11 January 2008

The current pile of books

A recent list Deniz the Niece had on her blog of the books she was reading prompted me to write about the ones I have been reading. Like Deniz, I could be reading several books at a given time (not simultaneously, of course). Some I read while commuting to and from work, some I read in bed before going to sleep and some I read for my research, which could be at any time of the day.

Without further ado, here is my current reading list not in a particular order.


At the bottom of the pile is the compilation of the best cartoons of one of my favorite cartoonists Roz Chast, Theories of Everything (2006). They are absurd and hilarious and make me fall asleep with a smile on my face.

Above it is the classic Between Pacific Tides, first published in 1939 by Ed Ricketts and Jack Calvin. This is the 5th (1985) edition by David W. Phillips. It is all about the intertidal and subtidal creatures of the western coast of the U.S, but mostly in and around Monterey Bay where Ricketts lived and worked. I have been reading it slowly for several months now.

3rd from the bottom is A Guide to Extreme Lighting Conditions in Digital Photography by Duncan Evans (2006). A useful book, but the title is a bit misleading, because most of the guidance is not for the taking of pictures, but for their subsequent manipulation in Photoshop.

Next is a recent (2004) and easy-to-read yet scholarly account of The First Crusade by Thomas Asbridge. My favorite bad boys of history, the Crusaders, already debuted on this blog.

Then comes a Turkish book, Osmanlı Tarih Lügatı by Midhat Sertoğlu (1986). This is an encyclopedic dictionary of terms from the Ottoman history. Most entries are related to the organization of the Ottoman government, but there are also geograpical and biographical ones. I like to pick it up every now and then and read a few pages at random.

Above it is Eberhard Sauer's The Archaeology of Religious Hatred (2003). An interesting book; but it is a little difficult to read, because of Sauer's dense style. Were the Christian zealots behind all those headless statues we now see in museums? I will write more about it after I finish it. [Note added 4 March 2008: Here is my review of it.]

The following book, Eco-Geography by Andreas Suchantke (2001), was a chance (and cheap) encounter in the used bookstore. Apparently a follower of Rudolf Steiner, Suchantke writes about landscapes, mostly in Africa, and their animals and plants all interconnected. I will write a detailed review of the book upon completing it.

The Turkish author Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil's (1866-1945) İzmir Hikayeleri (Izmir Stories) is next. These are apparently true stories from a bygone era, Uşaklıgil's childhood in the city of Izmir in the 1870s and 1880s.

The thick blue book is another classic, Fretter & Graham's British Prosobranch Molluscs (2nd ed., 1994). It is jam-packed with morphological, biological, behavioral information about the non-pulmonate gastropods of Great Britain. And you don't have to live over there to justify curling up with this one on a cold and rainy winter nite.

Finally, a disappointing entry, Steve Jones' the Single Helix (2005), a collection of short essays previously published in the Daily Telegraph. Jones is a biologist who has worked with snails. So I was excited when I first heard about this book. Alas, these essays are too superficial and too tied in with contemporary occasions to have significant lasting value. Any scientific insight is almost non-existent. And despite the cover photo, only a few have anything to do with snails. In the preface Dr. Jones writes: "On looking back I am depressed to see how many of those columns [in the Daily Telegraph] were devoted to carping, the age-old prerogative of the academic, with complaints about cash mixed with generalised ill will. Such grumbles soon become dull and none has made it to this book." I think many made it to this book. There you have my review of it. Now I am going to post it on Amazon too.

While piling these books up, I noticed something curious. Why are the names of the books and authors on the spines of Turkish books written "backwards", that is from the bottom to the top?


Levana said...

"Why are the names of the books and authors on the spines of Turkish books written "backwards", that is from the bottom to the top?"

Take a look at French and German books sometime -- they are the same way. Basically, it comes down to a choice of one of two equivalent ways of transposing horizontal into vertical writing. In order to read left-to-right on a vertically-placed book spine, you have to "tilt" your head. Tilt your head to the left, and you're reading bottom-to-top (Turkish, German, French); to the right, you're reading top-to-bottom (English).

xoggoth said...

Pah! The Crusaders were the good guys Mr O, everyone knows it was your lot who were the baddies!

Is that a badger skull at right? I've got one and yours seems almost the same although there are a couple of small differences.

PS Mine is called hornblower.


I believe that is a fox skull. You have a good eye.