Posted by: GeekHiker | December 16, 2009

Reading Fool

I don’t know why, but for whatever reason I’ve become a reading fiend the last six months or so.  I’ve been going through one book after another, finding myself eyeing the shelf for the next one as I near the end of whatever’s currently in my hands.

I’ve been going through books I’ve had for years but “just never got around to reading,” the books I picked up from UC Press (where, on the last day of the sale, I placed another order), and books from the local library.

In fact, I’ve rather re-discovered my love of the library, usually finding something new (or two or three something new-s) every time I walk in.  It’s finally gotten to the point where I keep a file on the BlackBerry of books to check out in the future, just adding to the list whenever I go in.

Kind of ironic, using the modern BB to keep track of books to read.  The librarians get a kick out of it.

Maybe it’s because of all the hours I spent in the library as a kid.  When I was in elementary school my Mom, the teacher, had to show up early in the morning, before the rest of the kids arrived.  Since I drove in with her, I usually ended up working in the front office or in the library, helping to organize and re-shelve books, or whatever else needed to be done.

Or maybe it was the Saturday mornings I spent cleaning the used bookstore of a friend of my Mom’s.  For two hours, I would vacuum, clean the windows, change the paper in the birdcages, etc.  Of course, I also had the advantage of perusing all the new used books as they came into the store.

(It was also, incidentally, where I first ran across the seminal “Joy of Sex.”  I was probably 12 or 13 at the time, and I remember being both intrigued by the images and a bit weirded out by all the body hair…)

Or maybe it’s because there’s not that much on TV anymore, it seems.  There are a few shows I watch, maybe one or two for each night.  Which still leaves lots of time to crack open a book.  Since my ability to read the non-fictions I prefer kind of dwindles towards the end of the evening, I’ll often end up recording something at 8 to view it at 10, when I need an activity requiring a little less brain-power.

One thing I can’t seem to wrap my head around, though, is the e-book.  Be it the Kindle or the Nook or whatever, I just can’t see myself curling up with an LCD screen.  Call me a luddite if you will, but there’s still something I like about the tactile feel of a book, the weight in your hands, the turning of the pages, the satisfaction of seeing the bookmark progress through the book over the days.

(That said, I don’t dismiss the e-book either.  I keep thinking it would be a fantastic idea for school textbooks, where every state and community has their own customized requirements for the content.  The upfront cost might seem heavy, but compared to the cost of printing all the varieties of textbooks, replacing them when they go out of date (which is pretty much right after their printed) for each student year-to-year, and the weighty backpacks of kids (a Kindle holds something like 3,500 books) today?  I don’t know why buying an e-book for every kid in the country wasn’t part of the stimulus package.)

Anyway, all this reading may be part of the reason I haven’t been writing as much lately, which is a trade-off I suppose.  Though I will say this: all the reading has inspired some writing… of the aforementioned partially-written posts.  *sigh*

If I could figure out some way to read, hike and write full-time, that would be perfect.  Or maybe I could just win the lottery.  The first probably isn’t too likely in this economy, the latter, well, I just don’t think my gambling luck is that great.

I guess that until either one of those dreams comes true, I’ll have to stick to wearing out my library card.

* * *

For those just dying to know what I bought in that second round: some were gifts for others, but the ones for me were…

UC Press Order 07

Yep, another natural history guide.  I just can’t resist them, you know?

UC Press Order 05

Asphalt Nation is my current read and, as much as I hate to say it, I’m disappointed.  Not because I disagree with her basic premise (that the automobile has wrought great social and environmental destruction and our future transportation path requires a more balanced approach), but because the book is incredibly one-sided.  I have no issues with her bolstering her argument (one I happen to agree with), but to do so the author paints the auto as the root of all evil, with no benefits whatsoever.  In doing so, she paints a picture of the past that is idyllic to say the least, and ties the car to pretty much every social ill that has happened or currently exists in our society (the car caused the Great Depression?  Who knew?).  I had high hopes for the book, but have come away feeling disappointed at the unbalanced approach to a complex issue.

I have high hopes for The River Stops Here, which tells the tale of an effort to flood a large valley in Mendocino County and send the water south, and the fight against it.  With luck, it will be a more balanced tome.

UC Press Order 06

Trees: A Visual Guide and Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections with trees I picked up because, well, I’ve been on a kick of reading books about trees lately.  The first is a beautiful volume  which illustrates trees world-wide, and the latter looks at trees and our relationships to them: biologically, commercially, philosophically, etc.  Should prove an interesting read.

UC Press Order 08

The Historical Atlas of the United States was an impulse buy, since I already own Hayes’ Historical Atlas of California and I’m a map-geek.

