Friday, May 25, 2018

The Egg and I

The Egg and I, by Betty MacDonald

This somewhat fictionalized memoir came across the donation table, and I'd heard somewhere that it was fun, so I took it home to read in random moments.  Betty MacDonald may be familiar to some as the author of the wonderful Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books for children (in which Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who may be a witch and was definitely once married to a pirate, knows how to cure children who have fallen prey to bad habits and become Answer-Backers or Slow-Eaters-Tiny-Bite-Takers).

Betty MacDonald tells some hair-raising stories about her childhood in Colorado before she really gets going with her marriage to Bob.  Bob's dream is to be a chicken farmer in the Pacific Northwest and Betty gamely agrees, signing up for a life of isolation, no electricity, very hard work, and a stove that eats fuel but doesn't like to get warm.  And lots of rain.  And lovable but difficult neighbors, especially the Kettles.

She makes it all extremely funny and engaging, plus also you'll want to go live in the beautiful wilderness of Washington state.   If you take out the humor, you'll realize that it was a very hard life indeed and no wonder she was thankful to sell up and move to an easier spot.

It's a very enjoyable memoir, except for one thing; she is awful when writing about Native Americans.  I mean, terrible.  Luckily it's only a few chapters, but wow.  So watch out for that.

MacDonald wrote three other memoirs after this, about surviving the Depression, getting TB, and living on Puget Sound.


_____________________
One funny thing about my copy is that the type is exactly the same as in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books I read as a kid.  Chapter headings and all.  They must have been printed at the same time, I suppose!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Patience and Fortitude

Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library, by Scott Sherman

Let's talk about the New York Public Library!  You know the one, it's in a lot of movies, with the lions out front.  That is the 42nd Street main building, but the NYPL also has a whole lot of branch libraries.  The only one I've been to is the Greenwich Village branch, which looks like a red-brick castle.  Anyway, here is an interesting fact: the NYPL is not exactly a "public" library in the usual sense; it is not owned and operated by the City of New York.  It's a private non-profit which is governed by a board of trustees.  It gets some city money for salaries, but much of its funding has to be raised privately and put into an endowment, which is controlled by the trustees, who are usually prominent, wealthy NYC people.  And the funding wasn't doing too well in the 1960s and 70s, and in the early 2000s it was pretty dire.  Branches needed major repairs, collections were slipping, it was all very depressing.

Patience and Fortitude is about the trustees of the NYPL getting a little bit off-track.  They're entrusted with running a huge, complex system, part of which involves popular daily services, and part of which involves deep research collections available to all (unlike most research collections!).  But the trustees at this time were enamored of imitating corporations like, say, Netflix or FedEx, and wanted to slim down and find more money.  They developed a plan to "monetize non-core assets" -- that is, sell library branches for the real estate value -- and also do a grand renovation of the 42nd St. building for huge amounts of money, and also move most of the 42nd St. book collections off-site to be stored in New Jersey.  Patrons would have to order books and wait for delivery.  This would be fine, because the future is all ebooks anyway, and it would all be computers and book scans.  Somehow, the renovation (costing $300 million) would result in $15 million of yearly revenue.  At the same time, specialized research librarians who curated some amazing collections were let go, as the city kept cutting budgets.

All this planning was being done on the quiet, and it was about to all happen, but the 2008 recession interrupted the project.  A few years later, it was revived, but this time word got out more quickly.  Protest and controversy erupted.  Each side accused the other of elitism.  Architects pointed out that the proposal to tear the multi-storied steel stacks out of the library would be really quite a serious problem, especially since the floor of the reading room is supported by those stacks.  Arguments went back and forth, until the whole thing finally fizzled.  Trustees agreed not to sell the Mid-Manhattan branch, but to overhaul it instead.  The stacks would stay, but they had already been emptied.  And the Donnell Library, home to a beautiful world languages collection, was gone, sold for cheap to a real-estate developer who promised to put a smaller library into the basement of the new tower to be built there.

