Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What am I Reading This Month?

I never read just one book at a time. There are piles of books at my bedside, on the kitchen table, on the shelves...lots of books. My husband bought me a button that read, "I am a bookaholic. If you have any mercy, you will not sell me another book."

I think he was trying to tell me something. He always reads one book at a time.

If you want to write, you must read, read, read. Read about your interests, read all sorts of fiction, non-fiction, poetry...keep reading. Not only will it open your horizons, but different authors write in different styles. Every person has a unique viewpoint and a way of using words that comes from just that person. Find that style that shows who you are. If you copy another author's style, the result may be a good imitation of that author, but it isn't your voice.
What am I reading? This month, it's mostly professional and non-fiction. Languages and linguistics and writing books, but I'll also devour autobiographies and travel books. I proudly profess that I'm an armchair traveler, since I can't physically go to Provence, to Australia, or to Zimbabwe at the moment.

1) The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. This book analyzes our minds through the words we use every day. How do we string nouns, verbs, etc. together to form coherent thought? Language is based around certain core themes, like space and family. How do we construct these as kids? This book has a lot of linguistic technical jargon, so it isn't a casual summer novel that you can take to the beach.

2) Codebreaker by Stephen Pincock. A history of codes and ciphers, from the Egyptians to modern times. Luckily, not as complicated as Pinker's book, with plenty of illustrations and examples. There are many side stories about unbreakable(?) and ciphers that people are still working on. Try your hand at them.

3) Page after Page by Heather Sellers. I also have Seller's follow-up to this Chapter by Chapter. Writing can be a huge, overwhelming task, but if you break it up into tiny pieces, page after page, you can follow your writing dream.

4) The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant Yup, the same Roald Dahl who wrote James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  In 1942, he was an RAF pilot, assigned to the American Embassy in Washington DC after he was wounded in action. This is the story of how he and other British officers slipped into the social scene in DC, and at the same time, promoted British interests during World War II. An interesting look at British (counter)intelligence after Pearl Harbor.

5) Inside Inside by James Lipton. I love "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo channel. Lipton invited actors, directors and screenwriters for an hour of conversation on stage, in front of acting and directorial students of his New School. This is his autobiography, telling of his his own beginnings in the acting business, and how "Inside" came to be.

Plus two very special books I stumbled upon in the used bookstore. My closest friends know that I love collecting books dating before 1950. I have copies of Horatio Hornblower and Master and Commander dating from the early 20th century. These two are stamped as "Wartime Books", with first printings between the years of 1941-1945. They're both published by F.S. Crofts and Co. from New York.

6) Cartilla Militar: Companeros de Armas by Navascues and Sherman.(copyright 1944, first printing 1941) It's a book for students who have already had some Spanish grammar, and it covers vocabulary (and idioms) of the armed forces during World War Two. It goes into naval, air force, and army jargon. There's a whole chapter on aviation, ship operations, and even medical treatment of the time. Talk about learning Spanish through context.

7) An Introductory Portuguese Grammar by Edwin B. Williams (copyright 1944, first printing 1942). A grammar book on Portuguese as spoken in Portugal (with some notes on Brazilian Portuguese). Spanish and Portuguese may look similar, but they aren't alike. What's interesting about this book is that on the inside cover, there's faded writing identifying the original owner (I think). It's in colored pencil, but I can make out some words.  "Mr. (Dr?) K---- Stroujel(?) (8442), 4232  2nd PL N. Apt 4, Arlington, VA". I think.  Both this book and the Spanish Grammar one have copious notes written in the margins  and words underlined in red pen.

Both books a portal to the past. Other books are portals to the present and to the future.  READ THEM!

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

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