1. the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
2. the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.
3. the science of humans and their works.
4. Also called philosophical anthropology. the study of the nature and essence of humankind.
1585–95; anthropo- + -logy
1. the action or practice of a person who reads.
2. Speech. the oral interpretation of written language.
3. the interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part, musical composition, etc.: an interesting reading of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
4. the extent to which a person has read; literary knowledge: a man of wide reading.
5. matter read or for reading: a novel that makes good reading.
This is a challenging post, in that I could talk for days and days, possibly write a whole website dedicated to the topic, so I’m going to do my best to remain concise and not chase too many rabbits.
The blogger of So Many Books wrote a post about the Anthropology of Read, which I reblogged (click the link and it will take you there). Follow that post even further and the blogger wrote another on Auden’s Eden Meme. Combining these two posts into one thought, this is my anthropological response concerning my reading habits.
“Though the pleasure which works of art give us must not be confused with other pleasures that we enjoy, it is related to all of them simply by being our pleasure and not someone else’s. All the judgments, aesthetic or moral, that we pass, however objective we try to make them, are in part a rationalization and in part a corrective discipline of our subjective wishes. So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dreams of Eden are his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.” – from Auden’s “Reading”
So following Auden’s checklist, here is my Eden:
Mountains that butt up against a beach, with open fields in between. I like oceans that beat against cliffs, good soil to plant, large trees to climb, and somehow still manage to lay in the sand whenever I want. Take about 10 acres of the Rocky Mountains and stick them in the Florida Keys. If you manage to surround it all with Texas landscape that would be even better. Clearly, it’s a dream world.
70 year round, I’ll take an occasional hot summer in the 90’s to 100’s. After all, I’m a born and raised Texan.
Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants
I’m a big fan of melting pots.
“English will be the official language but all languages are encouraged (even Elvish and Klingon) and everyone should know more than one.” That’s a direct quote from the So Many Books response to Auden. I see no need to alter that statement in any way.
Weights and Measures
I’m not concerned with this. I’ll let someone who cares decide.
I’m a Christian hippie. I’ll take Jesus with a side of dirt & trees.
Size of Capital
Small indeed. Close, personal friends. If I want a break from this closeness, I’ll take a vacation out of Eden.
Form of Government
In very small governments, I’m ok with elected monarchies with limited terms. I like to call a spade a spade, and in my research I never see true democracy at work, it’s always bastardized into an oligarchy or some other nonsense.
Sources of Natural Power
Wind, water, solar… the idea that anything was ever anything but amazes me. Wind turbines, watermills, solar panels, this makes sense to me.
Farming, arts and humanities. Science would remain of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang variety. I think science is cool, but a lack of tech would be such a nice reprieve from the rest of the world.
Means of Transport
Bicycles, boats, hiking and swimming. Of course, from the mountains to the beach and over some landscape… that requires at least one community zipline. Also, I love horses and would definitely encourage horseback riding.
Self-sustained, energy efficient estates. Design – To each their own. Although, I see a lot of bungalows, Victorian estates, farmhouses, and hobbit holes.
Domestic Furniture and Equipment
Again, to each their own, but made by hand is a marvelous thing. In the kitchen, all I need is an oven, a French press, and a coffee bean grinder. If someone slipped me a bread machine, though, I wouldn’t complain.
Simplicity makes me happy. But again, to each their own. If someone likes frills, I have no desire to stop them. There would probably be an abundance of denim and cotton in my Eden though.
Sources of Public Information
Newspapers, journals, and gatherings over food at a meeting house. My population is quite small, remember?
This would be up to the people. I see gnomes and literary-like shrines in public gardens.
Choirs, street theatre, and public readings of important books. Book clubs and bands… I come from a Baptist background, so weekly potlucks are sort of a must.
If this is my Eden… If this is end result of my reading… if 30 years of a life devouring books has brought me to this, where did I begin? How did I evolve?
