Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So I'm working on a list of books to bring.

It's hard for me to address the ways books are important to me. They've been a constant presence in my life for as long as I can remember, and of course I went to That Book College and all that.
But it's more than an intellectual thing with me. As I was thinking about this list and flipping through the pages of some of the books I have read before, I found myself seeing again the last occasion I had to read them. In the pages of my copy of Euclid's Elements, I found tons of scrawled margin notes that didn't necessarily relate to the propositions. Little clever or funny things my classmates and tutor had said, reminders and lists of things to do, and random thoughts about Sophocles danced up and down the page next to doodles of sad clowns (an illustration my friends and I used to personify the reductio ad absurdum). In another book, I found a handful of doodles of stick figures playing in the snow, undoubtedly sketched as my thoughts drifted in class to the weather outside. In another, I had tucked a separate piece of paper covered in notes and questions focusing on a notion that would later turn into my freshman essay. Exclamation points and excited scrawl are all over all my books, and encountering these messages from my personal past is enthralling.
It is not only a younger version of myself that I encounter in these books. Some of my dearest friends, the people I love the most, pop out of these pages. Sometimes I come to a passage in a text and am overwhelmed by the memory of my friends and I laughing about it while doing the reading out on the quad, or wondering over it in Seminar, or laboring over it next to that blackboard up on the top floor of the Barr-Buchanan Center. Sometimes these passages bring one person back to me, and sometimes they bring many. But they are always a reminder of the people I have met and loved so far in life, of the things we shared in speech. And then my thoughts turn to the new books, the ones I haven't read yet. I wonder whose words I will record in their pages, who will share the jokes and the discoveries and the wonder of these books with me?

I’m being a little sentimental, I know. But you should be nice to me, because I leave the continent in nine days. Yeesh.

And while I’m at it, I thought of a phrase I like to talk about going from St. John's College to the Peace Corps: "Going from the life of the mind to the life of the hands and heart." Cheesyawesomegoodness.


And now, The Book List. Of course, I'm going to be adding and subtracting from this list a fair bit in the next few days, but just in case you're as obsessive about reading as I am, here you go....

Books I'm reading now and hoping to finish before departure, but might end up coming along for the ride:
Nine Hills to Nambonkaha (If I finish in time, I'll send it to my dad. Hi, Dad!)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Samantha Power's Chasing the Flame (a biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, who is becoming something of a hero of mine -- he was into Kant and the United Nations! like me! yeah!)

The real list (sort of kinda maybe):
Kant, Metaphysics of Morals
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves
Proust, Swann's Way
Love in the Time of Cholera, possibly other stuff by Marquez too
Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse
Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life (I acquired a soft, squishy spot for this guy back in the days of freshman lab class)
Plato, The Republic - The Joe Sachs translation!
Thoreau, Walden
The Bible -- RSV, the version I read in sophomore year at SJC. Not as a person of faith, so much as a person who likes reading Job and some other bits quite a lot. Plus, as with any book I read at SJC, my margin notes will be a constant source of amusement/horror/humility.
Lonely Planet's guide to Senegal
Tocqueville, Democracy in America (it makes me squirm, and it touches on some stuff I've been thinking about a lot lately)
Guns, Germs, and Steel (started, never finished)
The Pleasures of Exile, by George Lamming. I don't know anything about this book.
Paul Farmer's Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. See my first blog entry for some background on my ridiculous crush on Paul Farmer.

And in a true nod to SJC, two books I want to work through again:
Euclid's Elements (ugh, but it's so heavy)
The Greek manual (uuuugh, but it's sooo heavy that I'm probably going to leave it behind)

I'm missing poetry. But the poetry I want is so random. I'll have a line of something stuck in my head, and I'll get out of bed to look it up. Usually it's Eliot or Auden, but not always. So how do I pack for that?

Am I missing anything?

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