Book Stores

Let’s face it.  Things change.

I just received an e-mail from Border’s that they are going completely out of business.  My local Border’s store closed on January first this year.   I recall when they first opened on the corner of Pierson and Michigan.  They ran all the local independent bokkstores, plus a large Waterstone’s store out of business.  So, Border’s was my go to place to buy books for a long time.

I think their major problem was that they did not get the e-book thing.

Oh well, there is a small footprint Barnes & Noble a few blocks away.  But why would I go their either?  It’s for damned sure I have no more space in my humble abode for another paper book.

Published in: on July 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Last book of 2010 and Happy New Year

I finished reading How To Live: Or a Biography of Montaigne this afternoon. I see why it has a devoted following and good reviews.

Next, biographies of Raymond Carver and Alfred Tarski.

Why am I reading so many biographies lately?  I’ve done Newton and Einstein recently too.

Anyway, Happy New Year, you pretty butt motherfuckers. I love you.

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 9:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Booklist 1

In the spirit of my last post, here is a partial list of the books I’ve read this past year.  I reconstructed it from the eBooks I’ve read.  It does not include the books of mathematics, philosophy, or poetry I’ve dipped into.  It does not include the hardcopy books I read before I bought the iPad.

I’ll keep the list up to date with the latest book read appearing first on the list.

Dec, 2010 – Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan
Dec, 2010 – The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk
Dec, 2010 – The Aeneid, Virgil, Stanley Lombardo translator
Nov, 2010 – Life, Keith Richards
Unk, 2010 – Sin Killer, Larry McMurtry
Unk, 2010 – The Wandering Hill, Larry McMurty
Unk, 2010 – By Sorrow’s River, Larry McMurtry
Unk, 2010 – Folly and Glory, Larry McMurtry
Unk, 2010 – The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene
Unk, 2010 – Hitch 22, Christopher Hitchens
Unk, 2010 – Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr
Unk, 2010 – The Big Short, Michael Lewis
Unk, 2010 – The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved, Mario Livio
Unk, 2010 – Shakespeare’s Philosophy, Colin McGinn
Unk, 2010 – War and Peace, Tolstoy, Constance Garnett tranlator
Unk, 2010 – Einstein, Walter Isaacson
Unk, 2010 – The Portable Atheist, Christopher Hitchens editor
Unk, 2010 – Decarte’s Bones, Russell Shorto
Unk, 2010 – Isaac Newton, James Gleick
Unk, 2010 – Three Stations, Martin Cruz Smith
Unk, 2010 – The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, Stieg Larsson
Unk, 2010 – The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson
Unk, 2010 – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
Unk, 2010 – C, Tom McCarthy
Unk, 2010 – Yearning For the Impossible, John Sitwell
Unk, 2010 – Symmetry, Marcus Du Sautoy
Unk, 2010 – The Archimedes Codex, Reviel Netz, William Noel
Unk, 2010 – Symmetry and the Monster, Mark Ronan
Unk, 2010 – Godel’s Proof, Ernest Nagel, James R. Newman
Unk, 2010 – From Zero to Infinity, Constance Reid
Unk, 2010 – The Whole Five Feet, Christopher R. Beha
Unk, 2010 – Chess Fundamentals, Jose R. Capablanca

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The list that didn’t happen

I would like a simple list of all the books I have read during my life.  I’ll start one now.

Dec, 2010 – The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk

Dec, 2010 – Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan

I shudder at the thousands missing from the list.  Maybe, in the next life, I’ll get it right.  Or maybe not.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gone Electronic

In advance of receipt of my iPad, I bought my first eBook from Barnes&Noble yesterday, Colin McGuinn’s Shakespeare’s Philosophy.  (I have downloaded a lot of free eBooks over the years.)  I sat in bed last night reading it on my iPhone with the Cubs radio broadcast of the baseball game in LA playing in the background on the phone.  (Gotta love the iPhone.)

I’ve always found McGinn an agreeable prose stylist.  I also find his take on Shakespeare’s skeptical(?) philosophy congenial.  McGinn doesn’t do literary criticism of Shakespeare’s work.  He sticks to Shakespeare the philosopher.

I’m already seeing the advantage of collecting an electronic library.  In the case of the McGinn book, I’ll have it plus the plays with annotations to the texts all collected in and accessible from one device no matter where I go.

Published in: on July 10, 2010 at 5:42 am  Comments (5)  

The iPad circles the globe

I ordered an IPad about two weeks ago.  It shipped from Connecticut a couple of days ago, then went to Hong Kong, then to Alaska.  Now that it has left Alaska I wonder where it will land next.

