Monthly Archives: May 2012

Looking at my To Be Read Piles

Really, it is more of a to-be-read bookcase. Only the books are not in a bookcase, they are piled every which way on all available surfaces in my apartment. When new surface area opens up, a pile of books takes root and grows. What with the free book in the mail and the books I found at the used bookshop on my way home from work today, the piles continue to grow. So much to read!

In exciting book-find news, I found a copy of The Hunger Games in the used bookshop today. Three copies actually. This does not bode well — it means people read the book and dumped it. It isn’t a keeper in their eyes anyhow. Ah well, I’m intrigued, so I’m going to read it. Yes, I’ve been caught in the hype. No spoilers please!

Also found at the used bookshop, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (who I liked before and found prophetic) and Dark Matter by Philip Kerr, which looks interesting because Isaac Newton is a character. I’m always slightly skeptical of historical characters as book characters, but also intrigued at the same time. Newton had so many bits to his career that he can morph into a lot of things. We’ll see what Kerr does. All this reading (and much more beside) will have to wait for a bit as I’m teaching the next two days. Back to prep!

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The Dreaded Non-Reading Weekend

I’ve just had a non-reading weekend. Why no books? Wedding rehearsal, wedding, day at camp. There was a little socializing with a friend between the rehearsal and the wedding, lots of socializing at the wedding and at camp, but I had very little time to just chill and read. I did look at the newspaper, but can’t really say I read most of it. I read headlines. I did a puzzle, and I looked at pictures. Ok, I read an article about the food critic who is retiring.

Now I’m on the brink of a new work-week with lots of new experiences, and I’m really quite tired. This could be due to the highly social weekend I’ve had plus the fact that I’m an Introvert (with a capital I!) and gain energy from time spent alone. And I’ve not had time to sit quietly at all, and certainly no time to lose myself in a good book, something I definitely gain energy from. I’d better plan to get some reading time in tomorrow then, hadn’t I?

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Free Books!

One of the nice things about working in a bookshop is the employee discount, plus the occasional free book or two. Yesterday, to my surprise, I got a free book in the mail direct from a publisher. Not sure why, but there was a note about how the author was pleased to send me this complimentary copy, and the publisher hoped I’d enjoy it. I was a little surprised. I know who the author is, and have even been in the same room with him at a professional conference, but I’m fairly sure he has no clue who I am. This particular author has many books and has been publishing for thirty years. My best guess is that for some reason the publisher sent the book to everyone who belongs to the particular academic/professional society of which the author and I are both members. This seems unusually generous for a publisher. But hey, free book!

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Online books

I’ve moaned before in this space about reading on my computer. Sometimes, though, there are some books that can only be accessed this way. Queen Victoria’s Handwritten Journals, for example. Now you too can read what the Queen thought. Or what her daughter Beatrice thought we should know about what the Queen thought as most of the original volumes have been edited by Beatrice. It is all very interesting.

What other books can really only be accessed online? There’s the John Adams collection housed in the Boston Public Library. It is possible to get some copies of books from this collection elsewhere, but the actual copy that John Adams owned, with any marginalia, only online. Of course, were I in London, or in Boston, I could probably get access to the Royal Archives or to the special collections of the Boston Public Library. But then, I’m a scholar with special access. The internet is the great leveller and makes these items available to all in any location.

What interesting collections of historic or rare books have you come across online? Do share in the comments!

Finding material online can be a bit of a trick. I like the internet archive for the wide variety of items linked. Any other preferred searches? Google books also has its uses if I’m looking for the source of a quotation — it searches book contents where possible. How wild is that? Pretty crazy I’d say. It makes a researcher’s life easier. And perhaps more superficial. But more of that another time.

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A Library At Home

Some day I’d like a whole room as a library in my apartment/house/dwelling of some kind. Not a study, a library. Yes, it can have tables and desks and a place to use a laptop, but it is all about the books and places to read and study the books, thus it is a library.

There are some home libraries that might be a bit beyond my reach. But you gotta dream right?

What does your dream library have in it besides books? Mine has a fireplace, is on the second story of the dwelling, and has some windows. And big wooden tables to spread stuff out on. And comfy chairs by the fireplace to read.

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New Games With Top 100 Books

Publisher’s Weekly posted about fixing the Modern Library 100 this week. I like their idea. Instead of generating a whole new list, they just got people to tweak the list by adding 1 book, and taking another out. Will this work? Which book would you add to the Modern Library List? Which would you take out? This is a good game for the long weekend!

Happy May 2-4!

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Preaching the Old Testament

For the second post in a row, I’m sending you off to read a little Books & Culture. Go read that review linked in the previous sentence. Done? That was Lauren Winner’s review of Fleming Rutledge’s book of Old Testament sermons called And God Spoke to Abraham. Since it came out, I’ve been receiving that book into stock regularly at the theological bookshop where I work. Every time it comes across my desk I think about buying it. I haven’t yet. There are other collections of Rutledge’s sermons I’d like to get first. I’ve been eyeing The Bible and the New York Times for some time.

Back to Winner’s review of Rutledge. It amazed me that Winner admitted to defaulting to the gospel reading when she preaches. Of course, loads of people do this, but I didn’t expect that Winner would. It made me smile to think she’s only preached once from the Psalms — and I used a section of her Girl Meets God to justify preaching a sermon on Psalm 103 on Pentecost last year. Oh the irony.

