Archive | December, 2008

Books and Music

31 Dec

It is late at night and I am listening to Leonard Cohen sing his songs (lots of them). His music and words are wonderful- the concert earlier this year in London was sublime! All those baby boomers singing and clapping. I do not believe I paid much attention to his music until I heard Margaret Attwood describe the song she would leave to her children on BBC R4 program – it was Leonard Cohen ‘Dance me to the end of time’. I have been catching up ever since. Now even the general UK public is fully on the act with his Hallelujah song being first ever Top 1 and 2 song, though his version (best for me) was around 30’s.

Latest comment in the Independent by Howard Jacobson Few can do love and loss like the Old Testament – except Leonard Cohen shows why this poem is almost like a book. After all, it took Leonard Cohen 2 years to write the lyrics for it. In an earlier piece about him after being at his concert along with 50,000 others, Howard Jacobson reminds us that Thanks to Leonard Cohen, I can see the light that slips through the crack by refering to the lyrics of Cohen’s poem “Anthem”

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Questions for housekeeping

30 Dec

Reviewing books I own looks a simple organisational task. It is until I started to put it into practice.

I have now come up with a logistic issue. Namely, our/my books are spread on bookshelves, tables, surfaces all around the house. Where will I put the books that I have reviewed?

Easiest would be to allocate a shelf for that purpose. Well, that would presuppose mixing different books together- something that is not the case at present. And, I would need to empty a shelf for this- none are free now.

Another option would be to put the books that have been reviewed into a box and keep on updating the list of them placing it on the top. This could be a good way to keep track of the location of books and their list- I would have the same list on the computer too. Boxes would need to have a unique ID as would the shelves later.

Well, may be a simple boxing solution will work.

NB. I have later noticed that the white bookshelf on upper landing has very few books and is strategically placed! So, that is a second option.


Five and a half years on we are in the new house. The first addition to our home has been to build a full wall double depth bookshelf. Thus the books are now mostly in two places: sitting room and my husband’s study. So, no more excuse that I do not know where to start.

My first week list of books to review- blog about

29 Dec

How exciting! I have a first comment on my blog from an experienced book reviewer- thank you Jan for the encouragement.

My challenge for the first week is to review the 5 books on the table closest to me. They are:

1. The failure of market failure Towards a 21st century Keynesianism

By Will Hutton and Phillippe Schneider
NESTA (London), Provocation 08: November 2008, 31p

This is really more of a pamphlet, so will test the template and should be quick to review as I have also heard the lecture by Will Hutton where he introduced this booklet. Hope that is not ‘cheating’.

2. FREAKONOMICS A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J Dubner
PENGUIN BOOKS, Revised and Expended Edition, London, 2006. 320p.

I know, this is an ‘old’ bestseller, but I did not want to buy it at the time when all the hype went around, kind of matter of principle. I then started to read their highly popular blog column in the New York Times and have enjoyed the variety of themes they and their guest writers tackle. Must have mentioned it to my daughter, as she chose to buy this book for me for Xmas this year and especially suggested I read chapter 6 about baby names.

3. REINVENTING KNOWLEDGE From Alexandria to the Internet

Ian F. McNeely with Lisa Wolverton
W.W.NORTON&CO, New York, 2008, 318p.

This is one of the real ‘finds’ from the time Gary and I spent picking the books we may be interested in from the shelves at COOP on Harvard Square when we visited Cambridge at the end of October-beginning of November 2008. Once I found this book and discovered that the authors were both fellows at Harvard and did history for their respective PhD’s I was even more excited. Fancy walking by pure chance into the subject that my daughter is now researching as part of her own PhD and stumbling onto the topic that is of great interest to me? I love these coincidences.

I have already spent some time reading this book in US and taking notes, so hopefully it will make it easier to finish the review in time without getting too much sidetracked by details.

