One-Minute Book Reviews

September 14, 2008

Five Great Reference Books for Your Home Library That Also Make Excellent Holiday Gifts – A Librarian’s Favorites

Filed under: A-to-Z Holiday Gift List,Reference — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:18 am
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Lyndon Johnson recited the presidential oath from it on Air Force One.

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”
Musician Tom Waits, as quoted in the Yale Book of Quotations

For years I’ve urged people to consider giving great reference books as holiday gifts, especially to families. Not many $25 bestsellers deliver as much value as the $12.99 World Almanac and Book of Facts, more than a thousand pages packed with sports statistics, election results, the most popular baby names, documents like the Gettysburg Address and more. And in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal Donald Altschiller, a librarian at Boston University, offers a terrific starter list for shoppers in the form of a quintet of reference books that he sees as essential for a home library.

Four of Altschiller’s choices have appeared — in some cases, repeatedly — on my own lists of gift-book recommendations: the Yale Book of Quotations (Yale, 2006), the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), the Merck Manual of Medical Information: Second Edition (2003) and that World Almanac and Book of Facts (World Almanac, 2008). So I’ll take his word for the fifth: the Oxford Atlas of the World (Oxford University Press, 2007). Altschiller explains his choices in “Five Best” online.wsj.com/article/SB122125935106030191.html?mod=2_1167_1 (which accurately describes, for example, some advantages of the Yale Book of Quotations over Bartlett’s). His article also contains a few facts that, as often as I’ve written about these books, I didn’t know. One involves the World Almanac: “In November 1963, during the rushed swearing-in ceremony aboard Air Force One, Lyndon Johnson recited the presidential oath from this invaluable resource.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

August 24, 2008

Iconic Clichés That Should Be Taken Off the Table, Dude

Filed under: Nonfiction,Reference — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:45 pm
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The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés omits “going forward, Day One, iconic, that said, off the table, in the run-up to and ahead of (for “before”), right quick, quite frankly, déjà vu all over again, rock star, guys (aimed at groups that include all sexes), dude, hottie, and take it to the next level,” Marie Shear says in a review in the Freelancer, the newsletter for the Editorial Freelancers Association www.the-efa.org. I’m with Shear and would add to her list transparency, a word regularly misused by the New York Times. (Are the workings of any organization ever transparent?) But I agree with Patricia T. O’Conner, who says in her excellent grammar book Woe Is I that we shouldn’t “summarily execute” all clichés and familiar phrases: “Let your ear be your guide. If a phrase sounds expressive and lively and nothing else will do, fine. If it sounds flat, be merciless. The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés: Meanings and Origins of Thousands of Terms and Expressions, 2d edition. By Christine Ammer. Facts on File, 534 pp., $19.95, paperback www.factsonfile.com.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

November 21, 2007

Listen to Thanksgiving Hymns and Others for Free at Cyber Hymnal — Downloadable for Free, Too, If They’re Out of Copyright

Further update at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 1: The Cyber Hymnal site is back up. I just listened to the Doxology and “The Snow Lay on the Ground,” the carol often used as an anthem (the first I remember singing with youth choir at my childhood church). But I’m leaving up the Nov. 29 update because you may want to use Hymn Site as a back-up if Cyber Hymnal goes down again. Jan

Update at 5:25 p.m. Nov. 29: The Cyber Hymnal site seems to have crashed — let’s hope temporarily — since I posted this. The link worked without problems for days. But at this writing you can’t reach Cyber Hymnal either from here or the link on Google. Until the site is up again, you can hear the music and find the words to hymns at HymnSite www.hymnsite.com. HymnSite isn’t as easy to search as Cyber Hymnal and may have fewer hymns, but has many of the same elements. Jan

Update, Nov. 2010: Cyber Hymnal is now NetHymnal, and the links in this post have been changed to reflect it.

Today I was looking for facts to add to a quote of the day about a Thanksgiving hymn and found a site called NetHymnal that lets you listen for free to the music of more than hymns and Gospel songs.  NetHymnal also has the words and background of tunes, pictures of authors or composers, a few musical scores and more. It offers 29 hymns by J. S. Bach alone, including such chart-busters as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Von Himmel Hoch.” The site is just what its name implies — the online equivalent of a hymnal you might find slotted into a pew except that it lets you listen to the music instead of reading the scores. And you can download for free anything that’s out of copyright.

