The first Holmes story, the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, the first characterizations of that eccentric detective. And a mysterious murder for SThe first Holmes story, the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, the first characterizations of that eccentric detective. And a mysterious murder for Sherlock Holmes to investigate. How did a dead man arrive in the empty house? Why is there blood everywhere, when the dead man is apparently unwounded? What's that bloody writing on the wall about?
As Holmes capers go, the story is unremarkable in the Holmes canon. This is Doyle's first essay approaching Holmes, and he hasn't quite found the distinctive formula. Too many clues Holmes discovers, Doyle fails to relate to the reader, leaving the ultimate train of logic obscure without insights Holmes only relates in the aftermath. Also, at the halfway point in the novel there's a strange digression into 19th-century Mormon society. (A highly inaccurate account, according to the preface of the edition I read, Doyle having depended upon erroneous news accounts, in addition to the parts that are obvious fiction.) The Mormon side trip is ultimately topical, but a better novel would have segued more smoothly, as Part II first appears to be almost an entirely different story. (The first time I read it, in a different collection, the abrupt storyline change mightily confused me.) Ultimately, however, Holmes characteristically clears up the mystery to the reader's satisfaction.
But really, this novel is best appreciated for its characterizations of the now-familiar Watson and Holmes. When Holmes professes to not care whether the earth revolves around the sun or vice versa (and of the answer, "I shall do my best to forget it"), when we see Watson's grading Holmes's knowledge ("Botany — Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening."), when we see the first glimmerings of Holmes's philosophy — this is what makes the story worth reading.
I could rate this either three stars (for an imperfect story) or four stars (for the fresh impressions of Holmes). Ultimately, the story's deficits sway me to three stars....more
The great detective Sherlock Holmes has another case to solve. Sir Charles Baskerville has recently died of unexplained causes. Might he have fallen pThe great detective Sherlock Holmes has another case to solve. Sir Charles Baskerville has recently died of unexplained causes. Might he have fallen prey to an old family legend of the Baskervilles being terrorized by a demonic hound? The footprint of a dog was noticed near an unmarked Sir Charles, and a local doctor wonders. And when the heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, returns to England, the plot only grows thicker: mysterious warning notes, spies, and more. How exactly did Sir Charles die? And does Sir Henry have anything to fear?
This novel resides in the Holmesian timeline a couple years prior to Holmes's final encounter with Professor Moriarty. As usual Watson recounts the story. Somewhat unusually, the two are separated for much of the story, with Holmes directing Watson to conduct preliminary investigations without Holmes. Whereas in many of the stories Watson is for all but a brief bit just before the climax and explanations, here Watson is involved in investigation throughout: making for a different sort of feel, contrasting Holmes's judicious approach with Watson's eagerness to immediately run down every possible lead.
The story is much enjoyable, but it happens not to be one of my favorites. Holmes is offscreen too much for my tastes; Watson's far more conventionally-minded investigations aren't as intriguing as Holmes's unorthodox approaches. And to a slightly greater degree than normal, I feel the denouement is less amenable to prediction than a proper Holmes story ought to be. In my opinion the reader simply doesn't receive enough information along the way to make the requisite connections. Nonetheless it's classic Holmes, with the supernaturally-minded Doyle effectively accommodating both that side of his thinking and the methodical side at once. (Contrast with some of his later short stories where the supernatural is the highlight and the factual and criminal take a back seat.) A solid four stars.
A brief note on Kindle editions. Sadly in a world of open source where one might think things would turn out better, you get what you pay for. There may be editions that are free, but they have poor formatting, may lack illustrations, and are generally less readable. A low-cost edition is recommended. I used two different editions when reading: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Finisterra Books, ASIN B0050VA428) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (Top Five Books, ASIN B00ECJ18HO). I purchased the former based largely upon its claim to contain Sidney Paget's illustrations. Unfortunately it doesn't have all the illustrations, only a semirandom scattering of them. When I discovered this, I immediately began searching for another version that did contain all of them, and I stumbled across the Top Five version. I've had good experiences with Top Five for other classics, and my experience was equally good here: it contained all the illustrations and in general offered slightly nicer formatting. (I would have called out a few quotations as block quotes -- for example, the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles -- but other than that I can think of no complaints.
