And here are my final three book reviews from the Month of Rereading! I went off the list (well, I’d read everything except “Green Grass of Wyoming” and “Thunderhead”) and picked out some non-fiction that I’ve wanted to reread for some time. Unfortunately, I have a policy of only keeping books I want to reread, Bookcrossing all the others, so I had a potential choice among all the books downstairs in the house … but these are ones I’ve had my eye on for a while!

W.H. Auden and Louis MacNiece – “Letters From Iceland”

(1989 – after October (name is Liz inside the front cover)

I selected this with great excitement, as I remembered a jolly read about the two young poets touring Iceland in the 1930s. Unfortunately, there is less straight narrative than there is clever poetry and a rather odd section written as if by a jolly school marm type on a trip abroad. It does mention some of the older books I’ve read by intrepid women explorers of the country, but it was of rather more limited appeal than those. My first disappointment, though!

Malcolm Gladwell – “The Tipping Point”

(22 July 2003 – bought with long service award from EBSCO)

One of those books you read at the time and always mean to reread. It’s still a good and interesting book, talking about the way trends spread, like epidemics.  Having read his other books, in fact, I’d say this was the best. It’s full of his trademark varied examples, told vividly and drawn from all walks of life, and an engaging writing style. It hasn’t dated.

Interestingly, I’d thought for years that I was a Connector, but actually I’m a Maven. I don’t create trends, I don’t have an enormous social circle, but I do know about stuff and enjoy recommending stuff (and people) to people. It was a bonus to work that out, and just goes to show that you don’t remember all the details of non-fiction books either! A worthwhile reread.

Nicholas Negroponte – “Being Digital”

(1996)

I recall buying this as soon as it came out in paperback, loving it at the time, and starting to call myself a “cybrarian” (what can I say: I was at Library School at the time). This book was written just as the digital revolution was starting off. As a point of comparison, at this stage I had my own email account, had text-only internet access at University, and was a member of a few listservs. Negroponte was at the MIT Media Lab, working on cutting edge technology. In this book, he set out his stall as to the uses of the digital features that were just then being developed, and predicted the near and far future. This book had a big effect on me, helping me embrace “digital” more in a world where library studies were being pulled in two directions.

I guessed it would be a very different reading experience now, and so it was. But fascinating!

So, what didn’t happen? Negroponte’s computers-in-a-watch … well, that is not ubiquitous, but the computers in our mobile phones are analogous, I think.  And we still don’t have nine-inch hologram personal assistants running around on our actual desktops (what a shame – although mine would trip over the piles of paper and books on my desk!). And I think CD-Roms probably disappeared a bit more quickly than he thought.

He predicted ebooks, but thought they would be on actual paper, and predicted newspapers in that format, too (also, oddly, I recall distinctly reading about e-ink that switched round to present new words on flexible pages when a chip was inserted into an ebook spine. Couldn’t find that in the book this time, even after going through the index. I wonder if I read that in an article he wrote). And the iPad – “multimedia will become more book-like, something with which you can curl up in bed”.  He accurately predicted in-car GPS systems, although doubted that they would have voice commands, owing to the fear of litigation (they do have voice commands in the US, right?). And the most important one, to my mind, was his prediction of borderless, 24-hour working. That’s certainly come true for me!

What’s changed? Remember dial-up? It was amazing in 1996 to have a list of numbers allowing you to connect to the Net from any country in the world. Yes, a list of phone numbers, and 90 different phone jacks with which to connect your computer in different countries. Hotel guides were starting to publish information on which chains didn’t allow you to unplug their phones and plug in your modems!  That feels like another world, doesn’t it!

And what hasn’t changed. Amusingly, he talks about people claiming they are not “computer literate” after the “debilitating” battle to print a document off. Well, has that really changed … ?!

It was truly fascinating to read this from the other side of the digital revolution, and I am so glad I did so.

So, that’s it. Twelve books reread: nine fiction and three non-fiction (plus two new reads: one on the Olympics and one sent to me by the publisher). I have to say that I’ve loved this. Diving into beloved classics, curling up with cosy comfort reads, finding more than I expected, and only one disappointment.

I would certainly like to do this again for a whole month, but I also think I will weave some rereading into my everyday reading life. What’s the point of this endless treadmill of new books if you can’t go and savour some older ones, too? I’m going to start with the remaining Mary O’Haras and the rest of the Larry McMurtry Thalia series, and who knows after that. Thanks to Ali for co-hosting this month and for all her blog posts and encouragement. I’ve really enjoyed reading about her and others’ reading matter during July, too!