Living too Fast with Books
January 8, 2009 2 Comments
This post-holiday season I pored over the offerings of a major bookseller advertizing deep discounts on books. I found much to interest me and placed my order. Shipping was FREE, so I even saved on the cost of fuel driving to the nearest big box book store.
Mapping the World, by Michael Swift. This is truly a handsome book. It can’t help make an impression at 17 inches wide and a foot tall—the perfect size to support my MacbookPro on my lap (the thing does get hot). This book, by a writer/publisher that specializes in cartography, lavishly features some 200 beautiful maps. The panoramic layout and size are perfect. This was easily the heaviest book in the box, ensuring that the free shipping really counted for something.
Next out of the box, a book of normal physique by Peter Walsh called It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. What could be more timely than a book to shame me for acquiring so many more books in one day? And in the same box! Whether this is a book I can do without for my soon to be “richer life” I’ll know when I read what Peter has to say.
Oh, here’s Author 101, by Rick Frishman—first of the batch related to writing and reading. This batch includes Michael Dirda, Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life; Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World (who isn’t tantalized by that prospect?); Karen E. Peterson, Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. (ordered on the basis of Kurt Vonnegut’s ringing endorsement—Wait. Did he ever have the block?); and, Good Fiction Guide, edited by Jane Rogers and boasting an annotated list of “4000 Great Books to Read” (a classified fiction guide from Oxford University Press).
What have we here? Italian language CDs from Berlitz? Indeed. Also in the “CD category,” Peter Kreeft’s lecture series Questions of Faith: The Philosophy of Religion. I know Peter, professor of philosophy at Boston College, and I expect great audio presentations on atheism, the problem of evil, arguments for God’s existence, religion and science, immortality, heaven, hell, religious experience, and an answer to the question . . . “What would Socrates think?” Hmm.
There’s financial guidance to be had from Ben Stein (the Expelled guy) and Phil DeMuth, in their book Yes, You Can Get a Financial Life! The exclamation point at the end of the title is reassuring. But I wonder, “Is it too late.” Have to see about that. Published in 2007, it does pre-date the fine mess that was made in October by our genius Congress.
Two items for the kitchen, so to speak. Kitchens: Design Is in the Details, by Brad Mee, and the Black & Decker Complete Guide to Kitchens, with everything you need to know to “Design, Plan & Install a Dream Kitchen.” (My idea of a dream kitchen is a kitchen that installs itself. But I couldn’t find a book on that.) Have you seen these Black & Decker guides? They’re the best for the do-it-yourselfer. If you DIY, you may already know that.
Getting back to the simpler life theme, there’s an suitably thin book called The Declutter Workbook: 101 Feng Shui Steps to Transform Your Life, by Mary Lambert. Come on, Mary, we both know that my life isn’t going to be “transformed” by applying feng shui to all our stuff. But for a guy who lives with three women, who have plenty of stuff, it’s a start. And maybe I’ll finally figure out what feng shui is.
I’m not done yet.
You know that book You—The Owner’s Manual? Well now I own one.
In the category of “most exotic cover” is Top 10 of Everything 2009, by Russell Ash. I can’t tell you anything about it because it’s shrink wrapped. But I’m sure it’s good. I bought it, right?
The most diminutive, but maybe the most overall helpful, is Raymond Chandler’s book (or “book-ie”) Philip Marlowe’s Guide to Life. The pages measure 4 x 6 inches, and there’s a profile sketch of a handgun on the front cover. I’m starting with this book tonight.
Finally, in the “not-books-after-all” category, there are three wall calendars for 2009, “The Ultimate Motorcycle,” “Just Australian Shepherds” (I think that’s my dog on the front cover), and “On Broadway Theater Posters” (a gift for one of my daughters). I don’t know yet whether Aussies or Triumphs will adorn the wall in my university office. Either way, I’ll be inspired to get less done.
So there you have it. A forecast of my reading activities for some snatches of 2009.
I got a good deal, but probably spent more money more frivolously than Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth would approve. I hogged up books I don’t have room to shelve, compounding the clutter problem. So Peter Walsh and Mary Lambert will be tisking me. There’s a chance our kitchen remodel won’t be started before this time next year, even with the inspiring ideas book and the step-by-step guide. I do now have a beautiful book of maps—almost a piece of furniture in its own right—for the coffee table we don’t have.
You may not make for inspiring reading, but when you’ve owned a human body long enough, a manual for maintenance and repairs is a valuable reference work. I can work on my Italian, not because I plan to go there again, but because it adds some spice when you can sprinkle your conversation with fancy words like ciao and feel like you mean it. Since I spend little time in my car, the eight CDs of Peter Kreeft should last me for a couple years.
I can at least pretend to be changing the world with my writing, and get some help with the effort when I’m stuck, or when I forget that world-changing potential is literally at my fingertips. Jane Rogers will save me the trouble of reading hundreds of books I really ought to read, though she probably can’t do much for the guilt I’m going to feel for cheating. One book I know I’ll read, keep, and re-read is Book by Book. Michael Dirda is, as it says on the book’s cover, “a cultural treasure.”
I have to admit, though, I’ve got to watch this binge book-buying and the dangerous speed reading it leads to. As Philip Marlowe once said, “I got up and went to the built-in wardrobe and looked at my face in the flawed mirror. It was me all right. I had a strained look. I’d been living too fast.”
- Eating Movies Like Popcorn
- Now Reading “Little, Big,” by John Crowley
- Speculative Fiction by and for Christians
- More Christmas Reading
- Michael Dirda on “The Knowledge Most Worth Having”