(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘reading

“So many books, so little time”*…

Dear The Sophist, 

I own a lot of books, and nearly enough shelves to fit them. I haven’t read most of them—has anyone with a lot of books read most of them?—yet I still get impulses to buy more. Can you please tell me why it’s OK for me to buy more books? I should add that I live with a partner who doesn’t own a lot of books, but tolerates mine so far. So far.

—Tome-escent

Dear Volume Purchaser,

Books are ridiculous objects to buy, aren’t they? For the sake of spending a day or two, maybe a week, with some author’s thoughts and words, you take custody of this physical item that sticks around, and around, as more and more others accumulate along with it. You look at them, almost unseeingly, day after day; the walls of your rooms press in; you pay extra money to the movers to drag the extra weight around from one dwelling to the next, all because you read an interesting review once or a cover caught your eye in a bookstore.  

You know what else is ridiculous? The sheer impermanence of thought. The constant yet ephemeral flickering of partial understanding across the synapses in our wet and mortal brains, and the dry circuits of the junky and even more short-lived electronic ersatz brains we rely on for backup. A book is an investment against forgetting and death—a poor investment, but it beats the alternatives. It is a slippery yet real toehold on eternity,,, If you stop the flow of new books, you stop this flow of possibilities…

Too many books? Tom Scocca (@tomscocca) explains that there’s no such thing as too many books. (via the ever-illuminating Today in Tabs)

And lest one fear that the only option is to buy books, remember the Public Library…

Central Library, Kansas City (source)

* Frank Zappa

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As we reorganize our shelves, we might spare a thought for someone whose works definitely deserve places of honor thereon, Octavia Estelle Butler; she died in this date in 2006. An African American woman science fiction author, she was a rarity in her field. But her primary distinction was her extraordinary talent, as manifest in novels and stories that stretch the imagination even as they explore the all-too-real truths of the human condition. She was a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and became (in 1995) the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

It’s measure of her insight that her work– perhaps especially her “Parable” series— is being re-discovered as painfully prescient of our current times.

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February 24, 2021 at 1:01 am

“When in doubt, go to the library”*…

 

libraries

 

Two great champions of reading for pleasure remind us that it really is an important thing to do – and that libraries create literate citizens: “Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures.”

* J. K. Rowling

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As we browse in bliss, we might recall that it was on this date in 1779 that Sir Frederick Haldimand, Governor of Quebec, asked British dramatist Richard Cumberland to select books for the first subscription (public) library in Canada.

bibliotheque-de-langue-anglaise_mod

The library of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, which incorporated the collection of Haldimand’s library in the mid-19th century.

 

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September 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

“My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read”*…

 

The books were a big deal. Nobody had books on death row. They had never been allowed, and it was like someone had brought in contraband. Only six guys were allowed to join me in book club, but every guy on the row was now allowed to have two books besides the Bible in his cell. Some didn’t care, but others made calls out to family and friends to let them know they could send in a book or two. It had to be a brand-new book and be sent directly from a bookstore to the prison. It was like a whole new world opened up, and guys started talking about what books they liked. Some guys didn’t know how to read, others were real slow, almost childlike, and had never been to school beyond a few grades. Those guys didn’t know why they were on death row, and I wondered about a world that would just as soon execute a guy as treat him in a hospital or admit he wasn’t mentally capable of knowing right from wrong.

The very first book club meeting consisted of Jesse Morrison, Victor Kennedy, Larry Heath, Brian Baldwin, Ed Horsley, Henry, and myself. We were allowed to meet in the law library, but we each had to sit at a different table. We couldn’t get up. In order to talk to everyone at once, you had to kind of swivel around in your seat so no one felt left out. If someone wanted to read something out of the book, we had to toss the book to each other and hope that the guy caught it or it landed in reach of someone because we weren’t allowed to lift our butts up off the seats. The guards seemed nervous when they walked us to the library. We weren’t planning a riot or an escape; we were five black guys and two white guys talking about a James Baldwin book. Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here…

When Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death for two murders he didn’t commit, he used his time to create a book club for death row inmates: “The Death Row Book Club” (excerpted from Hinton’s new book, The Sun Does Shine).

* Abraham Lincoln

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As we celebrate close reading, we might recall that it was on this date in 1943 that Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the psychedelic properties of LSD.  Hofmann had synthesized the drug five years earlier, but its hoped-for use in treating respiratory problems didn’t pan out, and it was shelved.  On this day, he accidentally absorbed some of the drug through his skin (as he touched its container).  He became dizzy with hallucinations.  Three days later he took the first intentional dose of acid: 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms), an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms).  Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception.  He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home and, as use of motor vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle… which is why April 19 has been celebrated (since 1985) as “Bicycle Day.”

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April 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them”*…

 

People think of reading as the introvert’s hobby: A quiet activity for a person who likes quiet, save for the voices in their head. But in the 5,000 or so years humans have been writing, reading as we conceive it, an asocial solo activity with a book, is a relatively new form of leisure.

For centuries, Europeans who could read did so aloud. The ancient Greeks read their texts aloud. So did the monks of Europe’s dark ages. But by the 17th century, reading society in Europe had changed drastically. Text technologies, like moveable type, and the rise of vernacular writing helped usher in the practice we cherish today: taking in words without saying them aloud, letting them build a world in our heads…

Read the full story of how “The beginning of silent reading changed Westerners’ interior life.”

* Lemony Snicket [Daniel Handler], Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

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As we try not to move our lips, we might gratefully recall that it was on this date in 1971 that Michael Hart, now known as the father of e-books, inaugurated Project Gutenberg, issuing the Declaration of Independence.  The service now offers over 54,000 free eBooks– epub books, free kindle books, and plain text, available to download or to read online.  Mostly classics (that are out of copyright), the collection contains much of the world’s great literature, all digitized and diligently proofread with the help of thousands of volunteers.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

So many books, so little time”*…

 

There are millions of books in the world (and almost definitely hundreds of millions—last they checked, Google had the count at 129,864,880, and that was seven years ago). The rabid and/or competitive readers among you will now be asking yourselves: yes, yes, now how will I read them all?

Well, you won’t…

A logical method for figuring out “How many books will you read before you die?

Then, increase your count with:  “How to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year, According to Harvard Research.”

* Frank Zappa (riffing on an age-old theme)

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As we memento mori, we might send imaginative birthday greetings to Washington Irving; he was born on this date in 1783.  A short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat, he was America’s first genuine internationally best-selling author.  While best remembered for stories like “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.), he also wrote biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects including Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra; he served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

Mathew Brady’s copy of an original daguerreotype by John Plumbe

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

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