Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary (Bridget Jones, #1)Bridget is a 30+ singleton living in London, employed in a dead-end job, drooling over her boss and unable to loose weight despite counting calories of every morsel she eats. The analyzes every move and every breath of her prospective love interests and dissects them over drinks with her three faithful friends. Will she see that Mr. Darcy, top notch barrister, is the man for her despite being too busy dwelling on his hideous Christmas sweater? To find out we'll have to read her diary.

This is an incredibly funny book, unabashedly chick-lit and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to relax, unwind and develop some laugh lines. One can't help but sympathize with and root for Bridget, who is so self-analytical that she can't see past her doubts and the pile of self-help books and is adorable despite all her little quirks. She's a total klutz and it's amazing how she's managing to live on her own and keep a job and if she succeeds it is inevitably by stumbling into it rather than working for it. Now if only she would remember that Mr. Darcy isn't a subject of one of her men-are-from-mars books but a real man, who actually loves her, just the way she is!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Oldest Libraries In The World

One of my favorite places to be is at a library. It's quiet, it smells like books, it's orderly and there's adventures and knowledge all around, with shelves so tall you need a ladder to reach the volumes at the very top. It hasn't always been like that. In the early days monasteries painstakingly built their collections one hand-copied volume at a time and often their entire wealth of knowledge could fit in one trunk. Here are 10 libraries that are still operating, some contain texts dating to 300s AD. Not all are open to the public, but they're there, preserving the knowledge of the centuries. 

The library at St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai, Egypt
The oldest record of monastic life at Sinai comes from the travel journal written in Latin by a woman named Egeria about 381-384. [...] The monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library. (Source)

Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris, France
The National Library of France traces its origin to the royal library founded at the Louvre by Charles V in 1368. It expanded under Louis XIVand opened to the public in 1692. (Source)
Library Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin as a library, the Library Company of Philadelphia has accumulated one of the most significant collections of historically-valuable manuscripts and printed material in the United States. (Source)
Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island
Founded in 1747, it is the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States. (Source)
Vatican Library in Rome, Italy
Pope Nicholas V established the library in the Vatican in 1448 by combining some 350 Greek, Latin and Hebrew codices inherited from his predecessors with his own collection and extensive acquisitions, among them manuscripts from the imperial Library of Constantinople. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana was established in 1475. (Source)
Al-Karaouine University Library in Fez, Morocco 
(also spelled as Al-Qairawān, Al-Qarawiyin or Al-Qarawiyyin)
The Al-Karaouine madrasa is part of a mosque, founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Mohammed Al-Fihri. It gained the patronage of politically powerful sultans and compiled a large selection of manuscripts that were kept at a library founded by the Marinid Sultan Abu Inan Faris in 1349. (Source
Bodleian Library in Oxford, England
Bodleian Library, in its current incarnation, has a continuous history dating back to 1602, its roots date back even further. The first purpose-built library known to have existed in Oxford was founded in the fourteenth century (Source

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Writers on Writing, Vol. 2

Writers on Writing, Volume II: More Collected Essays from The New York Times (Writers on Writing (Times Books Paperback)) When I realized that the second volume of Writers on Writing existed I immediately put it on my wish list. When it finally arrived I couldn't wait to read it. The essays in this New York Times collection aren't selected to compliment each other in voice, theme or subject. It's pretty much authors talking about whatever strikes them, as long as it has something to do with their present life as writers. Some remember their childhood and making up stories, some reflect on their children's childhood and their struggles with their first book. Some talk about book signings, interviews, impact of current events, music, loneliness, workday schedule, depression and their Selectric typewriter. You name it, it's there. That's what I love about these books - they show the writerly world as it is - diverse and unscripted and un-carefully-selected to match something.
What I like most about these books though is that they make me want to DO things. They make me want to go find the books mentioned on the pages, listen to the music credited with inspiration, write something, anything at all. This is definitely a must-read and I highly recommend it, even if you have no ambition to become one of the writerly world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, #1)Robert Langdon is a Harvard professor of symbology and a world-renowned expert on the subject. His quiet life is turned upside down when he receives a fax with the symbol of the Illuminati branded on a murdered man's chest and an insistent summons to help with the investigation.

