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.