So this is the place to go if you’d like to hear the Thanksgiving hymns “Now Thank We All Our God,” “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “We Gather Together” (the only one of the three that’s non-Trinitarian in all verses). Cyber Hymnal also lets you listen to Christmas carols and patriotic songs such as “O Canada,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (the Navy Hymn). And if you’re getting married in a church soon, you can hear any hymn that could be played at your wedding. Be sure to listen to the traditional — and best — version of the classic wedding hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” on Cyber Hymnal before somebody talks you into the alternate setting that has become popular without my consent. (Are you going to invite me to the wedding?)

If you don’t care for Thanksgiving hymns but want to hear to some of the most stirring music ever written, use the title search tool on Nethymnal to look for “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” (the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), “Thine Be the Glory” (“See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus) and “Be Still, My Soul” (“The Song of Peace” from Sibelius’s Finlandia). Like the Colorado Rockies, that quote of the day that I planned to post will have to wait till next year, because I’m off to Cyber Hymnal to listen Beethoven’s “The Heavn’s Resoundeth” (“The Heavens Are Telling”), nearly as glorious as the “Ode to Joy.”

The picture above from the old Cyber Hymnal shows Catherine Winkworth (1827-78), who translated “Now Thank We All Our God” (“Nun Danket”) from the German.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 19, 2007

‘The Oxford Book of Ages,’ a Collection of Quotations for Every Birthday

Filed under: Nonfiction,Reference — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:54 am
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Are you always looking for the perfect quote for someone’s 37th or 45th or 63rd birthday? Check out The Oxford Book of Ages (Oxford University Press, 224 pp., varied prices), a collection of quotations by well-known people for every year from zero (for newborns) to 100. A year typically has at least a half dozen entries, all chosen Anthony and Sally Sampson. Not all of the quotations express the kind of uplifting sentiments you might want to inscribe on a card – some are downbeat, if not grim – but all are pithy and intelligent. And the best lines are worth quoting again and again.

Among my favorites:

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Victor Hugo

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” Shirley Temple

“After thirty, a man wakes up sad every morning excepting perhaps five or six, until the day of his death.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1834

“I’m sixty-three and I guess that puts me in with the geriatrics, but if there were fifteen months in every year, I’d be only forty-three.” James Thurber

“She drank good ale, strong punch and wine,
And lived to the age of ninety-nine.”
Epitaph for Mrs. Freland, in Edwelton churchyard, Nottinghamshire, 1741

The Oxford Book of Ages is out-of-print in the U.S. but available online and in libraries. If you can’t find it, here’s a consoling comment that Françoise Sagan made at the age of 43: “The one thing I regret is that I will never have time to read all the books I want to read.”

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

April 4, 2007

Handel Wrote ‘Messiah’ in 24 Days (and You Thought You Were Productive at Work) … Quotes of the Day #16 and #17

Do you have what it takes to write the “Hallelujah” chorus?

Come unto me, all ye that labor and believe you are worthy of the next employee-of-the-month award. Many authors have marveled at how quickly G. F. Handel wrote Messiah, which has a score of more than 250 pages that he finished in 24 days. Percy M. Young writes in The Oratorios of Handel (Dobson, 1949):

“Handel’s habit of rapid construction came less from the supposed mystery of ‘inspiration’ than from the fluency of technique: with him a set piece was accomplished in the shortest possible time so that other aspects of life could be accommodated. Messiah was composed, with perhaps more than usual haste, between August 22 and September 14, 1741. Clearly the beginning of the season of mellow fruitfulness … The original score comprises some 250 pages of manuscript; which means that Handel wrote, on the average, a little over ten pages a day.”

But take heart if this makes your daily output look a little less impressive. Peter Jacobi writes in The Messiah Book: The Life and Times of G.F. Handel’s Greatest Hit (St. Martin’s, 1982):

“Granted, some of the music wasn’t new; he’d used it before, an aria here, a duet there … And there are indications of changes: seven stabs at the great ‘Amen,’ for instance.”

There, now don’t you feel better?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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