I loved reading from an early age. Charlotte's Web, Madeline, A Little Princess, The Wind in the Willows, A Child's Garden of Verse, Grimm's Fairy Tales. As I got older, there were poetry books and a scarlet leather-bound edition of the complete works of Shakespeare which held more interest for me than any fashion magazine. When my classmates were reading The BoxCar Children and Pippi Longstocking I was reading the works of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein and a whole other way of thinking opened up to me.
But reading is for me not just intellectual but embracive. I love the way the spine of a book feels in the crook of my fingers. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as my fingers gently turn it, sitting there in the easy chair late in the evening. As I open the page, I draw in breath, like a swimmer taking in one last draw of air before diving from a great height. As the words begin to flow, they seem bigger than they are, as a shadow is larger than that which casts it.
I often lose track of time, as the words rush slow and effortlessly above the sound of the wind, above all the world that lay outside. I take a sip of old Scotch and turn another page, the din of the world beyond these windows, nothing but diminishing noise, a soft sound of tearing silk.
The best moments are when I I'm reading a new book and come across something, a thought, a way of looking at the world, an emotion, which I thought was unique and particular to me, and now here it is, set down by someone who's probably been dead two hundred years. Powerful stuff. So, as I return back to duty, a few books for your perusal from my library here at the crash pad.
Emma by Jane Austen. I had a teacher who so wanted me to read it. Look, it's 400 pages of nothing much happening before the heroine grows up and marries some old guy and lives happily ever after. Make everyone a vampire and it's the same book you find on any teenage girl's shelf. Nothing blows up, young girl lives happily ever after . . . yawn.
The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon. This was the biggest book in the library as a child and for that reason only I was challenged to get through it. It's not really all that long by adult standards, but Barkley and I both lost interest pretty quickly.
SPARC Architecture, Assembly Language Programming, and C - for Dummies. A relative of mine wrote the original book -non dummy edition. Every time I open it I feel so beyond stupid I just put it down.
The Beer and Bacon Diet. Lose 30 pounds in 3 days. Still looking for it.
Bad Cow Puns - by Terry Bull
The Books You Want To Own Because They're handy.
The complete Jane's Books of Aircraft. I want the real shelf-hogging McCoy, not the ones on compact disc. I want big books of planes I have to move with a dolly.
Books That Might Be handy But You Really Don't Want to Own.
The Books To Put Aside To Re-Read This Summer:
Safe Return Doubtful - The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration by John Maxtone-Graham. Until the early 20th century, both the North and South poles remained alluring unknowns shrouded in a biting cold mystery that demanded resolution. Only a century ago, intrepid men dreamed of conquering the planet's last continent with tools unfit for purpose. For those men, heroism alone sufficed.
The author really does a fine job in exploring the fraternity that experienced not only heartbreaking defeat, but even death. Salomon Andree and his Arctic balloon vanished, Ernest Shackleton called it quits only ninety-seven miles from the elusive south pole, and his countryman Captain Robert F. Scott succeeded, only to cruelly perish retuning to base. Yet, with his death pending, Captain Scott wrote these words. " Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every every man, these rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale. . . "
The Books That Fill You With Bemusement:
Book of Etiquette, by Emily Post. I am only a generation or two past those things, taken as matter of fact now, previously considered positively scandalous. For example, in the edition released when I was a baby, it says that public airings of buttocks, cleavage and multiple piercings were not acceptable at a Cotillion (gasp).
Books that will give Big Brother the wrong idea. (Yes, he bought it.)
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold By John Le Carré There are few things quite as entertaining on a brisk fall night as the well-written thriller. This, one of many novels set in the Cold war, will certainly make you shiver. It chronicles the life of Alec Leamas, on his last spy mission, burned-out, seeking a redeeming end to the journey. Rendered with the symmetrical, mathematical precision of Bach, I still get goosebumps on reading the line, "And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Leamas understood the whole ghastly trick."
Uysses - By James Joyce. Ulysses is an epic that loosely follows The Odyssey, but within it dwells the heart of modern people with all their foibles and misdemeanors. It's so intricate- that I had a little trouble delving into it at first —but something struck a chord in me when Joyce talked "ineluctable modality of the visible." You shut your eyes, open them again, and find the world continues without your witnessing it. Seasons shift, people we love leave, yet the world continues on with beauty and wonder. It's a beautiful reflection on time and change and where one stands in the scheme of things we can not control.
The World As I See It - By Albert Einstein. A collection of softly brilliant essays by one of the great minds of the past century. "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving".
What's On Your Book Shelf tonight?