I enjoyed this book tremendously for the adventure, the history, the quick pace and the light romance. I literally couldn't put it down and stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading because I had to find out who Janus was, what it is he was after and where the secret Illuminati lair was.
It was interesting to see the conflict between good and evil in this story and Mr. Brown's interpretation of it. You can't get away from it - it's in the title itself. It was fascinating to see how the same things could be perceived to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum depending on the viewpoint of the examiner: are science, knowledge, education and progress good or are they to be shunned in favor of almost blind faith? Is murder justified if it's a means to a righteous end? Can goodness become evil if it goes untempered?
I couldn't help but grow fond of Robert, Vittoria and even the frosty Maximillian Kohler. They each have a story that makes them who they are and this humanity makes them all but walk off the page. For the same reason the villain is that much more chilling - I know there are people in this world who are at the same level of delusional conviction and will do anything to achieve their goals.
The academic explanations tended to slow down the pace but not enough to pull me out of the story. It was more like listening to a highly educated person carry on a conversation in which their field is involved - they just can't resist telling you all the different things they find fascinating and venture off into the realm of lecture before they catch themselves but when it's all said and done you still find that you're glad they told you all those things.
I would recommend this highly satisfying read to fans of edge-of-your-seat mystery with elements of history. Just be prepared to not sleep much until you turn that last page.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Alice lives in Central Park

I love to see how literature influences other arts, painting, sculpture, for example. Artists all over the world are inspired by the characters many of us love and here's one delightful example:

The dedication plaque reads
"Alice In Wonderland
In memory of my wife
Margarita Delacorte
who loved all children.

George T. Delacorte Jr. was the founder of Dell Publishing Company, one of the largest publishers of books, magazines and comics during its heyday. He donated the money for this sculpture as well as the sculptures of The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet that are also located in Central Park. The sculpture was created by Jose de Creeft and was dedicated May 7, 1959. Tt is known as Alice In Wonderland as well as the Margaret Delacorte Memorial in the honor of Mr. Delacorte's first wife.

Special thanks to the creators and contributors of Wikipedia for the information found here and here

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyreThe highest praise for a book is when you turn the last page and immediately want to go back and read it again and when days, weeks, months, even years later you still return to it in your thoughts. Jane Eyre was that sort of book for me. It's not a large volume, I imagine few books published back then were, but it has everything that I enjoy: it has a strong, intelligent heroine who's not afraid to speak her mind, adventure, romance, mystery and a happy ending. It is written in such a way that wherever the heroine is you feel like you're right there with her, experiencing what she is experiencing, the plot developments are never contrived and flow naturally and the ending, while happy, isn't so happy that it seems unrealistic and fake.
It is my all-time favourite book and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes an unhurried narrative without gratuitous drama and enjoys historical fiction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Beginnings

This blog started out as a personal blog. I talked about movies and people and places and things that happened and things that I saw and thought until after a while the only things I felt like talking about were books. After several posts in a row about books I decided that that's what my blog had to be about, books and anything related to them. So I thought about what kind of book blog I'd like to read, thought about it some more and came up with Bibliophile's Corner. So here's the plan, at least for starters:
Sunday will be the review day and Wednesday will be the Special Feature day that'll be dedicated to bookish things that aren't necessarily in book format, like art and interesting places and things and fellow bibliophile websites (we book-lovers tend to the of the shy sort and don't advertise ourselves much, so why not lend a helping hand?). In the future there will most likely be more posts, especially since sometimes I read more than one book a week or happen upon something so cool that I just have to share. Don't worry, they'll be all labeled and tagged for easy navigation. So this is the plan. Let me know if you have any special requests or ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Until Sunday!

Update: Decided to post reviews twice a week, on Sundays and Fridays. More books is always a good thing, right?