog posts, here’s an idea of what to expect:

40 Sonnets by Don Paterson Philosophical differences aside, I’m willing to admit that Paterson is one of the best living poets in the world. It was a poem from 40 Sonnets that introduced me to him to begin with, so I’ll be reading these soon.

The Anatomy of Story by John Truby – A veteran screenwriter’s step-by-step guide to becoming a brilliant storyteller. I myself don’t go in much for fiction writing, but I do love literary analysis, and I think Truby’s book will be helpful for learning how to better critique the stories I read.

Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan edited and translated by Pierre Joris – A massive anthology that collects all of the poems from Celan’s last six books and prints them both in the original German and in Joris’s English translations. That’s on top of 200+ pages of commentary by Joris. Although it’s some of Celan’s densest and strangest poetry, I’ve always preferred the late poems to his older work. This has been on my wishlist for a long time. (Also, I just recently found out that it’s out of print now and the cheapest one can buy it for on Amazon is $78. So, I’m really glad I have a copy now.)

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell – Another book that I think will be useful for upping my criticism game. First published in 1947, Hero is a landmark work in mythology studies, describing the trope of the “Hero’s Journey” and how it manifests itself in cultures all over the world.

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell – Rilke’s famed correspondence with Franz Kappus, a young Austrian student who wrote to Rilke asking for advice as he embarked on a literary career. I’ve read three of the ten letters and hope to write on it soon. Meanwhile, these letters are making me love Rilke’s poetry even more than before.

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie – This is a joint biography of Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and his wife Empress Alexandra. Despite knowing very little about Russian history prior, I got caught up in this book immediately and am now about halfway through. I will definitely review this one later.

Has anyone read any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Christmas Books

  1. I’ve read Nicholas and Alexandra. It’s fantastic! I think Massie takes a pretty fair and balanced view of both of them, which I appreciate. If you like his writing style, you should also read another book of his called The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. It’s about the murder of the Romanovs and the efforts over the years to discover what really happened to them. I think it’s a tad out of date—since it was published, investigators found all the remains and DNA tested them all, confirming that the entire family was indeed murdered in July 1918—but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I already had a different collection of Celan’s poems translated by John Felstiner and I was comparing some of his translations to Joris’s. I haven’t noticed too many big differences yet, but where they do differ, I think I prefer Felstiner. (I can’t comment on accuracy because I don’t read German, but I noticed places where Felstiner makes more of an effort to preserve rhymes and alliteration than Joris does.) I still like my new book, though. 🙂


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