Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Second Reading, Notable and Neglected Books Revisited by Jonathan Yardley

During the seven years between 2003 and 2010, Jonathan Yardley published 97 occasional articles under the title Second Reading in The Washington Post in which he discussed "notable and/or neglected books" that he felt deserved reconsideration.  Sixty of those second looks are now collected in his latest book Second Reading, Notable and Neglected Books Revisited.

     As with his Post colleague Michael Dirda, Yardley has a wide range of tastes, although he comes across as more elitist than Dirda.  He praises John D. MacDonald's Travis Magee while dismissing MacDonald's earlier paperback originals.  He prefers the earlier Pogo to the more popular and more political later Pogo.  He offhandedly dismissed pulp fiction, something that should never be done with such a sweeping brush.  Yet each little essay is worth reading for his insights and well-defended opinions.  Robert Lewis Taylor, for example, has "an ability to discriminate between material that provides illumination and material that provides padding", a quality that allows Taylor's small biography W. C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes to stand out against much larger biographies of Fields.

     This is a book to be sampled, with a nibble here and a nibble there until the entire work is devoured.  It's a fascinating book -- albeit less immediate and satisfying to me than Patti Abbot's long-running series of Friday's Forgotten Books, though there is some overlap between the two.

     To pique your interest, these are the books covered:

  • H. M. Pulham, Esq. by John P. Marquand
  • W. C. Fields:  His Follies and Fortunes by Robert Lewis Taylor
  • The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Reveille in Washington by Margaret Leech
  • The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, translated by Robert Graves
  • Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  • The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald
  • The Woman Within by Ellen Glasgow
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  • Paper Tiger by Stanley Woodward
  • The Reivers by William Faulkner
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Someone Like You by Roald Dahl
  • The Long Season by Jim Brosnan
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Housebreaker of Shady Hill by John Cheever
  • The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse
  • The Sketch Book by Washington Irving
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Crazy Salad by Nora Ephron
  • A New Life by Bernard Malamud
  • Cyrano by Edmund Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker
  • The House on Coliseum Street by Shirley Ann Grau
  • Pogo by Walt Kelly
  • The Habit of Being:  The Letters of Flannery O'Connor edited by Sally Fitzgerald
  • The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Sachmo:  My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong
  • The Autobiography of Ben Franklin
  • Look At Me by Anita Brookner
  • Beat to Quarters by C. S. Forester
  • The Fathers by Alan Tate
  • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • The Revolt of Mamie Stover by William Bradford Huie
  • The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty
  • Fanny Hill by John Cleland
  • Poets in Their Youth by Eileen Simpson
  • The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Morte d'Urban by J. F. Powers
  • I Was Dancing by Edwin O'Connor
  • Only Yesterday by Fredericl Lewis Allen
  • Slouching Towards Bethleham by Joan Didion
  • Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  • The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss
  • The Shooting Party by Isobel Colgate
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White
  • Act One by Moss Hart
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Newspaper Days by H. L. Mencken
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
  •  Pomp and Circumstance by Noel Coward
  • The Bridge Over San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor
     In an afterward, Yardley lists the remaining 37 Second Reading columns, along with a link to finding them online:
  • About Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy Blount, Jr.
  • And Then We Heard the Thunder by John Oliver Killens
  • Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  • Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbraith, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbraith Carey
  • The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler
  • Cockfighter by Charles Willeford
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Dale Loves Sophie to Death by Robb Foreman Dew
  • The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
  • The Earl of Louisaina by A. J. Liebling
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Generation of Vipers by Philip Wylie
  • Giant by Edna Ferber
  • Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwim
  • The Heart Is a Lonely hunter by Carson McCullers
  • Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford
  • My Young Years by Arthur Rubenstein
  • Never Love a Stanger by Harold Robbins
  • No Left Turns  by Joseph L. Schott
  • Office Politics by Wilfred Sheed
  • The Ox-Bow  Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  • Penrod and Sam by Booth Tarkington
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman
  • Scott Fitzgerald by Andrew Turnbull
  • The Second Happiest Day by John Phillips
  • The Spawning Room and My Moby Dick by William Humphrey
  • St. Urban's Horseman by Mordecai Richler
  • The Stardust Road by Hoagy Carmichael
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Veeck -- As in Wreck by Bill Veeck with Ed Linn
  • Victory by Joseph Conrad
  • The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglas Wallop
     There you have it.  Ninety-seven columns.  Ninety-eight books.  Some fiction, some non-fiction, a smattering of mysteries and fantasies, even a western (two, if you count Giant), some adventure, some romance, nary a science fiction, and a few books I had never heard of.  How many have you read?


  1. Well, I've read a heck of a lot of them. And I was so intrigued by the mention of Taylor's bio of Fields that I had to go find the column and see what Yardley had do say. I loved that book, and I was surprised to see that Yardley owns the same 1967 paperback that I do. Taylor, by the way, was a wonderful fiction writer as well as biographer.

  2. Not as many as Bill, I suspect, but a fair minority. I suspect I might like this better than the usual run of Yardley columns I read during my DC-area days...and foresee a fair amount of disagreement if I do read it.