The Ghost of Books Past

04 Dec

By Mark Saunders

To play with the order of Swinburne’s famous phrase, the hounds of winter are on fall’s traces. Earlier this week we had a low temperature that settled in the twenties, which, over a few days, matriculated into the thirties and eventually received its diploma. This spate of cold weather was not totally surprising since I live in a town more than six thousand feet above sea level; it was only surprising because I live in the middle of sunny Mexico.

I know what some of you are thinking: what a wimp. I’m sure someone out there trekked five miles through snow in twenty-below-zero weather as a kid to get to some lame social studies class. But I say, better you than me.

Okay, we’ve established my wimp credentials. But in my defense, our house has no heat, other than the oven, which I admit to only occasionally turning on. Lately I feel as if I’m living inside the crisper drawer of a Sub-Zero refrigerator. San Miguel is the only place I’ve ever lived where in winter I have to go outside to warm up.

The chilly weather reminded me of how I love nothing more in winter than to sit near a roaring fire, hot drink in one hand and a riveting book in the other, strong reading lamp overseeing it all, like some Greek God of Good Reads. Let’s face it, this is exactly how one should spend a good winter’s day or evening, don’t you agree?

With that in mind, I let my mind wander, as minds do, and thought of books I’d like to re-read, as I was standing in front of a warm oven, which would have to do because our house does not have a fire place. Did I already mention how cold our house gets?

I chose to limit my selection to four works of non-fiction and four works of fiction—all of them contemporary. (Re-reading literary classics is a different, ahem, story.) I could just as easily have picked forty of each. I’ve elected to merely list them and save both of us the trouble of any embarrassing comments.


By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons by Ralph Caplan

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn: The Wisdom of Children’s Literature by Jonathan Cott

Quick read: The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers by Tom Standage


Time and Again by Jack Finney

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard (no, wait, make that Get Shorty, or Swag, no, Out of Sight… all right, I’ll compromise and settle for anything by Elmore Leonard)

Quick read: Montana 1948: A Novel by Larry Watson

That takes care of re-reading oldies but goodies. To find your next great winter read of new works, don’t forget to check out the amazing slate of books by FUZE, including my own humorous memoir, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak. FUZE books make great holiday gifts, even if they don’t fit into a normal stocking.


Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “The Ghost of Books Past

  1. Karen Bartelt

    December 5, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    You forgot to include “Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak” under the favorite quick reads list.

    • Mark

      December 6, 2011 at 3:52 am

      Darn, Karen, I knew I’d forget something. I guess I’ll have to list it next year. Hasta la pasta!

  2. Lisa Kaser

    December 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Love your posts, Mark. I have made note of your recommendations-all ones I haven’t read. Thanks! I will be ordering a couple copies of your book soon! Look forward to reading that as well. All the best.


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