Downstream: Encounters on the Colorado River is another photography volume.  I plan to read it in conjunction with Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West, which I didn’t purchase.  That one will be coming from the local library.  🙂



  1. hey, you gotta have that book list jotted down somewhere. it could be a easy-to-lose piece of paper, or always accessible on a blackberry 🙂

    one thing about reading a book that was mildly irritating (but in a familiar challenge kind of a way) was you spend a while to figure out the most comfortable position on a couch, in bed, or wherever else to read that book, but that comfy position never lasts long. There’s usually a heavier versus lighter side of the open book, so your comfy position for reading the righthand side of a book becomes obsolete as soon as you flip the page.

    i feel like those e-readers would solve this problem in a welcomed way 🙂

  2. well you know i gotta love any shout out for libraries – woot! and i share your views on e-books – don’t think i’d want one for myself but it definitely would be great for schools or as a back-up. i’ve been reading more lately too, though i keep reading a few things simultaneously, which i should probably stop. i am halfway through re-reading steppenwolf but paused to read the way we were (meh) and have on beauty and 2666 lined up.

  3. I have the opposite problem, I love reading, but can’t seem to get through a book in a timely manner for the life of me. Nor am I doing anything productive with the time I would spend reading…*sigh*. OH, and then there are the late fees I owe the library. So, I’m happy (and a little jealous) for you and your insatiable reading kick!

  4. Oh you are making a lot of your readers happy (all those darn librarians…)!! 🙂 Well, I love my local public library and always keep an active list of “things on hold” (we can put 20 things on hold, for free!! My friend in SF has to PAY for putting a book on hold on her library’s site. @#$%!!). But these days I am feeling too restless to read through a book. Most nights when I am not out partying (okay, I am NEVER out partying most nights anyway, if ever), I end up running errands, puttering around the apartment, killing time on the Internet (my Google Reader still has +1000 unread post), daydreaming, dozing off, and… NOT reading! I am ashamed of myself! 🙂

    I am with you on the e-reader thing, and in addition to all the reasons you mentioned, reading a printed book is just so much easier on your eyes! Reference works or textbooks are excellent candidates for e-books, because nobody reads them cover to cover, and people want to find things quickly (searching/bookmarking is easier on an electronic device). However, I am starting to appreciate the Kindle app on my iPod Touch. For example, if I need to go on a long trip, I can just download multiple books instead of lugging the heavy tomes around. Not to mention all those little “idle moments” (e.g., when you are waiting in line) when you can just whip out the iPod and start reading (no more kicking yourself because you forget to bring a book!).

    Anyway, the books you are reading look fabulous — aesthetically (I go for the pix, not the text, sorry… :-)).

  5. I like electronic readers, because you can adjust the font size and the brightness for easy reading, no matter where you are. But I too, love actual books. Books have a nice smell to them, and there is something satisfying about carrying one around. It’s an old friend who tells amazing stories.

  6. I read a ton of books during summer then during winter I don’t read much…
    I love to hear that people are still using libraries. I have been a librarian for the past 6 years. Mostly law and CPA libraries. We lose more and more clients every year because people are going online for information instead of books. I keep thinking what are librarians to do without Libraries….

  7. The gadget fiend in me wants a kindle/nook but the ‘read-one-book-at-a-time’ reading I do just doesn’t make sense for an e-reader. I rarely … never … re-read books.

    The Wife is considering getting one but that makes sense as she uses a lot of books while teaching.

  8. If I love a book, I’ll write in it, make notes, highlight, circle sections that I love, I can’t imagine doing that with an e-book. They usually have a note-taking function but it’s just not the same. Maybe if I traveled a lot, an e-book would make sense but until then, give me the tactile experience of paper any day.

  9. Paper over electronic for sure but, like many, love the IDEA of the Kindle and still kinda want one.

    Oh and I’d love to have my way with your bookshelves. A feast for the eyes by the looks of things.

  10. The cover of that trees book is beautiful. I need to start going to the library instead of buying books…much greener way to read.

    I agree with you on the ebook thing. Like Dingo, I highlight and dogear every time I read – but mostly I like the feeling of paper in my hands and the sound of turning pages.

  11. Seine – True, the BB has worked out well. I dunno, though, if the readers would solve the problem; wouldn’t you still be holding an object, jockeying for the best position?

    BlakSpring – Like I said, should’a been part of the stimulus…

    S’Dizzle – See, I’ve found the library helps in that regard, since I have a deadline in that case. And, for a cheap-ass like me, I find the idea of paying that 10 cents a day fine detestable!

    K – I only now realized how many librarians I have. I think my library will hold for free, but they charge for an intra-library loan. 😦 As for pace, I usually shoot for a chapter a night. I do like the idea of being able to mark up an e-book (I’m not a fan of doing it to real books), and I suppose if I had my druthers, I’d have both…

    MissMcCracken – And don’t forget the smell of a library…

    Jean – I think the loss of librarians will be a terrible thing. Did you ever read Cliff Stoll’s books?

    Homer-Dog – Or you could get her one for Christmas…

    Dingo – I suppose if I traveled the world for an extended period, an e-book loaded up with dozens of books would be cool

    CMACC – C’mon over! I’ll even let you borrow some, if you promise not to mark them up the way Dingo does 😉

    Mel Heth – You should see the inside! When I was buying, I cross-referenced the one’s I wanted with my library’s online card-catalog; anything my library already had, I didn’t purchase.

  12. I loved loved loved Between Earth and Sky. It is a wonderful book, full of great trivia and facts about trees. It’s a great book!

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