Anthropology… archeology… the two go a bit hand in hand to me. I would like to go back to school and get a Baccalaureate in Anthropology & Archeology. I love that niche of history and science. I always thought the Indiana Joneses of the world were the most amazing. Amelia Peabody… As a child I was riveted by adventures, but was still very much a typical girl – no, correction, a typical tomboy with girlish tendencies.
I read an awful lot of Nancy Drew. I liked historical things like Little Women and Gentle Annie. Jo March, of course, my favorite of the sisters; Gentle Annie was a civil war nurse running out into the battlefield in the face of danger. I was, and still am, fascinated by doers.
Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra intrigue me, but I have a literary foundation in all things Jane Austen – the fierce butting heads with the feminine.
My reading is much like my real life – a black belt, with hair usually down to her butt, who loves to get her toes done. I look for brave warriors who want to bask in the sun with some flowers. I desire the intelligence to drive to take care of people, protect them both in battle and emotionally by serving them foodstuffs and coffee. Because this is who I am, this is what I look for in my reading – in fiction, in history, in science, in all of it. I try to find people in all the thousands of years of literature, who are (as Anne Shirley would say) kindred spirits.
Obviously I read a lot of books out loud to my child. The ones I have included on the list are the chapter books. Our daily dose of picture books are left unlisted because that would just get ridiculous, although they take up a huge chunk of my day. (Note: The Magic Tree House & Reading Guide listings are two separate MTH books that correspond in subject. Because they are such short children’s books, I make them share a number. It takes me about four hours to read each pair out loud.)
1. The Prominence League – C. David Cannon (January)
2. If These Walls Had Ears – James Morgan (January)
3. March – Geraldine Brooks (January)
4. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Dinosaurs – Osborne (January)
5. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Knights – Osborne (January)
6. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Mummies – Osborne (January)
7. The Small Room – May Sarton (February)
8. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Pirates – Osborne (February)
9. Lords of Finance – Liaquat Ahamed (March)
10. The Secret of Lost Things – Sheridan Hay (March)
11. God’s Love – Calvert Tynes (March)
12. Eden’s Outcasts – John Matteson (March)
13. Inheritance – Louisa May Alcott (March)
14. The Wild Girls – Pat Murphy (March)
15. Fizz & Peppers – M.G. King (March)
16. On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (April)
17. Magic Tree House: Ninjas & MTH: Rainforests – Osborne (April)
18. Lunch in Paris – Elizabeth Bard (April)
19. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Sabertooths – Osborne (April)
20. The History of the Ancient World – Bauer (April)
21. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Moon & Space – Osborne (April)
22. Lessons Learned – Andrea Schwartz (April)
23. Bitch Factor – Chris Rogers (April)
24. Teres – Gershom Wetzel (April)
25. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers (May)
26. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Dolphins & Sharks – Osborne (May)
27. The Hunger Games – Collins (May)
28. Catching Fire – Collins (May)
29. Mockingjay – Collins (May)
30. Don’t Die By Your Own Hands – Holmes (May)
31. Slice of Life – Chris Rogers (May)
32. Magic Tree Houses: Ghost Towns/ Lions – Osborne (May)
33. The Princess Bride – Goldman (June)
34. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Polar Bears – Osborne (June)
35. Born to Run – Christopher McDougall (June)
36. Storybound – Marissa Burt (June)
37. The Prominence League II – Canon (June)
38. The Distant Hours – Kate Morton (June)
39. John Adams – John McCullough (July)
40. Magic Tree House & Reading Guide: Pompeii & Rome – Osborne (July)
& Magic School Bus: Volcanoes
41. Spindown – George Padgett (July)
42. The Cry of the Icemark – Stuart Hill (July)
43. The Color Purple – Alice Walker (July)
Magic Tree House: Day of the Dragon King – Osborne (July)
44. A Passage to India – E.M. Forster (August)
45. Letters to the Granddaughter – Schubert (August)
46. Over Sea, Under Stone – Cooper (August)
47. The Gospel According to Starbucks – Sweet (August)
48. Aphrodesia – John Oehler (August)
49. The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan (August)
50. My Antonia – Willa Cather (September)
51. Magic Tree House & Reading Guides – Osborne (September)
