tv James Mustich 1000 Books to Read Before You Die CSPAN December 8, 2018 8:00am-9:01am EST
>> thank you for joining us, hope to see you again soon. happy holidays. [inaudible conversations] .. >> also the national review's richard brookhiser recounts the career of supreme court chief justice john marshall, we talk about the life and death of war corps marie colvin all this weekend on c-span2's booktv. visit booktv.org. now we kick off the weekend with publishing executive james
mustich's thoughts on the 1,000 books to read before you die. [inaudible conversations] >> good evening and welcome to the rare book room. my name is nancy, i'm the owner of the store. the strand was founded in 1927 by my grandfather, benjamin bass, and then on to my father, fred because, and then on to me. for a little bit of history, in the late 1800s, this area around the bookstore here in greenwich village was the epicenter of publishers and booksellers.
charles scrivener and sons was here, dodd and company, divine press. they all had editorial offices, and down below they all had their bookstores to display their new books. along fourth avenue just around on that side was known as book row. at its height there were 48 used bookstores of which strand is the sole survivor. as the owner of the strand with its 18 miles of books, i am not easily fazed by 1,000 books, but james' literary bucket list -- tonight's featured books -- has stopped me in my tracks. [applause] his expansive scope is coupled with a delightful wit and a perfect eye for surprise detail.
never again will you have to wonder what to read next. 1,000 books to read before you die is a one-stop shop holiday gift for anybody who likes books and who doesn't like books. [laughter] i have to say i could not think of a better person to have written a book like this than james mustich. princeton graduate with a degree in english literature and a veteran bookseller who started his bibliophilic career at a shop at briar cliff working for just $2.70 an hour -- [laughter] he's moved on as the cofounder and guiding voice for the acclaimed book catalog, "the common reader." up until recently, he was the vice president of digital product at barnes & noble. everybody is wondering about the future of books and bookstores.
at the strand i'd like to say that we are going great. [applause] thanks to all of you. and we're thrilled to have our friends at c-span booktv with us tonight. they are an american treasure who's done an amazing job at promoting incredible books. for the format tonight, i'm going to ask james some questions, and then we'll open up the mic to your questions, but first, upon being seated, i hope everybody got their literary quiz. [laughter] no? you're not doing it. [laughter] in 2016 "the new york times" challenged their readers to pass the strand's literary quiz job application. tonight james and i are challenging you to test your book smarts with the new version
of this quiz. the 1,000 books to read before you die quiz. the use of any 21st century device is prohibited -- [laughter] in answering these questions. so, no, you cannot phone a friend, use siri, google or alexa. at the end of the event, james will give us the answers to the quiz, and spoiler alert, we have five prizes for this soon-to-be affirmed bookiest of bookworms. our top prize is a $100 gift certificate for the strand and tote bag with, overflowing with book items including many books from workman press. and now without further ado, please join me in a big, warm welcome to james mustich. thank you, james. >> thank you, nancy. thank you. [applause]
>> so, james, tell us how did this book all take place. >> about 15 years ago now, the late peter workman approached me about this book. workman had published quite successfully a book called 1,000 places to see before you die, which some you have may know, and that was very successful. and one evening, as i recall, we were having cocktails at the workmans' home in connecticut. carol ann, the owner of workman publishing, is here with us tonight. [applause] and peter said, you know, i think we should do one of those books about, 1,000 things books about books, would you like to write it senate and i, without hesitation, said yes. and then i hesitated for 14 years to deliver the manuscript. [laughter] so in addition to being
visionary, workman has been extraordinarily patient. >> peter used to take me out for lunch. he was -- at least every year, if not device a year, and he would always talk about you and always talk about the book -- [laughter] i think -- he died five years ago, so part of me, i know he was so fond of you, so part of me thinks that he must be very proud of this moment that we're all together. >> i hope that's the case. i'm pretty sure it is. i think he'd be or very pleased to see all these people here and to know that so many people are talking about the book and to see such a beautiful -- >> execution. >> -- execution of the book by the whole workman team. i mean, this was really an extraordinary effort in terms of the design led by janet who's sitting right there, an extraordinary job of design. [applause] it was almost exactly a year ago
today that i sent in the last bit of manuscript for this book. and the book, if you've seen it, it's a thousand pages long, it's profusely illustrated, it's beautifully designed, and it went off the printer, i think, in march. so between november and march, there was a lot of work done, and the production and everything is just gorgeous. i think peter would be delighted. >> did you read all thousand of these books? >> yeah, well, i've read the vast majority of them. but as you know, when you've been a bookseller long enough, there are some books that you've talked about so often that you become convinced you've read them. [laughter] i'm sure there's a couple dozen like that in here, but i've become familiar enough with them can be. >> you have the koran and the bible, the 9/11 report. >> yeah. it's pretty broad, a broad range
