Category Archives: General Blurbs

Karenina

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

The novel is set in 19th century Russia. It is about the tragic love and fate of a high society aristocrat, Anna Karenina. Being already married to an elder man, Karenin, Anna falls in love with the charming young officer, count Vronsky. From there on her life changes for ever. The story is enriched with the relationships of other surrounding characters and the strong powers of their feelings, which lead their lives. Just by telling the story, Tolstoy educates and warns the reader of the great danger in emotions gone wild.

This is my copy of Anna Karenina, the great classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy. This volume was printed in Soviet times, in the age of Big Brother, the Communist regime of SSSR, in April 1979. 80,000 copies were printed during that edition. It cost nearly 5 Rubles, which was a lot of money at the time. It is in a cloth cover with a golden stamp surrounding the illustrated figure. It has about 610 pages. The text is printed in a small intimidating font, typewriter style. A worthy challenge and a must-read for any book lover.

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“Read Dating” Book Club Dates – Blog Challenge Post 3

That's What She Read

This post is part of Bookish Ardour‘s ‘Posting Challenge’. To see all of my posts so far, click here.

Book Club Quirks

Did you know there’s book clubs out there focusing on stories full of culinary delights? What interesting quirks would you like a book club to have? Tell everyone if you’ve joined one already or know of one

 

Today I am going to discuss a new phenomenon – Read Dating!

Read-Dating is a book-club/speed-dating hybrid, where you move around the room spending a few minutes with each of the other attendees, all armed with their favourite books! Organisers claim that this form of Book Club dating helps people avoid awkwardness as they can chat about their books as well as find a love-match who enjoys the same kinds of literature.

To add to the literary enjoyment of Read Dating, each person is given a…

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Agada – The Only Bookstore in Acre

Inside Agada

Inside Agada

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” 

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

This is the only bookstore in Acre. Well, the only real bookstore. The owner named it ‘Agada’ meaning ‘Legend’ in Hebrew, and legend it is. For keeping a bookstore in Acre IS legendary. Not long ago there wasn’t any bookstore around for almost two decades. It felt like I was living in a remote, god forsaken little village. I had to travel to other towns in order to visit a bookstore. Later I discovered that I could buy secondhand books online, from various bookstores throughout the country. Thus begun the rapid, increasing evolution of my book collection. Today I own more than 250 volumes and going. But nothing can compare to the exciting adventure of arriving at a real magical place, packed from top to bottom, with endless old books.

The owner of Agada

The owner of Agada

This man is doing the impossible – he keeps a bookstore in Acre. If we had bookstores instead of every restaurant or clothing store, we would be the city of books. Unfortunately, the locals don’t read anymore. His audience is Russian immigrants like himself and myself. The survivors of a communist regime, where ironically enough culture, education and books were the essence of a person’s life. The only ones who regularly consume literature are middle-aged, retired pensioners. The owner gets the goods from Russian publishers in Moscow. Those books are new and pricey but they are being bought nonetheless. He also buys secondhand books from locals and sells them for a low price. Books you’d never find anywhere else. In addition Agada functions as a library. If you buy one expensive book, you can then take another book for 5 ins, read it and return it and then take another one for 5 ins. But all this is not enough to keep the book engine fueled and running. To keep a bookstore in Acre you need the tough guerrilla reinforcement – guided tours. The owner offers tours around the country and abroad, for a reasonable price and flexible payment, otherwise unavailable to many elderly immigrants who don’t have a credit card. This is not just a bookstore, this is a cultural and intellectual center, the only place in Acre where true enthusiastic book lovers can interact.

The entrance to Agada

The entrance to Agada

I visit Agada once a month or more, to catch up on what’s new. The place is small and doesn’t have a great variety, but sometimes, if you’re patient you can find real gems. Agada offers classical literature, fantasy, poetry, art and crafts and how-to books, specialized magazines, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Also the store has the Holy Land souvenirs, post cards, calendars, gifts, gadgets, sports equipment and more.

Recently I have come across this splendid album series of art books and purchased the three about Russian masterpieces and artists. This subject is extremely hard to find in bookstores in Israel.

A set of books about Russian art, purchase at Agada

A set of books about Russian art, purchase at Agada

Many have tried and failed in keeping a bookstore in Acre, but this man has done it for some years now, despite of the great hardships and challenges. I can only offer him my utmost respect and strongest support in this endeavor, wishing him the best of luck and a bright bookful future. For his sake, and ours, the few readers of Acre.

Contact Agada bookstore: rash12@walla.com, a_skalt@mail.ru

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Acre, my love

Acre, Aerial view via Wikimedia.

