I have a book problem. The library has partially reopened but in order to get a book I have to know what I want for curbside pickup. How am I supposed to know what books I want? I like to wander through my favorite sections of the library until a book or subject jumps from the shelf and begs to be taken home with me. Sometimes I wander through my less favorite sections and learn about something else entirely. I need recommendations if any of you have suggestions.
In the meantime, I've been reading books I already have. I've found a few I hadn't read before hiding on the shelves. They've mostly been disappointments, past garage sale purchases that deserve to be forgotten or given to the library to sell to some other unsuspecting reader, but there's one unread book I've pushed around on the shelf many times. I've moved it from one house to another. I've started it multiple times because it was my dad's and he loved it. I wanted to understand what he saw in it but I found it antiquated and tedious. Every time I picked it up I put it down again within a few pages. I'm determined this time. Read it or get rid of it.
Erewhon was published in 1872 but I was confused by my copy which has a partial copyright of 1968. I missed the "partial" in that and thought this was a more recent book which made me take offense at the white superiority in it. Knowing its time doesn't make the racism okay, but it does help me take it in context while making me sympathetic to people burning things down in Minneapolis this week.
I'm only about halfway through Erewhon so I can't tell you if its contemplation of machines, society, and Darwinism has much merit. So far, I hate the book as much as the previous times I've tried to read it. Maybe I'll change my mind. I doubt it. Thankfully, it isn't very long. I'm just reading about a racist blonde guy stranded in a fictional country while I'm stranded during Covid-19 seclusion. According to Dad's philosophy of life, this will make me a better educated and interesting person. I hope so. I'd like to get something out of this experience.
Dad urged me to read the classics, and because I was similarly stranded in childhood by being stuck in the woods, I dutifully read what he had on the shelves. I learned about Victorian men's ideas of romance while painlessly absorbing history. I read the Bible a few times, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tarzan, nature field guides, crime investigation techniques, etc. I'm pretty sure Dad purposely put some books on the shelf to further my education. I also read the secret book in my parents' bedroom which I was very sure had nothing to do with what they did behind that closed door. Hey, if you want to encourage me to read then you have to suffer the consequences!
A friend of mine told me her parents never read to her when she was a child. I felt her pain and feel fortunate my dad read to me regularly and engagingly. He made up funny voices and cuddled me. Reading was a warm comfort and escape. My friend learned to love books because her neighbor took time to read to her. It doesn't have to be a parent who passes this love onto another. I know many of you share my pleasure of books. Let's spread that enjoyment to others.