of titles. but those, in fact, i did read. yes. [laughter] fourteen years is a long time. [laughter] >> you describe your process -- can you describe your process in eliminating all the 130 million books that are in print to whittle it down to 1,000 books? >> well, i think process is dig anifying the whole finish -- dig any frying the whole thing with a little more rigor than it had. but what i did at the start was make an enormous list of books which was several thousand. and this was books that i had loved myself or books that i had loved selling and grown to love through the advocacy of other readers. you mentioned the catalog that i ran for 20 years called "the common reader," and that was a wonderful community. it was a, it was -- you could
call it a book log with a social community of readers except al gore had yet to invent the internet. [laughter] so we just printed these news prince catalogs -- newsprint cataloggings, and we mailed them out. we had thousands of customers around the country, and they would often write in after they purchased books to say they were delighted to discover a certain book, but also to recommend other books that they thought belonged with the collections that we were making. and my wife margo, who's here -- [applause] and i, as she knows, we still have eight filing cabinets in our basement filled with these letters that people would send us just prompting us to discover new books, to put them in the catalog and even bring some of them back into bankrupt. abetted by publishing people
like herman graf who's sitting there in the audience -- [applause] many books, we got a recommendation, like the worst journey in the world was one. he said, do you know this book? i said, no, so we got together, and he did a paperback edition, and we sold it in the catalog. so my -- that kind of reader enthusiasm for books really was the criterion. it wanted to be a book that either i wanted to give to someone and say you have to read this, or someone had given to me with the same passion. it was still many more books than could be included. so what i finally decided to do as a framework was to -- i was reading a book by edmund wilson, the great literary critic, and at one point he has a passage about the miscellaneous learning of the bookstore unorganized by
any larger principle. which seemed to me a perfect rubric for this project. so i said to myself, what what i only had 1,000 books, i could only have 1,000 books, and i wanted to have something for anyone who might come in looking for a book. so that helped me narrow it down, because i wanted the book to be fun for people to explore when they opened it. not just a kind of static reference work. >> and you can open up a bookstore like this. you can have a chain of 1,000 books -- >> we could talk about that. [laughter] maybe we could go into partnership. >> yeah. but i think you went beyond this too. i know you said 1,000 books, but then i look, you know, at the end of the book description, you have try this, and then you have the audio books, and then you have other books written by that author too. so you kept going on and on and on. >> yes. every book of the 1,000 has a short essay that i wrote about
it to give context and to be a kind of invitation to the book. and then at the end of each of those essays, there are end notes which has bib lo graphic information -- when the book was first published, what the best translation may be, but also recommendations for further reading. either other books by the same author or further reading on the subject if it's a book about the civil war or world war ii or football. and then also other books to try if you like that one. so all told there's about 5500 books referenced in this book and all indexed in the back. and also i should add, because i always forget to say this, we've built a web site, 1,000 books to read.com, which is 1000 books to read.com, which has one question
at the top of it, what book should everybody read before they die. it has my list, it has three buttons next to the books i've chosen, and there's a little snippet from the book itself. but the buttons are agree, the second button is life's too short, and then the third button added to a to be read pile. and if readers, all of you can add your own books as answer to that question beyond the 1,000 that i've chosen from this book. and there's no sales on the site. it's designed as a tool for stores and for libraries. people can come in on their phones and sort the list by genre or by subject and find interesting things to read. >> so if you were writing a book, the one book you had to read before you die -- [laughter] >> well, now that i've finished it, it would be this one. [laughter] >> okay, got it. [laughter] >> for a long time, i wasn't
sure i was going to get there. [laughter] i just, i want to say i love your subheaders. you, like on shelby foote's the civil war, you described it as the american iliad. and then i love the 84 caring crossroads, you said single white bibliophile seeks out of print companion. so you must have had a lot of fun imagining all these, how to summarize a book in a witty manner. >> yeah. and those were -- sometimes they came easily, and sometimes they took longer to come up with than actually writing the essay, because it's hard to write short, you know? as mark twain once said in a letter to somebody, i'm writing you this very long letter, because i didn't have enough time to write you a short one. [laughter] >> did you, i know going back to the choice of which books, did you get pressure from your daughters, from your wife, from workman publishing to include books -- because everybody has