Acre, Aerial view via Wikimedia.

This is Acre. Five thousand year old ancient city. A triangle of land bursting into the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by strong walls and fortifications. The outburst of land created a little bay, and with it the great potential for a unique southern harbor. Today what’s left of it is a faint shadow of a remarkable past, an unseen glory and wealth.

Long before the Bible period, Acre was already inhabited by ancient nations such as Canaanites, Phoenicians, Egyptians and more. It underwent all world’s greatest epochs. Alexander the great’s army, the Hellenism, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine epoch, the Arab epoch until the third crusade in 1191. King Richard the lion heart captured Acre from the hands of the great Saladin. Then, a new age begun for Acre. It was a Christian megapolis, the heart of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, with a spectacular port and thriving commerce for 100 years. Rich markets, astounding churches and monasteries, famous military orders like the Templars and Hospitallers that defended its walls. A true grander of a medieval capital. But all that wealth was plundered and destroyed by the Mamluks to the ground, leaving Acre to a silent existence of a ghostly city for 500 years. Only buildings, stones and ruins. No people, no ships, nothing but silence… It was silent until the arrival of the phenomenal Bedouin leader, Daher el-Omar. He reconstructed Acre back to its former glory. Then, al-Jazzar, the Butcher made Acre his home and sanctuary during the Ottoman Empire, continuing the vast reconstruction and development. He fought Napoleon and defeated him at the eastern walls of Acre. In Acre was the biggest and most guarded prison in Palestine during the British Empire. Acre is holy for Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Bahai religions. This is just a fraction of its incredible history.

Acre harbor

Acre harbor

Above ground there are the Ottoman Empire remains, about 300 years old. Buried underneath, there’s a whole medieval city of the Crusaders. Amazing halls and secret passages everywhere. The Ottoman Acre is a replica of that ancient crusader megapolis. You can close your eyes and imagine the magnitude of the medieval city.

Now the Israeli government preserves and maintains Acre’s antiquity. It is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Ancient Acre is alive. It inhabits people, it has a large market, its harbor is used for fishermen and small cruise ships. It offers hotels, exquisite restaurants and lots of activities for all visitors. Even today It’s impressive and absolutely breathtaking. But since medieval times, it could never developed into a large city, being overshadowed by its neighbor port city, Haifa. From being a mountain, Haifa turned into a huge port megapolis, having deeper waters for steam ships. Whereas Acre grew smaller, remaining somewhere between a small city and a big town.

St. Francis church and convent

St. Francis church and convent, Acre

This is where I grew up, since 1990. Acre has it all, but when it comes to books it has almost none to offer. In all this time, I can’t remember even one worthy secondhand bookstore ever to exist here. You would think that a city of such history and magnificence must have plenty of old books in it and people who sell them. None that I know of. There must be old books in private collections. I believe there should be ancient scriptures in mosques, churches and synagogues throughout the city. There has to be an ancient library in the convent of st. Francis. Important Jewish scriptures from medieval times were written here. In any case, it is hidden from the public eye. In addition there is our small college library and the tiny public library. And that’s it. I guess our local population isn’t very interested in the organic keeper of knowledge. In recent years to my great happiness, there have opened up two bookstores in Acre. Bookless or not, there’s no other city in the world quite like this. It’s one of a kind. It’s my city and my home. I’m very grateful for being here, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.

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Ladies and Gents – The Bookmobile!

Acre Bookmobile, Israel

Acre Bookmobile, Israel

This is our local mobile library. Its aim is to reach distant areas in the town and spread the magic of reading among children of Jewish and Arab ethnicity, in a literary coexistence. It travels the town, stops and camps out in the open air with book shelves, carts, bean bags, matts, and other cultural activities – what a delight, just read!

Here are some astonishing Bookmobiles around the world!

Bookmobiles around the world

Bookmobiles around the world

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Ron McCallum: How technology allowed me to read

I have already spoke my mind about ebooks and technology when it came to reading in general and books in particular. In short, I simply detested every digital form of reading, and books especially. But when I came across this man’s story, it touched my heart so deeply that it made me change my one-sided outlook on the matter. I’d like to share it with you.

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But I, being poor, have only my dreams

Equilibrium (2002), Kurt Wimmer

Equilibrium (2002), Kurt Wimmer

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats, The Wind Among the Reeds” (1899)

Equilibrium is my favorite movie of all times. This is shortly what it’s about:

In a futuristic world, a strict regime has eliminated war by suppressing emotions: books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling is a crime punishable by death. Cleric John Preston (Bale) is a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. When he misses a dose of Prozium, a mind-altering drug that hinders emotion, Preston, who has been trained to enforce the strict laws of the new regime, suddenly becomes the only person capable of overthrowing it.

