“Where are you coming from? Where I’ve been. Where else.”

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.

My annotated Berlin's "The Roots of Romanticism"

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.

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20 thoughts on ““Where are you coming from? Where I’ve been. Where else.”

  1. Pingback: Moon | Intelligent Life

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  3. i was listening to his tape, while driving through new england on his same route, just a coincidence, but it was fun.

    what an interesting collection you have gathered and wrote about…

  4. I don’t know of anyone who annotates books as much as I do. That is until I saw how you’ve scribbled on your “The Roots of Romanticism”. I like using pencil though since I always have one in hand. 🙂

    Glad to have found your blog. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Nel

  5. Love it! You are a very insightful writer. I can definitely relate to you on the annotations. I do that myself. I’m also a compulsive “highlighter”. I once was so moved by Simone Weil that I highlighted about 90% of her essay before realizing it. Then I thought to myself: Well, doesn’t it sort of defeat the purpose of highlighting when you highlight so much stuff? Then I answered myself: No! This is Simone Weil we’re talking about, not James Patterson. (No offense to James Patterson).

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  7. Somehow everyone thinks of a gem-like state of life, but it does take processing, grinding down and faceting and polishing, to make it brilliant: I think you got the idea!

  8. Love Blue Highways–love your blog. Love the idea of literary and internal journeys. (Lotta love here! 😉 Thoreau: “Our thoughts are the epochs of our lives; all else is but as a journal of the winds that blew while we were here.”

    We have a lot in common–high school teachers, mothers, readers, life-long learners–look forward to reading your posts.

  9. We have a reverence for books at our house, and my kids were horrified to see me using a highlighter on the pages of a book. But I didn’t want to lose or forget a passage that struck me. I love that you write in your books!

  10. Pingback: How We Read Our Books |

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