their opinion, and did you feel that? >> well, it's -- i write in the introduction to the book that once people know you're writing a book called 1,000 books to read before you die, you can never enjoy a dinner party in quite the same way again. [laughter] because everyone has their own oar to put in. but i didn't feel too much pressure. it was more the enthusiasm of everybody for books that they really loved. and so that was the part of the fun of the process. and for me, really part of the fun of the whole project is to promote those discussions among readers and among booksellers and librarians. we're just traveling around various stores and libraries across the country promoting the book, and that was a lot of fun to talk with audiences like this. and bookstores have, would often have displays of the book with books from within the book in
it. and i would always say to the bookseller, you should also have a table of books that you think should be in it that i left out, because that's part of the fun. >> i know you went down, we have the strand 90 table. i think you had everything in the book. >> it was a pretty good crossover, yeah. >> those are our favorite. was it hard to sometimes not give the ending of the books in a city nap sis of it? -- city nap sis of it? i know at the end of the affair, you did not tell us what was going to happen. >> yes. i was very conscious of not providing any spoilers to the books, because i think that would -- particularly for certain kinds of books, you wouldn't want to give it away. so i had to rein myself in sometimes. and it's hard to figure out, like, what part of the research was knowing enough to know what not to say for that reason in
particular. >> and you went really across all genres. you have children's books in here, you have a lot of travel travelogues, you have freud's interpretation of dreams, you were really so expansive. >> yes. i believe people read the way they eat. so they might want a hot dog for lunch one day, and the next day they'll go out for a fancy french meal with wine and the whole nine yards. and i think that's really important to our reading lives. and i wanted the book to represent that, to be more of a menu that people would find inviting rather than a prescriptioning, you know, that was homework or physical therapy. and so i wanted to have something for every type of reading appetite. so you can start this book as a reader if you have willing
parents with good night moon and where the wild things are and go all the way through to "the coming of age" and c.s. lewis' a grove observed. it's cradle to grave passage, is what i call it. >> do you want to read a little passage? >> sure. i'm going to read just a little, and then we'll open it up for questions. all right. i'll start with a line i already used. once people know you're with writing a book called the 1,000 books to read before you die, you can never enjoy a dinner party in quite the way you did before. no matter how many books you've managed to consider and no matter how many pages you've written, every conversation with a fellow realizer is almost sure to provide new titles to seek out or, more woringly, to expose an egregious omission or a gap
in our knowledge, to say nothing of revealing the privileges and prejudices, however unwitting, underlying your points of reference. for years 1,000 books felt like far too many to get my head around. but now it seems too few by several multiples. so let me say what already should be obvious: this book is neither comprehensive, nor authoritative. even if a good number of the titles assembled here would be on most lists of essential reading. it is meant to be an invitation to a conversation, even a merry argument about the books and authors that are missing as well as the books and authors included. because the question of what to read next is the best prelude to even more important ones like who to be and how to live. such faith in reading's power and the learning and imagination it nourishes is something i've been lucky enough to take for granted as both fact and
freedom. it's something i fear may be forgotten in the great amnesia of our in-the-moment news feeds and algorithmically defined identities which hide from our view the complexity of feelings and ideas that books demand we quietly and determinedly engage. to get lost in a story or even a study is inherently to acknowledge the voice of another. to broaden one's perspective beyond the confines of one's own understanding. a good book is the opposite of a selfie. the right book at the right time can expand our lives in the way love does, making us more thoughtful, more generous, more brave, more alert to the world's wonders and more pained by its inequities, more wise, more kind. [applause]
thank you. >> so who'd like to ask a question? we ask that you stand up and not be so timid. just go ahead and raise your hand, and i can bring you a microphone so you'll be heard. i'll ask a question meanwhile. tell me the value of any prizes, pulitzer prize, nobel prizes, you know, national book awards in -- >> they weren't weighted, but they did help. i reviewed all the list of prize winners, you know, to kind of make sure i wasn't overlooking something. but the award itself, except by giving the book easy access to the book in the list of prizes, didn't mean all that much. >> hi, jim. >> hi, marsha. >> hi. [laughter] i would like to ask you what are you reading now, exempt that you're probably not -- except that you're probably not reading now. [laughter] if you aren't reading now because you're so busy, what's the last book you've read? >> well, a two-part answer.