I bought it because…  Well, it’s cool.  However, there was at least one practical reason.  I have no more room for hard copy books.  I have to go electronic.  When I looked at the prices of the high end book readers versus the price of an iPad, the price was definitely right given all the other things you can do with an iPad.

Anyway, on Monday or Tuesday, I’ll be the owner of an iPad.

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  


At some point he must have slept.  When daylight came, the room felt so empty it was empty even of him.

Wolf House, Hilary Mantel

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 7:50 am  Comments (1)  

King James Bible: yeh-ah!

OK, I’ll admit it, I am a sucker for the King James Bible even though I am a pagan.  (I haven’t been happy since the Christians and such like destroyed the ancient Greek temples.)  Here’s an oldie but a goody.

How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow  down my spittle?

Job 7:19

And there’s more where that came from.  (Note for file: quote the King James Bible each and every day.)

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Both Ways

He fished her phone number out of his pocket and studied it a while in the moonlight, until he knew it by heart, and wouldn’t forget it.  Then he did what he knew he should do, and rolled it into a ball, and threw it away.

Maile Meloy, from Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It

Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 12:33 pm  Comments (1)  

POV: caring?

I still wonder about those two points of view in Bleak House.  Is it merely a technical solution to problems such as plot and character (or so many characters), or an expedient arrived at under time pressure to keep the narrative flowing?

And why should I care?

Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bertrand’s Ghost

I’ll admit it.  Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography is one of my favorite books.  He was a hero of mine back in my youth, but even now, when I have no heroes, that book still enchants me.

Let us take one of Russell’s finest achievements.  Along with Whitehead, he showed in their Principia Mathematica how to deduce mathematics from axioms of logic.  The chapter in his Autobiography where he discusses that fascinates me still.

Because of Russell I was much under the sway of logicism when I was young, not only as a philosophy of mathematics, but as a philosophy of life, extending Russell’s thought to realms he never dreamed of and would have abhorred.  Now that I am older and know the meaning of life, at least for we humans, lies in metaphor, I stand corrected–even in my philosophy of mathematics.  (Big Wink)

Yet it was Russell who put me on the path to the study of mathematical logic, a path I do not regret, for at one time I mastered Godel’s On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems on my own.  It remains one of my proudest achievements.

In 1950, Bertrand received the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I thought it odd for most of my life, but now it seems so right especially after his Autobiography, which was written in the mid-Sixties.  Even his Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy is a minor literary classic.  (He wrote it while in jail during World War I for opposing the war.)  Saying that makes me think he is my hero again, and I don’t hold much truck with heroes except for folks like him and U. S. Grant and such.

I own the hardback volumes and a paperback copy of Autobiography.  (Another Big Wink)

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm  Comments (3)  


You should have two copies of your favorite books: a hardback copy, substantial, that you hold in your lap when you read at home, and a paperback copy you carry around with you on occasion to flout one of your personae–not caring what gets spilt upon it.

When you get caught in the rain with your book exposed, you’ll be happy.  You’ll swipe the paperback book across the leg of your blue jeans and transfer the water like you transfer the day’s persona to some object of no consequence.

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

A thunderstorm and Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy

The sun is up on this Sunday morning, yet it is dark, for a thunderstorm is passing through.  Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy sits beside the table.  That’s the book I’ll turn to when I finish my writing this morning.

I think I first read it when I finished college.  I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped.  I enjoyed it all the same.

Let us say the book is flawed by historical inaccuracies and personal prejudices.  Yet it has its charms: stylistically polished, witty, a brash narrative, and erudite.

I read books depending upon my mood.  Charm fits my mood these days.  Reading books for their charm makes reading a self indulgence.  However, reading is partly self indulgence, no matter what, when not done for work or some well defined goal.

But for now, a thunderstorm hovers about and I must write a little more, yet another self indulgence these days just before winter sets in.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 7:49 pm  Comments (2)  


I don’t know why one night makes any difference from another these days, but I like being home alone most on Saturday nights.  A good book seems companion enough.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Queer Evangelists, Palin, and other disturbing elements

I read Max Blumenthal’s Republican Gomorrah, an in depth and well organized exploration of the excesses of the Fundamentalist and Evangelist Christian movement and how they shattered the Republican Party.  Whether you are on the Left or Right, it might make you queasy as you read it.  However, this isn’t a book review.  You can Google book reviews until your heart is content without my help.

James Dobson, the wannabe kingmaker of the Republican Party  (or queenmaker anyone?) is at the heart of the story.  But what fascinated me most is to discover the depth and amount of homosexuality and sexual deviancy of many of these Evangelist Christian leaders.  I’m talking about people who have spent their lives trying to squelch gay rights and consign gay  souls to the depths of Hell according to their religious view of the universe.  The central thesis of the book is that the movement is one of crisis.  For those fallen in the flock, all they have to do is repent to the father leader and all will be forgiven if they resume their onslaught against gay rights, women’s rights, and others who don’t support their version of the Conservative agenda.  The argument is well made that this movement is a party and religion of enablement similar to other forms of addiction and fear of acting freely.

