Saturday, July 16, 2011

Books on my nightstand: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour/1

Russ and I met in a bookstore where we had our first conversation while looking over a History Book Club catalogue.

We were doomed from the start.

My house is filled with books. They take up every corner where we could fit a bookshelf, and when we ran out of room, we bought the small house next door, where Russ moved most of his books and created his own office when he was still doing freelance work.

My Goodreads and LibraryThing collections number over 3,000 and the lists are not complete. There are books everywhere, both fiction and nonfiction. Historical works take up the largest part of the nonfiction sections and they range from prehistory to modern. Fiction ranges from mystery to science fiction and fantasy, with more than a few classics gathered here and there. We own two collections of the Great Books of the Western World from Encyclopedia Britannica because the newer edition diverged considerably from the earlier one. (I much prefer the Aeneid from the early collection and refused to give it up.)

You get the idea. A lot of books.

The bedroom holds several hundred books. They're stacked, two deep, on the wall to the left of the bed, going from floor to ceiling. This is mostly science fiction and fantasy, and there are days (and nights) when I grab a book at random and start reading. There aren't many newer fiction pieces here because those are mostly back on the shelves in my office where they are easier to reach. This is the older treasure, with books that move from front to back and up and down the shelves.

However, this is not what is on my nightstand. There are three special items there.

The first I'll tell you about is generally the last thing I read at night. If I can't get right to sleep (which happens often), I will grab my trusty old HP Pocket comp, which holds several hundred of my works in .doc format. I read through various works, deciding what will be the next things to work on for editing and publication, sometimes jotting down notes on the HP for specific things to change. I have found reading like this, with the lights off and everything else for the day done, has helped me focus on the work. I'm pleased when the stories can still entertain me.

Another important book item on my nightstand is my Nook. Yes, I too have gone electronic and I love it. I buy books from many places like Closed Circle (C. J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher and Lynn Abbey), Smashwords (my page there) and, of course, the Barnes and Noble store (yes, also my page). Right now I'm fighting my way through Mansfield Park and wondering why no one has hit Fanny upside the head a few times. I remember now why I had never been able to get through the entire book before, but I am determined to make it this time. The Nook goes with me from place-to-place through the house. I spend a lot of time reading it while on the exercise bike. I shove it in the purse when I leave the house because you never know when you're suddenly going to have a few minutes and having such handy entertainment is wonderful. There are many other works on the Nook, including some nice, inexpensive historical pieces I've picked up at Barnes and Noble. I love my Nook.

There is one last piece of reading material on my nightstand and this is something I truly treasure: The Cambridge Ancient History I: Part 2, Early History of the Middle East. I have already read the first book and I'm about half way through this second one. The books in this set are expensive and I have wanted to own them since I first read a few from the library. New, they run about $300 each. I've been buying them used, in fairly good condition. The first volume I bought came from the estate of a Nobel Prize winner with a rather seedy reputation. The second two (I only own three out of the fourteen or so volumes) came from the estate of author Chaim Potok.

It's an odd feeling to be reading along and see the soft pencil marks on the edges of some paragraphs, denoting where this great author had made note of something. I believe -- given the timeframe and the things which drew his interest -- that this was work for the Wanderings nonfiction book, which I have had on my shelves for years and read when it was new. I find myself as fascinated by what he noted as I am by the book itself.

I only read about five pages a night in this book. I want to read more, but I can't afford to buy the books as quickly as I would read them. They're wondrous, filled with esoteric information about pottery, house and temple shapes and place names that are older than the language of the historic people living in the areas (indicating an earlier race, leaving behind names of locations sometimes, with little other indication of their existence). How could a writer not adore learning these things and be inspired by such pieces of information as this about very early Egypt:

Although the texts are difficult to understand one cannot fail to be stirred by the breadth and sweep of the early conception of a bright celestial afterworld in which the dead become the indestructible stars.

Or, in speaking of the area of Transcaucasia:

A special feature of this culture is the care bestowed on the elaboration and decoration of hearths, such as one could expect in this bitterly cold country where the snow often lies for six months on end.

The books are huge and scholarly, but surprisingly readable. Yes, there are some parts that are over my head because I am not trained in archaeology or in the history of these areas. That doesn't mean I can't still learn and be inspired. So every night I sit down in bed, put the lap desk in place and read five pages.

I always learn something new. It's a wonderful way to end the day.

If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers and find out what's on their nightstands, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour.

Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer!


David Bridger said...

Wow! What a wonderful resource those Cambridge Ancient History books are. I think I could live inside them for years.

Zette said...

Oh yes, this is a set of books I will be happily reading for years. I often take long sets and plan on spending years with them. I took five years to read all ten volumes of the Durrant's nine volume Story of Civilization. (They ended the collection at book nine, but they got bored and wrote The Age of Napoleon as book ten.) I believe I took the same amount of time with the Grzimek Animal Life Encyclopedia.

Devoting the time to read at least five pages of nonfiction (history, science) to learn new things has been one of my best decisions. It's very little time, after all.

Raven said...

Oh man. Now I want those Cambridge Ancient History books! I like your idea about rereading your work, too. I may have to try that out sometime.

Brett said...

To be able to buy the house next door to turn into a library and office... I'm envious.

I see you chose a Nook. Why did you choose that one instead of another e-reader?

Great Post!

Zette said...

Raven -- You can find them at a lot of libraries, which would be the wise way to read them. I, however, have wanted to own this set for years, and finally decided I had better start now if I wanted to have time to enjoy them.

Brett -- We bought the house right before the economy fell apart here, and we've been fighting hard to hold on to it for the last five years. It's not a big house, but it worked well for Russ as an office. Unfortunately, he had to take a job in New York almost four years ago -- but we hold on to it in hopes that he'll find something back here soon.

I do a lot of shopping and Barnes and Noble, both online and at the local store. I got to pick up the Nook, play with it a bit, and see if I liked it. This was before started letting the Kindle out in stores, so I couldn't touch a Kindle and didn't want to buy one without knowing if it suited me.

I really like my Nook. I don't care about anything more than if I can easily read on it -- which I can -- and if there are books available I want to read. Tehre is more than enough of those!