For the love of books (6)

While I’m writing this, my pet cat Dickens is looking at me with his golden eyes and a frown trying telepathically to tell me something…what a shame I don’t speak ‘catish’.

I have finally decide to catalogue my library, I have been putting this task off for too long and I have reached a point when I cant’ recollect what I have and I end up buying a book that low and behold, I already have. I then try to keep this truth from my wife. She is very understanding and while she has come to term with my ‘sickness,’ I don’t think I could explain the fact that at present I have two copies of ‘The War of the End of the World’ by M V Llosa or two copies of ‘Sepulchre’ by K Mosse, never mind the numerous copies of ‘War and Peace’ by Tolstoy.

So, wish me luck (with the books and more importantly with my better half).

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For the love of books (5)

Being a book lover and a reader I probably spend way too much time reading other people’s reviews, I enjoy knowing what other people think of a book that I love or have loved. I remember reading a review of my favourite book of all time, ‘The name of the rose’ by Umberto Eco and I was left in tatters. I love this book and any other novel I’ve read since has had to measure up to it. The reviewer, who shall remain nameless, destroyed it. He didn’t just say that he did not like it but in is effort to be eloquent he pretty much said that any one who read it was an imbecile (I guess he was one of them, and in very good company…). I fought with myself trying to conceive the best answer and then all of a sudden I was reminded of a story that I had read some time before. Here it is:

“A group of blind men heard a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said:’We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said ‘This being is like a thick snake’. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, he said the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, ‘is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope, the last felt its tusk, stating that the elephant is that which is hard, smooth like a spear….”

In some versions of the parable, the blind men then discuss their disagreements and suspect the other to not be telling the truth and they come to blows. The stories differ primarily in how the elephant’s body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved. In another, a sighted man enters the parable and describes the entire elephant from various different perspectives, the blind men then learn that they were all partially correct and partially wrong.

The moral of the parable is that while one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the whole truth.

So here you have it, next time you are compelled to read a review, bear in mind that we are all so very different and that is the beauty of everything.

For the love of books (4)

Last night, or should I say early this morning (it is 00:41) I have finished to read an amazing book called ‘The Earthsea Quartet’ by Ursula Le Guin. This book contains the four books of the legendary Earthsea saga:

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea
  2. The Tombs of Atuan
  3. The Farthest Shore
  4. Tehanu

Earthsea is an ancient world of wizards, magic, darkness and light.
What I love the most about this saga is the way it is written and the many pearls of wisdoms that I have found in it.

What I find mesmerising about this saga is the way it is written, Ursula Le Guin is a master story teller and doesn’t waste her words. I found myself reading this book like I was reading a philosophy essay, I even had my trusty pencil besides me and kept underlying passages that I thought were very poignant as you can testify yourself:

  • ‘…as a mans real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower; until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do…’
  • What she begun to learn was the weight of Liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveller may never reach the end of it.
  • Only one thing in the world can resist an evil-hearted man. And that is another man. In our shame is our glory. Only our spirit, which is capable of evil, is capable of overcoming it.

There are many more I could write down but I’ll conclude with:

  • We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility.

Not many authors manage to write a novel in such a way that once you have finished it you feel you have learned a lesson, in the case of the Earthsea saga I felt like I was back in school and Mrs Le Guin was my Literature teacher. Reading is always a joy but when you combine it with knowledge then you find in your hand a masterpiece.

For the love of books (3)

One thing I like is to be comfortable when I read. Gone are the days when I could read in any Yoga position you could think of. Nowadays I need my comfort, this means a lovely armchair with a couple of cushions to keep my back straight and let’s not forget a nice foot rest. Also good lighting because the eyes are not what they once were (reading this back it all sounds very pretentious).

I like to sit in my chair and have the wonderful view of books in front of me, it feels like they are talking to me…maybe they are saying ‘why haven’t you read me yet??!’ (I’m looking at you, Robert Burton’s ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’.)

But notwithstanding, a reader is a reader wherever he opens a book and loses him/herself. The joy of reading is something that can be experienced by anyone, books don’t care who you are, the colour of your skin, your religious-political beliefs…books don’t judge you. The only request they have is that when you are ready, you’ll pick one up and allow them to let you dream (ok Robert Burton, I think your time is up)

For the love of books (2)

If you told me 30 years ago that one day I would possess a library with circa 5000 books I would have told you that you had probably missed your medication and that it was time for you to get back to the Loony Bin….
Forward 30 years, I’m now the proud owner of circa 5000 books and the number keeps growing.
Have I read every single one of them? No.
Am I ever going to read each one of them? Probably not.
Why? Because every day a new book is added to the ‘collection’, every day I get further and further away from giving each book in my library the joy of being opened and read.
I read daily and I usually have more than one book ‘on the go’. I can start reading a book and forget about everything else. I remember reading for the first time Dumas ‘The Count of Montecristo’, I was so entranced and enthralled by this wonderful novel that by the time I reached the end of it, it was 4 o’clock in the morning.
I wish I could read every book but my ‘addiction’ prevails. Usually going out for coffee means going out and having a coffee in those bookstores that have a coffee shop, or coffee shops in close proximity of second hand bookstores. My wife is a saint!

For the Love of Books

I would love to be able to write what I want easily and eloquently, unfortunately this is not a gift that has been bestowed upon me, but I will definitely try my best.
My plan is to write a blog about my ‘book addiction’.
I wasn’t a ‘bookworm’ growing up, I didn’t have a bookshelves with my favourite books on it, my ‘library’ consisted of ‘religious materials’ and I was not encouraged to read ‘outside’ it.
If I remember well the first ‘proper’ book that I read was ‘The pillars of the earth’ by Ken Follett, published in 1989 but not available in my country until 1990. I was 17years old. I remember buying the book, I remember where I bought it and the feeling of freedom that reading this book gave me. I still have the book, the years have not been kind to it but then again I must have read and reread the book a dozen times. Meeting my future wife opened my eyes to what a reader could achieve. She spoke of books like friends, special friends and she introduced me to the classics. Until then I had never heard of Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, Bronte, Dumas etc. But after meeting these wonderful authors there was no turning back. I became a ‘book dragon’, I was like a man that had survived on bread and water all of his life and all of a sudden he is introduced to the world best cuisine.
Moving to the UK gave me an advantage but naturally to take advantage of it I had to learn the language. It wasn’t easy but thanks to my lovely wife and the TV adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (the 1995 mini series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) in two years I was fluent enough to been able to read pretty much anything I wanted and believe it or not my first book in English was a book in Criminal Psychology by Paul Britton entitled ‘Picking up the pieces’. The flood gate were now well and truly opened and I have never looked back.
I love books, thinking about them makes me happy, touching them makes me happy, buying them makes me happy but the pinnacle of my happiness is when I sit down in my favourite chair and start reading.