Read them or leave them. No more cheating with a Kindle

Confession time. I’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with my physical books. While on one hand they are among my most prized  and beloved possessions, I have of late (okay, a couple of years) have avoided their company. I had every intention of spending time with them. Each and everyone one was promised a quiet weekend snuggled up in my arms having come to believe it was my one and only. But you know what they say. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

I never meant to cheat on my books. I promised myself a long time ago that I would never be that kind of reader. I scorned those who preferred those younger, flirtatious (you know, you can do more than just read me) e-readers . I was old school and fully committed to the printed word!

I even went so far as to step into online debates over the morality of choosing these young techno tarts over older paper and ink. What, give up what we have just because something new and handsome catches our eye? Never!

But like most modern readers, I too succumbed to temptation.

At first it was just a harmless flirt, downloading one or two cookbooks to my iPad (for culinary purposes of course), but then I found myself, as most cheaters to, downloading books as companions for my out-of-town travels. And then, well it just got out of hand! Sure, sure I could take the low road and blame my failing eyesight ,and the fact that reading glasses no longer are viable aids for me. It’s just so much easier to read an e-book than a print.  Besides they don’t sit there and glare at you when you are too busy to spend time with them. But wow are they high maintenance and needy! Always asking for an update or begging to be plugged in. My advise, stay away from Kindle Fires. My latest techno side insists he needs plugging in every 6 hours! Who has time for that? I have other things to do.

It was then that I seriously thought about giving up reading all together.

A few months ago I visited my optometrist because I noticed a change in my vision. She informed me that because my two eyes have drastic sight differences that any large change in my prescription would lead to double vision.  She did what she could, but also suggested a visit to an ophthalmologist to talk about replacing my left eye lens. While the thought of having having a ‘new” eye is appealing and scary at the same time, I have to consider the cost. American health insurers do not take eyesight to be necessary to one’s overall well-being. Come to think about it ,this may explain the poor driving skills of American motorists. So, now I have to come up with the funds to improve my sight.

Meanwhile I ditched my computer glasses, and now wear my regular glasses. It was while at work typing away that I hit upon an idea. What if I could now read a book using my regular glasses? I can’t see far way anymore. Why not semi-up close?

I reached over and grabbed the nearest book, (“A Shakespeare Insult Generator”, highly recommended for those who have to communicate with idiots via e-mail). Lo and behold, I could read it! It was amazing! I wanted to retest my hypothesis, so  that evening after dinner I picked up a paperback copy of “The Great Influenza. The Epic story of the deadliest plague in History “(light reading in the age of Trump), and fell in love with the printed word all over again! I can’t say I can sit and read for long periods of time like I did when I was younger (who can?) but I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent holding a book before falling asleep.

Feeling a little under the weather I  stayed home from work yesterday. It was the perfect day to do a little around the house without getting into a big organizing project. I decided to purge some books off my over-flowing bookcases . I’m at a stage in my life in which I want more space and less clutter. I’ve done this once before, but this time, I decided to be brutal and let go of the ones that I have “just because”. Just because I’ve had it so long, just because it was the first big tome that I read, just because, well, hell I don’t know why I’m keeping it! I got rid of the ones that I read and will never read again, never reference, and those in which I now have have zero interest in. It happens, we all outgrow a topic or genre. It was a lot easier than I thought, though I still have a lot of books I won’t get rid of. The Middle Ages, myths, and all things Shakespeare and I are firmly committed.

The last bookcase I decided to tackle was the dreaded “TBR” collection. All readers are familiar with this collection. It contains all of your promises and good intentions. Mine has been patiently waiting for some one-on-one attention for quiet a while now. I took a deep breath and sat myself down in front of it. I had no idea how this was going to go. At least one of the books has been waiting to be read for almost 30 years. Two, are recent Christmas gifts.

I gently took them out of the case, one by one. Gingerly turning each over, studying its back cover and inside jacket for any hint of a connection. After all, it had been so long, I wondered if there would still be an attraction?

