I’ve recently put down a remarkable book, Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon.
For those who haven’t read it, it is a book about traveling, about taking the back roads, about journeys of self-discovery, and a book that just begs to be read (I read its 400 pages in 2 sittings and was left wanting more). But this book is much more than a travel journal, it is one of those books that remind you (and most of us need constant reminders) that life is just as much about the journey as the destination, and often much more so. As Heat-Moon states early in the book, “any traveler who misses the journey misses about all he’s going to get – that a man becomes his attentions. His observations and curiosity, they make and remake him.”
Blue Highways is a book about a physical journey, but I was thinking about how we take journeys through our books. It has been through the “blue highways” of literature, history, philosophy, and science, that I have come to know myself, through my many observations and curiosity of what lies between the covers of the many books that line my walls. My shelves are full of a wide variety of genres, each purchased and read to satisfy a particular curiosity. I often get obsessed with ideas and discourses, and will read until I have fully sated that particular thirst. That being said, my first love is the history of thought. I rarely read fiction, although I currently purchased a copy of 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, too many good reviews to ignore it, and lets face it, escaping into well-written fiction is always exciting. Also on my coffee table awaiting to be read are, The Cultivation of Hatred, part three of Peter Gay’s Freudian study of the Victorian middle class, Cafe Europa: Life After Communism, by Slavenka Drakulic, and Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity, by Rebecca Goldstein.
My relationship with books has always been a unique one. I annotate my books… heavily.
These annotations are often scholarly, sometimes nostalgic, periodically observational, and at times even argumentative; they are a way that I have found to discuss these books when there has been no one to discuss them with, a way to argue with the author, a way to understand their greater context, and the finer details. In short, a way to satisfy my inner, frustrated academic.
So what is the purpose of this blog? To finally do something with all of these annotations, to use them as the foundation of a more insightful, meaningful journey through my books. I suppose, much like Heat-Moon, being a solitary traveler has served me well, but sometimes this traveler longs for a little conversation, a little company on the journey, and I hope that this blog will do just that.