Another Saturday morning trip into the Melbourne CBD in June meant a visit to the second-hand book stalls in Fed Square.
This month, I found Notes from the Underground and The Double by Dostoyevky, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.
Crime and Punishment is one of my all-time favourite novels. I found The Brother Karamazov a bit long and laborious, but I’d be willing to give it another chance one day. But I am keen to read more Dostoyevsky, particularly this book and The Idiot.
Back when I lived in Wellington, New Zealand – and Sir Ian McKellen was practically living there too while filming The Lord of the Rings – McKellen starred in a season of Waiting for Godot. I am still kicking myself that I never got around to seeing it. This edition has the famous quote of Beckett on the back cover:
I told him [Sir Ralph Richardson] that if by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot. This seemed to disappoint him greatly.
I wonder if I too will be disappointed by that when reading it!
Guns, Germs and Steel was one of those books that I avoided for a long time, a bit like Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Can a book on science and history be this popular while still embracing the complexity and nuance of its subject? But I think I have been slowly won over by learning more about the book and its author. Having read the preface and learnt the question the book is trying to answer, I think it would make a strong counterpoint to Niall Ferguson’s awfully flawed Civilisation.
Among the other books there I spotted first editions of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison that were going for $50 each. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan of Ishiguro and have not yet read Morrison, otherwise either of these would have been hard to pass by.
Like everyone I have bad days as well. And like a lot of people, I get through those days by treating myself. Often that means buying a book. On one particularly bad day in June I bought a book for my daughter that I had my eye on called I’ve Been Brave. It is a board book and part of a series that aims to teach social skills and handling emotions. For myself, I bought The Twelve by Justin Cronin, part two of his trilogy. I bought part one, The Passage, a while ago but have been waiting for the completion of the series before dipping in. The third book has been published and has meant this second novel is now going at sale prices.
In one of our local malls, a space for book stalls had been set up. It mostly looked like they were selling surplus stock from a book store and most of what they had on offer was not impressive. But I did find Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene. I had never heard of it, or its author before, but it sounds like a book that would interest me greatly. It is about how, since our brains evolved under conditions favouring tribalism, much of how our brain works still reflects this including our sense of morality. But the modern world, through globalisation and multiculturalism, has brought people with different moral ideas closer together and is presenting new challenges. Greene, an associate professor at Harvard University’s School of Psychology, examines the underlying issues and argues for the way forward. I guess what swayed my decision to buy it was the glowing reviews it got from one of Greene’s Harvard colleagues and someone whose writing I admire, Steven Pinker.
That was it for June! My wife and I had just begun scouting for a new home when we found one unexpectedly quickly and had to move in a hurry. It meant no disposable income to spend on books this month but it did mean I had to tackle a huge reorganisation effort for our overflowing collection. But I’ll leave that for my next post.