Menagerie of books in progress

Merton College archway

On the mantlepiece in my room, there are presently two stacks of books. One is for thesis related books, sorted so as to be least likely to topple and crush me in my sleep. The other is for non-thesis books, sorted by the priority with which I mean to read them. I have read at least fifty pages of every book in each pile.

Thesis pile:

  • Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
  • Dobson, Andrew. Political Theory and the Ecological Challenge.
  • Popper, Karl. Conjectures and Refutations.
  • Popper, Karl. The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
  • Lomborg, Bjorn. The Skeptical Environmentalist. (Being selectively re-read)
  • Fenge, Terry. Northern Lights Against POPs.
  • Clapp, Jenniffer. Paths to a Green World. (Another purposeful re-reading)

Non-thesis pile:

  • Nabokov, Vladamir. Ada, or Ardor. (A much appreciated gift from Viki K.)
  • Atwood, Margaret. Moral Disorder. (From my mother)
  • Wilde, Oscar. De Profundis and other writings.
  • Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd.
  • Milton, John. Paradise Lost. (Re-reading aloud)
  • Cunningham, Michael. Specimen Days.

I have been reading these books for periods ranging from two days to many months. Sometimes, I wonder whether it would be more sensible to read books sequentially, one by one. I don’t really think so. This system lets me read in any of a half dozen distinctive genres or subject areas, and I don’t think I lose much comprehension on account of tracking so many strings at once. (Complex novels are an exception. I often need to force myself to start over and read through. This may be why I have never finished Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, despite at least four attempts.).

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

12 thoughts on “Menagerie of books in progress”

  1. The Ballad of Reading Gaol is certainly a more compelling work. Wilde’s complaints to his lover – while seemingly justified – definitely go on for rather longer than I would prefer.

    I think I am going to try to finish Moral Disorder, before moving back to the rest of this collection. It’s the only book here where I feel myself to be within striking distance of completion.

  2. You should try and sit all the way through the Satanic verses. A great book that has so many different levels of cultural, religious, societal meaning.

  3. Your non-thesis pile definitely seems the more interesting of the two…

  4. Great photo!

    The Ballad of Reading Gaol is quite moving, though perhaps only because it related indirectly to my own situation. There’s a line in The History Boys where Mr Hector tells Posner that the great moments in literature are the ones where a line reaches out and grabs you, and you feel for a moment that an experience or sensation that was unique to you has in fact been shared by some other person, even if they are long dead. Ironically I’ve had the same thought myself and one such line is from TBRG: ‘he who lives more than one life/ more deaths than one must die’.

  5. While reading The Ballad in Dublin, this bit struck me as having particular contemporary political significance:

    With bars they blur the gracious moon,
    And blind the goodly sun;
    And they do well to hide their Hell,
    For in it things are done
    That Son of God nor son of Man
    Ever should look upon!

    The vilest deeds like poison weeds,
    Bloom well in prison-air;
    It is only what is good in Man
    That wastes and withers there:
    Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
    And the warder is Despair.

    For they starve the little frightened child
    Till it weeps both night and day:
    And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
    And gibe the old and grey,
    And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
    And none a word may say.

    From Part V

  6. For the record, Ana or Ardor has come off a bit like James Joyce, in terms of how dense and hard to follow it is.

    I don’t expect to be making tables to keep track of fiction that I am reading.

  7. Ada online is a free annotated version. Of course, the need for such an elaborate system of reading highlights how the book can be a bit of an intellectual chore.

  8. My mother sent me two new items for the non-thesis pile:

    Jones, Edward P. The Known World.

    Munro, Alice. The View from Castle Rock.

  9. Due to their relevance to the thesis and the considerable difficulty of finding library copies, I spent £30 today buying these from Amazon:

    “Ozone Discourse: Science and Politics in Global Environmental Cooperation (New Directions in World Politics)”
    Karen T. Litfin; Paperback; £18.00

    “The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism”
    Steven Bernstein; Paperback; £10.56

    They should help with the thesis, and be useful for years to come.

  10. Single best use for my Popper books:

    I put one underneath each edge of my laptop, to give the processor and hard drive more exposure to cool air.

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