Saturday, December 21, 2013

Top ten items my library does not carry

A call went out at my library for end of the year top ten lists. The librarian leading this charge said the lists didn't have to be new to 2013. We could choose items we merely read, or listened to or any parameters we might like. I so wanted to take part. My parameters are:

The Top Ten Items That My Library System Does Not Carry in 2013

But, before we begin, a few notes.

First, I don't greatly blame my Library for not having these. We're good at new stuff, pretty good at the classics, but awfully hit and miss when it comes to the hidden gems. And further, in my library's defense, I was frequently foiled by likely choices of mine that we still had a copy or two of.

Second, you can get most of these through Interlibrary Loan, wherever you may be, probably. See a Librarian!

Third, I don't just make a list like this to be irascible, I mean, not entirely. I make it also because books are like wine. I believe a current year top ten list is full of items too immature to tell if they're really good. Art needs to percolate in the reasonableness of time for us to tell if it's really great. We often miss all this better stuff in a fever for all the shiny new stuff.

Fourth, we should totally buy these, now! We can fund it out of our exhaustive James Patterson budget!

Here is my list:

1. King of the Schnorrers by Israel Zangwill. A hilarious, entertaining and foundational to modern humor short novel that is steadily falling into undeserved obscurity. How many times will I go on about this on my blog? Um, a lot?

2. Desire by Bob Dylan (CD). We have almost all of his many, many albums released after this. Many of them are great, but none so great as this. Time is an ocean, but it ends at the shore and all that.

3. Summerhill by A. S. Neill. Still the best book on education I have ever read.

4. The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death by Daniel Pinkwater. A whimsical utopian masterpiece. The Nobel Prize committee is asleep at the wheel when it comes to Daniel Pinkwater!

5. Hejira by Joni Mitchell (CD). Sadly, I could populate this list entirely with CDs. I might even be able to do it with just Joni Mitchell CDs.

6. The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat. Best...Dog...Book...Ever, yes, I'm looking at you Call of the Wild!

7. The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem. Very funny, very smart science fiction. These are connected stories, one of which includes the most lucid and yet absurd take on time travel ever set in writing.

8. The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (Every Man for Himself and God Against All) by Werner Herzog (DVD). A strange, sad and beautiful German Movie.

9. Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.  I checked out the last copy, returned it, and then it was promptly weeded. Let me absurdly put it this way. Neil Gaiman is a very good writer. If he were a better writer he would have written this.

10. My Family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell. A supremely charming account of growing up animal crazy in Greece with an eccentric English family.

Read them, watch them, listen to them, and insist your local librarian buy them all. Oh, and watch out for all those top ten lists you'll be reading around now. Most of the choices on those lists will be as forgotten in ten years as, well, um, the choices on my list.


  1. Hejira, ...
    You are the one who infatuated me with Her! And now I am mocked, though devoted as I am. Does my martyrdom bring me closer to Joni Mitchell?

    1. Sorry it's taken five years to respond. The answer to your question is... Yes.

      Who in their right mind would mock you for Joni Mitchell? Do they mock you for thinking Shakespeare writes well or that ice cream is tasty?

  2. I re-read Summerhill a few years ago; I liked it a lot better in the 70s.

    1. Sorry for the five year delay anonymous, I hope you have been checking back occasionally and it is now finally paying off!

      I would probably feel the same. Nevertheless the fundamentals of the philosophy I still consider sound.


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