The ending of this book is sort of happy, in that the stacks and the Mid-Manhattan library survived.  I found it mostly sad, though.  The stacks still stand empty, their contents apparently stashed in various warehouses, with some of it just unknown or lost.  The Donnell Library's replacement did open, but it's not quite the same.  The Mid-Manahattan Library is finally actually being renovated and is not open yet.

The NYPL is planning a new giant renovation of the 42nd St. building, though this time it promises to leave the stacks alone.  I'd hope they'd overhaul the air system down there so the books can be put back where they belong; I don't know where those books are, but I bet they're not in proper storage facilities.

I found reading this book to be a stressful experience!  I kept feeling all this dread and my stomach would twist into knots.  I did not enjoy reading about the decline of the world-class Slavic collection.  I wish people would stop thinking that libraries should be like Netflix.  Netflix should be like Netflix, but libraries should not.  This was popular thinking when I was in library school, too, and I remember one large city library boasting that it was all about popularity, and it had stringent standards for keeping books; if a book didn't circulate 7 times a year, it was out.  Aigh!  This is not to say that weeding is not an important part of collection development; it is.  But you have to take into account the purpose of the collection, and the needs of people whose tastes may not run to James Patterson.

Appreciate your friendly neighborhood public library today, folks.  And if you're in New York, drop by a branch and tell the beleaguered librarians hello for me.  Maybe give Patience a pat.


Oh, and I did want to share with you this nice bit of writing by William Zinsser from 1961 about the NYPL and "the quality of freedom":

This is a building that takes no sides because is presents all sides.  It grants its visitors the dignity of free access to information.  It does not hide the ugly or censor the injurious.  These guarantees are woven through every division, and often they take extraordinary form.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson

Oh, let's have a little controversy here at Howling Frog, shall we?  Oh boy.

Until fairly recently, Peterson was a popular but unfamous lecturer of psychology in Canada.  He'd done a stint at Harvard, written a book about Jungian psychological stuff, and was your average moderately-left Canadian.  Then he went on TV to protest a proposed law which would mandate the use of preferred pronouns.  (This is coerced speech.  It's not even censorship, the government saying you can't say something; it's the government saying that you HAVE to say something.  That is a power no government should have, and it's definitely worth protesting.)  And everything exploded.

Peterson is now enormously vilified and even more enormously popular.  His lectures are easily available on YouTube -- he talks a lot about archetypes and Jungian interpretations of myths and Bible stories.  He appeals to disaffected, directionless young men, essentially by ordering them to clean up their lives and make something of themselves.  While I get why a lot of people don't like Peterson, he seems to be making a real difference in the lives of exactly the kind of young men who are most at risk of falling into the trap of extremism.  Which all by itself makes him a rare and important influence, and somebody to keep around.

He had already been writing this book, I gather -- it's pretty hefty, 400 very dense pages -- and it wound up getting published at just the moment when everybody was starting to hear about this guy.  So I read it.

There are twelve 'rules,' which are unpacked in twelve long chapters.  They range from "stand up straight with your shoulders back" -- that is, be ready to engage with the world courageously -- to "assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't."  The rules often turn into long pieces on the importance of attention, of building meaning in your life, and so on.  He sounds like a wordier Viktor Frankl sometimes, and he quotes Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Nietzsche a good deal.

There is a lot about tragedy; Peterson figures that the central problem of life is dealing with the fact of suffering and evil.  Life is not about happiness, he says; happiness is fairly unusual and fleeting, so what are you going to do when things are bad?

It's a pretty interesting book, with lots to think about.



  Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  Make friends with people who want the best for you
  Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
  Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
  Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie
  Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't
  Be precise in your speech
  Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Monday, May 21, 2018

Towers in the Mist

Towers in the Mist, by Elizabeth Goudge

This was our readalong title for Elizabeth Goudge Day, and I'd been saving it for a whole year.  It is one of the "Cathedral City" trilogy and set in Elizabethan Oxford, the others being The Dean's Watch (Victorian Ely) and City of Bells (Edwardian Wells).   And boy, does she have a good time with the Elizabethan setting!

