what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Libraries and writers

It was some decades ago I first realised how few books are produced to help people understand a subject. Publishers need to make their books stand out in a very crowded market – they therefore select books which can claim to distinctiveness, for which read "market niche" or "narrowness".
Of course we have the “Dummy” and the Very Short Introduction series catering for those who wish to get the big picture. Sadly, however, they tend to be regarded with some disdain by publishers, writers and readers alike. Personally I have found the few books I have read in the latter series both original and clearly-written - and one of the authors actually has a blog which gives practical examples of the issues his book explores.

In the past 6 months, I’ve produced 4 E-books (see top right of the blog for the list) three of which have are my posts of the past 4 years or so on a subject I was trying to understand - with the posts separated into a logical structure and prefaced by an introduction. 
I find it both salutary and stimulating to reread them with a fresh eye and to ask, in editorial style, “what is this actually trying to say…how can I express it better?.....where is the narrative - and how can it flow better??”  And, to help identify such things, I have to print and bind the book – I find I can’t edit onscreen…..

Each of the books retains the structure of the original blog – which I like to think is more user-friendly for the reader…..I hate these books which consist of endless pages of text, unrelieved by headings….I need to get a fix on the writer’s thinking by seeing some headings…..
But somehow I can’t complete the work. I know that I need to be even more disciplined in my questioning of each post. Ideally I should actually attach to each post a brief summary and identify the inconsistencies, repetitions etc But that’s too much like work!!!

So for past few days have been mooching in the library here in my mountain house…. which has a wide range of subjects and titles. I was reading recently that Susan Sontag’s library consisted of 25,000 books – and Umberto Eco’s famous library must consist of the same number….My nomadic life has meant that I keep losing my library – but the last few years has allowed me to develop quite a respectable library here in the mountain house which must amount to about 2,000 books 

Amazingly, as I have prowled amongst its shelves (which cover shelves on the top of each door and cascade over stairs) I can’t find anything to grab my interest – although I was moved this past couple of weeks by some books about economic ownership (see the last 2 posts); a highly original account of the source of American economic strength and decline written by a couple of 80-year old Scottish engineer emigres - The Puritan Gift; and Patrick Leigh-Fermour – an Adventure.

But I just couldn’t find anything else to whet my appetite…..Typically, I assume the grass is greener elsewhere and duly sent off for the books which had been languishing on my Amazon wishlist.
The first three are by authors who have given me much pleasure in the past - the first 2 being new
The Proper Study Of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays (Vintage Classics) by Isaiah Berlin – whose scintillating essays I first came across at University.

Despite my disillusionment with economics and management, I am always a sucker for a new “take” on the subjects and was intrigued by -

I am always intrigued by material on Germany (see my posts of May and June 2013 when I spent 10 weeks there) and found the idea of a history written by a non-academic very appealing and therefore look forward to -
Death of a Nation: A New History of Germany by Stephen R A'Barrow; as well as a collection of historical reviews - In Defence of History by Richard Evans

Finally The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World (2012) by Evgeny Morozov whose writings I find very stimulating; and the only novel, another of the rediscovered books by Hans Fallada - Iron Gustav: A Berlin Family Chronicle (Penguin Translated Texts)  

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