The book concludes with several chapters about Sarah Palin and how her nomination and campaign assured the Republicans loss last year.  Those chapters alone are worth reading just to get a sense of what a wacko she is when it comes to her fundamental beliefs.   I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the ending.

If Republicans think Palin can withstand any reasoned scrutiny for President of the United States, they might be in for a surprise.


Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Annals of books: Capablanca

It was the summer of 1969 and I was working at the Camp Pendleton Brig.  Except for drinking, taking drugs, and fishing in the Pacific Ocean for fish I didn’t really like to eat, I was bored.  Then a friend challenged me to a game of chess.  I became interested, then addicted.  He left the Marine Corps shortly after that and bequeathed me his chess set and a copy of Jose R. Capablanca’s Chess Fundamentals.  (Of course, we know Capablanca as World Chess Champion during the 1920’s and one of the greatest players of all time.)

I studied Chess Fundamentals every day back then.  My game got better.  I did not know it at the time, but Chess Fundamentals had been a standard text on how to play the game since its publication in 1921.  It still is a chess classic.

When I started playing chess again two years ago, I plucked Chess Fundamentals out of the stack and commenced studying it anew.  I found it just as fresh and challenging as I did in 1969.  Capablanca writes with an almost arrogant haughty diction.  I don’t know if that is an aspect of one of his personae or just because of the esteem in which he held the game.

Unfortunately, time ravaged my old copy of the book and it fell apart this year.  I bought a new copy.  It sits beside the chessboard and computer as I write this.

One measure of the personal meaning of a book is the hours spent with it over a lifetime.  I guess by that standard Capablanca’s book is one of the most important to me, for I have spent uncountable hours with it.  I doubt if I will ever master Capablanca’s teachings, but the teachings fit with the nature of chess.  The game can consume a whole lifetime and never be mastered in any significant manner except loving its purity and the pleasure it gives.

Besides all that, I wish I could write as well as Capablanca.  I’m a sucker for an austere and precise prose style.

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

My favorite what if question

What if the Great Library at Alexandria had not been destroyed, but thrived, remained intact, and grew through the ages?  My naive response is that the world would be a better place.  However, great learning does not always trump folly.  In fact, it may exacerbate folly’s consequences.

No matter what, wouldn’t it be fun to have all those books lost because of hate, violence, ignorance, and folly?

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The days with Gauss

I picked up a notebook at Walgreen’s yesterday.  It’s just for my notes on Disquisitiones Arithmeticae.  I liken the Gauss experience to reading Hume.  It doesn’t get any better.

Published in: on October 3, 2009 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

The odd and the symmetric

This week’s serious reading will be devoted to Borges’ fictions.  We’ll also concentrate on symmetries too.

Published in: on September 28, 2009 at 12:13 am  Comments (3)  

Dispatches: blown away again

You could be in the most protected space in Vietnam and still know that your safety was provisional, that early death, blindness, loss of legs, arms or balls, major and lasting disfigurement–the whole rotten deal–could come in on the freakyfluky as easily in the so called ways, you heard so many of these stories it was a wonder anyone was left alive to die in the firefights and motor-rocket attacks.

Dispatches, Michael Herr

While searching the book stacks at home last night I came across Herr’s Dispatches.  I have not read it in around 35 years, so I decided to try a few pages to see if it was still fresh.  Damn, fresh ain’t the word for it.  Frenentic, a prose style manic and on the edge.  I classify it with the other books from the Sixties and early Seventies that fall in the categories New Journalism and the Nonfiction Novel: books like Capote’s In Cold Blood, Thompson’s Hells Angels, Wolfe’s Electric Cool Aid Acid Test, Mailer’s Armies of the Night, and Pirsig’s The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The best half dozen books to come out of the Vietnam War are Herr’s, Caputo’s A Rumor of War, Kovik’s Born on the Fourth of July, O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Mailer’s Armies of the Night, and Halberstam’s The Best and Brightest.  I judge Dispatches as the best because Herr confurs a near impossible prose style.

Lots of good nonfiction has come from the Iraq War.  I now wait for the gritty and wild books written by a new generation who were there and saw things up close and personal.

However, with Dispatches the bar is set very high.  Reading it again is blowing me away just as it did the first time.

