Tuesday, 13 March 2018

I Own Nine Books

We fixed up our home study recently. It was a nice improvement. I can now dial into work video conferences from home, without having to push boxes we never unpacked and unfolded baskets of clean clothes out of camera view.

There was some collateral damage though.

To create space, I got rid of almost all my books. These nine are the only ones I still possess...


I received this as a birthday present, I think when I was seven or eight. It's one of those kids books where they personalise the story - so it's about Robert, and also features my best friend at the time, where I lived, and my pet cat Wikki.

This was amazing when I was seven (or eight).

I initially kept it through the cull as I thought I couldn't give a personalised book to the Salvos. But then I also couldn't bring myself to throw it in the recycling bin.

I'm ordinarily not that sentimental. This book and my teddy bear are the only things I've still got from my childhood. One of my sons uses the teddy bear now. I'm hoping it makes up for when I spend all his inheritance.

2. A Wisden Collection
3. A History of Australian Cricket

I used to have a lot of cricket books - over 50, easily. I voluntarily culled down to about 20 once I moved in with the girlfriend (now wife). Now there are just two left.

Wisden is the annual English cricket yearbook that has been going for over 150 years. Old editions are worth thousands. I figure if you can't own a full collection, why not a small book that curates some of the most interesting stories from cricket's rich history?

A History of Australian Cricket should hopefully cover everything else. It is nearly 20 years out of date now, but if recent times are like the previous 130 years covered, it's just the same political bullshit behind the scenes but with different actors. 

4. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

I majored in economics at university, and did my best to avoid any calculus, complex regression modelling or other activities that could be considered serious economics. Because I'm an intellectual lightweight.

This book does the same, which is why I kept it. It's the only economics book I'm ever likely to re-read (unless I find The History of Economic Thought at a garage sale) because it's easily accessible and occasionally entertaining.

Actually in 3rd year microeconomics, we had an assignment to read and review a peer-reviewed journal article. Everyone else read and presented on important, boring papers on stuff like labour market inefficiencies and optimal capital utilisation. I read a paper on collusion in Sumo wrestling, which would later become a key chapter in this book.

So I discovered Freakonomics, basically.

5. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favourite Family

I quote The Simpsons all the time. I will always remember 2017 as the year that provided the surge in Simpsons dank memes, the same way I remember 2005 for getting my first real job, or 2013 and 2016 for the birth of my children.

The best part of this book is it only covers seasons 1-8, so you can ignore the next two decades of sad decline and focus entirely of the best stuff.

6. The Lucky Country
7. Mother Tongue 

I did own a lot of Penguin Classics, because they are cheap, and I am cheap.

I culled all the fiction ones because, for example, as powerful as the ending to The Grapes of Wrath is, I'm unlikely to re-read it. The same applies to all the other fiction books I accumulated, including some very good modern literary classics I almost kept, like Amsterdam, The White Tiger and Middlesex.

But I thought I might re-read the non-fiction.

"The lucky country" is a phrase often used to describe Australia as the greatest place, by people who obviously never read the book, as it dissects how if Australia is great it is not by design. Instead it is sheer luck - the nation is devoid of imagination and innovation - so how can you take pride in falling arse-backwards into success?

It was written in the Menzies years, but I read it in the Howard years, and nothing had really changed. Even now, perhaps the only difference is that as well as lacking visionary leadership, the nation now also lacks uninspired yet steady management.

Mother Tongue is a fun non-academic look into the evolution of the English language. It's why I don't get bothered by grammar, spelling and slang, provided it's comprehensible. Language is forever changing. Most of the rules people cite to exert linguistic authority are arbitrary, inconsistent, or even an earlier evolution from the original standard.

It's all been downhill since the Great Vowel Shift.

If I ever become one of those annoying very mature-aged university students, sitting in the front row during lectures and asking loads of questions, I'd like to do something around linguistics.

8. Holy Bible (King James Version)

When my grandfather passed away, I got to sift through his very extensive book collection. In the end, all I kept was his Bible. I have this idea that one day I'll read it and see what all the fuss is about.

So I have an actual Bible, but this final book is my sacred text...

9. Thirteen Years of Steel: The Story of the Illawarra Steelers

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