The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.
–H. Allen Smith
Yes, yes, I know, it’s the wrong time of year to start humming Christmas carols, but it’s always a great time to make lists! In my case, being a list-maker is what keeps me out of trouble, at least for the most part. I also firmly believe that someday research will prove that there is a link between being a list-maker and working in a library.
One of the best parts about working in a library are the titles people recommend to me as being great reads, that’s where the lists come in. I have lists of books I want to read, books I have read, books I think other people might want to read, lists of titles, authors, subjects, the possibilities are endless! At one time, I attempted to read every book that was suggested to me, a project I had to give up on; it was either that, or quit my job to find enough time to keep up with all of the wonderful suggestions people gave to me. However, those items did make it onto a list.
One of the (many) lists I keep is of the non-fiction books I’ve read. I challenge myself to read a minimum of two non fiction books a month on any topic, which has led me from extreme budgeting: On a Dollar a Day: one couple’s unlikely adventures in eating in America by Christopher Greenslate, to extreme parenting: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, to extreme knitting: Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini.
Not all of the books I’ve read are on an extreme form of something, though. I’ll read anything and everything Bill Bryson writes, on general principle. The one I’ve read most recently is At Home: A Short History of Private Life. The book does start off with an extreme structure, the Palace of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (also called the Crystal Palace), which was built in 1850. At that time, it was the largest structure in the world. Bill goes from there to his home in Norfolk, which was built in 1851, and recounts the history of the house, from paint to pipes to pillows, in fascinating detail.
Looking For Calvin and Hobbes: the unconventional story of Bill Watterson and his revolutionary comic strip is Nevin Martel’s account of his efforts to gain an interview with the elusive Bill Watterson. While Nevin was unsuccessful in that quest, he did uncover a great deal of interesting behind the scenes information. After reading this book, I returned to my tattered copies of Calvin and Hobbes with a new appreciation for how profound a simple comic strip can be.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is about Henrietta Lacks, a woman who died of cancer in 1951. However, she lives on, as a result of the actions of the doctor who took some of Henrietta’s cells, without the consent of Henrietta or her family. These cells are still alive in laboratories all over the world. This is a book that should be read for many reasons: as an exploration of science and ethics, as a social commentary, and for the ongoing saga of Henrietta’s children, as they struggle to come to grips with what really happened to their mother.
I just finished my latest personal challenge, an intriguing book of essays by various authors called The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, texting and the age of social networking , edited by Mark Bauerlein. I call it a challenge for a couple of reasons, one being that I find technology challenging on a personal basis, another in that I found several of the essays challenged my ideas regarding technology. Marc Prensky’s essay on digital immigrants and digital natives went a long way to helping me understand the differences between people when it comes to technology, and why I’ll probably always be a digital immigrant.
And of course, what is a list without a “to do” portion? The next couple of titles on my lists are Women from The Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us by Rachelle Bergstein, Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief by Gretta Vosper and The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer.
In between reading, editing and adding to my lists, you know what I’ll be doing – checking them twice!