I had quite mixed feelings about Bound to Last: 30 Writers on their Most Cherished Book. There are a number of very good essays, but many of the others are on the short/shallow side (you get that bad magaziney feeling, cumulatively - there is no clear principle of selection for who is included, and people have spent quite evidently different amounts of time and thought in composing their pieces); there is also a genuinely distressing subtext of hostility towards electronic books! It is perplexing to me - I have seen it elsewhere recently too - why the sense of an opposition? It is surely not an either-or, a few of the writers here acknowledge this thoughtfully but more of them just lash out against the immateriality of the e-text.
Perversely, I read this book on my Kindle - I should have waited till I was back in the U.S. to order it, since I'm only reading it now anyway, but as soon as I heard about Ed Park's piece on "The Dungeon Masters Guide" I knew I had to get my hands on it at once, island living notwithstanding. That piece met or even exceeded expectations: it is a great little bit, and now I will have to get hold of a 'real' copy of the book so that I can xerox it and share it with others!
Other standouts: David Hadju on Ralph Ellison; Karen Joy Fowler on The Once and Future King.
Anyway, here's one of the bits I liked from Ed's essay - I too grew up on and loved those Wordly Wise vocab books! -- the whole pieces takes the form of 100 numbered points:
15. "In grade school, English class was divided between reading, grammar, and spelling. I liked the first, dreaded the second, looked forward to the last. The vocab book we used was called Wordly Wise. There was a whole sequence of them, with an owl on the cover."When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I used to race through two or three of those Wordly Wise lessons each week, burning through increasingly 'advanced' workbooks like a fiend: at the end of the week, I would take a spelling test on the words I'd learned (really I knew them already!), there would be perhaps 45 of them because I would have done more than one lesson's worth, and I would have to write a sentence to show that I knew the meaning of the word: but laziness and frenetic energy combined made me make huge absurd portmanteau sentences that would fit three or four or five of these words into a single sentence. I fear it left its mark on my writing style...
16. "At school I loved vocabulary lessons. Discovering new words. I remember distinctly the time we learned the difference between metaphor and simile--the time we learned what these words even were. The words themselves were so interesting. They weren't shaped like other words I knew. Simile reminded me of smile and, in doing so, made me smile."
17. "Dungeons & Dragons, particularly the Dungeon Masters Guide, was like the phantasmagorical appendix to Wordly Wise. My supplementary, self-directed lessons."
(I think I have some of these in a box in my office, I will see if I can dig them out; I am overdue for a posting on more Davidsonian juvenilia! I loved those workbooks - I would strongly recommend them to home-schoolers with kids aged 8-12 or so, I think they are ideal.)