Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Playing along

Revere has asked me to do one of those chain blog things about books. I cannot refuse him anything.

  1. Number of books I own: No idea. Thousands. My ancestors going back generations have been book accumulators.
  2. Last book I purchased: Pinker, How the Mind Works. I kind of liked it, although he likes himself more than I like him. My aunt just gave me Barak Obama's book.
  3. Last book I read: Poisonwood Bible.
  4. Five books that mean a lot to me: Hmm. That's really not fair. I've always been partial to Moby Dick; the Penguin Complete Shakespeare is one book so there; Taylor Branch's political biography of Martin Luther King Jr. which is two volumes but I'll go with Parting the Waters, the first; and now I'm going to surprise everybody by naming Dan Simmons's science fiction tetralogy Hyperion and finally, I'm going to cheat by adding, not a book, but my subscriptions to Free Inquiry and Scientific American. My grandparents gave me a subscription to Sci-Am when I was 12, I've kept it my entire life, and saved every issue. That overwhelms the importance of any single book in my life.

I'm not going to tag anybody else with the meme, as they say. But if anyone wants to get voluntarily infected, let me know, first five get a free link.

Like Revere, I find it difficult to read books these days. It's not because of blogging though (and I doubt it really is in his case either). In my line of work, I have to read an immense amount of non-book material -- journal articles, consultant and committee reports, magazines. In addition to the rags named above, I subscribe to Harper's, NYRB, The American Prospect, American Journal of Public Health, Public Health Reports, The Nation, and I read JAMA, British Medical Journal, and New England Journal of Medicine every week (not every article, of course), and the NYWT and Boston Globe every day. If I read a lot of books, my retinas would burn out.

Books are mostly for the young, and the retired, unfortunately. I feel bad about it. I often have moments of conscious regret. I remember as a young man sitting in a chair for entire Sunday afternoon and reading The Mill on the Floss, unconscious of the world. When I finally turned the last page and stood up, I passed out. Once I lay awake all night reading when I had to drive from Northern New Jersey to Philadelphia the next day. I had to pull over at a rest stop and sleep in the my car -- which was an Austin-Healey so you can imagine how comfortable I was. That kind of thing can't happen nowadays.

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