Follow the Badge Lady

Badge Requirements

1. With the help of someone who know books, make a reading plan to use in the library in your school or community.

2. Read three different kinds of books: Travel, mystery, biography, adventure, or history.

3. For your troop make an exhibit of books about an activity you are working on such as nature or arts. OR Prepare for the troop a list of books that would be useful in troop activities.

4. Visit your school or public library to find out how to: Find a book through the card catalog. Use reference books to find answers to questions. Find magazine articles about special subjects. Use dictionary and encyclopedia. Find the publisher and price of a certain book.

5. Show your troop illustrations from several books you like. Explain why you like the illustrations.

6. Start a book collection of your own. Know how to care for them and how to mend them when necessary.

7. Tell how books were made in the days before printing. OR Make a bookplate for your book collection. OR Bind a book. 

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 Purpose: To find out about different kinds of books, how to use them, and how to care for them.


Favorites’ Favorites

Books badge requirement 1: With the help of someone who knows books, make a reading plan to use in the library in your school or community.

Rather than talk to an actual someone who knows books, I’ve decided to “consult” some of my favorite writers and put together a list of their selections.

First, from my all-time favorite author, Natalia Ginzburg, comes the recommendation of the British author Ivy Compton-Burnett. In her essay “The Great Lady,” Ginzburg, writes about her discovery of Compton-Burnett and her complex reaction to the “dry and airless” novels that at first she suspects she may loathe but is drawn to nonetheless, and later comes to realize “that in fact I loved them wildly.” Ginzburg’s love-hate relationship with the British author is enough to pique my interest, but then, I was surprised to learn that Compton-Burnett is on another writer’s favorites list: John Waters (whose films I enjoy but whose hilarious books I adore). That one of Italy’s greatest post-WWII writers and the trashy Baltimorean filmmaker should have a common aesthetic appreciation for the same author intrigues me, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it is they may have liked about her novels.

I’m a little more intimidated to delve into the works of Beckett, whom the superb Lydia Davis, another of my favorites, mentioned as an influence on her own spare and precise prose. She described, at a reading she gave at Barnes and Noble, her discovery of the literary master at a very young age; as the daughter of an English professor, she grew up around great works. On the other hand, I’ve never read anything by Beckett—an inadequacy I like to blame on my public school education even though that was long ago and I’ve had plenty of time to remedy the situation. If only I’d majored in English in college, I’d at least have had exposure to great literature while under the guidance of a learned professor rather than being left to navigate on my own.

But certainly an advanced education is not necessary to make my way through a novel by Bruce Jay Friedman (perhaps most widely known for the screenplay Splash). This lighter-weight recommendation comes from the wonderfully funny Julie Hecht, whose four books I never tire of rereading (as I wait, hopefully, for her to put out another work). She herself recommends Friedman’s novel A Mother’s Kisses to Andy Kaufman in her memoiresque Was This Man a Genius? and her fictional narrator recommends it to another character in her other books). While I’ve enjoyed some of the short stories of Friedman, I wouldn’t rave about them, but I’m willing, at Julie’s urging, to check out A Mother’s Kisses.

Finally, my reading list is rounded out by the suggestions of Jonathan Ames, whose let-it-all-hang-out essays and hilarious novels I’ve enjoyed immensely. Ames has mentioned Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain as an influence as well as P.G. Wodehouse. We had Wodehouse’s Jeeves books on our shelves when I was growing up and I recall picking up one or two to give them a try, but I’m not sure if I ever read through to the end; as an early teen I wasn’t captivated by characters of the Edwardian era, no matter how funny they may have been. And the formidable Mann, I know, I never picked up. Certainly not in my youth, nor have I been inspired to give him in try in adulthood, until now.

So here it is, my favorite authors’ favorite authors reading list:

Samuel Beckett

Ivy Compton-Burnett

P.G. Wodehouse

A Mother’s Kisses, by Bruce Jay Friedman

The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann

It’s a strange list, lumping in Bruce Jay Friedman with Beckett and Mann, but it should be interesting. I’ll make my way through the list during my Year of the Girl Scout, starting with The Magic Mountain, which I just picked up from the library. It looks dense and intellectual, and I hope to not only get through it, but to understand the deeper allegorical meaning, which I almost never get unless someone tells me. I did feel encouraged, though, by the very nice librarian who told me he’d carefully researched and then special ordered this particular translation, and that he himself was looking forward to reading the book in January with his book club. I wish I was in the book club with the very nice librarian instead of having to wade through Mann on my own. But I take comfort in the idea that I’ll be spending time with a literary version of friends of friends.