the last book that i've read that i want to recommend to everyone is a book called these truths by jill lapore which is a history of the united states from the discovery of the north american continent up until two years ago that is remarkable in being 800 pages long but still very readable. but it reveals scenes that we are grappling with as a cup now that have been -- as a country now that have been present from 1776 and before. and so it's kind of instructive. so i recommend that to everyone. the book i'm reading now, actually, is by an author who is appearing at another strand the event tonight at the china institute called the three body problem, and i'm not quite sure how to pronounce his name. >> xijin liu.
>> it was recommended to me quite passionately by a reader that i trust, so i'm in the middle of that. >> you'll probably find copies left over too. >> oh, good. [laughter] >> jim, could you speak a little bit about the challenges and the interesting aspects of reading something that's in translation? >> yes, that's a great question. i try to be as international as possible given the fact that i was writing for an american market, and so predominantly works in english. and, but there's more than 200 works in translation. i think we're having a fire drill. >> [inaudible] >> okay.
and so with translation, there's a couple of issues. one is for the older works, because if you're talking about homer or the greek tragedies or any latin literature, there are many, many translations. so how do you pick the best ones, which i was careful to try to do to recommend to people, because there's nothing worse than someone picking up a great book like "the odyssey" and having a translation that is dated or stilted or doesn't really speak to a modern reader. so for those books, i was pretty familiar with and recommended translations. for classic works it's the same thing. every great book for each new generation has a new translation. in part because the language changes, and in part because publishers want to keep it under copyright. but that means there's lots of
choices to make. so i was careful there too. what is particularly difficult in terms of works in translation is that any works that we get of contemporary literature that are translated from another culture are already filtered by an editor or a publisher who is deciding that this book would appeal to an american or british market. that's why it's translated. so you never really know if you're actually getting a deep picture of what the literature is of another culture. so it's problematic. but it's fun too. >> hey, jim. so i really love your description of cradle-to-grave reading. i think one of the interesting follow-on questions to that is books change when you read them
what you've read before. >> yes. >> so how did you think about your process for when a person might be reading a given book? i'm sure your perspective on a children's book differs from when you were reading it as a child versus reading it to your daughters. tell us about that. >> a great question. i wanted this book to appeal to someone who was 17 as well as 37 and not just at my age. so when you read a book when you're younger, it has a certain meaning to you, and some books get richer if you reread them when you're older. i think particularly of middle march by george elliot which is my own favorite novel which i read when i was 19, and i thought was the wisest book i'd ever read then. so much so that i read it every decade since then, and it just seems to have gotten so much wiser. and, you know, it was all in
there at the beginning, but you notice different things. and then there are other books that you read that were really important to you. you know, in my case book like on the road by jack which was a marvelous book to read when you were young. and it's important that those books be represented here as well. it's still a marvelous book but not quite as overwhelming as it is when you read it when you're 20 years old. and then there are books that are totally different. i'll tell a little story. i was fortunate enough to meet the author joseph heller once at a cocktail party. and at the time i met him, his book "catch 22" had been listed on a list of, that the modern library put out of the 100 best novels of the 20th century, and
it was number six. so i went up to him at this party, because he lived down the road from my wife's parents, and i said congratulations on, you know, the book being on the, so high on the modern library list. he said thank you very much. and i said, but i think they picked the wrong book. and he glared at me. he said, what do you mean? i said, well, i always thought that your second book, "something happened," was a much better book. and he just glowed. he said, so did i. [laughter] and so i told him about my experience with that book. i had read it when it came out in the 1970s. it was probably in college. and i thought this was the funniest book i had ever read. i memorized whole pages of his description of office life, because i found them so amusing. and he said to me, he goes -- and i told him that, and he