– Written by Anonymous

via Equilibrium (2002) – Plot Summary – IMDb.

Before Cleric Preston stops taking Prozium, he kills his partner and best friend, Cleric Partridge, whom he caught in the act of reading and enjoying Yeats. Partridge provoked Preston to kill him, because he was caught performing a Sense Offense – the punishment of which is being burnt alive. Cleric Partridge has stopped taking the doze for a while, and his suffering was well perceived as he watched the death of innocent people, guilty of feeling, and incineration of works of art like the Mona-Liza.  Partridge was willing to die for Yeats’s words and the ideas they represented. How magnificent!

Imagine living in a world without books, without poetry, without literature, without art, without music, without feelings. Like zombies, like robots and machines. What’s the point of your existence then? It doesn’t matter how many problems come my way, and how crappy I feel sometimes, I always feel better just by knowing that I can read an awesome book, wonder at an elaborate work of art and indulge in a fantastic pleasure of a musical piece.

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I never had and never will have a damn ebook reader!

This is a part of one of my bookcases in my study.

Book collecting

Book collecting is the collecting of books, including seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever books are of interest to a given individual collector. The love of books is bibliophilia, and someone who loves to read, admire, and collect books is a bibliophile.

via Book collecting – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Nowadays you can easily read online free ebooks with an iPad, iPhone, computer, ebook reader, loan from the library or from a friend. So why still bother and buy books at all? There are many reasons why people buy and collect things in general, and books in particular. Here”s an expert’s opinion that I appreciate:

WHY COLLECT BOOKS NOW?

Why collect books now, when I just got an iPad?

We are clearly emerging from what will be seen as a Golden Age of Publishing and book production, both in the UK and the United States, which has been booming for the last sixty years but now seems to be changing, like the music industry.  With the advent of the Kindle, the iPad etc., it is inevitable that much of traditional book publishing is starting to shift to downloadable formats, away from paper and printer\’s ink.  If this is true, I think that now is the time, for those of us who care about books, to start to make a collection of the ones we love, precisely because it looks like there is going to be less of them, in the future.

Real books vs. e-books?  Hardback vs. paperback?

Real books are fascinating to handle and decorative to display in a way that a small, flat screen can never be.  Most hardcover books, if printed on acid-free paper and kept away from damp, last astonishingly well, over many decades.  (Paperbacks are much more of a problem for collectors, as the lesser paper quality usually means they yellow with time, and their glued bindings will eventually crack and split down the spine.)  Each book becomes a time capsule for the year it was produced, summing up a design aesthetic, in addition to the actual words.

via WHY COLLECT BOOKS NOW? – Christopher de Lotbinière’s rare books.

This is why I buy, collect, store and maintain books for a few years now:

  1. ebooks. The sole though of a cold, irritating modern projected light of a screen, interrupted by black pixels that represent letters makes my mind ache. I absolutely and utterly detest it. Working all day with a computer screen, 5 days a week is much more than enough. Consequently, all ebooks available in the world – are worthless to me.
  2. Loaning books from a library seems like the best idea. It’s economical, you have a great variety and you save storage space. The only thing is that it’s actually a bad idea that causes me great inconvenience. You get a book from the library, put it on your cabinet, it waits patiently for some attention but you have no time to reach it during the week. By the time you finally decide to pick it up and read, you have to give it back, or else… If I wasn’t working, that would’ve been great. In a previous blurb I described how being a teenager I craved to own the books I liked. And I do own every single one of them now. It’s like owning a part of the world, a time-capsule of ideas.
  3. Loaning to or from a friend. This is a whole issue. Let’s just put it this way – NEVER! Never will I loan from a friend or loan to a friend. The few times it happened, books just disappeared. Like ghosts. Books are precious to me and I don’t loan any precious things to nobody.
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WHY COLLECT BOOKS NOW? – Christopher de Lotbinière’s rare books

How obsessive do you want to be?  

The problem with any form of collecting, and also part of the fun, is how obsessive you allow yourself to become:  

Does it matter if a book is a first edition?

Not at all, I don’t collect rare books. What matters to me is the subject, but I do appreciate the older editions.

Does it matter if the jacket is OK, but there\’s a rip?

I have a few damaged goods, which I usually take care  of. Don’t have a problem with that as long as there are no missing pages. I hate missing pages! damn it

Should you fetishistically put a plastic wrapper on the jacket, so it doesn\’t get any more damage?

Well… I do have many books in plastic wrap, but then again I have even more without a wrap. The wrapping is on my To Do list…

Should you buy some more book shelves and start a proper library?

