I love this time of year, as everything winds down and I get the chance to spend some real contiguous time with family and close friends. I’ve been very privileged: for many years, we’ve tended to share our vacations with a couple of other families, and the children have all grown up together as a result. As the children have grown older, there have been subtle changes to what we do during such times; in its simplest form,Â what happens is that the older children tend to do their own thing a lot of the time, the younger ones are (in their own peculiar way) easy to manage en bloc, and the net result is that the adults get to spend a good deal of time just chilling out.
Companionable silences are common. A lot of reading goes on, with conversation meandering in and out of the soft quiet. Which is great, as long as you prepare for it. That’s what I’ve been doing, and that’s what I thought I’d share with you…… the books I have stored up for reading this Christmas, the reasons why.
1. David Leavitt: The Indian Clerk I’ve never read any of Leavitt’s books before; he courts controversy both in historical accuracy as well as in treatment of sexual attitudes; he’s even been sued by Stephen Spender for plagiarism, and lost the case. But I just could not resist an ambitious novel based loosely around the real-world interactions between G.H.Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan. Recently published, it had mixed reviews; I was swayed, however, by the Kirkus review, which said: â€œThe certainty attributed to mathematics is richly contrasted to the uncertainty of human relationships in Leavittâ€™s unusual and absorbing eighth novel…impressively researched, insistently readable and keenly sensitive…easily Leavittâ€™s bestâ€”and a heartening indication that [Leavitt] has reached a new level of artistic maturity.â€
2. Community and Society: Ferdinand Tonnies Been meaning to read Tonnies for a while; skimmed him earlier, when Stephen Smoliar recommended him. But I found him hard going then. Now I’ve found a Dover edition, translated by Charles Loomis, which seems a much easier read. If one must read paperbacks, then Dover’s a good publisher to go with. Good solid opaque paper, wonderful binding, the books last and last. They don’t fox or crack or anything, they just seem to age gracefully. There is something immensely satisfying about reading a Dover.
3. Convergence Culture: Henry Jenkins Been following Jenkins’ works for some time now; I’ve been particularly interested in understanding the power inherent in the 21st century media consumer, ever since some conversations with Dan Gillmor as he was preparing for a Release 1.0 article and then for the book We The Media. Jenkins appears to be doing some seminal work in this respect, and I’m looking forward to doing some delving.
4. William Wilberforce: William Hague I’ve been fascinated by the life of William Wilberforce for many years now, and I’ve read multiple books on his life. This version, issued recently, has had some worthwhile reviews. More importantly, it was given to me as a 50th birthday present by my close friend and pastor Wes Richards, so it’s a must-read.
5. Dirty Diplomacy: Craig Murray Now this is a strange one. I’d never heard of the book or the author. I was put off by the subtitle, which read The Rough And Tumble Adventures Of A Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck On The Frontline of the War Against Terror. But then I saw this mixed New York Times Review by Tara McKelvey, and then noticed the comments on the front cover. “A remarkable achievement” — Noam Chomsky. “A fearless book by a fearless man” — Harold Pinter. I have to read it.
6. The Future of Reputation: Daniel J. Solove I was deeply impressed by the stuff Solove has written on privacy, so any book by him on “gossip, rumor, and privacy on the internet” was a slam dunk. No way I can avoid reading it. I think there’s a real collision of cultures coming on the subject of privacy. Solove is one person that spends real time focusing on the real risks of bad information, rather than just scare-mongering.
7. Evocative Objects: Sherry Turkle. I really enjoyed The Second Self, I have re-read Life On The Screen a number of times, so I was bound to want to read Evocative Objects. I think Turkle captures something about human-computer interaction that very few other people do, something that is important and precious. Something about our humanity within that interaction.
More later, maybe tomorrow. And so to bed.