Downsizing. I find it beneficial to keep things simple. A number of years ago I determined that I would keep the number of my books and CDs static. If I bought a book, I would give a book away; if I bought a CD, I would give one away. I have been successful.
In the current issue of The American Scholar (Autumn, 2016) there is an interesting short essay by Jethro K. Lieberman, “The Thing About Books.” On retirement he downsized his library “to a mere 650 boxes of books.” He makes the argument that books are for “comfort” and part of the necessary working life of readers and writers.
I wondered how well I was doing, in terms of the number of books I read and did not keep. For the last eight years, I have kept quotations from my readings and collected them in ten books, a quotation for each day of the year. I decided to count the books and then to check the shelves to see what I’ve discarded. Over the past eight years, I have discarded 31% of fiction, 21% of nonfiction, 9% of drama (most are in anthologies), and 53% of poetry. It would be instructive to think about the books I’ve kept and ask myself why I’ve chosen to keep them, perhaps a project for a long winter month.
Notes on Reading. Fiction. Lindsay Hutton, Monterey Bay. Penguin, 2016.
The novel focuses on the relationship between the protagonist and her father, the “pseudoromance” between the protagonist and biologist Ed Ricketts, and the planning and operation of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The settings of the chapters alternate between 1998, the time in which the protagonist operates the aquarium, and 1940, the formative year of the protagonist’s young adulthood. There are chapters set in 1948, the year of the deaths of both Ricketts and her father.
I enjoyed the setting of Monterey, a place I know well, and the portraits of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck.
The book gives interesting insights into the mind and actions of a remarkable woman, both an artist and an acute business person.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Alice Peck, Be More Tree. Cico, 2016.
The book, classified under the heading of “Mind, Body, and Spirit,” is a compendium of mythology, scientific understanding, economic ramifications, and spiritual implications of trees, with specific information about 52 trees. The selection of trees is world-wide, not limited to one general area. The book is illustrated with artwork by Melissa Launay, and Peck quotes writers from several disciplines to illustrate her ideas.
The title is from a quotation from M. Amos Clifford’s A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku (2013): “Inhale the fragrance of the forest; exhale the serenity. Be still and be more tree.” (Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing,” experiencing the forest as soul restoration.)