Monday, February 10, 2014

This week at the library: desire, war, and traditions

Dear readers:

It's been a slow start for February despite the miserable weather that keeps everyone indoors, possibly because I've spent the last week nursing a cold and it's easier to watch movies than to coordinate book-holding, page-turning, and nose-tending all at the same time. I've finished off season one of The Vikings, which I would have never been interested in were it not for Bernard Cornwell waking me up to how fascinating their culture was.  Earlier in the week I did read his The Pagan Lord, the latest book in his series about the wars between the Saxons and Danes for control of Britain; that was another fine adventure. Toward the latter part of the week I became interested in And Then There Were Nuns, which is not an Agathie Christie mystery but a Jane Christmas recollection, the story of a woman who spends a year living in convents and a monastery.  Comments will follow for that this week, but yesterday I read Michael Pollan's Food Rules, which is not so much a book as it is a pamphlet that looks like a book. It essentially distills his argument in In Defense of Food into 60 rules-of-thumb for eating. If you have read Pollan, most of the rules bear out specifically what he's written about previously: he emphasizes eating whole, organic foods in moderation, but also works in advice for building a personal food culture -- eat meals, not snacks; eat at a table, not just anywhere; eat with friends, not alone.  All good advice, it struck me, but $11 is a lot to pay for a collection of rules when many of them don't have extensive explanations because they're similar to one another.

This week I'll be finishing Forgotten Voices of the Great War, which is a collection of first-hand recollections of the conflict,   and then -- who knows? I'll be doing a review for Wendell Berry's The Gift of Good Land ,which is about the virtues of traditional farming and the importance of treating the land arightly,  and yesterday at the university library I found a book entitled dirt: the erosion of civilization which may be similar. That was a book picked up in afterthought, though; the main reason I went to the library was to check out On Desire: Why We Want What We Want, by William Irvine. Some readers may know him as the author of A Guide to the Good Life:  The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. 

I also came home with:
  • Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Nino and the Fate of Civilizations, Brian Fagan, on the historical impact of sudden climate shifts
  • The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society, Frans de Waal, and;
  • What's Wrong with the World,  G.K. Chesterton. This is one of the books that introduced Chesterton's advocacy of distributism, so I want to tackle it to both read something by the man (given his reputation) and to ponder his response to industrialism as it was happening. This book was published in 1910. The language looks heady, but if I can get through Augustine I can get through anything. 
One book I was sorely tempted to buy was Alain de Botton's The News: A User's Guide, but I'd rather pair it with Neil Postman's How to Watch TV News.  Right now I have entirely too much unread books sitting around, including The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond.

Well, happy Valentine's Day to those who have been Cupid-stricken, and happy reading to the rest!


  1. Well, there's a few upcoming reads we have in common:

    The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond


    On Desire: Why We Want What We Want, by William Irvine

    Now if only I could stop reading History books long enough to read them!

  2. Oh, and you might find my latest post.... interesting. [grin]


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