The Making of Many Books
"... Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."
-- Ecclesiastes 12:12 (NIV)
Okay, so I may have been consuming a bit too much content lately - a bit!
And I'm really feeling that I need to move from only reading to also writing. So to start, here's a little piece of writing on what I've been reading.
I've always been a bookworm, and I appear to have a bit of a book hoarding issue, according to my spouse. The last few years the accumulation of instances of the dead-tree format has slowed appreciably, as I've mostly switched over to consuming content in e- formats: ebooks (Kindle, Kobo, PDF, or web-based), audiobooks (checked out of the Toronto Public Library, or accessed via my beloved Scribd subscription - see www.scribd.com) and podcasts. All these download into the appropriate app on my iPhone or iPad Mini: Libby, Scribd app, and DownCast.
For audiobooks and podcasts, I've got a couple of nice Bluetooth wireless headsets that let me keep on 'reading' while I'm working around the house or the boat, commuting, or just vegging out. By keeping a selection of content in the audio queue and keeping the phone and the 'phones charged and handy, I get through a number of titles per week, week in and week out - on top of my actual reading of text off of screens.
So, great: no more ever-growing stack of unread / barely begun (physical) books on the nightstand - yay! Unfortunately the queue of "save for later" titles, both text and audio, continues to pile up in i-space, i.e. on the screen of my mobile devices. The concomitant 'book guilt' -- the sense that I was kidding myself about ever getting through all these titles I told myself I want to read -- well, that hasn't gone away. This is a special kind of weariness the sage of Ecclesiastes might find it hard to grasp, but the gist of 12:12 still applies.
I'm trying to view the backlog with a sense of opportunity - I'll never run out of choices for the next read! -- and to focus instead on what I am getting through. So what have I been reading?
I'm consuming quite a lot of nonfiction titles this year:
- History, especially of colonialism:
- Charles Mann's 1491 and 1493
- Matthew Restall's When Montezuma Met Cortes (saved for later)
- Alexander Anieves's How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism
- Earth history:
- Peter Brannen's The Ends of the World
- Energy and climate change:
- Paul Hawken's Drawdown
- Chris Turner's The Patch
- Agronomy(? - hard to name the category, but a great book):
- David R. Montgomery's Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization
- Race in America:
- Kevin M Kruse's White Flight
- Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me
- Charles M. Blow's Fire Shut Up in my Bones (mostly read)
- Joan Walsh's What's the Matter with White People (begun)
- John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me
- W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Men (saved for later)
- U.S. politics:
- Peter Bremmer's Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism
- Malcolm Nance's The Plot to Hack America
- Steven Levitsky's How Democracies Die
- Ellen R. Malcolm's When Women Win: EMILY's List
- Katie Tur's Unbelievable
- Luke Harding's Collusion
- Biology / ecology (for an online biology book club):
- Peter Marra's Cat Wars
- Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees
- Sharon Moalem's Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives
- Donald Boudreaux's Globalization
- S. Niggol Seo's The Behavioral Economics of Climate Change (in progress)
All that U.S. politics, colonialism and climate change can be pretty heavy, even unsettling reading, so I try to pace myself by interspersing some fiction (especially right before bed!) I enjoy detective and spy novels, both classics and newer contributions. I've scoured the Scandinavian crime fiction scene, which offers a nice range of crime novels set in Nordic countries.
I've found several authors with fresh takes on each genre, based in different times and places in recent history:
- Martin Cruz Smith (Arkady Renko, detective, USSR & Russian Federation)
- Tom Rob Smith (Leo Demidov, detective, USSR)
- Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch, detective, California)
- Alan Furst (spy / resistance, WW II era)
- Philip Kerr (Bernie Gunther, detective, Nazi Germany)
- Charles Cumming (espionage, modern Britain)
- Arnadur Indridason (Inspector Erlendur, detective, modern Iceland)
- Henning Mankell (crime, Sweden)
- Peter Hoeg (crime, Denmark)
- Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (Martin Beck, detective, Sweden)
Then for sheer escapism, there are always the 'pulp' or high-productivity U.S. action writers like:
- Lee Child
- Michael Connelly
- Tom Clancy
- Len Deighton