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I love books.

Paper books.

Big, beautiful paper books that are not only filled with artwork, but also with information.

Some women complain that they want a bigger kitchen.

I complain that I want a bigger library.

In addition to an actual library in my home, there are mini-libraries in practically every other room of the house. I told you, the library is much too small. My kitchen is huge, but I’d happily transfer some of that extra space up into my precious Book Haven if I could.

I don’t typically consider myself a snoopy person, but when it comes to seeing what books people have on their bookcases (or how few books are actually in a bookcase because there’s so much junk — yes, if that’s you, I’m judging you hella-hard right now), I become the offspring of Nancy Drew and Jessica Fletcher — who also happens to have Ms. Marple for a babysitter… like that. *snaps fingers*

Apparently my floor needs dusting…

Books can tell a lot about a person. Not just your likes and interests, but they can also provide a bit of insight into your character, and the type of person you are.

In 2020, I added 11 new books to my library. It’s an eclectic mix of subjects to be sure, but they all share one thing in common: They’re all quintessentially “Wendy”.

Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertit, Tutankhamen (1999)

In 1999, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston organized an exhibition titled, “Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen”. It featured nearly 300 objects on loan from thirty+ institutions and private collections. This beautiful softcover coffee-table-quality book serves as a companion catalogue and personal tour of the exhibition.

When I was young, I was the kid who always begged to head straight to the mummy room at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I was also the kid who wanted to stay up and watch all the documentaries about Egypt and her mysterious antiquities. While my penchant for mummies has definitely waned, my love of all things Egyptology has not. And any literature concerning Akhenaten — Egypt’s notorious monotheistic pharaoh — immediately pings my radar.

Museum/gallery catalogues are some of my favourite resources to acquire. Especially when I can pick them up second-hand for sometimes a fraction of the original price.

And speaking of… the next book I’ll share came last February, and is one that I had literally wanted for 15 years. It’s a softcover gallery catalogue that I first saw and distinctly remember wanting very badly back in 2005 when my BFF Krystal and I visited the Art Gallery of Hamilton — and my life was changed forever.

Heaven and Earth Unveiled: European Treasures from the Tanenbaum Collection (2005)

When we visited, we were initially unaware of the special exhibition the Gallery had recently opened. After being extremely disappointed with the artwork in the main gallery, it was actually a friendly security guard who suggested that we also take in the free exhibit, “Heaven and Earth Unveiled: European Treasures from the Tanenbaum Collection”. Unlike the eclectic offerings of the main gallery, this collection focused primarily on 19th century European paintings — the styles of which were right up my alley.

The story behind how experiencing this unexpected exhibition one hot August day changed the course of my life forever is a topic for another blog post. But for now, suffice it to say that back in 2005 when the Gallery wanted (if I recall correctly) something like $90 for this book, I went home empty handed and broken hearted.

Lavergne’s “David with the Head of Goliath” has haunted my memory since 2005. Having stood face to face with this life-size painting I can tell you that the photo in the catalogue is an absolute travesty — in person, David’s hair is a burning, fiery orange colour, and his eyes glow a brilliant blue. It was beyond striking, commanding my attention the minute I walked into the room.

A few years ago when I finally got my hands on another rare catalogue from an exhibition I had attended in 2002, it set me on a mission to find this one as well.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous tome, a full inch thick, and includes small black and white as well as full colour images of every piece in the collection. The centerpiece of the showcase was Gustave Doré’s magnificent “The Triumph of Christianity Over Paganism”, which graces the cover of the catalogue. Neither myself nor Krystal had a camera, and this was before cell phones were so prevalent, so sadly there are no photos from our trip. But I did make a list of all the paintings I liked (which another security guard found amusing for some reason), and waited an entire decade to finally see them once again — online. Although much to my chagrin, many of my favourites are still not presented in high resolution, and the colour replication is atrocious.

I believe in having, above all else, a library that’s functional. Given my profession, I do tend to gravitate towards large books with full, high quality images, as I’m always looking for inspiration and resource material. But my library also contains many “research” books of a different sort.