I preach the Psalms quite a lot — in fact, the Psalter is my default book to preach from, not the gospels. Why? you might ask. As always, I’m happy to tell you. Most Psalms are neat single-sermon-sized packages. They are complete in themselves, so there isn’t a lot of exegetical work to figure out if you’ve got an appropriately complete section of Scripture to preach from. Most often, I preach single sermons scattered through the year. If I have a few Sundays in a row, I might do a mini-series, but for a single Sunday, a Psalm is nice and complete and tidy. I also like the challenge of preaching from poetry. I like the dense structure of Hebrew poetry. I like unpacking the way the words are put together. I like seeing the layers of meaning.

It felt a little experimental the first time I preached a Psalm. Now I wonder if I’m turning there too often. There’s such variety in the Psalter though! I certainly haven’t begun to preach what is possible there. I have been jumping around a bit randomly though — which is one of the benefits of preaching in church that doesn’t use the lectionary. I’m thinking about trying to be more systematic in preaching the Psalter, but I’m not sure I want to start with Psalm 2 (I’ve done a sermon on Psalm 1 already) and march on through as opportunity arises. Maybe I’ll take a peek at the lectionary for some direction about which Psalm to choose when I preach next month. That has some sort of system to it.

(In case you are interested, here’s one of my Psalm sermons.)

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Reading to Preach or Write or Craft Things With Words

Read this article on why preachers should read.

Why should preachers read? Diction. Word choice, word organization, the felicitous phrase, the well-tuned ear. Preachers need to know how this sentence will sound when spoken, not just to an empty room, or to a mirror, or a window, but into a microphone, amplified, to an audience.

It seems to me that more folks need the skill of diction than preachers. Anyone who wants to make an argument aloud, sell something, or prove a point needs to know which words to use and when to stop talking. Maybe lawyers should read more. And car dealers. Teachers. Politicians. Need I continue?

Why read?

You’ll communicate better.

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Story Circles

This weekend I drove a lot to see AMom and her sister, Auntie, for Mother’s Day and (94th) Birthday respectively. I decided to take out an audio book from the library for the trip. Wow, did that make the boring old drive down the flat highway fly by. I think I’ll do that again. Problem is, 8 hours of driving is not enough to finish the audio book. Now I have to make time to listen to the other 5/9 of the book. Then there’s the question after I finish listening: Did I actually “read” that book or not? Do I list it in the books read file?

Last year I listened to some Story Circles (audio books on cd are story circles — didn’t you know?) and I counted one as a book read and listed it in “books read.” The others I didn’t count — mainly because they were radio theatre adaptations of books, not books that were read aloud. I did hesitate before counting the spy novel I listened to on a road trip. Why? you might ask. Because listening to an audio book is a different experience than reading a book.

Yes, listening to an audio book is a different experience than reading a book. How? you might ask. I’ll tell you.

1. Listening to an audio book is an auditory experience requiring only one sense. Reading a book takes at least two senses, sight and touch.

2. Listening to an audio book leaves you free to do other things — like drive a car or knit a sweater. Don’t try to drive while reading a book. I think reading makes knitting a little more difficult as well. Reading a book involves all of ones attention.

3. Listening to an audio book is an experience in time – you hear the story at the pace another person reads it to you. Reading a book is a more timeless experience.  You probably read silently more quickly than anyone can read aloud. You can read more quickly in some places, and more slowly in others.

4. Listening to an audio book is a sequentially ordered experience. You don’t have to read a book in order. You can read and re-read a paragraph. You can pause after a poignant scene and possibly go back to pick up a few lines again. You can skip ahead in a tedious bit. You can read the end, then go back to the middle.

I like reading a lot, and the experience of reading is, to me, more satisfying than the experience of listening to story circles. Story circles do make a long road trip fly by, though, and I think that I will certainly listen again while driving. What about you? Do you listen to audio books? Under what circumstances?

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Digital or Analog?

To my personal shock, I’m thinking about e-readers these days. Like getting one. I’m a huge fan of books, actual pages, the smell, the heft, the shelves full of them that surround me. Why would I think of getting an e-reader? Sigh. Research.

Really???? I hear you thinking, or, possibly even saying loudly to your computer screen. How can an e-reader be helpful for research?????

It’s like this. I use my computer for lots and lots of research activities like looking up facts, finding bibliography information, locating resources, and others I can’t even name right now. Some of the resources I find are pdf files containing scans of old books. Remember, I’ve been working on 19th-century women who published about the Bible. I HATE sitting at my desk and trying to read these pdf files on my laptop screen. Hate. I do it, but when I read on the laptop, with the keyboard in the way, I don’t read carefully. I read for the next snippet of info, for the next quote, for the page number for a footnote. And I can’t read the pdf files on the bus on the way to work. I’ve seen people haul laptops out and read stuff on the subway (at least I think they are reading stuff, they usually aren’t typing) but that is just a pain. I can take my laptop over to my reading chair and read there, but it is still clunky and the keyboard is lurking, waiting for me to type something. It doesn’t feel right.

Of course, what I’d really like is book copies of all those 19th-century books. I’ve got some. The ones I want are usually quite expensive. Go look up Sarah Trimmer on ebay. Anyhow, it seems that an e-reader would solve some of the issues I’ve got with reading old books. And journal articles. Maybe.

Do you have an e-reader? What do you think of it? How is the reading experience? Do tell.

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