Published in: on July 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Final catharsis

I read that a new edition of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast comes out this week (NYT).  Sean Hemingway, grandson of Hemingway and his second wife Pauline, has edited it and added additional sketches from Hemingway’s manuscript.

For good or ill, A Moveable Feast remains one of my favorite books and sparked my imagination when I was young.  I will read the new edition in hopes it will not dull my enthusiasm for the first edition.

Hemingway never finished the book before he committed suicide. Yet are competed manuscripts ever finished?  If reading is a transaction between writer and reader, then all books may not be finished as we apply new interpretations to it.  My favorite books seem to be those books I can read again with a fresh view.

Some events never find a final interpretation or catharsis.

Published in: on June 29, 2009 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

one gulp

I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in one gulp today. I wonder if there is a better American writer.

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cope II

I have returned to reading Vollmann’s Europe Central. The book meshes fiction and history seamlessly. I’m immersed in the section called The Last Field Marshal whose central character is the German general Paulus who commanded the German Sixth Army at the battle for Stalingrad during World War II. The narrator of this section (an East German Stasi agent? I assume all the narrators of Europe Central are secret police agents of some sort.) admires Paulus, a man who does his duty, a man who aspires to attain the rank of Field Marshall. Paulus fails to take Stalingrad. Then his own army is encircled and subjected to near annihilation and the worst privations of a Russian winter.

As I recall from reading a history about Paulus and Stalingrad, it becomes evident to Hitler that Sixth Army will have to surrender to Russian forces. Hitler promotes Paulus to Field Marshall, knowing that no German Field Marshall was ever taken alive on the battlefield. Paulus does the unthinkable; he does not kill himself before the surrender. A man who did his soldierly duty impeccably, refuses his one last duty. Oh well, Vollmann’s narrator will soon refresh my memory.

Some good fiction tells about the shortness of our lives and how the things we want the most could never be. These novels tell how we cope with bitter disappointments–how we go on.

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  


The weather has taken a turn toward the spectacular in Chicago. Sunny and warm. That is the way western Europe was when I was traveling there. I did not take a jacket with me on the trip. The first day I spilled coffee on the only sweater I brought. So, I had to buy a jacket in Amsterdam. It was not easy finding a jacket that fit my stunning geezer figure, but I eventually did. It served me well and still does this fall in Chicago.

I did my usual over packing for the trip. I should have taken a better look at the Amsterdam, Bruges, and Brussels guidebook I took on the trip. It had a complete checklist of what to pack for the trip. I could have dispensed with more than half the clothes I took and done laundry along the way, which I did one night in Brussels anyway.

I lost some weight on the trip. Hiking about from early morning until late at night helped, for I certainly was not watching my diet.

One night in Brussels, I was tempted to go to a chess club I found via the Internet. I was tired though, and I felt my game would not be up to par against opponents who would obviously be much better than me. Next time though…

The European TV news during the trip was almost exclusively about the housing and financial panic. Right after I returned home, the markets took their worst tumble. I moved my major retirement savings from stocks to money market funds just before it happened. I am a lucky SOB.

I read Proust on the trip during the early hours of morning and late at night. I read almost the whole of The Captive, the part where the narrator holds Albertine captive in his apartment by his pathological jealousy over and suspicions of her lesbianism. Jealousy was much on mind for other reasons during the trip, so his observations about love and jealousy moved me emotionally more than it might have at other times. Then there are those long elegant Proustian sentences, sentences crammed with so many ideas one gets lost in them until one finds the proper gate to keep pace. It took me a long time to acquire a taste for Proust, but now that I have, I consider him one of my favorite writers, or even philosophers if I might be allowed to place him in that category.

I started writing this morning just before sunrise. The writing felt good as Hemingway might say. As the sky brightened, I thought about how it is better to have loved and lost then not to have loved at all. I sincerely believe it true. Love is often portrayed as a journey. The metaphor is apt in many ways. We never really know where love ends or if it ever ends. Even after we are dead, a loved one may encounter an event that triggers a memory of a good time they had with us. Naturally, as the generations pass on, memories of us pass on with them. However, I take spiritual comfort from knowing that the flames of our candles linger a bit longer beyond the grave. Eternity does not interest me much. It is enough to have been loved along the way.

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Gibbon and me

I am thrilled I decided to read some Gibbon again.  Gibbon provides the perfect tonic for someone, like me, who has spent much of the year exulting in vanity or wallowing in self pity.  Worst of all, I have thrown over reading, learning, and thinking.  I have shamed and damned myself at every step I have taken this year.  Oh well, the train may not have run completely off the tracks, and yet may still be hoisted on the tracks again.  As Gibbon tells me, I am only human: subject to folly, yet capable of good acts.

Published in: on August 8, 2008 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment