Anthropology of Reading

April 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

1. the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
2. the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.
3. the science of humans and their works.
4. Also called philosophical anthropology. the study of the nature and essence of humankind.
1585–95; anthropo- + -logy

1. the action or practice of a person who reads.
2. Speech. the oral interpretation of written language.
3. the interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part, musical composition, etc.: an interesting reading of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
4. the extent to which a person has read; literary knowledge: a man of wide reading.
5. matter read or for reading: a novel that makes good reading.


This is a challenging post, in that I could talk for days and days, possibly write a whole website dedicated to the topic, so I’m going to do my best to remain concise and not chase too many rabbits.

The blogger of So Many Books wrote a post about the Anthropology of Read, which I reblogged (click the link and it will take you there). Follow that post even further and the blogger wrote another on Auden’s Eden Meme. Combining these two posts into one thought, this is my anthropological response concerning my reading habits.

“Though the pleasure which works of art give us must not be confused with other pleasures that we enjoy, it is related to all of them simply by being our pleasure and not someone else’s. All the judgments, aesthetic or moral, that we pass, however objective we try to make them, are in part a rationalization and in part a corrective discipline of our subjective wishes. So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dreams of Eden are his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.” – from Auden’s “Reading”

So following Auden’s checklist, here is my Eden:

Mountains that butt up against a beach, with open fields in between. I like oceans that beat against cliffs, good soil to plant, large trees to climb, and somehow still manage to lay in the sand whenever I want. Take about 10 acres of the Rocky Mountains and stick them in the Florida Keys. If you manage to surround it all with Texas landscape that would be even better. Clearly, it’s a dream world.

70 year round, I’ll take an occasional hot summer in the 90’s to 100’s. After all, I’m a born and raised Texan.

Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants
I’m a big fan of melting pots.

“English will be the official language but all languages are encouraged (even Elvish and Klingon) and everyone should know more than one.” That’s a direct quote from the So Many Books response to Auden. I see no need to alter that statement in any way.

Weights and Measures
I’m not concerned with this. I’ll let someone who cares decide.

I’m a Christian hippie. I’ll take Jesus with a side of dirt & trees.

Size of Capital
Small indeed. Close, personal friends. If I want a break from this closeness, I’ll take a vacation out of Eden.

Form of Government
In very small governments, I’m ok with elected monarchies with limited terms. I like to call a spade a spade, and in my research I never see true democracy at work, it’s always bastardized into an oligarchy or some other nonsense.

Sources of Natural Power
Wind, water, solar… the idea that anything was ever anything but amazes me. Wind turbines, watermills, solar panels, this makes sense to me.

Economic Activities
Farming, arts and humanities. Science would remain of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang variety. I think science is cool, but a lack of tech would be such a nice reprieve from the rest of the world.

Means of Transport
Bicycles, boats, hiking and swimming. Of course, from the mountains to the beach and over some landscape… that requires at least one community zipline.  Also, I love horses and would definitely encourage horseback riding.

Self-sustained, energy efficient estates. Design – To each their own.  Although, I see a lot of bungalows, Victorian estates, farmhouses, and hobbit holes.

Domestic Furniture and Equipment
Again, to each their own, but made by hand is a marvelous thing. In the kitchen, all I need is an oven, a French press, and a coffee bean grinder. If someone slipped me a bread machine, though, I wouldn’t complain.

Formal Dress
Simplicity makes me happy. But again, to each their own. If someone likes frills, I have no desire to stop them. There would probably be an abundance of denim and cotton in my Eden though.

Sources of Public Information
Newspapers, journals, and gatherings over food at a meeting house. My population is quite small, remember?

Public Statues
This would be up to the people. I see gnomes and literary-like shrines in public gardens.

Public Entertainment
Choirs, street theatre, and public readings of important books. Book clubs and bands… I come from a Baptist background, so weekly potlucks are sort of a must.

