What to Read Next: Wandering the Stacks

I’m reading two books right now. I’m midway through Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking and I just started Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick.

My selection of books to read is almost entirely random. Like wine, a lot is based on cover art. Middle of the night Kindle clicking is delicious. It’s so easy to touch Buy Now and watch a new book download and then see its lovely cover lined up along all the rest of my secret buys.

There are years of tangents on my Kindle. It should be buried with me. No one still living needs to know about my many-book exploration of pimpology. Or my fascination with badly written memoirs. Usually involving a tragedy, almost always with children gone very awry. Oppression is another big theme. I have for most of this year been on an intensive learning expedition about American slavery and have read an enormous number of slave narratives, memoirs, histories, and academic studies. How did this happen? How did people survive?

I have learned more American history in the past 10 months than I learned in 25 years in school. Actually wanting to know something makes a big difference in knowledge acquisition. I am just now finding that out.

Lately, I’ve been spending time in actual libraries. Part of the reason is that many of the books I wanted to read in my slavery studies weren’t available via Kindle. But the big reason was that reading tougher stuff, by that I mean, books with footnotes and endnotes, small print and no dialogue, put me in an academic place. It brought back to me the feeling of going through the stacks, looking for books I’d found referenced somewhere else, piecing together research, connecting my thinking, understanding how one idea relates to another.

That’s what I loved about the academic life. Those books and the time it took to know what they all said. There is no hurrying a 400 page economic analysis of slavery in Tennessee and Kentucky compared to the Deep South. And no movie coming out about it any time soon.

So, in the next few days I’ll know how Jane Hawking managed to be married to Stephen for so long; if and how she made a life for herself in an environment defined so much by her husband’s extreme brilliance and his as extreme disability and I’ll know how people in North Korea manage to have lives at all.

Nothing profound here tonight. Just a book report.

6 Comments on “What to Read Next: Wandering the Stacks

  1. I thought it was just me buying Ebooks all the time. I love having them downloaded in minutes. It is my ultimate ” self gratification” like eating doughnuts. I knew I was reading the blogs of a special lady, when you say you are reading about my African American ancestors in slavery. You have to be a very special caring person to read much of this material, it is do horrific, I can hardly read some narratives without crying. I write about African American women in history in my academic life and I am a storyteller too. I gain strength fro my their lives and I have often felt “empowered” by their stories to do things I thought were impossible. Keep caring, keep reading, it makes me a better woman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most people have no idea – really no idea – about slavery and how it really was. I’m flabbergasted by the fact that it existed and that the whole social/economic structure of our country accommodated and supported it. We can’t deal with the present, in my opinion, until we deal with that past. How that happens, I’m not sure, especially with what’s going on in the country now.


  2. “My selection of books to read is almost entirely random. Like wine, a lot is based on cover art.”

    BRILLIANT! And so true, I do the very same. 🙂

    I love this post, and all that it encompasses. Enjoy your books! I read Nothing to Envy a couple of years ago and loved it. Kicked off a total obsession with N. Korea. The documentary Vice filmed is excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Vanessa! For some crazy reason, your comment ended up in my spam where I found it today while I was cleaning house. It’s a stitch that you read Nothing to Envy. I got it and thought, ‘why am I reading this?’ Now I know I’m not alone in my pursuit of strange tangents (although given recent events it’s not as random as it was).


  3. My kindle reading always seems to go through different themes. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Christian books. I’m not a person of deep faith, but I find that faith based books have so much more story to them and the characters are much richer and evolved. I like to escape when I read and some of the really good books will end, leaving me shocked that it isn’t really storming outside as it was in the book.


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