Monday, January 18, 2010

Continuing education, part II

My quest to read more widely, and to read nonfiction in particular, continues. Since I loved Spook so much, I picked up Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. (and wow, I just typed that as "The Curious Loves of Human Cadavers" which would have been a really different book.) Stiff had the same characteristics I enjoyed while reading Spook, and Roach writes in a manner that really makes me think that she would be an excellent person to have a drink with. At the same time, it was a bit difficult - in an emotional sense, not a stylistic one - to read. Roach is extremely respectful of her subject area, and her deceased subjects (who are all thanked in the acknowledgments), but I sometimes needed a break from contemplating what might happen to my body after I'm no longer using it. It's a thought provoking book, and one I definitely recommend.

While reading Stiff made me feel that I was learning at least as much about myself as the subject matter while I read it, this next book made me think that I was learning at least as much about the author as I was about her topic. I received Allison Hoover Bartlett's The Man Who Loved Books Too Much as a Christmas gift. On it's surface, this is the story of a rare book thief, and the man who pursues him. I was very interested to read it because I love rare books. Love, love, love them, in a way that could easily become obsessive. (I often think, wow, that's a lot of money to spend for a house, or a car. I sometimes even think that one could spend too much money on shoes. I have never thought that there was an amount that would be too much to pay for the right book.) Bartlett wondered, as she wrote, whether she might someday become fascinated with collecting books, as well. She concludes that she wouldn't, that her obsession is collecting stories. The depths of her need to collect this particular story becomes clear as she writes about the lengths she went to in order to stay in the good graces of the book thief who was her subject. Her own ethics became wobblier and more strained as she continued her pursuit of her subject. It's an interesting read that speaks much more about the nature of obsession than it does about signed first editions.


  1. I love Roach. I think I just need BONK to complete my collection.

    Also, I dare you to write a story called "The Curious Loves of Human Cadavers."

  2. I think BONK may be next on the list for me, too.

    And I'm sure it will not surprise you in the least to know that I scribbled "The Curious Loves of Human Cadavers" down in my notebook of potential stories shortly after making that typo.