4. The HOW of Happiness A practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want

Sonja Lyubomirsky
Sphere, London, 2007, 373p

I have been waiting to get this book for some time, ever since I first came across the work of Dr Lyubomirsky in an article printed, of all places, in the Financial Times. I have since heard her speak several times on webcasts for people involved in the work in Positive Psychology or for the members of IAPP. Her conversation with Prof Ed Denier in October 2008 was really interesting so I checked her book at COOP and ordered it from Amazon on our return back home (sorry but economics of book buying and their weight means that however much I appreciate very special atmosphere of the Harvard COOP, we can not afford to buy all the books we determine we want to read there).

5. HAPPIER Can you learn to be happy

McGraw Hill, Maidenhead, UK, 2008, 207p.

I have heard about Tal Ben-Shahar and the popularity of his lectures to Harvard undergraduates first a couple of years ago. Then I heard him personally on BBC Start the Week program and listened to his podcast. A fascinating person and clearly someone with great ability to engage and communicate well. As I am interested in exploring how best to get the concepts of positive psychology transfered via school education to the secondary school kids it struck me as worthwhile acquisition. Another COOP find bought via Amazon in UK in November 2008.

What do ll these books have in common then? They are all in one way or another linked to my work interests. I have got them in the last two months. Oh, and the two books about Happiness have both yellow covers! Four books are paperbacks, only Reinventing Knowledge is a hardback.

* * * * * *
In the process of finding the sites to link with for each of the books above, I came across a really interesting site called The Page 99 Test with the subtitle “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” –Ford Madox Ford Definitely sounds intriguing and I will try it out in my reviews on the book whose search brought it up- Reinventing Knowledge. That way I should have two reviews for it.

What is this Year long Project about – First Idea

25 Dec

As I went to bed last night- late again (2.30am) but not as late as recently- I could not get to sleep straight away. So, I thought about the Project and this blog.

The Idea that kept coming back is to catalogue- with my notes of quotes and comments- the books I have in my home library. That would be useful, fun and interesting. I would finally know what books I own. I could dispose of those that are of no consequence or past it. Given the real mix of books on my shelves and tables, this could be really unexpected bonus.

Now, for practicalities. First, if I am to cover ALL MY BOOKS, then reading would need to be fast and typing even faster. This means I will need to get my typing speed increased by an order of magnitude- hence get through Mavis Beacon typing course asap. Even at the rate of ONE BOOK A DAY I would only cover 365 books and there are more of them in the house. Plus, realistically, I will not manage that rate. So, I will go for 250 books capture over 2009 year. I do not know where she finds these challenges, but they look really a good idea- parcelling a big task into small and achievable chunks.

This commitment entails some choices. For the moment I have no idea what criteria to use. I can consider this later, once I have tried to see on a few examples how this task develops.

As a committed researcher, I am checking out existing Book Review Blogs. Sure to learn something useful. Becky’s Book Reviews has a great idea: setting up a number of challenges for the year. Her 2008 Challenges can be found here Another site that I like is a busy and varied Janice Harayda’s One minute book reviews which introduces a simple template for reviews. This is the one I will try in my first attempt (hope to get the author’s permission- generously granted in the comment below, thank you).

Wish me luck in this year long commitment. What I need is the support and reminder of why I am doing this.

Hello world!

23 Dec

Welcome to my new blog! As the old year 2008 ends, I am starting to create a new presence and focus for my passions and work. This will be the place to chart progress, regress, highs, lows, digressions, expansions, connections, gains, losses, ideas and practicalities of making money from my web connectivity.

Hopefully, it will help me and my readers who like me, suffer from an overload of options for participation on the web but, lack the real impetus to focus on how to make their presence really count for all who come in contact with them.

Please be patient. I have a lot to learn. Not the least of this is how to write well for this medium. Too long sentences, big words, acronyms, technical terms and such can easily drive readers away. Apologies in advance. Seems to me that Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is a very good example of where and how to start. Her first suggestion for such a project is to find an image that captures the spirit of the project. I have looked for one that resonates with me and came up with King Solomon’s knot.

Every day is a challenge. My one for today is to get out for a walk, in spite of not really wanting to do so! I realise it is good for me so I am off now.

Till tomorrow then.