About Interesting Books

I list my current reading, with Amazon.com links to the books, on the right sidebar below. A loved one suggested this addition because, she said, it  is interesting to see the writer and the reader side-by-side.  The sidebar merely lists links.  I created this page to explain my love affair with books, and to enable dialogue about the books in my list, books generally, or bibliophilia.

I am a very slow reader. Some books, for example, a Dan Brown or a Daniel Silva thriller, I race through in days. More typically, it takes me weeks or months or occasionally years to finish a book. I have begun books and never finished them because I ceased to love them. That which I love I long to understand. Misunderstanding, though it is the human condition, frustrates me enormously. Understanding takes time. Too often, as invariably with human beings, I can only roughly approximate understanding. But the little understanding takes me a little and valuable place where I wasn’t before the encounter.

There is a little, but very little, aesthetic about my bibliophilia. I have a collection of old hardback classics displayed in my living room shelf and a couple of thematic displays. But the vast majority of my books are paperback and dog-eared, with scribbles and exclamation marks in the margins. My books are active and archival relationships. I remember them ill and well, more often the former as the years pile up. I know for certain, even if I cannot remember any detail of consequence about a book I have read, that it once stretched me, as invariably with the human beings in my life. I know for certain that I would benefit in breadth and depth by re-reading my favorites, that I would experience a different a more textured relationship — or perhaps discover the end of a relationship, but I rarely re-read. It takes so long and life is short and there is so much new reading to do.

I think of books, this side of science-fiction black holes, as the easiest and cheapest routes to alternative universes available to us. Our existence is trapped. We know the little we know, we engage our wee immediate world the little we do, we draw typically spurious conclusions from the tiny experience we’re actually permitted as a single human being — and if, under these circumstances, it were possible to make ourselves just a little less tiny, wouldn’t we seize it enthusiastically? Wouldn’t we long to be less wee?

Every book, well chosen, positions us, less insecurely, in a universe that makes us infinitesimal. Every book, well chosen, contributes a dollop of doubt and a little more comfort. If we live authentically, whether secular or religious, we do so with a very human juggling of doubt and comfort. Books, well chosen, more so than any medium, contribute beautifully to both.

4 Responses to About Interesting Books

  1. Thelma says:

    It looks like you need a little more of The Little Prince these days. I highly recommend reintroducing yourself to Roald Dahl. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8328574/Roald-Dahls-10-finest-hours.html

    • Roald Dahl is darker than me. The Little Prince is an apt counterpoint. But I take your point, and I’ve revised “About Interesting Books” a bit.

  2. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Bill Bryson is one of my favorite writers and I’ve read almost everything he’s written – “A Short History…” is at the top of my list of favorite books. “In a Sunburnt Country” left me with an aching desire to see Australia some day. A fine book makes me want to be there, to experience the same. I read voraciously in spurts – usually on vacations away from my paint supplies and my computer. I looked at the others on your list and will definitely pick up some of them. Spot on and aptly said, your description of the reading experience, that we’re left “with a very human juggling of doubt and comfort.”

    • I loved “A Short History…” It was like successive waves of being blown away by the scales of space and time, from the infinitesimal to the enormous. The closest I get to speechless awe — to the sensation of miracles — are my forays into what science already knows, and what it doesn’t. And Bryson is such a wonderful and engaging writer.

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