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Friday, October 30, 2020

The Last Hurrah – with Comfort and Kid Stuff


I’ll start with what I call comfort books. Above is pictured a little stack put together today of books that I consider as falling into that category.


Cheaper By the Dozen (1948), by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, illustrated by Donald McKay, is a story about growing up in a household of twelve children (written by two of the twelve) of parents who were the first “efficiency experts,” otherwise known as industrial engineers, the first to undertake professional motion studies of people at work. Having a dozen children, it was inevitable that their quest for efficiency would spill over into their home life. Read it once, and remember it forever. Belles on their Toes is a sequel.

Life with Father, by Clarence Day, Jr. is an American humor classic set earlier in American life than the Gilbreth titles. The mere chapter titles call up scenes in my memory and make me smile. Father keeps a carriage horses and is skeptical of “letting in” the telephone. I wouldn’t have wanted to live with him, but I love reading the stories.


The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken, was certainly a classic of its time and launched its author’s writing career, and yes, there are recipes, but that’s only the beginning. Peg Bracken offered comfort to novice homemakers, and she is still comforting today.


…I’ve often thought it’s pretty presumptuous of cookbooks to tell me to make Individual Baked Alaskas when I am already up to my hips in Chicken Pilaff and Brussels Sprouts Calypso. I am not about to do it, either, because I. know something easier and just as good, like that lovely orange-cream sherbet at the fancy-food store, and the brownies I made two days ago. Or a rare, fine, immortal glass of Irish Coffee.


All of the above qualify as what I consider “comfort books.” Something comforting in an entirely different way is Katsura: A Princely Retreat. I’ve written about it before (and you'll find more pictures if you follow that link), but here’s the cover, in case you’ve forgotten. Sitting quietly, turning the pages, immersing yourself in the images is a calming meditation. And the book has its own slipcase, which it richly deserves.


Which (the slipcase) prompts me to go back to cookbook land to tell you about a two-volume, slipcased set of books, The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking through the Ages. But there – the title tells you all you need to know, that there is a lot more to read here than mere recipes. 


I’ve been showing off lots of new books recently, for children and for grownups, but recently I acquired quite a few “new” old children’s books. No doubt many will bring back memories for my older readers. Not only individual classic novels and old-fashioned series books and readers from bygone decades, but also beautiful things like My Book HouseLive Dolls in Wonderland, and – yes! – a couple more illustrated versions of A Child’s Garden of Verses


You will be surprised, you will be amazed, you will be delighted! We have the ordinary, and we have the unexpected. So come in this Saturday, October 31, or you’ll have to wait until spring to tour my treasure island of – Books in Northport!

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