02 May, 2010

"Let's Just Look at a Few Books," She Said

"We'll just see if Amazon has anything interesting," she said.  "Won't be but the work of a moment," she said.  "All we're doing is checking out the first few pages of the geology search results," she said.

I hate it when I lie to myself.

I'm deep in the brown and sticky now, my darlings.  My science book wish list is splitting at the seams, and we're only on Result 649 of 10,551 results.  And that's filtered by the books available for Prime shipping.  Argh.

Here's the one I'm most excited about just now: Origins: The Evolution of Continents, Oceans and Life.  Doesn't that just look delish?  I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I cried - yes, cried - when I flipped through the preview. 

I'd planned to chuck a portion of my upcoming bonus into savings.  Alas, that sensible idea is looking distinctly unlikely just now. 

As if that's not bad enough, this burgeoning book list o' mine doesn't include the tomes I'd developed an interest in whilst perusing one of the most evil threads on the intertoobz: Jerry Coyne's damned Spring Reading list.  Argh.

(On a completely different note, I just saw a badger or opossum or some such creature snuffling its way across our lawn.  This is why I smoke - I end up going outside and seeing fascinating things I've never seen before.  Nor heard.  Those things are very loud indeed as they sniff out tidbits.)

Anyway.  We have now worked our way deeper into trouble by finding Trees: Their Natural History.  It's $50.  It's also got one of the snarkiest opening lines in science tome history: "Everyone knows what a tree is: a large woody thing that provides shade."  I'm smitten.  And I'm also busy researching the evolution of all things woody that provide shade, so on the list it goes, and I shall probably not be able to resist owning it.  Honestly, I'm fascinated by the whole evolution-of-trees thing lately.  I'd just meant to get a few factoids on leaves, but the more I read, the more interested I got, and the more I realized the vast majority of my books on biology are rather animal-centric. 

And of course when you get one, you may as well get another, even though they're close cousins.  Right down to the snark: "A tree is a big plant with a stick up the middle."  But The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter looks as though it shall provide far more than just a slightly-differently-worded take on the whole tree evolution schtick (and no, I couldn't help myself just then).  Its introduction discusses some famous trees, and there's a very intimate, friendly feel there - this is an author who knows and loves his trees.  In a way, it reminds me of a book I'll be reviewing here tomorrow, Walter Alvarez's The Mountains of St. Francis, which is another book written by an author who deeply, passionately, and unashamedly loves his subject.  Books like that make you realize that science can be just as emotionally compelling as any story, if not more so. 

I think some of my friends get very annoyed by the fact I spend so much time with my nose down in research.  I don't, they say, need to know so much to write the damned story.  Perhaps that's true.  Perhaps I could write very good stories without knowing quite a lot.  But they miss the point: it's the journey that's the reward.  It's not that I must do the research, it's that I want to.  I might use the merest fraction of what I've learned in the actual story, it may take me far longer to write than it would have otherwise, but the story will be richer for my knowing this stuff, and most importantly, I'm richer for knowing it.

This world, this universe, is utterly remarkable.  The more I delve, the more astounding and enthralling it becomes.  Mere myth, lovely as myth is, can't compare, although it provides useful metaphors: Odin gave his eye for knowledge.  I think, therefore, I can spare a few hundred bucks.

Come to think of it, trees were of some importance to Norse myth as well.  Yggsdrasil, anyone?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just be off to put myself to bed with an improving book or few.


Paul Havlak said...


Karen said...

Amazon sucker. But I suppose it takes one to know one!!!

Karen, the Amazon sucker.