Thursday, July 19, 2007

what keeps you reading the books you choose?

There are 3 books that I am in the process of reading. One I've been savoring slowly, one I've just begun, the other uncracked and waiting for me.

The introduction of one got me thinking....(Do you know how many times I've typed that in personal e-mails and even on this blog? Me either, I do know it has been fairly often and always with much delight. It is one of the things I treasure about friends and blogging- the mental stimulation.)

The books in question are
Edward Hirsch How to Read a Poem (savoring) H2R
Jim Marris Rule by Secrecy (just begun) RBS
Richard Dawkins Ancestor's Tale (waiting for me) A'sT

It was the Introduction to RBS that got me thinking....What is it about the books we choose that appeals to us and keeps us reading once we've gotten the book into our lap?

When I read a book, I usually read it front to back. This sounds painfully "duh" obvious, but not everyone does it this way. Some people will scan the book, skimming chapters, looking at all the pictures and illustrations etc, even reading the last few paragraphs... Not me. Having gotten the book home and in my "to read" stack I open it up to the first text. I'll read whatever the author puts in there, in order. I'll start skipping if he just has a list of 48 people he thanks with no little notes around them; I'll skip forewards that start blowing major points; but for the most part I read the way I live my life...Left to Right, methodically and in order.

What really captured my attention with RBS was the first few sentences:

Be forewarned.

If you are perfectly comfortable and satisfied with your own particular view of humankind, religion, history, and the world, read no further.

If you truly believe that humanity has almost reached the peak of its scientific and spiritual fulfillment and that the corporate-owned mass media is keeping you well enough informed, stop here.

But if you are one of those millions who look at the daily news, scratch your head in wonder, and ask, "What in the world is going on?," or if you entertain questions of who we are, where we came from, and where we're all going, you are in for a joy ride.

Ohhhh, I'm totally digging the "do not read me if you are complacent about your life" feel.

Oh Hell no! I love Star Trek, Farscape and Stargate and one of my favorite type of books are sci-fi/fantasy novels. We haven't reached the end of human ingenuity, not even close. Plus, I am well aware of the corrupt bullshit kow-towing nature of the mass media conglomerate.

Right on! Sign me up for this one. I want to know what's going on. The idea of remaining ignorant of the truth is repugnant to me.

Do you know ever since the dani debate (which started here and continued for many, many posts),I've been unable to type the words "the truth" without cringing? That one is just lingering. Weird.

Now for the Hirsch book H2R.

The first thing I read:

"In short, reading Hirsch's How to Read a Poem is like a very long evening with a learned and perceptive friend who keeps leaping to his bookshelf for more and better illustrations, and finding ever more connections and revelations"--Newsday

How cool is that? A reviewer paints this wonderful picture of the experience he had and expects you to have while reading the book.

The next thing that caught my attention was the first line of Hirsch's Acknowledgments:

This is a book of acknowledgments because it recognizes at every point that others have come before us, that poems breathe deeper meaning into our lives, and that we in turn breathe deeper life into poems...It is a way of being simultaneously alone and together through art.

So- he's not claiming to be the only one on the planet who understands poetry, nor does he act as though poetry is beyond the ken of us mere mortals, capable only of being read and appreciated by the true erudite. Most people, I think, are trained to dread poetry in highschool. It becomes part of a hideous long line of experiences in deathly dull literature class. Yet...all the songs that you love are poetry set to music. The song lyrics that reach out to you and lift you up...poetry.

As for RD's book A'sT, the reason this one made it to my list is 2 fold. The first being the quote on the front flap

Loosely based on the form of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Dawkins's Tale takes us modern humans back through four billion years of life on our planet.

I've read several of James A. Michener's books: Poland, Afghanistan, Caravan and really enjoyed the "complete history of..." nature of his stories. So A'sT really caught my eye. I'm curious as to what Dawkins has to say about the various converging points in history as he traces our genetic heritage back to the begining.

I'm not sure if I'll have the time or inclination to make it all the way through A'sT. It is a gigantic tome 614 pages long. Fiction wouldn't daunt me, but 614 fact-pact, densely written, non-fiction....we.. we shall see.


Poodles Rule said...

In the summer time I find that I like to read books I don't really have to think about, the fun stuff. But If I am dumb enough to start a series I have to finish it all (at least all that is out). Last summer I started and finished the Area 51 sci fi series. Earlier this year it was the Janet Evanovich Bounty hunter series.


Fiery Ewok said...

Then I highly recommend you avoid Pierce Anthony's very funny Xanth series loaded with puns and nonsense. There was about 15 books in the series 7 years ago. He pumps them out about 3-4 times per year and as far as I know is still writing them.

They're funny, but after 15 it was like ENOUGH already! At least those were just short quick-read paperbacks.

There are definitely some whopper series books out there.

My all time favorite series is Anne McAffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern series. Best books about dragons EVER!!!!! No magic, no wizardry. These dragons were genetically engineered to fight a biological menace. There's probably 15ish books and I can't WAIT for more.

Ginny said...

I will read anything I can get my hands on that has to do with adventure, survival, nature, etc...

But I do read all kinds of stuff. Back in a day when I was a teen I read mostly trashy novels lol. But now I won't touch em...too boring and stupid.

I don't read books as much as I used to, but do a lot of reading on the internet. I do have some books on my wish list though...

One is called "A Walk in the Woods" which is pretty obvious what it's about, and the other one is "The Monkey Wrench Gang" which is about industrial sabotage.

Poodles Rule said...

Anybody with children should get and read to their kids a book called "The Lemming Condition" I can't remember who it is by, but it says an awful lot about thinking for yourself...

Fiery Ewok said...

According to Google, The Lemming Condition is by Alan Arkin

And unfortuantely neither of my local libraries has a copy.

Will look into it at Barnes & Noble, sounds like an interesting title. :-)