Meditation on books

There are all kinds of readers. Readers who do so for leisure. Redears who only open a book when ordered to do so, or to reference a particular entry. readers who long to learn new facts, or explore new worlds. There are those who read for escape, for enlightenment, or for research. No one reader’s reason is better than another’s. The book doesn’t care.

The book itself is an extension of the human mind – a storage unit for thought. Long before the digital age, the books was developed to store, curate, and disseminate knowledge. The book welcomes all.

Bibliophiles, on some level, understand this. And I believe that all bibliophiles are readers first, whereas not all readers will become bibliophiles. Yet they all have the capacity for it – it just takes the right book.

What I’ve Read

Time frame…?

Books Bought:

  • Plato: Complete Works – Edited by John M. Cooper
  • NORTH: Finding Place in Alaska – Julie Decker, editor
  • Raven Steals the Light – Bill Reid & Robert Bringhurst
  • Travels in Alaska – John Muir
  • Nature Writing – John Muir (Library of America edition)
  • 100 Tough Questions for Japan – Itasaka Gen

Books Read:

  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir (unfinished)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • On National Parks – John Muir (unfinished)
  • Lycanthia; or The Children of Wolves  – Tanith Lee (unfinished)
  • The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel
  • Emerson: Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson (unfinished)
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Well, who knows. It seems like April was the last time I wrote about my book purchases and reading. So… Here’s a list. It is probably incomplete. I look at a lot of books.

During the months of May-July, my work was highly demanding. But not the real work. Just the work for a paycheck. And the pay wasn’t even that good. Sometimes it’s about trying things – picking them up, seeing if you like them. If not, you put it down and walk away.

Highlights – Alaska was the big one. I purchased two books in Alaska: Raven and NORTH. The latter was published by collaboration with the Anchorage Museum and University of Washington Press. It includes works of art in the museum collection and essays about the Last Frontier.

To say that I was moved by Alaska would be an understatement. It was magnificent, and I cannot wait to go back.

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I like to pick up books when I travel. They’re not the lightest souvenir, but I’ve always had a connection with books. In Ireland, I purchased a used copy of On the Road. In Germany, a Lutheran hymnal. While in Prague, I got a handmade notebook.

Raven Steals the Light is a collection of Native myths from the Haida people. The Raven is a trickster, and a spirit, and a god. “The Raven, who of course existed at that time, because he had always existed and always would…” It recounts many native tales of the beginnings of things, and reasons for things.

I had a lot of false starts with books. Oscar Wao, for one. I tried, but couldn’t quite bring myself to read it. Same with Emerson. Same with Lycanthia. With Muir and Thomson. I just could not bring myself to read much.

Partly I think it’s owed to my having a lot on my mind. Hence I’ve been reworking my routines. I have now been reading each night before bed, settling into Name of the Rose for about 30-45 minutes a night. Sometimes less, if I’m really tired. Umberto Eco is interesting. I remember trying to read this book shortly after graduating high school, while sitting in a wing backed cushioned chair at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t get all that far into it.

It throws you Latin, and Italian, and maybe a splattering of French. Monastic terms I’m only vaguely familiar with, and some that I’ve never heard. Under all of that though, there is mystery and intrigue. A young monk has died mysteriously. If suicide, how did the window close behind him? If murder, is the assailant man (and thereby monk?), or something infernal? The Sherlockian monk William of Baskerville will use all his reasoning to get to the bottom of it.

It led me to discover the Italian mini-series, so I’m trying to find somewhere to watch that – with subtitles, preferably.

I added the two Muir books to my collection – I had been reading some essays by him before going to Alaska. I hope to finish at least one collection of his this year. Also the writings of Plato. I found this book used, and the fact that it was edited by Edith Hamilton caught my attention. I had done some myth research two years, reading over Hamilton as well as Joseph Campbell, and I wanted to see what sort of commentary was included in this book. I haven’t gotten around to opening it though.

I did just pop open Tools of Titans. I had picked it up on sale in December, and was just reading about Ferriss’s compulsion to record data.

I’m a compulsive note-taker. To wit, I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so. Roughly 8 feet of shelf space in my home is occupied by spine upon spine of notebook upon notebook. That, mind you, is one subject. It extend to dozens. Some people would call this OCD, and many would consider it a manic wild goose chase. I view it simply: It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

I too take many notes, and have amassed a pile of notebooks. Not like Ferriss – not to that extent – but I’ve been jotting things down since I was in high school, and I’ve got notebooks with varying degrees of use on my shelves, in the garage, and in storage. If I had my way, this is what my house would look like:

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Maybe my next house…

The High Cost of Education

(I started this post before doing a monthly reading list, of which I am tardy on this month. But I left this sitting in drafts. My goal over the next month is to complete every draft that I’ve started and get it published on the blog. What you’ll see is that I have a problem with spending money on books, I have a lack of space with which to house all of my books, and I have a lack of time with which to read all of my books. So, about the same as any other book-lover all over the world.)