If this is my Eden… If this is end result of my reading… if 30 years of a life devouring books has brought me to this, where did I begin? How did I evolve?

Anthropology… archeology… the two go a bit hand in hand to me. I would like to go back to school and get a Baccalaureate in Anthropology & Archeology. I love that niche of history and science. I always thought the Indiana Joneses of the world were the most amazing. Amelia Peabody… As a child I was riveted by adventures, but was still very much a typical girl – no, correction, a typical tomboy with girlish tendencies.

I read an awful lot of Nancy Drew. I liked historical things like Little Women and Gentle Annie. Jo March, of course, my favorite of the sisters; Gentle Annie was a civil war nurse running out into the battlefield in the face of danger. I was, and still am, fascinated by doers.

Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra intrigue me, but I have a literary foundation in all things Jane Austen – the fierce butting heads with the feminine.

My reading is much like my real life – a black belt, with hair usually down to her butt, who loves to get her toes done. I look for brave warriors who want to bask in the sun with some flowers. I desire the intelligence to drive to take care of people, protect them both in battle and emotionally by serving them foodstuffs and coffee. Because this is who I am, this is what I look for in my reading – in fiction, in history, in science, in all of it. I try to find people in all the thousands of years of literature, who are (as Anne Shirley would say) kindred spirits.

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My Love for Brief Histories

March 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

and how aliens should stay on the Tardis

Title: A Brief History of Stonehenge: A Complete History and Archeology of the World’s Most Enigmatic Stone Circle

Found image at

Author: Aubrey Burl

Publisher: Constable & Robinson

Genre: Non-fiction, Archeology

Length: 368 pages

Although I read mostly fiction, nonfiction (history and science mostly) has a special place in my library and heart.  Where I devour stories and riveting tales, I pour over facts and dates.  I underline and disparage intelligent books with my amateur notes in the margins.  My nonfiction books take a beating my fiction titles can’t even dream of… ink splatters from broken fountain pens, pages become stained and wrinkled from spilled coffee and dog-eared corners.  There’s sticky residue from too many post-it notes.  Where my fiction books radiate and breathe the word “treasure,” my nonfiction books tiredly whimper “tool.”

My collection of “A Brief History of…” books are prime examples,Stonehengeby Aubrey Burl being the most recent victim of my hunger for knowledge.

“I’m reading about the history ofStonehenge.” – Me

“That’s silly, no one knows the history ofStonehenge, it’s a mystery.  The aliens did it.” – My sarcastic sister.

Its moments like these when the dichotomy of my reading habits collide the most often.  Where science fiction and fantasy novels are, at times, the highlight of my day, I like these kinds of conjectures to stay in novels.  The concepts of the pyramids being mystical,Stonehengebeing magical, and the world being over-ridden by alien beings from other planets make great stories – awesome Dr. Who episodes – but really annoying documentaries.

That guy with the hair on Ancient Aliens, you know who I’m talking about, the one that shows up in every show about everything with his orange face and tan lines around the eyeballs… he totally cracks me up! But I think he’s a nut and I’d much rather sit and read an archeologist’s account of their findings than risk that guy interrupting my research, telling me (yet again) that the aliens did it.

I love how Diana Gabaldon uses Stonehenge-like structures as her premise for time travel in the Outlander series.  Its brilliant! But don’t try to convince me that little piece of fun is the real deal, the actual way of the world.

Aubrey Burl has delivered exactly what I want out of my nonfiction reading.  It’s a complete and thorough report on every piece of archeological evidence, history, and anthropological speculation (minus the aliens) that has been made over the years. It’s got maps, diagrams, measurements, and so on.  From the Druids, to 1500-1800 literature, to the most recent of science experiments, Burl gives me enough information to feel knowledgeable enough to either putStonehengeaside and call myself learned or have a solid basis at which to do additional research and know where to look.  And its reader friendly, even if my copy has been treated maliciously by ink and coffee.
Buy Stonehenge by Aubrey Burl

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