Libraries

culture

I'm rediscovering the joy of visiting the library. I'm not talking about academic libraries (I visit them a lot) but public libraries, and borrowing fiction books. I used to be a frequent visitor when I first moved to Oxford, but at some point I lost my library card, and couldn't be bothered to get a new one. Mr. Bsag had one, and he used to sometimes get me books, but somehow that wasn't quite the same. Now I've joined the Birmingham library system, and I wander around like a kid in a sweetshop and emerge with an armful of books.

I do a lot of my reading during my commute, so about half of the books I get have to paperback and fairly small so that I don't injure my back hefting them around every day (lugging a PowerBook is bad enough). These commuting books also need to be reasonably 'light' in content as well — dense plots are hard to follow when you can only read small chunks at a time and you get distracted. Also, if it's too gripping, you tend to miss your stop.

Books that I read at home (usually in bed) can be any size and any subject matter. I try to pick books that are as diverse as possible to add a bit of variety to the experience. I look on it like creating a menu with different tastes and textures. I went though a stage as an adolescent when I read nothing but science fiction and fantasy, but thankfully I'm over that now.

Here's what's on my book pile at the moment:

  • Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (commuting, current). I've been meaning to read this for ages, but now that I've actually got around to it, I find that it's amusingly dated (computing-related novels must be the fastest-ageing fiction around). The words 'information superhighway' (remember that?) are bandied around a lot, and Apple employs as many people as Microsoft. Still, I'm enjoying it enormously for the geek nostalgia factor. It also has train-friendly short chapters.
  • Carnevale by M. R. Lovric (home, current). I've got a bit of a thing about 18th Century Venice at the moment, so this immediately appealed. It's a wonderful, sensuous book, full of evocative descriptions of food, rich fabrics and the city itself. Entertaining, educational (Casanova plays a major role, so very educational), and rather like savouring a couple of squares of 80% cocoa solids dark chocolate at bed time.
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (home, pending). The blurb intrigued me. It's a science fiction book (OK, I know what I said...) about SETI, religion and human nature. The Times described it as "One of the year's most powerful and disturbing books."
  • The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (commuting, pending). A thriller set in 19th Century Spain with enigmatic women and fencing. You can't go wrong with that.
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