by Jim Richardson
Summer lulls us into thinking that longer days means we’ll have time to finish all those books we would like to read, mean to read, really should read if only Summer were not so short. You can see the conundrum. I almost always feel guilty as Summer wanes, books standing in neat piles, politely waiting their turn, disappointed in me (I’m sure) and me forever believing that tomorrow I’ll race through seven chapters by lunchtime.
Add the nagging feeling that Summer reading is really a form of dalliance: trashy novels, inconsequential murder mysteries (with lots and lots of bodies lying about) and histories of things only passingly historic (but hopefully salacious in the extreme.)
Imagine my delight when I found Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. Here was perfect justification to gadfly about reading untill the fireflies quit blinking in the night. Epstein insists that people who specialize too early and chase after life wearing their goals on their sleeves actually shortchange their eventual success. Meanwhile gadflies (like me) nurture the long game of growth and eventually come out wiser, richer and just pretty full of ourselves. That was all I needed to hear.
It was perfect justification to read Magnus by George MacKay Brown, about the feuding earls of Viking Orkney and how young Earl Magnus was martyred (ax to the head) and became Saint Magnus (not a real saint, but close) and inspired a modern Orkney beer (Skullsplitter.)
A long drive to Santa Fe gave me time to listen to Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History by Lewis Darnell which will thrill the heart of anybody who relishes discovering how ancient geology and plate tectonics influence the everyday life of today (and doesn’t everybody?) Like how mud flats on the shores of the ancient Permian sea influence presidential election voting patterns in Mississippi today? Why continental spreading in Ethiopia resulted in cowboys walking upright on two legs. That kind of stuff.
Then the most wonderful dabbler arrived in the mail from England: The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz. Here is the finest reason yet devised to relish the changing of the seasons. Leendertz traipses right past the needful items (tide tables in Devon) and gets down to the best cheese for March (Hafod), the Garden Glut of the Month, and Inside the Beehive, a month by month update on hive living. Delightfully illustrated, not ponderous, and digestible in small bites.
There are more, but Summer has turned the corner already, rainy nights giving way to blistering days, the verdant green of Spring hanging on valiantly but doomed to become to toasted brown of late August. Still the pile of books grows; I’ve hardly made a dent. Good then that I came across the Japanese word tsundoku, which means acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them. So glad to know there is a word for it and that I am not alone, the curse is international in scope, someone halfway round the world would understand my plight instantly. It is a comfort.