A New Reading List . . .

Someone knows me well.

My wife was at work yesterday when something came up.  They have been working very hard for a couple of months on a massive project to delete older materials from their collection, so when they got a donation of materials, the first thing they did was look at what they didn’t need.  Most of the donation was foreign language (she thought they were German) – which wouldn’t help any program on this campus.

Five of them were not suitable for the campus curriculum, but were still in English.  They also stood out as books she thought I’d want to read.  She was right.

So, last night when she got home, I got handed 5 new (to me) books to read.  Here is the list:

AN ALCHEMY OF MIND by Diane Ackerman

WITCHCRAFT IN THE THAMES VALLEY by Tony Barham

THE TEMPLARS by Piers Paul Read

THE LITTLE BOOK OF FREEMASONRY by Sangeet Duchane

MYTHS OF THE WORLD by Padraic Colum (original title: ORPHEUS)

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Alibris Wishlist fail . . .

I’ve mentioned several times before that my wife and I are avid readers.  One of the sites that I use for building my library is Alibris.com – generally a very well designed and informative website.

One area that they excel at, for example, is flexibility of ordering books.  When you search for a specific title, or titles by a specific author, you get relevant search results from both new and used book sellers, whether they are individuals or massive corporations.   A+

Where they totally fail is privacy.  If I wanted to share my wishlist with friends, the ONLY option they offer is for me to manually enter each friend’s email address into a form on their website.  The result isn’t only that I share the wishlist with my friend, but my friend is also added to their corporate database – without their knowledge.  I would love to share my wishlist, to inspire your choices for reading materials, or so you would have an idea what I’m reading these days and so anyone who wanted to help me get reading materials could pick from what I’m currently interested in – but I absolutely refuse to do something so backhanded as that.  If they would give me a widget that I can post here on my blog’s sidebar, I would use that.  Alas, no such thing is currently available.

Although, a clever person who knows my email addresses could probably find it by searching the Alibris.com website, if they wanted to.  Oh, if you do, please ignore the leather-bound volumes on the list.  Those are only there in case I can someday make a large donation to a library that can care for archives likely to last over 500 years.

Three books . . .

After lengthy and careful consideration, I’d like to suggest that there are three books which should be mandatory reading before anyone, at any level, would be allowed to run for an elected office.

Those three books are:

1984 by George Orwell

Animal Farm (also by Orwell)

and finally

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Alright, that probably requires some explanation. Basically, I can summarize my thoughts this way: Orwell builds a good case against big government and tyrants – whereas Ayn Rand builds the case against social leaches. IMHO, both are valid considerations that are needed in our society today.

Literary discovery?

As many of my regular readers know, my wife has been a professional librarian (complete with her MLS degree) since before I met her 16 years ago.  Every year, if she is going to take any vacation at all, the time she is most likely to take it is between the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring term.

Also, being an avid reader, this vacation is the most likely time for her to do large amounts of reading that does not relate to what colleges call “professional development”.  One year, she read “Anna Karenina”.  Another year, she decided to read Melville’s “Moby Dick”.

This year, she decided to fill in a gap in her science-fiction/fantasy reading.  She chose to read the first book of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series.

Imagine my barely restrained peels of laughter Saturday evening when she brightly announced that she thought she had found the origin of the name of the “Google” search engine; promptly reading out a passage of the book where one of the characters is having a conversation with the massive artificial intelligence “Deep Thought” and she encountered the term “googleplex”.

I tried to be gentle as I suggested she check to see if the term Google might have a separate definition of its own, distinctly different than “googleplex”.  She asked me 3-4 times if I was sure she would need to do that, to which I replied that the only way she would know for sure was to do the search herself.  So she did.

Three minutes later she put the dictionary down and sternly announced, “I hate it when you’re right.”

The whole problem with modern US education is that there aren’t enough people willing to correct mistakes of understanding like this at the time they pop up, and as those mistakes pile up, entire academic careers become refuse dumps.  I can’t let my wife go down that road.  You should not settle for it with your families either.

Public Domain books . . .

I’m a big fan of reading, and would encourage anyone to do more reading.  I find actual, printed books to be preferable to digital, but I will read digital material when I can’t find it otherwise.

So, in the vein of trying to help others find resources for books to read, I’m presenting a series of links below to websites that either host public domain books, or point to other places that do.  They are not listed in any particular order.

Want free books?

If you like classic literature, including translated versions of materials that are truly classics, then you just might enjoy this resource my wife just told me about.  It’s a site that has electronic versions of thousands of out-of-copyright books, in a variety of user-selectable download formats.

manybooks.net/

I’ve just downloaded everything they have in the "Harvard Classics" tab, and am working through the "Horror" literature tab.