This is a family story, so we get to know all of the Leighs: the Canon of Christ Church, his many children, and the elderly and imperious Great-Aunt Susan.  But we start first with a young scholar, Faithful, who has walked to Oxford in the hope of getting an education despite his penury and is sort of adopted by Canon Leigh.  Mostly we follow Joyeuce, the eldest daughter, who has been burdened with the housekeeping since her mother died four years ago.  She finds it extremely difficult, and then a wealthy but perhaps unsuitable scholar, Nicolas, wants her to sneak out to see him.

The house is almost as much a character as the rest of the family, and apparently it was Goudge's actual home while her father worked at Oxford.  She seems to have populated her lonely house with plenty of company!  She also entertains herself by describing daily life and sprinkling famous characters throughout; Philip Sidney and Walter Raleigh are both there as teenagers, and the whole thing works up to a grand visit by the Queen.  And it's all done in a sense of fun; there are jokes and humorous asides all throughout the story that lighten the serious and even tragic events.  I think this might be the story where Goudge allows herself to have the most fun in an adult novel.

I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading it again.  Of course, all the descriptions of embroidery and tapestry work might have helped with my impression.  But it really was a delightful read all 'round.

20 Books of Summer!

I was really, really hoping that Cathy at 746 Books would repeat her 20 Books of Summer Challenge, and hooray, it's here! 





The rules are simple: pick (or don't) 20 books to read between June 1 and September 3.  It's OK to change them, it's OK to leave blank spaces, and it's OK not to finish.  Go for 10 or 15 if you prefer!


I have chosen 22 titles, because I want to be able to throw a couple out if I don't like them.  Here they are:
  1. Miss Mackenzie, by Anthony Trollope
  2. The Sybil, by Par Lagerkvist
  3. Angels in the Mist, by Ryan Southwick 
  4. The Pocket Enquire Within
  5. The Glatstein Chronicles, by Jacob Glatstein
  6. Child of All Nations, by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
  7. Autumn Equinox, by Jabbour Douaihy
  8. Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
  9. Stories by Lu Hsun
  10. Old Demons, New Deities (Tibetan short stories)
  11. Four Birds of Noah's Ark, by Thomas Dekker
  12. Maps, by Nuruddin Farah
  13. Lectures on Russian Literature, by Vladimir Nabokov
  14. 800 Years of Women's Letters
  15. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, by Caitlin Doughty
  16. A Golden Age, by Tammim Anam
  17. The Shadowed Sun, by N. K. Jemisin
  18. Little, Big, by John Crowley
  19. Justinian's Flea, by William Rosen
  20. Dark Emu, Black Seed, by Bruce Pascoe
  21. The Light and the Dark, by Mikhail Shishkin
  22. Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Carlie LeDuff


I even did a little statistical analysis:
  • 8 TBR titles (2 for Adam's challenge)
  • 7 Reading Around the World titles
  • 5 Classics Club titles
  • 8 non-fiction / 14 fiction
  • 4 women / 18 men (!)  This is surprisingly unbalanced for me; I usually favor women writers pretty heavily.  But then a lot of these are books I've been putting off for a while...well, we shall see.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Dawning

The Dawning, by Milka Bajic-Poderegin

I now have a pile of books that is really pretty daunting; there are nine sitting here waiting for me.  But I have an interesting reason; I've been working on a guest post and it's taking up most of my blogging time.  It's for a much more professional kind of blog, and I'm quite nervous about the whole thing.  Stay tuned!

I think I mentioned that my husband and I spent a weekend at Tahoe recently, and the long drive back and forth gave me some fabulous reading time.  I spent much of it immersed in this lovely novel.  I found it at my library and thought it would make a good pick for my reading around the world project; the back cover copy said it was set in Bosnia.  Well, it turned out to be a good deal more complex than that once I really got started!

The Dawning was written in Serbo-Croatian about (mostly) ethnic Serbs, set in what was then Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is now Montenegro.  I finally decided to count it as my Montenegro title.   Milka Bajic-Poderegin wrote it in the early-mid 1960's (presumably under the Communist Yugoslavian regime) and died in 1971; it was first published in 1987 and was her only novel, but she had planned it to be the first in a trilogy that would extend through the end of World War II.