said, well, you know, it's really a middle-aged person's book. i said, yeah, i know, because i reread it last year, and i found it completely horrifying. [laughter] i said, all the things that i had found very amusing when i was a callow 20-year-old, as a middle-aged person i was just saying, oh, there but for the grace of quod go i. of god go i. so the books change, and they speak to you in different ways at different times. >> i was just reading patty smith's just kids, and it was published in 2010. and i first picked it up, and it was -- she was stealing books from scrivener's, and i was i cannot read this book, she was stealing from booksellers. [laughter] and i just picked it up recently, and it's so poetic and so brilliant, but i needed that time to absorb. this. [laughter] >> i just wanted to know, did you include any books you
disliked but felt for some reason they were important or, to be read whether they made you angry but deserved to be there as a warning or whatever? >> yes. atlas slugged. atlas shrugged. it is a book that has assumed such prominence in our culture because it's beloved by many readers, which is fine. but it, the philosophy that, such as it is, that it espouses budget enough to make -- wasn't enough to make up for the wooden characters and all of that. but it has been a book of enormous influence, and i think it's important that -- i wanted to read it and have something to say about it. but it's kind of like that book is, i don't know if you've read it and maybe you love it, but it's kind of like watching your football team win a game 103-7, because it's so stilted in
direction. >> [inaudible] >> i presented it in context of the thinking and of its importance, and then i used some version of that line about the football game, because that's the way i found it. >> yeah. jim, i have a literary question and a technical question. >> okay. >> literary question is there are two books you've listed in here that i think are my candidates for the great american novel. so that is a concept. you know, for 100 years the concept of the great american novel, what do you think is the great american novel? did you read it? and the tactical question is screens versus books. did you read any of these books on screens or kindles, or did you read everything in paper, and is there a difference? >> i was the vice president of digital product for barnes and noble, so i read them on nooks. [laughter] but i did, i did read some of these books on screens.
i have, i am promiscuous when it comes to reading. i would read on screens or as susan once said, i'd read on milk cartons if it was there in front of me. so i think e-reading is convenient if you're traveling or commuting, you can take several books at once. it's great for people who have, want to make type bigger and smaller and all that stuff. so i don't have any qualms about that except i don't know if any of you read e-books, but this is a digression, but i found this interesting. when i started reading e-books -- and still to this day -- if i'm in the middle of a novel and a character appears who awe appeared earlier -- appearedded earlier and i can't quite remember who it is, my hands will start to, like -- [laughter] flip back. because in a physical book, you
have this kind of sense that it was, like, it was like three flips back, and it was on the left-hand side. but in an e-book, you're in the middle of the ocean, you know? you have no idea where you are or how to get back. and the other question of the great american novel, what are your two? >> [inaudible] sister carrie and american pastoral. >> ah. well, they're both in here, and i love both those books. and american pastoral particularly because of the scenes in which ross depicts the vibrant life of newark and then its rapid decline because those of us who are, you know, i'm from the bronx originally, and i know when i was small what a vibrant city it was. as was brooklyn before brooklyn
was, you know, recast as a sitcom recently. [laughter] but the, that whole kind of urban decline had never been, in my reading, so vividly captured. but if i had to pick one, it would probably be moby dick because it embodies the kind of combination of work ethic and craft and labor and craziness, on the other hand, and sense of manifest destiny that is all part of the american psyche, both of those things. so -- >> hey, jim. very, very exciting to be here. thank you so much. that was a perfect segway, moby
dick, for what i'm about to ask you. so there's a lot of people here that know you personally for a long time and are very grateful to you for your inspiration both as someone who has always shown us the beauty of books and what it can do in our lives, but also just as a dear friend. so if i can get just personal for a minute, i think what -- we've talked a lot about books. we haven't talked about you. and i think two things. one, the upon realizer was -- the common if reader was an incredible accomplishment. this is an incredible accomplishment. you can have passion for books, you can love the arts, you can do all that, but you make both those things happen. both when probably you and i both thought you were nuts. [laughter] can you talk a little bit about -- and i think you used some of the words in talking about moby dick and what you admired, that both influenced you, inspired you and helped you through both those processes?