A last bit of Holmes arcana: the Finisterra version appears to be based upon a very subtly different edition than the Top Five version. This is most clearly visible in the dedication: Doyle over time apparently gave less and less credit to his friend Robinson for providing him with approximately the Hound of the Baskervilles legend. The Finisterra version credits Robinson with relating the legend, while the Top Five version credits him with inspiring the story. There's also one small difference in that an image embedded in the story in the Top Five version is found before the dedication in the Finisterra version. (The original edition, as viewable on archive.org, appears to have placed it before the dedication.) But in general they're the same content excepting the Finisterra's lacking some illustrations....more
Catch-22 is the story of Yossarian, a member of the US air force in World War II. The story loosely chronicles his time on the base. But mostly, it'sCatch-22 is the story of Yossarian, a member of the US air force in World War II. The story loosely chronicles his time on the base. But mostly, it's an extended exercise in ridiculing military processes, thought, and actions, and at demonstrating just how crazy war is. The ridiculously exaggerated characters and their foibles make the story. They're so bizarre and chaotically presented as to almost make it difficult to follow -- but the humor is so excellent that it doesn't matter. It's a long book, worth the time to read....more
If you want to understand the Constitution, you should read the Federalist Papers. They present, at great length, the rationale for discarding the ArtIf you want to understand the Constitution, you should read the Federalist Papers. They present, at great length, the rationale for discarding the Articles of Confederation and adopting the Constitution. You really can't claim to understand the Constitution, how it works, how it fits together, and how it was intended to fit together without reading these articles. (I picked this up on the recommendation of Justice Scalia, and he was absolutely right about this being a must-read to understand the Constitution.)
(A quick note on this particular edition of the Federalist Papers: while it self-describes as an "enriched classic", it is not especially enriched. As is proper, the book includes a copy of the Constitution and its amendments -- although strangely it omits the 27th Amendment despite being published well after its ratification. [There is no included copy of the Articles of Confederation, unfortunately -- I'd definitely have found such a copy helpful, particularly since I had no other access to them when reading the book.] A notes section which explains the cultural and historical references scattered throughout the papers. A brief 7-page "Interpretive Notes" section discusses the context for the Federalist Papers. A "Critical Excerpts" section discusses early reactions to and scholarship concerning the Federalist Papers up to the present day. And there's a couple pages of questions and a few suggestions for further learning for the interested reader. Does this spare additional material really an "enriched classic" make?
There's something to be said for providing the unvarnished text, with explanatory notes that are informative but not interpretive; it's much easier for the reader to form his own opinions, uninfluenced by the biases of a commentator, when the Federalist Papers stand on their own. This is for the most part the strategy this book follows. Yet I would not call this book, for following that strategy, an "enriched classic". If you're looking for analysis of each paper in context with the papers themselves, this is not the book for you.)
The entire series is long, consisting of 85 papers of various lengths. Yet it's well worth reading and slogging through, even if you have to contend with the 1780s style of highly-educated writing to do it.
That said, I would strongly recommend not attempting to read it the way one might read any old book, starting at the beginning, reading a bunch at a stretch, then reading a bunch more at a stretch, until the entire series is read. Instead, read a paper at a time, then spend some time to think it over. Consider the arguments and how they fit together; look at how they relate to the modern day; consider what was missed in the initial analysis. Giving each article the time it requires will make this book take considerably longer than the average book of 630 pages (not including text after the articles) would take. But it's worth it.
(For a little context, I started this book a couple weeks before an Appalachian Trail thru-hike, expecting at some point to finish it and leave it in a shelter for some other hiker to read, at which point I'd pick up another book and do the same thing, as many times as it took to finish the hike. I didn't even finish this book over those 139 days of hiking, only on the flight home -- it's that dense and worthy of thought. And it's not like I was distracted by other reading, either: I only read one other book in full during that time, plus a couple hundred pages of another. And even reading with that deliberateness, I'm sure I'd get more out of it if I spent the time to read it again.)...more
It's a short while into the future, and Earth has been attacked by aliens. The Buggers led mankind to a fragile truce while the International Fleet fiIt's a short while into the future, and Earth has been attacked by aliens. The Buggers led mankind to a fragile truce while the International Fleet fights for humanity's survival. Fortunately, an IF force led by Mazer Rackham successfully defeated them -- for now. But Earth believes the Buggers will return, and Earth must be ready. For this purpose the IF seeks out genius children to train in its orbital Battle School. Once trained, they will become the IF's captains, commanders, and generals.
Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is one of these children, and Ender's Game follows his progress through Battle School. Along the way we watch Ender's transformation from an innocent child to a fully-capable commander, the psychological damage done to him by the stresses of this process, and the political machinations of a world only temporarily united. In doing so we consider the morality of actions taken under command from others, actions taken to win wars, and the question of how we should go about communicating with alien races.
This is one of those books that is considered "fine literature", leaving the reader with much to think about, while also managing to tell a compelling, interesting story. It's well worth your time to read it....more
Watership Down is a surprisingly compelling story about a group of rabbits forced out of their home and made to find a new one, encountering hardshipsWatership Down is a surprisingly compelling story about a group of rabbits forced out of their home and made to find a new one, encountering hardships of various kinds and the usual archetypal heroes and villains along the way. The facts of the story are mundane in a human sense even while being important in a rabbit-ish sense. Yet, strangely, the story, characters, and developments are far more interesting than one might think they'd be, for being a story within the small world of rabbits. There's a significant amount of insight into people, their motivations, and morality along the way -- even if those "people" are rabbits in the story (distinctly rabbit-ish rabbits, at that). And the story is presented so beautifully, with excellent descriptions, backstory, and even legend and myth, as to be compelling even in the confines of a story about rabbits. I haven't read this book recently, but it continues to stick with me, both for having a highly interesting story and for presenting good "literary value". Highly recommended....more