The setting is quite specific: the real village of Plevlje, which is now a good-sized town.  We start in the mid-nineteenth century, under Ottoman rule, and end just as World War I ends, but much of the story is spent at the start of the twentieth century, at a time when Austrian troops were occupying the area in cooperation with the Ottomans.  It's quite confusing to those of us without a basic grasp on the history, but luckily there is a foreword to help.

The story starts with Savka's wedding; she is barely 15 and hardly knows her new husband, Tane, but she gradually settles in and comes to love him.  His murder while traveling for business is a great shock, from which she never really recovers, but she takes solace in her children.  (The murder struck me as interesting because the servant comes back and blames the Turks, who he claims ambushed them, but Tane's brothers are anxious to avoid blaming the Turks, despite seeing them as oppressors.  They are certain that the servant is guilty.)

Savka's daughter, Jelka, is the center of the novel.  As a young woman, she falls in love with Janko and chooses him over her uncles' objections, to their anger.  Her life, embedded in Janko's extensive and dramatic family, is meticulously chronicled.  She has several children and runs a large establishment but she has many difficult times.  Janko has wide interests and desires to make friends with both Turks and Austrians, with the result that Jelka's life broadens and she becomes good friends with the pasha's wife, and gets to know Austrian ladies a little as well.  As her children grow up, the political situation becomes more precarious and Janko becomes ill, forcing Jelka to manage everything alone.

Jelka's youngest daughter, Milena, becomes the final protagonist of the story as she matures, trying to get more education (difficult under the circumstances), and watching the dawn of a new day for Serbians who have hoped for freedom for over 500 years.

As I said, the political background is complex.  I think it's important to know that at the time, Serbians had a sort of legend or belief that at the battle of Kosovo in 1389, Prince Lazar had to make a choice between victory and an earthly kingdom, and the Kingdom of Heaven (which would come with defeat and captivity on earth).  He chose heaven, setting the Serbs on a long path of purification through suffering which would only end in 1912 with victory over the Turks and independence.  That's part of the novel's theme, which looks forward to a dawning day of Serbian freedom and progress.  But all the political stuff is also mostly kept in the background.

At the same time, Poderegin shows a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society in which people mostly get along most of the time.  Muslims and Christians (and even a few Jews) rub along together -- Serbian, Turkish, Bosnian, Austrian, and others (Poderegin doesn't really distinguish between Serbs, Montenegrins, and Bosnians at all that I can tell).  There is some strife, especially when conditions are uncertain, and everybody has their flaws, but there is a quiet insistence that it's better to be courteous, friendly, and to live together under the conditions that nobody around here created anyway.  This exists alongside joy in the prospect of Serbian independence, fleeting as it is going to be.

But more important than all the politics (and the reader's tragic knowledge of what comes after*), it's a novel about women, domestic life, and finding ways to survive the most difficult of circumstances.  I found it captivating.  I really enjoyed it a lot, and I hope a few other people will find it too.



------------------------------------------------------------------
*Fun fact I learned from this novel: the name Slobodan is based on the Serbian word for liberty.  Yeesh.  But there are a lot of Slobodans; it's a fairly popular name.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Linnets and Valerians

My copy's cover, which I like
Linnets and Valerians, by Elizabeth Goudge

For Elizabeth Goudge Day a couple of weeks ago, I got into the mood to re-read Linnets and Valerians, which is really my favorite of her children's books I have read (there are several I haven't).  It reminds me very much of an E. Nesbit story!  For one thing, there are four siblings in 1912 whose father is going out to India; a very familiar setup.

Nan, Robert, Timothy, and Betsy Linnet are staying with their very stern grandmother while their father is gone, but it isn't working out at all.  Pretty soon, Robert decides that they must all simply run away and leads them out on an expedition.  Luckily for them, they meet up with a grumpy, elderly gentleman who turns out to be their own uncle, and he agrees to keep them.  It soon becomes evident that although the area is mostly idyllic, there are a few nasty folks on the scene too.  The children's adventures lead them all over the hills and into the answer to an old and tragic mystery.