>> well, thank you. there'll be an envelope for you later. [laughter] you know, i -- part of me wants to say, and i think this is in large part true, that i fell in love with books and the written word very early. i never wanted to do anything else. i tried to find ways that would keep those things primary to what i had to do every day for my job. and i was either determined or unimaginative enough to just keep doing the same thing and finding another way to do it. so when one operation like a
common reader closed to find some other way to do the fit, this book came along about that time and some other projects at barnes & noble, and i didn't really want to do anything else. i wanted to find a way to keep being near the stuff that i loved, and that gave me energy. so more than anything else it was the sense that i love doing this, i was good at it, and i like nothing better than to be able to express in some way succinctly what a book was about or what it said to me. and as long as i could have that opportunity to write about books in that way and to share that with others, that was, you know, that was what i was going to do.
it's also, you know, there's a lot of improvisation. so a common reader came about because i was working in a bookstore, and i said to myself, well, how can i do this and, you know, not sell books i don't like and not have to be here on saturday? [laughter] so i came up with the catalog. >> hi. thanks so much for sharing tonight. >> sure. >> so my question is whether any particular attention was paid to the races, genders and nationalities of the authors represented in your book? or if the focus really was on just the literary merit of the substance or if those things can be divorced at all. >> i don't think they can be divorced as easily as we'd like to divorce them. and so i was looking for books of quality that spoke to
readers, whatever their providence was. i was conscious of the fact that women, certainly, throughout history have been underrepresented. if you start a book with homer or and go all the way up, it's not until the late 19th century and even the middle 20th century where the outputs become somewhat equal. so you're going to have an imbalance there. in terms of ethnicity and race and language, it was the same thing. i was conscious of not following any other dictates of what a candidate would be other than it was good reading. so there is, i think, a fair representation of those different categories although not as rich as i would like it to be for reasons having to do with my own limited reading but
also having to do with the nature of literary history. >> so given that 1,000 book list is probably a moving target, can you tell us about the 1,000 book that made it onto the list and the 1,001 book that didn't? >> the last book that i wrote about was a book called -- it was also the most recent book in the book, which is life in code: the personal history of technology by ellen allman which was published last year. and that's a marvelous book. ellenalman is a very -- ellen allman is a very interesting writer. she began her career as a software developer in silicon valley in the very early days of silicon valley, and she was one of the few women developers at that time. and about 20 years ago, she wrote a book that's become
something of a cult classic among coders called close to the machine, which is really about how coders think and so on. and then she went on to write two novels, one called by blood and the ore called the bug -- and the other called the bug. and then last year she published this book called life in code which is a series of essays that -- it's about technology, but it's more about the world that technology has made for us and how we live in it today. and it's a marvelous book. you learn a lot about technology and coding, but you learn even more about life. she's just a marvelous writer. that's probably the book that i've given to the most people myself, because i wanted them to read it in the past year. and the one that didn't make it was the last one that was there is a book, children's book, picture book called burnt toast on davenport street by a man
named tim eagan. and it is a marvelously funny, delightful, warm book about a family of animals. it's a great picture book to read to a toddler. but it's important to me and, because i discovered this book one day in children's bookstore in manhattan where i was with my daughter, my younger daughter iris was about 3 years old, and she was wandering around while margo and i and iris' elder sister were looking, and she saw this book that was at her eye level. she marched over, she took id off the shelf, she brought it over to me and said i want this one. and i brought it home and read it to her, and that was the first of probably 792 readings of that book.
