Tag Archives: reading

My to read list …

So I usually just wander from one book to the next in a fairly haphazard pattern. More often than not my choices are made by what catches my eye in a second-hand book shop, as Moby Dick did just a few weeks ago in a book shop in Milan.

Yesterday I made a decision though – I absolutely must read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole next. It’s been on the list for years, but it hasn’t turned up in any op-shops yet and I don’t think it’s likely to.

Conviction, a plan, a firm direction – people who know me might suspect where this is going…

You see I then found out that Patrick Leigh Fermor has sadly died. His travel books have been high on my to read list for a long while. I started reading A Time of Gifts in Italy, but left before I got very far in. Ok, new top of the list, Dunces next.

But then I looked at twitter, and saw the Guardian’s link to their top 100 greatest non-fiction books. Disaster. I’m a huge fan of non-fiction writing and a peruse of that list has left me with another ton of must-read-immediately items. I really haven’t had such a lot of books added to the list in the space of 24 hours in a long time.

Some of the gems (that I haven’t yet read) on the Guardian list include these:

Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński (1982)
The great Polish reporter tells the story of the last Shah of Iran

The Travels of Ibn Battuta by Ibn Battuta (1355)
The Arab world’s greatest medieval traveller sets down his memories of journeys throughout the known world and beyond

The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell (1791)
Boswell draws on his journals to create an affectionate portrait of the great lexicographer

The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (1980)
Hughes charts the story of modern art, from cubism to the avant garde

The Histories by Herodotus (c400 BC)
History begins with Herodotus’s account of the Greco-Persian war

I’ve wanted to read Herotodus since I read the wonderful Kapuściński book Travels with Herotodus, but the Ibn Battuta is new to me. The Life of Samuel Johnston has also lurked around in my intentions for a long while.

The list also included Patrick Leigh Fermor. As that also has the advantage of being on hand in my mum’s bookcase I think I’ll start with that. Dunces should come next, and I don’t think I could wait any longer to read another Kapuściński. After that I have firm intentions to read my way through the list above without delay.

So, that’s my story about the edited highlights of my reading list at the moment. I was trying to work out where to scribble these titles down, before I struck upon the idea of writing them up on here in the hopes that if I publish my intentions I might actually follow them through.

If I succeed I’ll report back, but if this is never mentioned again you can assume I’ve found something else interesting in the second-hand book shop. I’d like to invite you all to make more suggestions for me in the comments, but I really don’t need the distraction!




digest one

Andrew and I spent last weekend in Amsterdam. The trip and city were great, if a little soggy, and through the rain we discovered a beautiful and very sophisticated city. It’s a place that I’m sure we’ll return to – although we’ll definitely be aiming for summer next time!

Anyway a few days away from my subscriptions on Google Reader gave me a serious back-log to work through. I’ve been chipping away at the articles and posts over the last few days, flirting with the ‘mark all as read’ button. In the end I persevered and caught up, and I thought I’d share some of the best in a little digest.

My subscriptions are mostly related to digital humanities, academia, new media etc – and that’s the focus of the list below.

When eating I like to save the most delicious morsel for last, but in reading I take the opposite tack. Accordingly I’m going to start with the best, most original, piece that turned up in my reader this week – a piece that happens to be over a decade old.

Douglas Adams on the internet:

Via an article on the Australian if:book site I found this article written by Douglas Adams in 1999. It’s called How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet and displays all of the usual insight and wit that make Adams one of my favourite authors.

This is particularly gorgeous and apt:

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

His comments on interactivity and the ‘aberration’ of twentieth-century mass-media in the history of cultural creation also seem spot on to this budding historian.

Other bits and pieces I enjoyed reading:

This article on ‘blurbing’ (the provision by eminent figures of positive quotes to adorn book covers). This is an inside view and will make you think twice before trusting those juicy quotes again.

Over on HASTAC there is an interview with Prof. Kathleen Fitzpatrick on e-books and the imperative of open academic publishing. Kirkpatrick’s recent book Planned Obsolescence is particularly worth looking at because it is built on an innovative (and open acess) digital publishing platform called Comment Press. You can read Planned Obsolescence here and find out more about Comment Press here.

Finally, two things that have been added to the ‘to read’ list this week:

The first is yet another future of the book book, but this time from the perspective of authors. It’s called The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books and caught my eye because of the creative take some of the authors appear to have taken on the issue. Read more about this at Google Books or check out the introduction at The Millions.

Last but not least, something a bit more academic: Jenna Newman, ‘The Google Books Settlement: A Private Contract in the Absence of Adequate Copyright Law’ in Scholarly and Research Communication. Vol 2.1. Open access.

Well that’s the first digest – I hope to make this a semi-regular feature here – not least because it really helps me sort through the mountains of stuff I read on a daily basis!