Visitors to my office have a common experience. They say hello to me, but soon their eyes drift around to the walls, desks, and floors of my office to absorb the umpteen volumes of books I have in all manner of organization and disarray. Polite guests try to ignore the stuffed shelves and precarious towers, but the less inhibited quickly ask, "Have you READ all these books?"
Image by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via FlickrWell, yes and no. I love to learn, and I find reading to be an efficient avenue for learning. My curiosity ranges within the social sciences, and then add history, philosophy, theology, and literature and my interests leave me constantly sorting through books old and new. Classic sources are valued alongside the most recently published monographs.
The local thrift store is just as important as our closest Barnes and Noble. You wouldn't believe the fantastic sources I've lugged home for a handful of quarters.
As I look through different sources I find surprises all the time. Serendipity is my best companion. "Why didn't I know about this?" is one of my own frequent questions. The must-read lists of other scholars I respect quickly become absorbed into my own must-read list. NYT book reviews is a great source, but so is twitter and conference book tables and tv interviews. My own amazon wish list has multiplied many times -- I've encountered a limit of some sort along the way.
Sometimes books show up in my mailbox unannounced. Really good things. I'm grateful for those.
So, I'm making another attempt to move quickly through the books I've accumulated. Some stacks have grown stale (so sad), and my current list is a fairly large bag with nine different volumes that must weigh around 30 pounds. On my hot list?
- Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life by Joshua Rubenstein
- The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil War 1857-1858 by Bigler and Bagley
- Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick
- The Explanation of Social Action by John Levi Martin
- The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805-1900 by Gary Dorrien
- Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age by Robert Bellah
- Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work by Steven Lukes
- Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches by Omri Elisha
- Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith
So, as I wait for the proof sheets for my latest book coming this January, I'm falling back to my stack of books this month. Hope you find a quiet corner to get through your own stack as well.