52. Surprised by Joy – C.S. Lewis (September)
53. Love is a Choice – Minirth (September)
54. Thomas Jefferson: Art of Power – Meacham (October)
55. Going Native: Biodiversity (October)
56. Just One Evil Act – Elizabeth George (October)
57. The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion (October)
58. The Evolution of Jane – Cathleen Schine (October)
59. The Immortal Class – T.H. Culley (October)
60. Aspects of the Novel – E. M. Forster (October)
61. Death Without Cause – Pamela Triolo (November)
62. Player Piano – Vonnegut (November)
63. Seed Savers: Heirloom – S. Smith (November)
64. The Bookshop Hotel – A.K. Klemm [yes, I re-read my own book as I’m currently writing the sequel] (November)
65. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell (December)
66. Harbinger of Evil – Meb Bryant (December)
67. Confessions – Saint Augustine (All Year)
68. Been There, Done That, Really! – Paulette Camnetar Meeks (December)
69. The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton (December)
“Can’t believe I didn’t hit 70 this year. I’ve been slacking!” I lamented. Then, when I went to grab the next Magic Tree House selection, I realized I never documented The Titanic Unit.
70. MTH #17 & Research Guide: Titanic – Osborne (some time in the Fall 2013)
– Books Piled Around My House Unfinished –
I am notorious for starting books and leaving them willy nilly somewhere until the mood strikes me to pick it up again. So where it is not uncommon for me to read a book in one sitting, it is also not uncommon for a book I like to take months or even years for me to finish reading because I’m waiting for that right moment to dive in. Like a real-life vacation, sometimes you want to be in a cabin in the mountains and sometimes you want to be on the beach in Fiji. It doesn’t mean you don’t like mountains and it doesn’t mean the beach is awful, it just means that: if you’re in the mood for mountains why would you go to the beach? Because I have reached that point in my life as a reader that if I hate it, I won’t bother setting it aside… I’ll just get rid of it.
My goal for the New Year is to polish off more of these before starting (and temporarily abandoning) too many others. Because these are books I actually really like, I’m just waiting for those magical moments when I know I’ll enjoy them best to return. What’s ridiculous about the books on this list is that I am about halfway through all of these books.
* If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino
* Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Clarke
* Freddy and Fredericka – Helprin
* The Path Between the Seas – David McCullough
* Storyteller – Sturrock (this one is actually amazing! I started reading it in November and I’m still picking my way through it)
* The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (still reading this aloud to the kiddo every night before bed)
* The Lacuna – Kingsolver (reading this for the January Half Price Books Humble Book Club meeting, should be done by the end of the week)
Someone once told me I was the “most fascinating dichotomy” he’d ever met. I remember feeling bashful by this statement, not quite understanding what that meant, but nevertheless naked. It’s been an echo in my head for nearly a decade, and I can’t even remember his name. But I have a tendency to mull over echoes and since then I think I’ve pieced together a bit of what he must have noticed.
It’s something that I will always relate back to my heart – both physically and spiritually.
Physically, I have an arrhythmia. It is something that shouldn’t affect me as much as it does except that I identify with it so completely. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but I remember the pain and panic it inflicted in my childhood. It almost always startles me, but I know how to correct it. It is the ever present reality that my heart does not beat in rhythm with anyone else’s and most likely never will. It is the feeling of constantly having to search for a rhythm so much harder than everyone else, whether that be when singing, when running, or when cycling. I do not have an internal clock. I do not keep time or pace. I have to find a pace in others and struggle to match it. This is not a complaint, this is reality. This is what it feels like to be inside my ribcage. The only person who might understand this best (although she obviously won’t remember), is my daughter. For 40 weeks she lived inside that ribcage. Her heartbeat was steady and sure, completely healthy, and mine was obviously off. It was literally breath taking – as in I had to stop to catch my breath – because my heart was off kilter and it was instinctively trrying to match her steady, beautiful rhythm.
