Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Zen and the Art of Squirrel - Books

There is one thing that I know will always bring me out of a funk.  Books.  I love to read, I do it a lot, partially this is because I usually don’t sleep worth a damn, reading a book relaxes me and gets me ready for the restless tossing time that I usually have instead of actually getting regular sleep.

Now to top that even more there is the fun of going out and finding books.  Anyone can go to a book store, I usually do not like normal book stores all that much because it is too easy.  You need to have the quest for it to be satisfying.  I like rummage sales and quirky used book stores.  Especially the kind of book stores that just accept donations and then have a bag sale when it is time to clear out a bunch of inventory.  Those are my favorites.

You give me a chance to raid your shelves and fill a grocery bag for five bucks and I will love you forever.  I have gotten some of the strangest books at the neighborhood church book store.  Books of line drawings for most every aquatic invertebrate species in Eastern North America.  Books on space, the definition of time, the history of calculating Pi.

The next source, and usually harder pickings, but still satisfying is the rummage sales.  Occasionally I will run into a good estate sale where I am, for all intents and purposes, getting a grocery bag of books off the shelf for five bucks.  Occasionally I will find some gems in regular piles of books at sales as well. 

The best pick ups are still at estate sales, I picked up an entire book on how to draw a straight line.  I have found most of the local geology tomes, although I now know there is another pile I need to start tracking down.  I occasionally find good local history and classics as well.

The yard sales can be pretty sparse when it comes to finding things other than bibles and romance pulp.  Occasionally you will find a sale where someone obviously has some taste in reading materials and is for some odd reason parting with it.  I have found some wonderful books that are my normal reading staple, dystopic science fiction from the World War Two through the early computer era.

Those are some great books.  You have classics like 1984, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, and Catch 22.  Then you get into the newer books like Neuromancer, American Gods, Cryptonomicon, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Not everything I read is fluff though.  I love a good hard science tome.  I have run though a stack of Carl Sagan and Stephan Hawking books.  If you have never read ‘The Dragons of Eden’ or ‘Broca’s Brain’ you really, really should.  They are wonderful books.

I have a couple of book shelves that are buried in books.  I have even more that I do not have room to put in the shelves.  I buy more books when ever I find something that looks interesting.  If I was ever laid up with a serious injury I would have no lack of reading material.

Used books are the greatest things ever.  It also makes me happy when I see other people enjoying a used book.  I recently parsed a pile of books from my collection that I did not have a need for any more, books I had already finished and was not going to put into regular circulation (some books get read multiple times because they are that good).  I took this pile of books and put stickers on them to identify them as books that need to be returned to the bar and brought them there and put them on the shelf as a tiny-library.  I have continued to add books as I find things that I think should be on the shelf at the bar.  Sometimes people need to book to read, sometimes you need to look something up.  These are books you can borrow and theoretically return.  Other people can add books too, although I have not noticed a lot of additions as of yet.

Books need to be kept alive.  I heard a story recently that the influx of E-books has not actually caused harm in the traditional publishing industry, which is good.  E-books are harder to sell at a rummage sale.  I would much rather have a hard copy of a book over an E-book anyway.

The irony of that statement comes into when you find this on a blog or possibly eventually as an E-book.  We will cross that bridge when we get there.

Books calm the squirrel, I use them to line the den that I live in.  I would much rather have a pile of book shelves surrounding my living room than a pile of screens.  I was recently watching a debate on TV from the Ronald Reagan presidential library and I commented on the fact the one thing that you never see when they panned around the room was a book.

I do not think that the people who were on the stage at the time had wasted a lot of their time with reading either as none of them seemed to have a clue what job they were applying for or how government is supposed to work.

But back to books.  For years society has tried to make it uncool to be smart, to be well read, and to be a nerd.  I have an issue with this cultural phenomenon.  I think it is a shame to make people feel like reading is not a cool thing to do, the end result of discouraging people from reading books is that you have people without imaginations.  Imaginations are what we have developed as a way to find innovative solutions for problems.  Innovative solutions for problems are what we need to keep us, as a species, viable.

When people do not read they cannot disconnect from their personal reality easily and allow themselves to see things differently from how they think things are.  This results in a fundamentalist thought track and makes large groups of people who think that reality television is actually entertaining. 

Sports!  Go sports, one team beat other team.

I actually watched part of a football game the other night, although mainly because I was curious about how this fantasy football thing is supposed to work, I was pondering a massive excel spreadsheet that would rank everybody.  I spent more time actually laughing at a book that was there than watching what was actually happening on the screen.  From what I saw it was a lot of run three yards, fall down, throw ball, miss it, scowl, throw ball, catch it, cheer!  One team beat the other team, it was very exciting.

I should have been writing these words that I am writing now.  Instead I was out and about and not writing as I should have been.

I am fixing that now; I am going to stay here until I am done.  When I am done I am going to look at the time and ponder if I am going to fire together another chapter worth of words on a page.

Someone may enjoy them someday.

Someone may actually read them.

It could happen.


Copyright Jeff Harrison – 2015, All rights reserved.

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