Goudge's characteristic love of nature and favorite theme of redemption for all are both on full display here, with a fairly large dollop of magic added.  The people are all beautifully characterized and distinct, and there are a lot of bees, which I always enjoy.  This is just a lovely book to read.  I can't say I love the current book cover on Amazon, but it is available and on Kindle too.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Upside of Stress

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For You, and How to Get Good At It, by Kelly McGonigal

Well, you have to read a book by Professor McGonigal.  This was actually recommended to me, and now I'm going to recommend it to all of you, even every member of my family, because I plan to make them read it too.  It's just a really interesting book that contains some fascinating research into the nature of stress, how we deal with it, and how we can deal with it a lot better by tweaking a few thoughts.

One weird element of modern society is that people tell us to avoid stress in such a way that just makes most people laugh hopelessly.  We're convinced that stress makes us sick and unhappy, and yet most of us cannot avoid difficult workplaces, illness in the family, financial worries, and lots of other stressful things.  BUT!  It turns out that stress is far more complex than we thought, and humans are in fact great at dealing with it.  This makes intuitive sense; after all, life has always been difficult and we developed to deal with it.  If we weren't pretty tough we wouldn't be here.

Research shows that how we think about our stress has a large -- even a surprisingly large -- effect on how we deal with it.  A lot of the time when we're feeling worried (say, about an exam) we interpret it as imminent failure, as an inability to deal with the situation.  But we can also interpret it as excitement and preparation to bring a lot of energy to the task.  Stress means that a lot of physical and mental systems kick in to deal with a challenge.  And just changing our thinking around these feelings can help us to take advantage of that energy.

Stress can also nudge us into reaching out for help.  We don't only have a fight-or-flight response; we also tend to want to reach out to others, and that can help us to face the situation.  Common wisdom often encourages us to escape stress, but in fact we can do a lot better by helping our loved ones, serving others, and caring for people.

And finally, McGonigal channels Viktor Frankl and says that it's very helpful to find meaning in our suffering.  We can do this by thinking about why we're stressed and what's important to us in this situation. So:

The science also tells us that stress is most likely to be harmful when three things are true:
  1. You feel inadequate to it; 
  2. It isolates you from others; and
  3. It feels utterly meaningless and against your will.
As we've seen, how you think about stress feeds into each one of these factors.  When you view stress as inevitably harmful and something to avoid, you become more likely to feel all of these things...In contrast, accepting and embracing stress can transform these states into a totally different experience.  Self-doubt is replaced by confidence, fear becomes courage, isolation turns into connection, and suffering gives rise to meaning.
She's not just talking about simple problems here.  McGonigal is careful to state that she herself has struggled with a a fairly severe anxiety problem, and that the strategies she outlines can be most helpful to the folks with the most difficulties.  One of the most interesting parts of the book is her description of her work teaching job skills to people in poverty, with more problems than most of us deal with.  She found that talking about this stuff could make an enormous difference.

I thought this was a fabulous book, and one that Everybody Should Read.  My younger daughter has started it and says she likes it too.  Go forth and read!


-------------------------------------

In other news, it's been really hard to find any blogging time lately, maybe because the semester is winding down.  There's all this stuff happening -- concerts and graduation (for one kid), and I had a lovely opportunity to spend a weekend at Tahoe with my husband too.  That was really nice.  And I went and saw TWO movies in one week!  One was an all-time favorite, Labyrinth, which then sparked a desire to read the Jim Henson biography I've wanted to read for a couple of years now.  And it's great!  I've got lots of other good books to tell you about too....though it may have to wait until my job ends after next week!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht, by Gustav Meyrink

I saved this book to read over actual Walpurgisnacht, which is April 30.  The novel starts at that point and then continues for a couple of months, except that time is also stalled; the characters can't get past it.  Meyrink wrote Walpurgisnacht in 1917, and it continues the train of thought he was following in his prior novel, The Green Face, which I haven't read yet.  I guess I got it a little bit out of order.

The story is set in Prague, during World War I.  German officials and aristocrats live in a sort of palace/office complex and virtually never leave; certainly they never, ever cross the river to the ordinary people of Prague.  The river (Moldau then, now Vltava) is a nearly uncrossable barrier.  These aristocrats are few, elderly, decrepit, and senile, with the exception of the young and voracious Polyxena.  She is carrying on an affair with Ottokar, a poor violinist.

