Bookaholics Anonymous

I have a confession to make. I am inexplicably obsessed with the musty smell of old papers bound up in leather covers. I love holding a book in my hand, flipping through its creamy pages, and feeling history beneath my fingertips. However environmentally unfriendly it is, the physicality of owning a book is an experience that cannot be replaced by e-books or the Kindle.

But then again, I am a bookaholic. My desk in my dorm room is covered with tall stacks of books and my book shelf is completely filled with anthologies, reference texts, poetry, plays, and fiction (and a DVD collection). I also have two bookcases at home that contain the rest of my growing book collection. And yet I keep buying more and more books like an addiction. 

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This weekend, I went to the LA Times Festival of Books and bought The World According to Garp (John Irving), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon), About a Boy (Nick Hornby), and I’m a Stranger Here Myself (Bill Bryson). 

I also bought a very nice copy of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court from a booth that sold rare and fine books. It’s really nicely bound with gold lettering and beautiful script on each page. I was also looking at a leatherbound copy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but it was unfortunately out of my price range. 

(Perhaps even more exciting though was the fact that I got to see Kristin Chenoweth from Wicked in person!)

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Inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as a child I dreamed of having an enormous grand library with the books piled up to the ceiling. I will probably never own a house big enough to house such an ambitious library, but I still dream of having bookshelves line every wall of my future home (which I imagine to be cottage-like and cosy with the rooms painted gold like in Bridge to Terabithia). To this dream, I have added the desire to own tasteful artwork and fine wine. 

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My research (and thesis) advisor is a fellow bookaholic. He has five or six book shelves in his (tiny) office filled with books about Shakespeare, Renaissance culture, and other topics related to his research. One meeting while we were talking about purchasing books out of print, he told me that whenever he goes to England, he would peruse the bookshops there and sometimes he would find really rare books for only £20 or so. He is currently registered at the British Museum as the owner of the earliest edition of this one 16th century book and owns some very nice editions of rarely printed plays such as John Fletcher’s The Woman’s Prize. My professor has so many books that he can’t put them all in bookshelves at his house (his American literature collection lies in sad little stacks in his garage – sorry AmLit majors :D). Shelves and shelves of books, rare book collections, books categorized by genre and author (I’m an organization freak). This could be me in thirty years!

In addition to my new Mark Twain acquisition, my fledgling special books collection includes autographed copies of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and most recently Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia. Next week, I plan to get another book autographed by David Sedaris. 

I have caught the book bug (worm?) and I’m loving it. 

It's nice to see that reading isn't dead at all.

It's nice to see that reading isn't dead at all.

Also, happy belated 445th birthday (April 23) to Mr. William Shakespeare! Even though that might not be your real birthday… But I’m sure you don’t mind that we think of you as the literary St. George. 🙂

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Sophia Reveals Her Sciencey Side

Fact or Fiction? (Answers revealed at end.)

1. Waking Sleepwalkers May Kill Them.

2. Living People Outnumber the Dead.

3. Vodka Keeps Cut Flowers Fresh.

 

The war between science and the liberal arts, physics and philosophy, mathematics and religion, seems like a centuries-old feud between two apparently irreconciliable opposites. I constantly hear humanities majors complain about the rigidity and cold methodology of science while science/engineering majors rant about the futility and subjectivity involved in essay-writing.

My own beloved university, UCLA, has its battle lines physically drawn across campus via Bruin Walk. North Campus or South Campus? That is the question. Sometimes it feels like we’re all picking sides and after we finish GE requirements, there’s no reason to enter the other side of campus at all. Perhaps this geographic division fosters the psychological mentality that we must pick one or the other. We are either suited to write or calculate, to theorize or experiment.

But I think this type of isolation and the rejection of the “other” is unnecessary and even harmful. In the end, no matter what we learn, we are essentially all in pursuit of that Holy Grail that is knowledge, albeit in different ways.

Anyways, I mention this because sometimes I get the feeling that people think I am uninterested in science or simply do not have the brain power to understand, but I can assure you that this is a vast misunderstanding. There are things that I find boring, unbelievable, or difficult to comprehend, but these limitations are not representative of my scientific curiosity or interest. My biggest regret in life will probably be not getting a chance to learn/know everything. I want to know things, as long as someone will bother to tell me.

It may sound strange, but I think my relationship to science is very much like that of many people’s relationship to literature. The casual reader shies away from Pope, Coleridge, and the ever-so-daunting Milton, but enjoys the occasional Harry Potter series or Stephen King novel. In my case, I find that I love learning random, strange, probably unuseful sciencey facts (about gomphothere turd, human decay, and what not), but find it hard to swallow that unique concoction of labs, calculations, and scantron tests that an actual major would require.

Given the fact that I deal with fiction, poetry, and language all day long every single quarter, recently I find myself turning to science as my leisurely refuge. I’ve developed quite a taste for science non-fiction as my before-bedtime-casual-reading-companion. Whereas I can barely pick up a novel without itching for a pencil to annotate, my relationship with science non-fiction is easy and simple. There are no rings, wedding bells or children in the future for the two of us. He is my fling, my temporary relief when that dear old husband of mine gets on my nerves, as any loved one will from time to time. There is a sort of exoticism associated with meddling in a field that is not your own and this intrigues me. Besides, there is something exciting about surprising people who think you only know stuff about iambic pentameter.

stiff_largeAnyhow, I would love any science non-fiction book recommendations that you guys have! I do tend to lean towards biology/ecology although I can probably read anything that’s witty/funny and doesn’t have too much jargon. My personal favorite so far is Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I’m currently tearing through Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (excellent, very funny book by the way – although it does make me cringe sometimes), which I shall attempt to finish and review by the end of next week. :]

 

Answers: 1.) Fiction (Waking a sleepwalker is more likely to save his or her life), 2.) Fiction (The number of people alive today is dwarfed by the number of people who have ever lived whether we begin counting from the first Homo Sapiens 50,000 years ago, the Egyptian agricultural revolution in 9000 BC, or the Roman rule in 1 AD), 3.) Fact (If small amounts are added, vodka works as a flower preservative by interfering with the plant’s ripening process.) 

— Courtesy of Scientific American

 

Coming soon: movie review for Wanted, common misconceptions about English majors, and more so… stay tuned!