It was while doing this, that I hit upon a personal  reading challenge. All those whose lure I could not resist went in one pile, all the others, in a box. Surprisingly, more were in the former pile than the latter. Those that remand were dusted off and categorized by subject. These will be my reads for 2019 and a little beyond as there are 51. This will be the year(ish) I go thru my To be read someday pile.

You see, something wonderful happened as I went thru this particular bookcase. I got excited, I mean really excited about reading these books, just like I did when I was young. Now, I am aware that not all will be to my satisfaction. There may be a few that just don’t do it for me once we get started. But that’s okay. My second rule to this challenge is to be honest and just let the relationship go. I either read the book or give it to a charity shop in order that someone else may have a chance at it. It is that simple, I either read it or leave it.

In order to keep me on track I will blog about each book after I completed it. Some will take me longer than others, so don’t expect a weekly update, (not that we have ever counted on Sari do do a weekly update) but just know that each will get some type of post. I am listing them here. Not in reading order, but in general subject order.

Now, to go tell that damn Kindle what’s going on. He’s plugged in around here somewhere.

Who’s afraid of classical music?
Sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps.
The science of Discworld 4, Judgment Day (This will be the hardest, as it is one of the last books Pratchett wrote. I’ve held off because after I finish, there will be no more to read)
At home
The taste of conquest
The life and Times of Chaucer
Medieval ghost stories
The civilization of the middle ages.  ( I thought I read this long ago, but yet it is on the shelf)
A brief history of the Anglo-Saxons. The beginning of the English nation.
Britain in the middle ages
Social history of Britain 16th century England
God’s Secretaries ;the making of the king James Bible
The distant mirror ( I keep starting this one)
The great calamity the Irish famine 1845 to 1852  (This has been on my shelf for almost 30 years, so it is the first of the reads)
The passion of the western mind understanding the ideas that have shaped our views (This is a text book from my Master’s class. I enjoyed our use of it so I am going to read the entire book)
The swerve
A history of Western philosophy  (Another that I have started only to be distracted)
The abacus and the cross. The story of the pope who brought the light of science to the dark ages
The search for the Buddha. The man who discovered Indians lost religion
The man who love China. The fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the middle kingdom
Made in America
The adventure of English
The Lexicographer’s Dilemma
Holy shit!a brief history of swearing
The mother tongue; English and how it got that way
Or magnificent bastard tongue .The untold story of English.
The old man and the sea
In the hands of Dante
The whole shebang.A state of the universe report
Falling upwards .How we took to the air
The earth moved. On the remarkable achievements of earthworms
Packing for Mars
Descartes bones. A skeletal history of the conflict between faith and reason
The invention of air. A story of science faith revolution and the birth of America
How we got to now. Six innovations that made the modern world
Endless universe. Beyond the big bang
The ascent of man
Cosmos (I had this mixed up with Contact. I may switch this out for the other).
From eternity to here. The quest for the ultimate theory of time
Homo britannicus
Pliny the Elder natural history a selection
The dragons in Eden. Speculations on the evolution of human intelligence
Proust and the squid. The story and science of the reading brain




A Dollop of Laughter for 2019


Well, we made it. Another trip around the sun. It was a wild ride with many of us hanging on by a thread. I wonder how many people contemplated taking up Elon Musk’s offer of a one-way trip to Mars? Really, how much more risky could it be compared to our current state of global affairs? Between the devastating natural disasters, and political meltdowns, Mars seems like an ideal getaway vacation spot.

For me, 2018 was a mixed bag. I had some remarkable journeys to places I had never been before, and met some amazing people who inspired me both personally and professionally. I flew over the Grand Canyon; it is possibly one of the greatest breath taking experiences of my life. But I also learned that the pain in my dominate hand is not from an injury; I was diagnosed with arthritis and have to contend with the reality of new limitations, including writing, and gardening. And if that news wasn’t bad enough, I am now at the point in my life in which sales clerks trip over themselves to offer me a senior discount if I leave the house without a stitch of makeup on.  I have yet to accept an offer because I am not accepting of my age. Maybe this will change with the next trip around the sun.