I’ve paid for an education on credit. No, not the degrees that I’ve eared (though the debt I’ve accrued in earning those is substantial), but I specifically speak about my love of books, or bibliophilia. And what an education. I can’t help but peruse the stacks at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or the countless used bookstores that I frequent. The musty smell, a fragrance that only holds a hint of the words of thousands-upon-thousands of women and men, just waiting to be re-released into the world.


So I stack books on shelves, on top of each other, on the floor. I try and read as many as I can, though I usually only finish one per week, though if it’s particularly gripping I’ll get through it in a little less time. The point I’m making, though, is that I find it difficult to leave a bookstore without some acquisition (or two or three, etc). My collection on philosophy, metaphysics, logic and esoterica is growing just over the past year (2017 – I was contemplating enrolling in a PhD Philosophy program, but have set that on the back burner for now).

I keep one bookshelf in my room, just to store the current interests. I’ve got books from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alan Watts, Neil Gaiman, and Joseph Campbell. There are books on writing, time management, chakras, meditation, and philosophy. An entire shelf is made up of journals and notebooks – some blank, some partially written in, and others full of my scribblings. And every day, multiple times, I find myself just looking at the book shelf.

It may be impossible to read through everything I’ve purchased, but as John Waters said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Week’s Highlights

Some of the things that caught my interest this week.

  • Castlevania Anniversary Collection. A download for the Nintendo Switch, and I’ve only been playing a bit. But, Castlevania is much tougher than I remembered.
  • Mink the bear, a precocious donut-loving beat that just can’t stay away from Hanover, NH. We’re all hoping they can find a way to help her.
  • Additionally, how to help pangolins.
  • Why books don’t work. I’ve been wrestling with this one for the week. It makes a compelling argument for books as conveyors of facts being ineffective. Which, okay, perhaps books don’t make strong instruments of transferring facts. But ideas, books do transfer those well. You can come away from books without remembering all the facts, but you can recall ideas. Anyway, read if you’re interested.

Revisiting the catalyst

There was a moment, some three-and-a-half years ago, that started a chain of events still unravelling even now. I’ve often called Cameron’s The Artist’s Way my commencement down this road of self-discovery and change. To be fair, I’d always been inclined towards researching the spiritual and investigating possibility, but I was stuck. We all get stuck sometime.

Twice I’ve tried to work my way through The Artist’s Way. Once, three years ago, ended when I just didn’t have the will to continue with it. The second time, just under two years ago, I made it through ten weeks of work, but only half-heartedly.

There it sat, this book that I bought used and started investing my time into. I look at it from time to time, and consider revisiting it. Today I pulled it off the shelf, and while I’m not committing to it yet, it holds the possibility of more changes to come.

Walking a fine line

I’ve been thinking lately about the types of posts I make here. Some are little thoughts I have about this and that (theatre and performance, or books I’m reading/have read);  advice I’ve been given or came across; bits of motivation; very personal thoughts on loss and struggling; finance and investing; or even poetry. All these things are a hodgepodge of who I am and what I’m thinking right now.

Some of it may be interesting to someone. Many more may not find anything here. Others may not want to read each and every post I make, because who knows what I’ll be writing about on any given day.

I struggle with that – providing content (even content that no one may see) which goes back and forth from business to personal, and relevant to downright absurd. But, it’s who I am.

I started writing this blog because I’d kept a journal since 2015. Some times I’ve written daily. Right now I’m best at weekly in the journal, with other writing thrown in during the week. But it was entirely private, and no one was going to come across it. I may even pull a Dickens and have them all burnt before I go. Who knows…

So I put it up online, just another WordPress blog. And I’ve grown it a bit. I’ve grown a bit myself. Now it’s out there for anyone to see. Maybe no one will. But it’s out there.

What the reviewer sees

A book review is nothing more than emotional snapshot of how an author’s work speaks to the reviewer. 

Anyone can go through a book and mark syntax or grammatical errors. That is the purview of elementary educators. What we expect reviewers to do is to read a work and tell us whether the devices the author used worked for the reviewer. Do the analogies seem out of place? Is there too much ambiguity in story. Can the protagonist be understood adequately with the given backstory?

And these understandings of the author’s work is subjective on the part of the reviewer, and the subsequent review is then only useful to someone with similar taste and understanding as the reviewer has. 

Many things are more subjective than we consider, and we are often more opinion-based than we acknowledge. Remember that when making decisions.