Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

*** AOL has, presumptuously, posted a list of 10 books you should read before you die. They don’t bother to give criteria for having arrived at such a momentous list, they just post it.

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. If #1 is more than merely which one they listed first, this is nonsense. Otherwise I’ve got no problems with it.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Assuming they also want you to read The Hobbit I have no qualms with putting the finest novel written in English in the 20th century on this list, since I’ve read it 27 times.

3. Harry Potter, all 7 books. Fine, whatever. Not my thing but I like the movies.

4. The Stand by Stephen King. You’re kidding, right? I’ve never gotten the whole S. King thing, the two or three I’ve tried to read I didn’t like, but maybe that’s just me.

5. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This is proof that lemmings can use keyboards. I don’t hate this book because it is relentlessly anti-Catholic (to the point of being defamatory), I don’t hate it because the research is laughably poor and the conclusions absurd, no, I hate it because it is the 2nd worst written book I have read. Absolutely dreadful work here. It’s almost as if the author wanted to use every known cliche in one book.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. No arguments here.

7. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. So, not content with showing how incredibly inept their critical sense is, whoever compiled this list for AOL had to reinforce the point by putting the prequel to the second worst novel ever written on this list too? Good grief, what a chump.

8. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Again, how can you miss the mark so completely with the Dan Brown nonsense and then nail it with this one? Should be required reading in all government schools.

9. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Obligatory.

10. The Holy Bible. Christian or not, the Bible has had more influence on Western Culture than any other book and should be read to understand our civilization.

*** Joe the plumber has signed a book deal. In the blurb leading to this story, one writer wrote this about the upcoming book: “I know America is breathless for this information about an unemployed Ohio plumber who doesn’t pay his taxes. But, hey, this is America and here’s the big news—the book will be called Joe the Plumber—Fighting for the American Dream, and it will be released by a group called PearlGate Publishing. By the way, Joe, you’re way over on your 15 minutes of fame. And here’s a way to jumpstart your American dream—get a job!”

Oooohhh, not a little jealous, are we? Think this writer has papered his/her walls with rejection slips for the great American novel? Then someone comes along and gets a book deal just for asking a question and our rejected would-be Salinger gets all huffy. I have no desire to read whatever JOe has to say, but as an oft-rejected novelist I’m thrilled for the guy.

*** Journalist, adventurer and novelist Edward Sheehan has died, aged 78. I have never read any of his work, but as an expert on Third World conditions and politics, Sheehan appears to have been of that breed who fearlessly tread the world looking for truth. I think I will miss him.

*** Peter J. Levinson has also died at age 74. Biographer of Harry James, Nelson Riddle and others, Levinson knew and wrote about American jazz with a familiarity and insight rarely seen. Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease two years ago, he continued working right until the end using a talking computer. A real trooper.

*** Being a Fascist in the 1940’s wasn’t the greatest career choice, as Ezra Pound discovered when the Allies won World War II. But he knew people who knew people and more or less escaped punishment for supporting Il Duce. If someone wanted to punish him, I would think just having faith in a stooge like Mussolini should have been evidence enough that he was a bit deluded. I mean, who thought that tearing down whole sections of historic Rome was a good idea?

A huge collection of his papers has been donated to the Ransom Center in Los Angeles. Let’s hope it doesn’t burn up in the wildfires.

Papers, photos and chess sets

*** I find this next story quite interesting on a personal level. As most bookies know, a year ago I had one of the largest, if not THE largest, collection of autographed mystery/thriller material in this area. It was so large, in fact, that it was too much. So I have begun selling off these rarities, being quite ruthless about what I keep (probably no more than 15%) and what I sell. Indeed, for just a brief glimpse into what the office of someone who is doing this looks like…

So the chaos and angst that goes along with selling off what can only be described as old friends is well known to your friendly neighborhood bookseller.

Parting with old friends