Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

I love bookstores. It’s too bad that they are on the endangered species list.

I have spent some serious quality time in bookstores recently. It is one of my great joys. There is nothing like it for an avid reader, row after row of new books just waiting to be read.

Choose a bookstore with a coffee shop, and you have everything you need to be happy. A nerd’s nirvana, a quiet and safe harbor of peace and fulfilment in a troubling sea of noise and crudity.

Since I am on a break between semesters at Towson University, where I teach in the Mass Comm. department, I am free to read for pleasure. And read I am, every waking minute.

True, I order many books online. Being able to order books and have them delivered is a wonderful thing. I grin from ear to ear when the UPS truck stops out front. I know treats are coming. I pant and salivate like a housebound labrador retriever when it’s time for noon walkies.

But I try to enjoy my favorite bookstores while they last. The shift to book readers (or e-readers) proceeds rapidly. I, too, have my eyes on a tablet computer perhaps more for the book reader capability than all the other apps combined. E-reading is the way the world is going, and I must accept it.

Soon, I believe all the textbooks we use at Towson will be offered exclusively for book readers and tablets. The cost of textbooks is astronomical anyway, so book reader versions are the more economical way to go.

However,  I will always love the feel of a good book. Books are one of the few treasures I believe are worth keeping. When other collectibles lose their appeal and become just so much clutter, books will remain worthy of our love and respect. They instruct and entertain. They take us away from the all-too-often grim reality of our day-to-day existence.

Books are the key to a life well lived. And to me, a bookstore will always be a place of reverence.


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“While he was unbalanced, I stabbed Serpent-Breath forward and the blade pierced the mail above the hollow of his elbow and his ax arm dropped, all strength stolen from it. “

That was Uhtred of Bebbanburg describing how he defeated the fierce Dane Ubba Lothbrokson in hand-to-hand combat during the battle of Cynuit in 878. This fight scene was from the book, The Last Kingdom, the first in Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Tales series. Serpent-Breath is the name Uhtred gave his custom-made sword.

I do love Bernard Cornwell, the greatest writer of historical fiction ever. I am now on break before the fall semester begins at Towson University, so I can enjoy reading for pleasure.  I am currently reading the second of The Saxon Tales, The Pale Horseman.

Cornwell’s research is meticulous. For example, he provides a vivid, accurate description of Serpent-Breath’s construction. If you wish to see what Serpent-Breath might have looked like, visit Museum Replicas Limited, go to swords, knives, and daggers, then one-handed swords, and take a look at the Damascus Viking Sword.

I’d like to go through hypnotic regression to see why I love European history so much. I love reading about the period from the year 800 up through the 1500s. Did I live then? Was one (or more) of my past lives set in that period? If it has swords, horses, and shields in it, I love reading about it. When I read excellent historical fiction like Cornwell’s, I surround myself with period maps and weapons catalogs. I really get into it.

While I love reading about it, it is hard to imagine living (for very long anyway) back then. About the closest I come to handling anything like Serpent-Breath is when I use  my J. A. Henckels International 8″ Spanish steel kitchen knife to chop things for my world-class cook/wife, Marilyn. She does the thinking part of meal preparation, the part that requires skill, and I do the kitchen knavery.

I call my kitchen knife, “Onion-Slayer”. When Onion-Slayer sings her death song, I can dispatch all sorts of vegetables in short order — celery, tomato, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, and of course, onions. They are no match for my speed and agility with Onion-Slayer.

I must go. Time to take Onion-Slayer into battle with some Vidalias.

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