[laughter] and it was a great book. so i was so delighted that she had somehow, through osmosis, gotten the book selling gene. she knew immediately that this was a great book. [laughter] so that is a great personal attachment to me -- >> putting your whole family, you're putting your whole family to work. >> exactly, yes. >> we have time for one final question. all right. >> my question, jim, would be are there any authors you felt you might have shortchanged that you wanted to have multiple entries because you like that author so much, but you had to put in an author who had just one great book but maybe not as great as the second or third book of faulkner, dickens, pick a name. >> well, the whole project has been plagued with that kind of issue, whether the potential was in the book at -- whether the person was in the book at all, whether you could put more books in it. i, there's about three dozen
authors who have more than one book. and even some of those now, looking back, i'm not sure i got right. so virginia woolf has four books because she's a marvelous writer, and the more i read at this point in my life, the more astonished i was. but when i finished the book, i went back and reread a novel of hers called "the waves" which i believe is better than any of the books i wrote about in it. so it's always changing and it's always new, you know? the and there is, and there are so many books that could be in here. the book is alphabetical by author, so in the as alone, you know, aeso to p's fables, letters of peter avenue lahr, the poetry of w.h. awedden, the novels of kate atkinson, the military histories of rick
atkinson. i could go on and on with the stuff i've left out. so there's part of me that every day since i finished this book feeled like a slacker. [laughter] feels like a slacker. >> okay. it's quiz time. we're going to find out who is the best well-read person here or people. five prizes. so we're, james is going to read out the questions and then the answers, and then we're going to the trust you to evaluate your own work. >> uh-oh. [laughter] all right. okay. is everybody ready? question number one, who said 'tis the good reader makes the good book? that was ralph waldo emerson. wonderful quote. question number two, in which decade is christopher -- [inaudible] berlin stories set? that's the 1930s.
what french gastrognome wrote tell me what you eat, and i shall tell you what you are. that was -- [inaudible] in the physiology of tastes. now, this one is pretty amazing. how long did it take for the first english translation of victor hugh bow's 1500-plus-page 1862 novel lay miss rob to appear? charles irwin wilbur's english translation appeared in 1862, the same year as the book's publication in france. and it is a mark of hugo's popularity that translators working in several other tongues matched that acheeflt. so there were multiple international editions of a 1500-page book in the year of its original publication. which is pretty amazing. in what novel does this sentence
appear, nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. that was from the picture of dorian gray by oscar wilde. and he also quoted himself in his play lady windermere's fan, he used the same line. that was after though. fill in the blanks of this line from phillip k. dick in his election commentary. it is sometimes an appropriate response to, blank, to go blank. and it is, the answer is, b, reality, insane. it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane. what best selling series of historical novels were written by the english translator of "the coming of age"? one of the most prolific translators was patrick o'brien
who wrote all of the ship-faring tales, master and commander being the first one. they made a movie with russell crowe out of that. that's how he made his living for a long time before his novels became popularful alfred bester's pioneering 1957 science fiction novel the star is my destination is a retelling of what 19th century french classic? that's the count of monte cristo. what late-blooming bibliophile is the central figure in alan bennett's "the uncommon reader"? that would be queen elizabeth ii. the pen name for the science fiction visionary alice bradley sheldon was james tiptry jr. what performer starred in both the iconic 1939 film adaptation
of the wizard of oz and the 1956 american premiere of samuel beckett's waiting forgy doe? berth lahr, that's exactly right. he was the cowardly line, and he plays sexer str -- setra agon. what book of the bible plays a pivotal role for the protagonist of ray bradbury's fahrenheit 451? that's the book of ecclesiastes. robert mcclass key's make way for ducklings is a classic, which of these four names does not belong to one of the eight little ducks? mr. and mrs. mallard lead across boston, the answer is c, back. what award-winning 2010 novel devotes several dozen pages of its narrative to powerpoint
charts? that's a visit from the goon squad by jennifer eagan. this is one of my favorites. which heroine of a children's book series has been cited by three supreme court justices as a formative influence? nancy drew. [laughter] sandra day o'connor, ruth bader ginsburg and sonia sotomayor, in interviews years apart and independent of each other when they were all asked what set you down the path to a life in the law, they all said nancy drew. which book did dorothy parker write -- thises the greatest review of all time -- this is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly, it should be thrown with great force. [laughter] that's, interestingly enough, the novel was by the only foray
into fiction if of benito mussolini. [laughter] the book was called the cardinal's mistress. what do dan brown, scott turow and richard wilbur have in common? they're all graduates of amherst. when bobly can won the nobel -- bob dylan won the nobel prize in 2017, he became the second nobel laureate to be awarded both that prize and an academy award. who was the other? george bernard shaw won the academy award for best writing screenplay for the 1938 version of pygmalion with leslie howard. and when this news was brought to him in london, he reportedly said i have never been so insulted in my entire life.
