Bookshelf #1: July 2006 Cohen edition

I'm following Dave's lead here, who was following Nick Hornby's lead, who could probably be made aware of our lead following and then wax poetic on the flourishing of his format. Except I'm sure he's busy. Lunching with Cusack. Unless Cusack is lunching with Anjelica Huston, like in The Player. Damn, Robert Altman's good. Can we talk about McCabe and Mrs. Miller?

Did I get sidetracked?

These are the books on my nightstand, and beside my desk at my office. They shift frequently, but this is where things stand today. As of now, early July, the first ten are nightstand-based, the last set are office desk-based. And I just don't feel like giving bookstore links to all of them right now. The interns are on a one-day retreat, some team-building exercise, paint ball I guess -- are people still doing that? -- so I have to write this thing myself.

Oh the Glory of it All, Sean Wilsey
(started, just into it now, because read article version of in The New Yorker a bit ago, and then had a gift card for Father's Day and was able to buy it, then realized I'd read others of his, and that he's one of the McSweeney's people, so then was concerned by all the blurbs that related it to Eggers' Heartbreaking Work..., and then saw David Foster Wallace blurb, which put me at ease, and then saw other blurb which actually makes note of the obvious forthcoming comparisons to Eggers, but not in a troubling way, and then in reading realize it isn't like that all, and that Wilsey's not worried about that, I'm not worried about, I shouldn't even be putting in these three sentences about that; so far, this memoir is one of those where I have to sit back and think, so when you're a writer, you can write really well. That's why some people are writers. They're good at it.)

Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences, Lawrence Weschler
(read, perused, talked about endlessly. For anyone who knows me, they'll realize that I can't possibly do the most remote degree of justice to my appreciation for this book in a parenthetical blog-space comment. So I won't. But if you can stop over one morning, I'll go on about it for several days. Ask Jody and Carrie. And my father.)

Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald
(read, read, took 100 pages for me to lock in, then admired and was comforted by, in its style, then had to wait a few weeks to finish, then forgot some parts, then took a dozen pages to get back into, then remembered what I forgot, then loved, now recommend to all, and thank Luker for forcing me to read, who, by the way, just got married, and isn't reading this summary now because he's in Jamaica or someplace as hot as here, but with sand, and with Janel, that's who he married, and we were there, and for those who always pick on Ohio for being, well, for being "Ohio," it's quite a nice place, Columbus is all that)

Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald
(read, took 80 pages for me to lock in, thereafter astounded by brilliance of it, in fact, prefer over Austerlitz, and was also led to by aforementioned Luker)

River of Shadows, Rebecca Solnitz
(started, flipped through, admired; this follows from Weschler, who is seemingly at the center of a wild nexus that I can only glimpse pieces of, occasionally, but then with wonder)

U.S.!, Chris Bachelder
(read, loved, demand that you also read it. It's quick, but not superficially so. Another one of those where I realize that people who write well do so because they write well.)

Getting Even, Woody Allen
(read, re-read, loved, annoyed wife with laughing, re-read, re-read, flipped through, quoted, aww shucksed, paused in appreciation, annoyed wife with laughing, re-read)

Rebuilt, Michael Chorost
(in fact, sent to me by SEED, now heartily recommended by my friend Wyatt, who read it when I told him about it; about cochlear implants for deaf people. Also cf. Sound and Fury, a documentary I use in my technology and society class to great effect, and which has yet to find a unified response to. (That's poor grammar, right?.) And there's this article version of the Chorost book too: My Bionic Quest for Bolero.

Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
(this shouldn't really count: had my engineering ethics students read it in class, and then watched the film version, which is quite nice. So, for me to go on about it would be to just cut and paste my class notes, and that's lame, for this particular post (not in general or as a general rule, I don't mean, the cutting and pasting notes part).)

Science and Citizens: Globalization and the Challenge of Engagement, edited by Melissa Leach, Ian Scoones, and Brian Wynne
(Got from library, admire the cover, have looked at the table of contents to see what essays I want to read, but haven't done so yet. With Wyatt, the guy who's all about Rebuilt (see above), I'm working on what we're calling the STS Engaged Network, or Initiative, or something inspiring. And this book helps in that cause. And I don't mean to downplay STS Engaged, because it is actually legit, and important, and on the horizon, and big.)

Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, Ulrich Beck
(just bought, finally, after checking out from various libraries over the past five years. Social, political and environmental theory that is necessary for any pursuit of science and engineering ethics today. Any commentary I give here will either make me sound like I don't know what I'm talking about to those who know Beck and the Risk Society literature, or will make me sound like a pompous ass, trying to name drop and say things like, "Social, political and environmental theory that is necessary for any pursuit of science and engineering ethics today")

Risk, Environment, and Modernity: Towards a New Ecology, edited by Scott Lash, Bronislaw Szerszynski, and Brian Wynne
(Read parts of, especially Brian Wynne contribution; in tune and in conversation with Risk Society thesis, with good critique and people arguing things that I don't always entirely follow)

Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement, edited by David Pellow and Robert Brulle
(read parts of, will read more; We have a Technology and Democracy Initiative at the engineering school, through our STS department, at UVA. This book helps me in that cause, and as a bridge to my own research, and for the sake of the STS Engaged thing too. So it's multi-faceted. The key point here: environmental justice is the purpose for (me; or is to for my?) studying science, technology, and environment, for doing environmental history, and for teaching STS. That just needs to be worked out a bit more thoroughly, and so here we are.)

Democracy and the Claims of Nature: Critical Perspectives for a New Century, edited by Ben Minteer and Bob Pepperman Taylor
(read parts of, will read more; my summary here is like the above, on Power, Justice, and the Environment)

Black Earth and Ivory Tower: New American Essays from Farm and Classroom, edited by Zachary Jack
(just got this from the library, haven't read yet, except for one essay about the georgic ethic; this one fits into the same area as the above five books -so just re-read those descriptions and purposes - and is central to my research. I still get a kick out of writing that: "my research." Just doesn't sound right. But I'm told I should make "my work" sound important. Self-deprecation doesn't play well in academia.)


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Also a great list. I'm going to have to pick up the Weschler book one of these days. I'm definitely quite enjoying his contest. I actually accidently wrote a submission along this vein a while back (an then even tried entering).

Ben, you have a LOT of books on your nightstand. I hope it's a sturdy one.

'The Rings of Saturn' is one of my very most favorite books ever. I still remember reading it the first time. I freaked out over the sense it gave me of expanding the possibilities for books in general.

By katherine sharpe (not verified) on 07 Jul 2006 #permalink

by the way, your birthday gift is on it's way. the popular book you requested has been on back-order for weeks. should ship sometime this week???

although I realize this has not much to do with the above entry, i assume you read your blog more often than your e-mail.

I just wanted to post something after shoshana, who I'm assuming to be Ben's sister. I've never met her, but I always that "shoshana" was one of the coolest names ever. Ben never seemed to appreciate it enough when he would casually drop it in conversation, back in the days of yore, gathered around the ol' watercooler.

But, no, it's not really weird to post a meaningless post just to gain proximity to a person's name, a person you never met. I mean, hell, Ben had never met my new wife Janel in person, until he was standing in our wedding about 12 days ago. Sure she had talked to him on the phone many times when she didn't realize that the game is played by leaving long phone messages followed by random long email responses followed by an appropriate silence. But we are 24 hours before the wedding and shs'e asking me, "Is that him?" I wish Ben had a fog machine. He could have cranked up some prog-rock fog and emerged with a little wave or something.

I forget where I was going. Anyway: READ Rings of Saturn. This is the one for me, my desert island book. I hate when people ask you to make those kinds of lists...but, in this case, it is simple. Sebald is a horrible, melancholy genius. That probably doesn't sound like a compliment, but it is. This book is weird and strange and then infects you and buffets you with wave upon wave. Like, whoa. I was smack in the middle of a super-intense Sebald phase when I heard the news that he had been killed in random car accident. I actually cried. I had no intention of doing so, but it snuck up on me rather quick. The sad, sad loss for the rest of us.

By aforementioned Luker (not verified) on 13 Jul 2006 #permalink

but it all goes together:

katherine's beautiful phrase, "expanding the possibilities for books in general," which I'd take to be expanding the possibilities for knowledge or awareness of the world in general.
shosh's reference is appropriate: notice that the book, shosh, you refer to, is on the list above. and that i probably check e-mail and blog space in equal amounts nowadays. unless i'm at the beach, on an ancient dial-up connection while alex sleeps in the crib beside me.
and luker fair luker, everywhere and nowhere: echoing and high-fiving katherine, from afar, and bringing Sebald even that much higher on the echelon scale, while applauding my parents' choice of name for my younger sister.

in conclusion: tell janel i wish i had a fog machine too.

in post-conclusion: there's so damn much to do. and i just staretd to re-read the glass bead game to remind me of that, the nice hardback version given to my son by this same luker character, and max, and don't fret katherine, the nightstand is actually an old desk, and it is mighty sturdy.