Cool widget for Mac lovers

Check this out–Delicious Library catalogs your entire media library. You use an iSight camera to scan bar codes, and it looks them up on Amazon et al. and fills your catalog with the details, even including cover art! I never thought I’d put a commercial in my blog, but this is almost as cool as an iPod.

Meme mom

Blog mom Kimberly has tagged me with a meme. Memes, for those of you who don’t speak bloggish, are themes for blog-posts that get passed around among bloggers.

Now herewith the meme:

Total number of books I have owned: I cannot even begin to guess. Erma Bombeck once said that garage sales are for people who don’t move often enough. (Bear with me, this will all come together eventually.) Since I was born in 1965, I’ve had eleven addresses, and seven of them have been since college, which as for me as for many was when I switched from a library habit to a bookstore habit. Each time you move, if you pack yourself and pay for your own moving van (or make your own zillions of trips or whatever), you become more inspired than most people you know to get rid of your crap. Suddenly the clothes you haven’t worn for a few years but haven’t had the heart to toss, when they’re something you’d have to pack, move, and unpack, are easy to toss. The books that you’re pretty sure you’ll never reread or need for reference are a little harder to toss, but after you’ve lugged one or two U-Haul book boxes of them down several flights of stairs and begun to contemplate lugging them back up several more flights of stairs into the next dorm/apartment/whatever, you realize that pruning the collection is the moral thing to do.

Let’s not even try to figure out books I owned before college. Many.

Figure that I’ve gotten rid of at least three boxes of books each time I’ve moved, so I’ve probably owned about two dozen more boxes of books than currently share my home.

My collection at present is about 9 shelf-feet of novels, 3′ of poetry, 6′ of math and stats, 6′ of stats software and other software manuals, 6′ of music and music history (not counting scores and parts), 3′ of religion, 4′ of reference (mostly English and other languages), 2′ of humor, a foot of games/puzzles/misc, a foot of hymnals, a foot of DIY (“do it yourself” for non-UKers), 5′ of history (mainly political history of the last century), 12′ of cookbooks, 6′ of miscellaneous business topics like leadership, project management, facilitation, and international business customs, and a foot of whatever’s heaped next to my bed in quasi-active circulation.

So have I moved often enough or not? You be the judge.

The last book I bought: I’m not sure. I think it was a pair of books in March that had just been mentioned in the New York Times Sunday Magazine: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami in the context of a review of his most recent novel, which is something else I can’t remember; and A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, a memoir about growing up in a small Mennonite community in rural Manitoba (within a few hours’ drive of where I lived from third grade until college) and instead wanting desperately to be normal, whatever that is. I haven’t opened either of them yet because…

The last book I read: Hmmm…. isn’t that past tense? I can’t remember what I finished most recently. Children of God Go Bowling by fellow St. Olaf alumna Shannon Olsen, Pat Conroy’s My Losing Season (yes, Dad, you can have it back now), Douglas Copeland’s Microserfs, and Terry Gross’s All I Did Was Ask are in the heap to be reshelved, so it was probably one of those.

All of them were good, fun reads, except for Conroy’s, which was good reading but rather more of a project than his books usually are, at least for those of us who don’t much care for sports. I couldn’t make much sense of most of the endless basketball play-by-plays, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been for a book about basketball.

I’m currently reading something my hornist friend Alicia just lent me: The Fifth Woman, a murder mystery set in Sweden and Africa, translated from Swedish, by Henning Mankell. I’m not very far into it yet, but it’s quite good so far. Mankell’s mysteries are the latest rage in a certain set of freelancers in the Freeway Philharmonic. The books that musicians lend each other at gigs become a meme of sorts. A few years ago, Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan was all the rage, and I commend it to you, also.

I tend to read a bunch of books at once. Next to my bed is a Chinese novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, a book on political linguistics called Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff, and a couple more I can’t think of just now.

For work, I’m slowly plowing through several books on leadership and project management. Ugh. I’m also currently reading several books in the Culture Shock series: China and Beijing. I just finished Great Britain and USA: The South. These are fantastic books on the differences among cultures, not travel guides as much as guides to appreciating the countless things that you will not understand and ways you will be oblivious when you take your own expectations abroad. The first one I read, years ago, was Culture Shock: Norway, and I was struck while reading it by two things: how where I grew up bore more resemblance to Norway than probably the rest of America, in terms of cultural expectations at least, and how the Singaporean author was teaching me more about Singapore than Norway by which things Norwegian struck her as meriting explanation.

Kimberly, to answer your unasked question, I don’t usually read cookbooks. I flip through them, look things up in them, and usually pluck them from the shelf at random and choose something for dinner almost at random. The cookbooks I have read, and would recommend for reading, are China Moon Cookbook and The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp (unless you’re Chinese, this is not the Chinese food you know), The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen, which didn’t convert me permanently to vegetarianism but did change my concept of what a meal is, and The New Basics from the Silver Palate women.

Five books that mean a lot to me: An impossible question. Books themselves mean a lot to me. Novels you probably haven’t read that I would recommend without hesitation are O.E. Rølvåg’s Giants in the Earth, everything by Margaret Laurence, Fools Crow and anything else by James Welch. Among the better known works I’d recommend everything by Jane Austen and almost anything by Margaret Atwood, Madeleine L’Engle, and Willa Cather.

I would be lost without my American Heritage Dictionary; I have editions 2, 3, and 4. 2 is at my office, 3 is in the bedroom, and 4 has pride of place in the living room.

Lots of people have been influenced by the diary of Anne Frank, but have you read the complete edition, without all the editorial meddling by her father? It’s a different book entirely; many things that were cryptic or unbelievable in the famous edition make much more sense.

For incredibly controlled writing and powerful language, see Written on the Body and Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson, better known for the less impressive coming-out novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. I have issues with her larger body of work, but these two are brilliant, meant not in the British sense of “groovy” but the American sense of “intellectually astonishing.”

Tag 5 people and have them fill this out on their blogs: I’m supposed to tag other bloggers, but as I don’t know of any of my readership having blogs of your own, you’re going to have to tag yourselves. So here it is, a self-tagging kit to be used on the honor system:

If you read my blog, and you have a blog of your own, please ‘fess up in a comment below, include a link to your blog, consider yourself tagged, and meme away.