Darwin’s Black Box (1996) and Darwin Devolves (2019)
Michael J. Behe

When I graduated high school in 2004, I knew that University wasn’t the path for me. From day 1, my dad supported my pursuit of a self-driven career in art, and I started down that path within the first year after school.

But being done with school not only allowed me to pursue my dream career, it also gave me the time to actually learn. I set out to research the topics and subjects that weren’t offered in school. And I had a long list of books I wanted to read.

One of these books was called “Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution”. I wish I could remember how I learned of this book; I know that I came across it in my own research, no one recommended it to me (though *I* would go on to recommend it to others!), and I was thrilled when my local library was able to bring in a copy for me.

Out of EVERY single book I have ever read other than the Bible, this is the one that I would highly recommend everyone read.

Behe is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. In the book, he puts forth none of his opinions, only stating known facts, asking that the reader come to a logical conclusion.

Natural selection (the Darwin version of “evolution”) says that parts of a creature evolve when they become necessary, but that the creature is still the same creature before and after it grows the new parts. Behe uses the simple mechanisms of a lowly mousetrap to illustrate how impossible and illogical this is. Because if you take away even one piece of a mousetrap, it ceases to function as a mousetrap.

Yes, this is a book of science, but Behe has the rare ability to make the information understandable to us laypeople who have zero background in the field. So you can absolutely sit down with this book and come away with at least a basic comprehension of the argument for “intelligent design” rather than natural selection/evolution.

I’ve been wanting to get this book for my own library since I first read it in 2006, and when I discovered that Behe had written a follow-up book, “Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution” in 2019… well, it only made sense to get them both!

Now, while my library may be primarily set up as a workable non-fiction resource, that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to buying books that are fun.

The Time Tunnel: A History of the Television Program (2012)
Martin Grams Jr.

Last May when I tweeted on actress Lee Meriwether’s birthday about her connection to the 1960s Batman, two different Twitter followers independently commented that I should check out her work on a short-lived science fiction program from 1966: The Time Tunnel.

I had never even heard of this program, let alone watched it. But a sci-fi show, from the ’60s, about history and time travel…?

I devoured all 30 episodes, one per night, over the course of a single month. And it was glorious.

James Darren and Robert Colbert star as scientists Tony Newman and Doug Phillips. Lee Meriwether co-stars as Dr. Ann MacGregor. The trio (along with Dr. Raymond Swain and Lieutenant General Kirk) are part of a top secret project called The Time Tunnel. And if this show wasn’t the direct precursor to MGM’s “Stargate”, well, then I’ll gladly jump into the tunnel and get lost in time myself!

The Tunnel isn’t ready to be tested, but things go awry and suddenly Tony and Doug find themselves being shuttled through time and space, temporarily being deposited at key moments in history where we, the viewer, get to witness events like the sinking of the Titanic and the battle at Little Big Horn. They land on an alien spaceship, and attempt to stop the assassination of President Lincoln. They meet Merlin the Magician, Hernando Cortes, and even befriend a woman named Rahab when they appear in the camp of Joshua… and go into the city of Jericho before the walls come tumbling down. (Spoiler: This was my favourite episode!)

I can’t express how much I loved this series. And I was devastated to learn that it was cancelled after only one season, leaving Tony and Doug (spoiler!) stranded in time forever.

In anticipation of eventually blogging about The Time Tunnel, I was able to get my hands on this ultra informative book by Martin Grams Jr. Stay tuned for the eventual said blog post……

The next book on my list of 2020 acquisitions is in the same vein as the last one, and features the work of Ray Harryhausen, pioneer and titan of the cinema.

Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema (2020)
Vanessa Harryhausen

In 2020, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art hosted an exhibition of 100 objects selected from Ray Harryhausen’s extensive archive, chosen by his daughter Vanessa. This book is a companion to the exhibition, but it’s so much better than an ordinary exhibition catalogue, like the two at the start of my list.