Spiritually – To my psyche, this minor detail of my life seems to bleed into everything. I was the girl in the top choirs who could not keep time. I remember my dance partner with his hands on my hip (forceful, not sexually) helping me sway… left… right… left… right… and when I got out of sync the gentle double tap and jerk and the whisper in my ear, “Left!” I am never in tune with the people around me.
I am good at calming myself down and remaining calm when necessary, but am completely startled and thrown off by surprises. I can pass dead bodies in the street after a car accident, see a decapitation, work in a bar, and deal with psychos in downtown ghettos more easily than I can choose something to eat off a menu of a restaurant I was not expecting to visit. I can seamlessly function in chaos, but a surprise from a friend, even if pleasant, can throw my whole day. I am adventurous but rarely impromptu. I am impulsive and simultaneously reserved. I am a sanguine melancholy.
I am often the one at the funeral unable to shed tears, put in charge of something practical. Yet, I’m also the one years later still nostalgic over the deceased when everyone else seems to have ‘gotten over it.’ I am excitable, and therefore perceived as sensitive; but was rarely in relationships prior to my marriage because those romantically interested in me thought I had no heart. I run hot and cold. I either like you instantly, or dismiss you altogether.
I find myself curling up with books most often, I think, because like singing and running and cycling and Kung Fu – there is a rhythm. There is a rhythm of words, a pattern. There is a goal – to understand the author, to live the story, to learn something new, to get to your destination (the far off place in the pages of the book if it is a good one, or simply to the last page if it is a bad one). Again, as I read, I hear the echo of that long lost person… I understand characters so well, and have little understanding of people.
My father in law saw my books once and said, “So you read to escape.” I was mildly offended. No, I thought, I read to accomplish. I read to learn. I read because reading is important. But last night, I realized, in a lot of ways he is right. I read because I have control over the circumstances in which I dive into information. I read to settle my nerves. I read to avoid decisions. I read because in theory it should be easier to be let down by a character than by a person. I read because sharing the friends I meet in books is up to me, I am somewhat in control of the chaos. I read because I can take a few days to figure out what a character means before I am faced with that character again – it’s easy, leave him/her on the nightstand until I’m ready again. You can’t do that with real people. There’s no time. You have to have feelings or not have them immediately, and to master in what degree. You have to decide what everything means immediately. And you have to react accordingly.
Scarlet O’Hara doesn’t care if I think she’s a bitch. It doesn’t matter that I am in love with Captain Wentworth and Howard Roarke, and neither one is saddened, happy, or jealous. Holden Caulfield is unaffected by my disdain for him and what I say about him or to him will not cause him to stumble – or grow. And I can get to know all of them as quickly or slowly as I like. Jay Gatsby is not going anywhere, I can soak up every nuance from now until eternity and not miss a beat.
Not missing a beat is important to someone who misses them all the time.
I sat down at the breakfast table with my daughter who will be two and a half in a month. It’s St. Patty’s Day, so I thought I would read something appropriately Irish to her over breakfast. I didn’t have much follow through, though, because my daughter looked at me with those big blue eyes, batted them, and said, “Read The Lorlax, Mommy, the Lorlax.” This pronunciation is a great improvement from when she was calling him the “Workass.”
So I went and got Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax and began to read. There was an interruption regarding her cereal, another about the dog, a few more about the characters in the book. Two pages in I shoved the book at her and said, “You read it.”
And this is how my two year old read The Lorax, along with great gestures and emphatic pointing:
Essepting Oooooooold crows.
Find the Lorlax! The Lorlax!
Ok, Green Eggs and Ham, Mommy.”
Bliss for Booknerds
This gray San Francisco morning features a cappuccino, a Spanish manchego mushroom tart w/toasted sesame seeds and chives, and Coffee with Oscar Wilde. Bliss!
— at Four Barrel Coffee.
This is what Peace looks like…
at Manhattan Beach, CA.
