Okay. It's time to call it. The long days of summer are gone, and with them went the endless opportunity to take on a new project or adventure, no matter the time. For the next few months, the daylight hours will be spent mostly at work, with our free time coinciding with the dark, crisp nights of the season. The perfect time to do a little whittling or carving by the fireplace, or perhaps time to start a pot of your famous chili and cast iron cornbread. Or, when you just have a few spare minutes to yourself, read a great book.
"One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland –– and no other." –– Emile Cioran
We're living at a weird time when it comes to the question of learning a new language. On the one hand the world is becoming so globalized, so intercultural, and so communicative, that there has never been a more relevant time to learn Korean or Farsi or Finnish. On the other hand, digital tools for translation––both in written and spoken forms––are becoming so capable and intuitive that language is no longer the high water mark for understanding a culture.
For centuries of especially European history, learning languages was a crucial part of being an educated and informed person. After all, in a world full of different languages, it was a necessity to be able to communicate. But in a bizarre way, global society has actually made us LESS dependent on learning a foreign language. English has become the internet's lingua franca, and tools like Google translate and other translation software has made navigating multi-lingual spaces easier. And tools like Duolingo give us exactly the amount of language access we need, which seems to be enough Spanish or French or Mandarin for our vacations. Language courses and requirements are disappearing from schools and unless you are born into a family that speaks a language different from the culture around you, its harder and harder to learn.
Here's something that is completely useless for your everyday life. It will not help you dress well, or create a perfect mothers day gift, or fix your shoelaces, or build a dynamically-planted garden, or anything of the sort. But if you are at a dinner party or out with friends or in a mixed group and you wanna bring out something funny, erudite and pretty out of the ordinary, nothing works like an unexpected joke from an ancient figure whose quotes usually end up chiseled into marble.
Fair warning: some bawdiness follows. Despite the editors of ancient manuscripts, real people in the ancient world weren't above off color jokes.
I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood - it is certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation - which
“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” – Seneca
Suppose you are getting ready to start a really big project––a project that will require an immense amount of time and effort, a project that has so many parts and components that you are certain that you will lose your way and make mistakes. It is just that big. And yet the one thing you can be certain about is that the materials for this project are precious and you will not be able to re-start the project once you begin––you'll have to keep forging ahead even if you make mistakes. It will be the summative production
If you’ve attended elementary school in the last 30 years, you’ve heard of haiku: three-line poems with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, usually about nature, often cutesy. I’m happy to report that despite some grains of truth, you’re wrong. Haiku is a lean, muscular form of thinking, and the discipline of writing haiku is a rich addition to a full life.
Six years ago, my father decided he wanted to read one biography of every American president before he dies. He’s fallen a little behind (I think he’s currently on Madison) but it’s made it easy to think up go-to presents when gift-giving holidays come around. Scouring the internet for the most definitive biography of each president has rubbed off a little and now I’ve got some serious must-reads to recommend…
For the last couple years, I've had a framed tattered page I tore out from an old book of poetry (pictured below) that I picked up at a garage sale in Minnesota when I was a boy. I've taken it with me wherever I've moved, usually displaying it on my desk, although occasionally on a shelf or bedside table. The poem is titled SEA-FEVER and came from a poetry collection called Salt-Water Poems and Ballads by John Masefield, first published in 1902. The poem expresses the yearning for the grey seas from the perspective of a presumably landlocked rover, and was one of my initial inspirations for rafting the Mississippi River.
If you search for a list of best books about bicycles, you'll find several... and among them, you'll notice a definite trend. They're all about "cycling" - the competitive racing of road bikes - rather than "bicycles" - the thing with two wheels and a chain and handlebars.
Not that we have anything against competitive cycling (we love it), but only true dedicated fans of the sport need a list of biographies and recaps of historic Tour de Frances, and the like.
So instead, we set out to create our own cycling library that encompasses all aspects of the simple, brilliant machinery that is the bicycle, and all the fun that comes with it.
Jonathan Ives is perhaps best known as the British man with the soothing voice who's been featured in the Apple ads of the last couple years. He's currently the Chief Design Officer at Apple and one of the most influential designers alive. Steve Jobs called him his "spiritual partner at Apple" and
I know "summer reads" are the cultural icon: books to be read on the beach, on long car trips, during a much needed week off work. But, I'm always more of a fall reader... Summers are for magazines and research for all the outdoor activities and bike trips and all-day grilling sessions and staying out during the long days and evenings.
The Fear of Missing Out...Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Idea that I Can Actually Get Rid of My CDs
Like everyone, I guess I have a problem with stuff. With things - with keeping them too long, with placing emotional value on the physical object rather than the memory it recalls. Of course, I think I do this way less than everyone else, cause I don't have a problem with passive consumerism (errr....), and I don't spend tons of money on clothes, or shoes, or eating out, or on the latest gadgets, or all those things that personal finance books tell you to not spend money on.
Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques & Truly Original Projects
By Christine Schmidt [$13.59]
One of my favorite things about the holidays is having a few lazy days where my only real responsibilities are eating cookies, possibly shoveling some snow, and curling up in a chair with a good book. Granted, my idyllic view of Christmas vacations to-come may not be as carefree as I hope (someone needs to fix my parents computer after all!) but I definitely intend on catching up on my reading list.
After paring down my own reading wish-list, cross-referencing it with recommendations from Chris, and peaking at the bookshelves of all my creative friends, I've compiled a roundup of 10 inspiring books that will get your creative juices flowing and put you in the mood to start some new projects in the new year.
Perhaps it might even give you a few ideas to reply to that incessant question, "What would you like me to get you for Christmas this year?"
Mary and Holly are public librarians in Michigan, and as part of their jobs, regularly weed out bizarre, odd, outdated, or "should be reconsidered" books to maintain a "current and relevant collection." They publish their findings on Awful Library Books, and my friends, it's awesome.
I'm normally a pretty active reader, but for some reason, I'm voracious this summer. I regularly keep both a stack of to-be-reads and a ongoing list (Listography is awesome), and I'm gonna kill that tonight. Dead. All checked off. That's never happened before.
So, I need a new book, and I figured I might as well ask you fine people for suggestions.
Sports fans remember the year in wins, music fans in what records were released, and for avid readers, the year is measured in books.
But in the midst of the "Best ofs" and "Top Tens" for 2010, a great read is still a great read, regardless of what the New York Times says or when it was released. So "might it also be an opportunity to look back, reflect, and share? We hope so, and so, for a seventh year, The Millions has reached out to some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2011 a fruitful one."