The book is absolutely brimming with gorgeous high quality, brilliantly coloured photos of Ray, his tools, his creatures, and his life. There are behind the scenes items, like a set of geometric wooden drawing blocks, models, preliminary drawings, movie posters and family photos.

It is amazing. If you’re a fan of Ray Harryhausen, animation, or art in general, then I guarantee that you’ll enjoy every single page of this beautiful book.

And speaking of books with high quality, high colour art in them, one of my best finds of 2020 was spotted “in the wild” when I visited a local vendor’s market in the spring.

The Big Game Animals of North America (1961)

Did I mention what a sucker connoisseur I am for of big, beautiful, fully illustrated coffee table books??

This 264 page hardcover book was written by Jack O’Connor, Gun Editor of Outdoor Life Magazine, who recounts his, and I quote: “action-packed adventures in hunting the big game animals and presents valuable information on how to locate, track and shoot them.” Well, I’m sold!! ;P The volume is illustrated by both Douglas Allen and Alexander Seidel; the latter contributing scientific portraits, and the former supplying full-page, full-colour paintings of each big game animal.

At the moment, I would consider myself to be primarily a wildlife painter, so I’m always in the market for a new art book to slip onto my studio bookshelf. This guy was a whopping $5!

I love the informative nature of the book, how it’s laid out, and the volume of expertly rendered animal illustrations and drawings.

In the same way that even as a child I was uncontrollably drawn to ’70s fashions and ’50s television, the very particular style of wildlife art from old 1960s hunting and sporting magazines has always called to me. It’s incredibly realistic, but you know it’s a painting. I think it might actually be my favourite style of art.

When I found the book, I was beyond excited that it still had its dust jacket — though it was hanging on by a thread… quite literally. In fact, the tiny sliver of spine that was holding the jacket’s front and back together tore as soon as the clerk bagged the book. But something else I love to do is repair old books, and I knew this dust jacket was salvageable. You don’t always need fancy or expensive supplies, guys: A little clear packing tape and a whole lot of patience later, and the book was clothed in its jacket once more!

Next up on my book list is actually a part of my Scooby Doo collection

Scooby Doo’s Greatest Adventures (2019)

In 2019, Scooby Doo celebrated his milestone 50th anniversary, and this is a 400+ page compilation of 30 stories from various Scooby comic books.

In theory, this book is an excellent idea. But in my opinion, the execution was a bit of a disappointment.

Both Gold Key and Whitman were publishing Scooby Doo comics by 1970-72. And Archie Comics had an excellent Scooby comic series in the mid-90s.

However, the earliest story in this compilation is from DC’s Scooby comic book series that began in 1997. Every other story included here is from 2000 onward.

Now, I get it, this book is being published by DC — so all the stories in it are from DC also. But honestly, I would have rather had this volume put together by someone who was willing to pull stories from ALL of Scooby’s 50 year history. That would have been epic, and a true collector’s piece.

It is a nice book though, printed on some unique type of hybrid paper that’s not “paper” paper like a vintage comic book, but also isn’t full-on glossy magazine type paper like comic publishers today seem to prefer.

All in all, a great addition to my ever-growing collection, and also it was only $15 so I had to get it!

Now, something I enjoy almost as much as Scooby Doo is cheesy B-grade horror films.

Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants Off America (1976)
William Castle
(2010 reprint)

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, then you likely know that my favourite film is the original 1959 “House on Haunted Hill” with Vincent Price. It was produced by the late and great ghoul himself, William Castle.

Castle was responsible for many terror-ific projects in the horror realm, including “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Tingler”, and a spooktacular series which I covered in a blog post last year, “Ghost Story“.

This book is Castle’s memoirs — the memoirs of a “B-movie mogul”, the cover boasts. I learned of the book while I was researching for the aforementioned post on Ghost Story, and honestly, when I thought about how much potential blog post fodder it likely contained, I just couldn’t help myself.

There’s a few photos inside, and an entire section chronicling the “cursed” events surrounding the production of Rosemary’s Baby. Castle, along with others, believed the film to be cursed, as there was a higher than average number of tragedies and misfortunes involving the people associated with its production.

