My Eclectic Pandemic ‘Reading’ List

To begin with these are the books currently occupying the many-hued mindscape of my waking life: seeping sometimes into my dreams.

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (read/performed by Anthony Heald on Audible Stories) I’m also listening to Anthony Heald’s reading of WD Grouse’s translation of the Iliad – I listen to it from time to time, quite often actually. The Iliad/Odyssey + Moby Dick converge wonderfully together in the the fundamental theme of humanity’s quest for meaning. In life. Which often implies the search for a meaningful death. Of course, they are also epic swashbucklers.

2. The Golden Bough by Sir James G. Frazer. I am reading the single volume edition (I hope to go through the dozen volumes some day, or, in some life). The Golden Bough is a survey of the intersection of myth, religion and what we might call superstitious practices from across cultures. Maybe I find a cure for covid in some of them. But in knowing how human beings have for ages attempted to control nature – or fooled themselves into believing that we can – the crisis our species is experiencing now is put into perspective. Are we doomed to the ravages of fate? Is our science something beyond the whimsical practices of older tribes, or is it something future generations will laugh at as we scorn the superstitions of those gone before?

3. The Gathering Storm – Book 12 of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, co-written by Brandon Sanderson. How should one even begin to describe this epic? It’s almost as if Robert Jordan saw a real (parallel?) world and had access to a book similar to the Golden Bough written in that world. The series is imbued with deep currents of mostly Buddhism/Hinduism inspired philosophy in a high-medieval feudalistic world. But richly woven into the epic is a stream after stream of cultures, peoples, practices – making a world arguably as real as our own. Robert Jordan died before completing his epic. From book 12-14, Brandon Sanderson has taken up the mantle of completing this turn of the wheel. Pervasive throughout the book has been an overhanging sense of doom (parallels, again?) – and I cannot wait to know how things will end (or, survive).

I’m also reading more work oriented academic stuff – Francis Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order, Book 2 of the Cambridge Ancient History Volumes, and a few more here and there.

I must also say there is nothing typically pandemical about my reading habits. I am generally a heavy reader. Audiobooks have really lightened the burden on my eyes (and my ass, actually). Sometimes, through the secret workings of life, the books we read just tend to converge with the world outside our minds. Or, maybe, there are deeper currents at work. Who knows, who can tell.