All posts tagged: Books

Obsessions

Obsessions come in all shapes and sizes. Some, let’s admit it, are just plain weird. Others can be transformative and life-changing. * Upon opening a book of confessions to find a first chapter entitled “Spelling is for Weirdos,” I realized that I had found a writer—a self-styled comma queen, no less—with an infectious take on her chosen obsession. This particular confession—which I recently read after it was recommended by another writer—makes for a delightful romp and a good reminder that some obsessions are worth the effort. In describing the manual How to Sharpen Pencils as “one of the very few books worthy of the dual category “Humor/Reference,” Mary Norris, The New Yorker’s long-time copy editor, could have been discussing her own 2015 work—Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. Norris makes sure there is plenty of humor to go along with the useful information on grammar throughout this engaging and educational work. Between You and Me chronicles an obsession of the best kind. I’ve been on the lookout for books about clarity in writing since …

It Takes However Long It Takes

After his death, Stephen Jay Gould, the great paleontologist and scholar of evolutionary history, was still teaching about a subject he loved—through a posthumous book of essays about baseball. Gould and other famous scholars and writers—individuals such as historians David Halberstam and Doris Kearns Goodwin, novelist John Updike, financial journalist Michael Lewis, and New Yorker essayist Roger Angell—have all written with a special affinity for the game. Ken Burns found many of them for his 9-part PBS documentary Baseball. Yes, even poet Walt Whitman wrote about baseball in the mid-nineteenth century. I’m here to report that we have a candidate for the 2019 addition to the “smart people write about baseball” library. Let’s see what it might tell us about baseball, and life. Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark is a short and entertaining work written by Alva Noë, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifelong New York Mets fan. I went against my standing policy of rejecting books with jacket blurbs by George Will and took …

Toni Morrison, R.I.P.

Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning author and arguably our First Lady of Letters, passed away last evening, August 5th, at the age of 88. She left this earth as a new book of essays, The Source of Self-Regard, along with a recently released documentary entitled Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, introduced long-time fans and new readers alike to her towering intellect and broad vision. These works could not have come along at a better time. Now that she has died, we will have to rely on the power of Morrison’s words; the clarity of her vision for social justice; the love of art, music, and literature that permeates the meditations in The Source of Self-Regard and the interviews in The Pieces I Am more than ever. At the end of “Peril,” the very first offering in The Source of Self-Regard, Morrison makes the bold statement that, “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.” And through 350 pages of speeches, essays, and meditations, she shows why. There are 43 pieces in The Source of Self-Regard, …

Think before you speak. Read before you think.

Author Fran Lebowitz once wrote, “Think before you speak.  Read before you think.” I’ve been thinking about reading recently, because I will be out of the office as I complete the final two weeks of my sabbatical and link that with some personal days off. I have the opinion that summer reading lists should be light, but that may simply be an excuse to read another baseball book.  Since this time is tied to my sabbatical, I’m going a bit more serious this August and I thought I’d share a few of the books which will be on night stand. (Regular readers can expect “mini reviews” in the coming weeks.) Bending the Future:  50 Ideas for the Next 50 Years of Historic Preservation in the United States (Edited by Max Page and Marla R. Miller) – This brand new work from the University of Massachusetts Press contains a wonderful introductory essay and then 50 short contributions from practitioners, academicians, journalists, community activists and more. I’m looking forward to digging into this work as one more …

Twelve Influential Books (And a Few More Thrown In for Fun)

Since  I left Facebook about 18 months ago, I miss 99.5% of the silly contests, lists, and challenges that clog the social media world.  And even when I was on FB, I would occasionally take one of their lists – such as the five albums I’d most want on a desert island – and expand that into blog posts (as in album #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5). But the other day, my sister Debbie put up a list of ten influential books in her life, and asked Candice to do the same.  The challenge was to come up with the list quickly.  Both Debbie and Candice had great lists, and that made me think about what my list would look like. So…here is my off the cuff list of twelve books that I’ve read (and usually re-read, and re-read).  Since this is my blog, I’m not going to be bound by the FB convention of ten.  And, in fact, you’ll see I’ve thrown in a bonus book or two along the way. Through the …