Seemed like a no-brainer for me to add this to the bookshelf — right beside my copies of Peter Cushing’s memoirs, Bela Lugosi’s biography, Christopher Lee’s autobiography, and Denis Meikle’s well-illustrated history of Vincent Price’s career.

The last two books on my list today are good old-fashioned pocket-sized paperbacks, each of them acquired in November, making them my literal final book purchases of 2020.

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula and Other Stories
A TV “Special”
(Armada Paperback, 1979)

This looks and sounds familiar, I know.

Yes, I did write a 3000+ word blog post last October fanning hard about the season 2 premiere of “The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries”. The two-part story “The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula” aired on September 11, 1977 and marked the first time that the boys and girl sleuths worked together on the same mystery.

I have since seen every single episode of the three-season series, and much to my dad’s chagrin (he literally said to me back in October, “PLEASE don’t start collecting Hardy Boys stuff!!!!” Oops…), I have collected acquired a number of reallycooltotallyawesomecan’tpossiblylivewithoutthem neat vintage Hardy Boys/Shaun Cassidy items.

Missing from this photo is the Hardy Boys record holder that’s currently sitting at the post office waiting for me to pick it up… I know you’re reading this, dad… sorry!

Did I need this book? No. Did I want this book? Hecking YES. The entire series is a female mystery-lover’s absolute Teen Dream (chuckles), and honestly I just want to see how true to the show the book stays… and then stick it on a shelf with the rest of my groovy Hardy Boys stuff and admire it forever and ever.

Pretty hard to top THAT book, but I’m gonna try. What’s the one thing that trumps a current obsession? Your own personal childhood nostalgia.

Many Waters (1986)
Madeleine L’Engle
(Dell Laurel-Leaf Fantasy, 1987)

You know what popular saying I hate? “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. While I understand the sentiment… it’s kind of BS, especially when it comes to REAL books. The whole point of the cover is to 1) Illustrate SOMETHING relevant to the story, and 2) Entice potential readers into wanting to read the book so that they’ll buy it.

You are literally meant to judge the book based on its cover!! And I have discovered SO many wonderful books based on their cover art alone. As I’ve mentioned before, the very first Nancy Drew book I read when I was in Grade 5 was chosen because of the illustration on the cover. And many, MANY years later, it’s still my absolute favourite Nancy Drew. Plus, I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was 4 years old, so the cover art on books has always held a lot of sway with me.

Like “Many Waters” — a book that I wanted to read based 100% on this cover alone.

It was Grade 4, and I was thumbing through the shelf of paperbacks at the front of the classroom. We had a school library, but there was usually a book shelf in each of the classrooms too.

The instant I laid eyes on this cover… I simply HAD to read the book.

The title isn’t anything spectacular, it really doesn’t give you any indication what the book is about. And I’d never read anything by Madeleine L’Engle before, so I also had no idea what “The Time Trilogy” was.

I just knew that with a cover THIS colourful, well painted and eye-catching, it was more than likely going to be an enjoyable book.

I was right. And I then proceeded to read every Madeleine L’Engle book I could get my hands on.

Back in the ’90s, there wasn’t any Amazon or eBay if you wanted to buy an old book — especially when what you were actually after is a particular cover. I’ve thought about this book my entire life, and while they were still printing new editions in the late 2000s, it was extremely difficult to find myself a copy of THIS particular Laurel-Leaf paperback. Subsequent cover art was atrocious. And any 1987 copies I found cost way too much to ship to Canada.

Guys, I’ve waited a long time to hold this book in my hands again. THIS book. And I managed to get it for a total of $4.79, AND it looks to be in completely unread condition with the spine intact. It was well worth the wait!

And there we have it: Every book I purchased in 2020. There are definitely years when I bought more books, but I think this might be my favourite variety of books that I’ve gotten. Some are useful, some are fun. And a few are the fulfillment of the dreams of Young Wendy.

Pretty hard to put a price on those, but you’d better believe that for a cheapskate like me, getting them for a GREAT price made it even more satisfying. ♥