The actor Zrcadlo (Mirror) appears at the palace; he might be dead, or possessed, or just strange, but he has a talent for changing his appearance.  He may be reflecting your soul back at you, or he might be a conduit of communication with far-off magicians.  As Ottokar gets involved with violent revolutionaries (who have few goals besides revolt), Polyxena discovers an occult talent for possession and uses Zrcadlo to influence the mob.  They crown Ottokar king -- but not for long.

Like Meyrink's most famous novel, The Golem, this is a very strange novel, with comic and grotesque elements. It presents the rulers of European empires and tells us that these empires are dying, about to fall, and that they deserve to do so.*  It presents the populace as different, but no better; they are violent, ignorant, and eager to seize power themselves so as to become the oppressors.  Nobody is benevolent, certainly not Polyxena or Ottokar.  And all of that is mixed up with a large dose of Meyrink's bizarre imaginings, and his obsession with, and hatred for, Prague.
Furious, he chewed at his fingernails, surreptitiously observing the others from beneath his eyebrows, to see what attitude they would take.  Discord was the last thing he wanted at the moment; above all, he had to keep the reins firmly in his grasp.  He was determined to lead a movement, what banner it went under was unimportant.  He had never in his life believed it would be possible to put nihilist theories into practice, he was much too intelligent for that.  He left that kind of nonsense to dreamers and fools.  But to whip a stupid crowd into a frenzy with anarchist slogans and in the ensuing confusion secure some position of power for himself -- to sit for once inside the carriage instead of on the box -- that, he realised, was the message behind all the anarchists' teachings.  The secret slogan of the anarchists, "You get out of the way and let me in," had long been his, too.

"What does the fellow want?" he asked aloud.
"Don't know," was the laconic reply.
"What does he look like?"
"Different every day, if it please your Honour."
"What on earth does that mean?"
"Well, Stefan Brabetz changes his clothes every five minutes.  So that no one will know it's him."
Halberd thought for a while.  "All right, let him in."

He was filled with content at the presentiment that the Walpurgisnacht of life was soon to give way to a day more radiant than anything he had experienced during his life...

Nobody could call Meyrink easy to read, but he's certainly interesting.  I plan to read The Green Face too, hopefully sometime soon -- but there are so many books to read...




*Looking at the situation from the other end of a century or so of even more violence than the empires managed to accomplish, it's much easier to note that they had their good points.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Fire in the Bones

Fire in the Bones: William Tyndale -- Martyr, Father of the English Bible, by S. Michael Wilcox

It's a biography of William Tyndale, the great translator of the Bible into English!  I had this recommended to me a few years ago and it's been on my TBR shelf ever since.  It's written from an LDS perspective, and would not really be of interest to others.  Plus, Wilcox's tone is frankly kind of adulatory, which feels a little odd if you're more used to biographies that aim for a semblance of objectivity.

Wilcox puts a lot of historical background into the book, assuming that the average reader won't necessarily be all that familiar with late medieval and Reformation-era figures.  So Wycliffe and the Lollards get an introduction before Tyndale does, and Wilcox makes sure to explain who the various players are, especially Cromwell and More.  And boy is he partisan; he shows a grudging respect for Sir Thomas More as a famous humanist, martyred for his faith, but on the whole Wilcox is solidly on the Reformation side and doesn't like More one bit.

It's a detailed, interesting biography of Tyndale, though, which follows him through all his difficult moves around Germany and the Netherlands.  There is also plenty of space given to the details of translation and the phrases Tyndale coined that have become English idioms, which is a lot of fun.  Wilcox considers Tyndale's translation to be one of the great accomplishments of the age, and the King James Bible (which used a good deal of that translation) to be the greatest work of English literature, with only Shakespeare in competition.

I enjoyed reading this biography, and I've been planning for a long time to follow up with one of Tyndale's own works, The Obedience of a Christian Man, to get a better idea of what he was really like.  This is a nice book, but Wilcox is so enthusiastically and completely a Tyndale fan that it comes off as rather one-sided.