For all of the wonderful things that happened to me in 2018, I still found it incredibly hard to laugh or fully embrace a good time. Things that once gave me joy have been stripped of their magic and wonderment. The shear weight and magnitude of the disaster we call our current American government has at times been too much to bear. It is not just that our current White House occupant is a  cold hearted incompetent racists, it’s that he has so many supporters! It is crystal clear that modern America is no different from early America ; we are putting children in cages! The government is ignoring the science community as it suites their monetary needs, ignoring mass shootings as to not offend a large lobbyist group whose sole aim seem to be to sell fear and more guns, and ignoring the will of the people even as mass protests spread across the land. I don’t know which is worse, the voting suppression that is going on, or the blind eye Congress is willing to turn as the White House occupant daily diminishes the honor of the Office of President. Who would have guessed that things and people could continue to be this horrible, and this ignorant? I am not stupid, I know racism is not dead. I know politicians choose money and power over the will of the people, but I had no idea just how alive and well this ugliness is. Before 2016, I had hoped that racism and naked corruption would be on life support; now I find it thriving and spreading in pandemic proportions. I’ve written about all this before so I will not go in too deeply about all this. Believe it or not, I want to let you know how I learned to laugh again, and how I’ve been able to put much of this ugliness into some context. The raw edges of my nerves have been smoothed over, and I am convinced we will all get through this era, as we have so many times in the past.

You my lovely long time friends know that I adore podcasts. My new readers can go back and read about my love affair with this relatively new form of entertainment media. I find myself listening to podcasts much more than watching the Telly. I find them highly entertaining and informative. I’m constantly on the watch for new and usual shows; I will try anything from a good paranormal story to hardcore science news. My favorites tend to be podcasts that entertain as well as educate,so any mention of one that does both earns at least one listen from me. This is how I found The Dollop. It is not hyperbole to say this show has saved my sanity and put our current political climate in historical context. This show makes me laugh so hard that I cannot listen while putting makeup on for fear of poking an eye, nor can I listen too long while driving. Several times I’ve been forced to pull to the side of the road by uncontrollable laughter.

The premise of the show is simple. It is a bi-weekly (airing once a week) podcast with host comedian (and armchair historian) Dave Anthony reading a story from American history (they’ve covered Australia and England) to his friend and fellow comedian Gareth (not Gary) Reynolds, who has no idea what the topic is about. The hilarity occurs as Gareth reacts to Dave’s story. It is his job to recreate what he has just heard. Gareth is a master at improv and accents. He can switch from a deep southern drawl to a hard Scottish quip without missing a beat. This mix of storytelling with comedic interjections breaths life into long dead history, showing us that we are not as removed from it as we think.

The idea of peppering historical facts with comedy is not novel to this podcast, but from the reviews and awards it has received, it’s obvious that it has mastered the genre. Think Ken Burns meets Horrible History. While the show may make light of a historical figure or event it is well researched. I have now listened to almost 70 episodes and so far have not encountered any errors, except when Dave makes a mistake and reads a date wrong. Even that makes me laugh. Just yesterday, I was trying to figure out who could  possibly still had a plantation in 1948 (deep, deep south?) when he interrupted himself and said, “Did I just say 1948? I meant 1848”.

There are some topics the show will not cover; they don’t do mass murders and never make light of minorities. They spotlight the privileged white male, though they have done episodes on some crazy female shenanigans.

I’d love to share a quote or two from the show, but the humor does not translate well onto paper. One has to hear the story and reaction in context to find them funny. All I can share is my personal take on the podcast; it makes me laugh like nothing has in years. On the serious side, these two comedians remind us that things can always be worse, and that in the past, things have been far, far worse. This is the beauty of the show and why I feel it has helped my capacity to cope with our current situation.

The show is not for everyone; it’s peppered with profanity and can be crude at times, but it is so well done that I highly recommend everyone give it a shot. I’d start with The Dollop #340: Floyd Collins Gets Stuck in a Cave!

May the New Year bring you mirth and joy!

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