Some times I think that I am too involved with photography. I have this blog as well as a couple of websites developed to “writing with light” and as a result spend quite a lot of my time immersed in some of the more arcane aspects of photography.
My wife is addicted to a television program called “The First Tuesday Book CLub” and some time ago the panel recommended a book I hadn’t come across, called “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, so I bought it. Again it related to things visual – art and photography and the way we see the world.
For many years I read at least one book a day, even when working. On holidays two, or three. These days I don’t read nearly so much, but I began thinking I wasn’t reading much other than photography books and articles, so I piled the books I’ve read since the beginning of September into a pile and looked at them objectively.
Here’s the list, in no particular order:
Ways of Seeing John Berger
Crossing To Safety Wallace Stegner
The Guns Of August Barbara W Tuchman
The Rise and Fall of Athens Plutarch
The Burning Soul John Connolly
Existence David Brin
The Power Of The Dog Don Winslow
The Collectors David Baldacci
The Copernican Revolution Various Harvard professors
The Burying Place Brian Freeman
This Body of Death Elizabeth George
I was astonished to find that I’d read only one book related to photography, one on the development of astronomical theory, a history of the first month of World War 1, a history of Athens in the sixth century BC, one science fiction novel, one “family” novel, and five mysteries. A fairly eclectic mix, and typical of my reading habits … but I hadn’t realised how addicted I’ve become to murder mysteries stories.
The ones I’ll remember are Crossing to Safety and The Guns of August. Both extraordinary books. I don’t know how I managed to have absolutely no knowledge of Wallace Stegner (another First Tuesday recommendation) for so long. This absolutely one of the best books by a Twentieth Century American author I have read.
Nothing dramatic happens in Crossing to Safety, but nothing happens beautifully and with style, but at times I couldn’t wait to get to the next page to read what happened next.
Did Stegner sell his soul to the Devil in return for being able to write so impeccably, and with such a light touch? His language is poetic with an underlying rhythm that carries the story forward as relentlessly as a river descends to the sea. I know nothing of pre-War American academia, but I ended up caring about the two professors and their wives across 40 years of genteel friendship. I seldom recommend books as people’s tastes are so different, but Crossing to Safety should be at the top of everyone’s reading list.