Summer Reading (this title is misleading!)

Misleading not in so far as whether or not we’re going to have anything resembling a proper summer up here (I am typing this sitting on my living room windowsill, with the window open and the sun shinging on my legs, so today is definitely the fourth truly summer-y day up here this year [the other three were over Pentecost]), but rather that the books I will mention here shall undoubtedly only constitute a very small part of my summer reading – the for fun, non-fiction, not directly concerning my work/academic disciplines part. And might not all get read during the summer either, depending on work and other reading. But I am determined to make at least some of them summer reading! In fact, I’ve already started.

Among the various and manifold small sub-jobs I have in our department, one of them is to be our library liaison – which mostly means that I get a lot of book catalogues sent to me or passed on to me by other colleagues, I round robin them to my colleagues asking if they want me to order any of the books in them for the library, keep an eye out for more generalist books that we could use, and then get in touch with my (wondeful) contact person at the library telling her the books we want. An effect of this job is that a lot of publishing houses and book distributors have me in their mailing lists, and thus I get a lot of emails about books not relating to our field and general book offers, as well. And every year in the early summer, I get an email from the Oxford University Press* about their ‘summer sale for private academics’ (or some such title), where they sell books to said ‘private academics’ (IE not to uni libraries/institutions) at super reduced prices (up to 80%). And always a lot of other books that manage to intrigue me – and so, every year, I set myself a spending limit and then buy books about things that sound interesting. I usually put one or two of the more expensive but truly centrally interesting and academically relevant-to-my-subject must-have books in my shopping basket first, and then I sort the list by price and look for things that sound a) fascinating, b) accessible (I have learned since first doing this that, when it says ‘for the advance student of mathematics’, one better heed the warning …) and that c) get decent reviews else-net. I usually end up with a mix of maths and science theory, archeology, history, philosophy and linguistics. You can see this year’s haul depicted on the right.

I started reading Symmetry and the Monster this morning – and while I am still not sure what precisely ‘the Monster’ is, I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things about cubes, octagedrons, icosahedrons and dodecahedrons in chapter 1 alone. We’re into Évariste Galois’ work on the grouping of permutations right now, and, puh, I’ll need to let this all settle for a bit before reading on – I am at the stage where I get what the text says, but don’t yet truly get what it means, in an application-oriented kind of sense.

Incidentally, needing to take a break is good, since I’ve promised the afternoon to image-use inquiries and getting-the-PhD-ready-for-publication-work.


Oh, and an update on ‘la grande expérience’: reading your guitar tuner upside down is confusing. Also, what kind of bad idea was this? It’s not only that hands need to do different things now, it feels like I am trying to re-wire my brain at the same time! The first hurdle is definitely – as expected – a steep one. But intriguingly so. I shall persevere (for now)!


* Dear other UPs and publishing houses out there, mine is an equal opportunity shopping spree, so if you have serious offers like that, mail ’em round. :-) (Uh, next year?) If you spam me, though, no business from me!


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