Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Books

I've taken quite a few books to keep me company down here for the long, rainy nights and bright early mornings. There's a good mix of fiction and non, but at this point in life I'm inclining more to the non side of the room. Some I've read and some are brand new. Some bought for the trip and some are borrowed from friends.

Listed alphabetically, these are my papered companions:

Is this a novel? Haven't read it before.

Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth
I like words, and this book is an engrossing, labyrinthine history of them. So much fun. Words, you guys! I wish I could eat them. I have to stop myself from not reading this whole book in whatever sitting I am sitting down to read it for.

Godric by Frederick Buechner
A great, short novel of historical fiction about a 12th century hermit-saint who once went on a journey that changed his life. I haven't read this one in several years.

Harper's magazine two most recent issues. The newest does not have a Nebraska cover story, so make that only two of the last four.

Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzalez
A history of Latinos in the United States as a result of the history of the United States in Latin America. A documentary of the same name will be screening this fall in Lincoln.

Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner
A daily reader with reflections on life, faith, and the mysteries of their union.

Memoria del fuego, 1. Los nacimientos by Eduardo Galeano
From the introduction (translated): "Latin America hasn't only suffered the plundering of gold and silver, saltpeter and rubber, copper and oil: it has also suffered the seizure of its memory. From early on it has been condemned to amnesia at the hands of those who have repressed its existence."

My √Āntonia by Willa Cather
In keeping a promise to my dear friend Megan, who purchased this book for me on this very day two summers ago, I return to Willa. I hope it will keep me in touch with the prairie. (see bookmark above)

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
I've seen some of Zinn's videos but never picked up his classic. The first chapter about the arrival of the English to the "New World" had me floored. The idea is to recount History from the perspective of the losers, and it is fascinating.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Loaned to me by a neighbor, I've heard a lot of this book and hope it will alleviate the eventual headaches that some of the other academic books will give.

I often wonder why I keep books around at all. Once I'm finished with them, shouldn't they find other hands and eyes to give to? I've heard it said that old books are like old friends, and I suppose if I could shrink my friends and keep them in jars by my couch I would say that it would probably be enjoyable having that around as a piece of furniture.

For about two years I checked out books from the library, but I tired of it because I missed them when they were gone. I forgot about them more quickly than those I kept and could see over and over even though the years between us were many. I've forgotten mostly everything about Lolita and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, for example. Those were two from that time period.

I really like to make my books mine, though, and not being able to underline or write notes in the margins about my associations and reactions made reading library books a handcuffing experience by their very nature. I couldn't possess them or have any say about what they were saying.

Some people think that marking in books is some kind of betrayal, but if you ever borrow a book from me please-please-please mark in it all the livelong day. I want to see what parts you found interesting or inspiring and reread them for the interest and inspiration that I may have missed the first time. I love a book with several different pen(cil) colors with notes, circles, and underlines. In fact, when I look for an old used book, I look specifically on Amazon for the "acceptable" category of book (behind "very good" and "good") precisely because most of those books are marked up by someone else.

I guess when I mark a book I don't mean to make it my own: I mean to make it feel read. "There, there, book," I say, "I'm reading you! [underlines something] See?!"

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