Definitely. I HAVE started my own proper library, and there’s never enough storage space. I like it when the books are comfortably situated on shelfs and in bookcases.

Wouldn\’t it be cheaper to get rid of the children, whose grubby little fingers show no respect for books, and just concentrate on the books?

Hey, here’s another good reason not to have children.

All in all I’d say I’m not obsessed at all…

via WHY COLLECT BOOKS NOW? – Christopher de Lotbinière’s rare books.

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Isn’t that magical how printed black signs work together and form an actual meaning? (or, My Reading History)

college library

The Western Galilee College library.

I was always encouraged to read at home. My mom read a lot growing up and she passed on her love of reading to me. I loved school and learning and doing my homework! I am such a geek! But a cool geek though.. I learned how to read Russian from my mom in order to read on my own the Russian collection we had at home.

I started to get more interested in reading in middle school and visited the tiny library there from time to time. Mostly I wanted to practice my English, I remember choosing the classics in English for beginners. In high school our small library had a little collection of art books that caught my attention. I was studying graphic design at the time and that department contained a collection of old album series of the greatest artists, It was an old edition from 1964. I was fascinated with that series of albums! I would visit our Public Library and go through the art books and at that time my friend got me reading the Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy. Go Raist! It’s the only Fantasy I’ve ever read. All this time I wasn’t the most eager reader, I didn’t read a lot. Also, I didn’t have a substantial variety to be inspired from. Living in a small town I only had one small Public library and practically no book stores (the horror!). In the late 90’s, I still had no idea what internet was. But I knew I liked books, and that one day I’ll be able to afford the ones that I wanted most.

Later on, at the age of 18 I joined the army and didn’t have time for reading at all, but precisely then I started to collect. I was getting an allowance and I was traveling more around the country. Many times I got to visit Tel-Aviv. Tel- Aviv was like another planet on its own. Everywhere there were old, secondhand book stores. It was affordable, there was variety, it was exciting like finding a priceless treasure

On holidays we used to get these coupons and guess what I used to buy?…. The biggest treasure I got from the coupons was “Fantasy Workshop” by Boris Vallejo and Jullie Bell. I purchased it in another town of course. Still can’t believe my luck, cus it’s a process book, with sketches and everything. It was soooo expensive.

After the army and after working for another year I quit and began my studies in Graphic Design. Finally, I was exposed to a two story heaven on earth, the college library! Although it’s also small for a college library, nevertheless I got my inspiration at last. The first year was tough and left me no time to explore, but on the second year I’ve already examined what the library had to offer as far as my interests went. By the third year I was using books as a reference and idea generating tool for my projects. Also at that time I got to some more serious reading. Every chance I got, I would go to the library.

dictionary

The widest book I’ve seen so far in person, 6” wide! Moses Sar’el’s collection, Western Galilee College library.

The college library literary changed my life. It contained something extremely special in it, a vast collection of a true bibliomaniac. That man was crazy about books! Everything worth reading, discovering, knowing, was of his inheritance. Most of the books in fact. A whole universe in one man’s private collection. His name was Moses Sar’el, he was a Sociology professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He bought the books in different old book stores across Jerusalem, throughout many years. Those book stores don’t exist anymore. When he died, in the early 90’s (his newest book I found was from 1993), his widow donated the collection to our college and thus freed the whole apartment that was blocked with books, even the bathroom! He’s one of the most influential non-existing people in my life. During my exploration in the library over 2 years, it felt like I was getting to know him, and I could even tell by the cover if that was Sar’el’s book. Most of his interests were dear to me as they were to him: art, especially the Italian Renaissance, ancient history and cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome, ancient and classical literature and poetry, dictionaries, ancient maps and more. The widest book I’ve ever seen in person was Sar’el’s “The New Century Dictionary of the English Language”, about 6” wide. Many copies of my collection today are the ones that I encountered and fell in love with in Sarel’s collection. Thanks to him I discovered so many new worlds and started to develop my own little Bibliophillia. The amazing Time life series of “The Great Ages of Man” was revealed to me in all its glory, Ernst Gombrich’s “The Story of Art”, Jacob Burckhardt’s “The Civilization of the Renaissance”, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” with Duré’s illustrations and many many more.

After graduating college, very luckily I found work pretty soon, and about a year I was extremely busy learning the craft of dissecting graphics in the real world for print. I still could take books from the college library for the next two years, and I did.

About 3 years ago I’ve experienced a new twist of events by discovering a popular Israeli site of book blogging, much like Goodreads and such, only here I could also purchase secondhand books from all over the country pretty easily. Need I say more? And the binging began…..

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