[laughter] who invented the phrase stream of consciousness? that was william james. what naturalist has more than 300 plants and 1,000 animals named for him and more places on earth and in the heavens than any oh person in history? -- any other person in history? alexander von humboldt. there's a marvelous book by andrea wolf called the invention of nature, a biography of von humboldt, which i highly recommend. and that's where i learned that. and this one is for, i'm sure, all of my fellow graduates from a catholic high school in the bronx who are here tonight will know this immediately. in what autobiography does the phrase give me chastity and self-restraint, but don't do it just yet, appear. [laughter] that's in the confessions of
st. augustin. which of his own works was dickens' favorite, that was david copperfield. jane reese's wide sargaso sea was a response to what novel? jane eyre. what novelist had his matter buried -- had his heart buried in st. michael's churchyard? that's thomas hardy. whose biography should clearly have been written by stephen king. [laughter] what was the working title of joseph heller's "catch 22" for the eight years he spent writing the book? it was catch 18. so joseph heller spent eight years working on this book. in his own held it was called catch 18 -- head it was called catch 18, and then a few months
before publication of his book, a book called myla 18 came out and was a great bestseller. so his publisher said you have to change the title, because people will be confused with the two 18 books, so they had to come up with another one, and they came up with catch 22. which, actually, sounds funnier than catch 18 for some reason. all right. and then the last question is, the answer to the last question is far too long. [laughter] [applause] all right, so you want to adjudicate this? >> so you all go ahead and tally it up, and are you ready? tell me who has gotten 20 or more questions correct. i don't -- okay. it's going to be like an auction. who has 18 or more correct? 15 or more correct?
oh, my gosh. i thought you guys were bookish. 12 or more? okay. [applause] first prize, $100 gift card and lots of books. nice job. okay. so we're at 12, right? 10? yea. [applause] and that's a $50 gift card and tons of books. and then let's try for 9? 11? okay. any more 11s? >> [inaudible] >> uh-oh. okay, who has 9? >> [inaudible] >> okay, perfect. those are the fourth and fifth
prizing $25 gift cards and lots, loads and loads of books. [inaudible conversations] >> great, all right. >> so thank you so much, james. >> you're welcome. >> you were a great audience. >> nice to see you all. >> thank you, c-span. [applause] james is going to stick around and sign copies of his book. thank you. >> yep. thank you. [inaudible conversations] >> michelle obama is on tour for her best selling autobiography "becoming," selling two million copies in the first 15 days. here's a portion of her recent tour stop in new york city. [applause] >> so i grew up in what was a vibrant community, but as it started to become more black,
you know, we could see the deterioration, and you could feel it. you could feel it in the school system as people were taking money out of the schools. you could see it in the attitudes of the schoolteachers towards us. i could see it as a young child. i was that kid who would come home, came home from second grade just all disgusted at the fact that we weren't learning in second grade. [laughter] i would come home and it's like, mom, we didn't get homework again last night. [laughter] i don't know how we're going to be prepared for third grade. [laughter] this is outrageous. i was that kid. [laughter] >> and your mother, wonderfully, always said i wasn't raising children, i was raising adults. >> she was raising adults. so she taught us to express ourselves and to speak our minds, but to do it politely. in my early grade in kindergarten, you can see that there are kids of all backgrounds, and we all played together, and we were at each other's homes. and little did i know that
people were whispering in their name, realtors, saying get out because this is turning into a ghetto. you gotta run. and by the time i was in eighth grade, as you can see in this picture, the neighborhood was all, all black. and that sort of sociological phenomenon of white flight has gone on in countries, in communities all over the country. and i stop here because i just want us to understand that in that time people were afraid of us, right? if -- now, let's just hold that thought, because we are sort of going through that right now where we are telling ourselves or being told that we need to be afraid of people who tonight look like us -- who don't look like us, who don't speak the same language or because somehow we are to be feared. there were white folks who were afraid of michelle and craig and marian and frazier and south side, and i want us to hold on
to that the, because that still goes on. that sort of notion that people look at the color of your skin, and they make assumptions about who you you are. they didn't know our values, they didn't know that we were kids striving to be good, that our father was working hard. they can't care. they were running from our race, and we still do that. >> and that was just a portion of her talk in new york city. watch for more in-depth coverage of michelle obama's book tour saturday, december 15th, at 8 p.m. and sunday, december 16th, at 10 p.m. eastern on booktv. .. and recently published thriller "the escape artist" which debuted at number one on the new york times bestseller list.