“My dog and a book are ideal company when I feel sickly.” – Jennifer Joy Golightly
Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
Author: Sara Nelson
Length: 242 pages
Ironically, when I find myself so overwhelmed by my mountainous TBR pile I become crippled and damn near illiterate, I find that the perfect cure is a book about books. More specifically, a book with lots of lists and descriptions and lengthy lamenting of how many books there are in the world that are begging my attention. So my latest reading slump (if anyone but me were keeping tabs, they’d see I only read two books – other than children’s books – in the whole of October) I picked up a copy of Sara Nelson’s quasi-memoir detailing a year in the life of a professional book reviewer.
It’s short and sweet, and has a lovely methodical layout. Each chapter is dated, and dedicated to a week of time (I am assuming, as the whole purpose of the project was to read a book a week and write a bit on her life as she read said book, but I didn’t count the chapters and they are un-numbered). It was a pleasant read, I enjoyed the simplicity and quickness of it. But it also made me think, I found myself journaling after I finished every chapter.
She has a little segment on Then & Now, discussing the great reads of her adolescence and what she thought the first time she read it versus how she feels as a grown up and I found myself solidifying my plan to have my kiddo journal and document her own reading experiences throughout childhood to remember the titles and authors as well as her true feelings on the subject matter. Of course, we’ll keep it age appropriate, at first she will only be able to summarize briefly, but then she’ll have proof of the process of change and growth as a literary being. I’ve journaled my whole life, but not always with purpose. Purpose is a delightful thing to have. The ability to later compare your thoughts and feelings about literary ventures with such clarity would be such a treasure.
The chapter reminded me of my re-reading of The Great Gatsby earlier this year, and how much I truly enjoyed it. It reminded me of a need to re-read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which I always hated, but feel I was just too immature and boisterous to care about a man fishing. Typically, my Then & Nows are quite vague, but with all this recent documentation of my reading life, I’ll have a better view of my lit-brain when I’m 80.
But above all, the chapter reminded me that there is value in my re-reading. Often, my TBR pile is so high, I feel guilty when compelled to read something I have already read. Should I really be doing this? I wonder. I know Persuasion nearly by heart, shouldn’t I be tackling Bauer’s Ancient History, a book I’ve been slowly pecking through, and loving it, for almost a year and a half now. Shouldn’t I be immersed in George MacDonald’s Lilith, a book I’ve had for ages, but keep only relishing in the first chapter and never moving on – over and over again? The list goes on. And yes, there is a physical list in my own writing, with not nearly enough checked off titles because I continually pick up others.
Then Sara Nelson says, “If you want to make the book god laugh, show him your reading list.” I nearly died. YES! However, every so many weeks, I find myself sitting down to write a new one anyway. I find them therapeutic, refreshing, even mysterious as I tend to write them haphazardly allowing my subconscious to take over and just see what spilled out of the ink pen next. What has been hiding in the recesses of my bookshelf that my brain remembers is calling my name? I think that’s why book lovers revel in their lifestyle so much. Whether they care a lick about the mystery genre, every book lover enjoys a good mystery.
Being a patron of libraries and used bookstores, I often find myself in the middle of a mystery. Whether it be a random scribble in the margins: Secret meeting in the place at 8, password candles, or some such nonsense, highlighting or dog-eared pages, when a book shares owners all sorts of questions arise. Most specifically, for me, I often find stashed bookmarks in the books I read. Sometimes at the start of a chapter, or in the middle of randomness where someone either wanted to savor a line or simply gave up reading the book; sometimes it’s a receipt or a thank you note, birthday cards, and even checks… things people stashed and forgot about, or possibly the item just slid into the pages when the book was stashed into a purse or bag. I often wonder which of these is the story for whatever scrap I find.
SMB,SLT had a small post-it stuck between pages 54 and 55, the beginning of February 27th, chapter: The Clean Plate Book Club. Did they run out of time and have to turn a nearly over due book back into the library? Did they give up because they hated it? Or give up out of principle, because the chapter is about seasoned readers having the power to give up on a book if they aren’t interested in it, wanting to prove something to themselves? Did they simply mark the chapter because the ideas within its pages spoke to them? We may never know. It keeps the mind reeling, though.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea that mature readers, seasoned readers, are the only ones who can give up on a book part way. Nelson describes it as a reader’s rite of passage.
“Allowing yourself to stop reading a book – at page 25, 50, or even less frequently, a few chapters from the end – is […] the literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult. I can make my own decisions.”
Funny, I always thought of it as something slackers do in high school. Post motherhood, I thought it was something I did because I killed brain cells while being pregnant and having a baby. Quitting kills me every time, but there are times that I feel compelled to do it, mostly because I either plan to finish it when I’m in a different mood, or I discover the author is what Paul Collins would describe as someone who writes ‘unequivocal crap.’
It seems, then, I am a late bloomer in, yes, even reading. I thought at least I had escaped that title in one thing in life, having been a very early reader. But apparently not.
The most interesting chapter for me, though, where I might leave a small post-it myself, is March 15th: Eating Crows. It’s all about recommending books to friends and how it can possibly damage the friendship. What if one likes it and the other doesn’t? What does this say about each person? How does this new information you have gathered about your so-called friend change the friend dynamic.
This is where I found myself saying, ‘Oh, hell.’ I’ve been around book nerds, book people, bookstore staff, customers, friends, family, the whole shebang, and this is the first I’ve heard about this dilemma. I recommend books to people all day, every day. It’s my favorite thing to do. If I recommend a book it is because I either liked it, or I truly think you may like it. May is a big word in this sentence. If you don’t like it, that’s your own business, but I’d love to discuss why and learn more about the world around me. It isn’t going to make me not want to be friends with you, that’s just shallow and dumb… even though I may secretly think that what you read is shallow and dumb, I know that somewhere someone is thinking the same thing about what I read – so why should it matter?
The next chapter about borrowing or loaning books is also silly to me. I don’t loan it if I’m not ok with not getting it back – usually. If that’s not the case, then I’ll tell you PLEASE PLEASE GET THIS BACK TO ME one day, and that only happens with someone who has already established a good track record. If I don’t say that, you may bring it back, or just consider it a gift if you fall in love with it. I don’t care. I have plenty of books, and multiple copies of some of my favorites. A book will not ruin our friendship unless you write one about me that is awful, spilling the beans that you’ve actually hated me all these years but haven’t said so because… Then, we might have issues. That hasn’t happened to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. And no, I don’t have anyone in mind, I’m just used to being surprised by what people think of me.
All in all, Nelson you served your purpose. I have a new list of titles to tackle, nothing you mentioned in your book because we have entirely different reading tastes. That’s not true. They are similar in the way a Venn diagram is similar. Not a Venn diagram, more like if there are four quadrants of reading (I, II, III, and IV), and I & II are two different kinds of book snobs and III & IV are polar opposites of I & II who read varying kinds of ‘unequivocal crap’, we are readers I & II. Still, we may not have the same, identical tastes, and in real life you would probably never want to be my friend, but I enjoyed your book and it has made me voracious for the piles and piles on my own shelves again.
One of my favorite novels, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, is often challenged due to homosexual connotations between two female characters. This book is a favorite of mine because it is a book about one day, that can be read in one day, styled in the stream of consciousness. It is lovely, offers a lot of insight into the daily lives and unspoken thoughts of upper-class, post-war, England, and is devastatingly sad – one of those melancholy pieces I both enjoy reading and re-reading inside on a rainy day or outside in sunshine under a nice tree in Spring. The attraction between the ladies, I find, rather subtle, and easy to interpret in several ways. Basically, this book is not about being gay or not being gay, being good or bad, instead it is about being. Woolf, herself, was quite depressive and, I believe, struggled with identity issues. Mrs. Dalloway is, for the most part, the inner monologue of a woman trying to come to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she might have been.
Yet, people find the book itself and the material in it threatening. I, on the other hand, find it fascinating.
In the comments this week: share your favorite banned books with me.
Challenge this week: read a book from a banned or challenged book list.
Visit DeleteCensorship.org to view lists of banned books.