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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 21 May 2010

BTT: What's a Useful Book?

What’s the most useful book you’ve ever read? And, why?

Most useful? Hmm...  I've been reading for about 50 years by now, and different kinds of books have been useful in very different ways...

*The first that comes to mind is the Bible. I must say I have used that a lot over the years. There is no other book I have in so many translations; and it has been helpful from many points of view: in understanding myself, other people, God (hopefully), religious beliefs, history, culture, and references in other books by other authors... On the other hand: Other books and people have also influenced my interpretation of the Bible! The most important "other author" that way for me is probably C.S. Lewis - his fiction as well as theology.

*There are a number of Swedish authors whose influence have been important or "useful" to me when it comes to understanding the history of my own country. One series of (four) books that may be worth mentioning in international context is The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg (written in the 1950s), about a Swedish family's migration to Minnesota in the mid 19th century. These were among the first "adult" novels that I read in my early teens.

*A series of books that proved "useful" to me in the 21st century is the Harry Potter books. First, listening to them as audio books helped me through some bad times when I had to spend a lot of time just lying on my back. Later, discussing them with other people on an internet forum also inspired me to read and reread and discuss a number of old classics, and to get into the habit of googling and reading up on all kinds of odds and ends referred to. You could say these books kept me entertained and inspired at a time when I really needed that kind of distraction and brain exercise. It also played its part in later getting me to move on to blogging. (If anyone is interested - some of my reflections on the HP books I have tried to collect in a separate blog, Through My Spectrespecs.)

Other kinds of books I've found useful, even if I can't claim to have read every page in them:

*Dictionaries (lots of them).

*My old school atlas from 1964, even though political borders and names have changed quite a bit since then. I do have updated ones - and now of course there is also the internet. But the old one still represents how the world was first presented to me. Sometimes I return to check something.

*The first cookbook I got (probably from my mother?) when once upon a time I moved away from home. I have later ones, but for some things I still return to the old one.

*Lately I've made quite frequent use of my Flora to identify wild flowers and trees. This came with increased interest in photography, and blogging!  


Sandra said...

when i read you title I thought Bible, then read your post all the way. the bible is first in my useful list and for much the same reasons as yours. I have never owned or read a cookbook since i run from cooking if at all possible. i learened from mother enought to keep from starving.
Dictionary and Thesaurus I use all the time, especailly while bloggin.

I have mentioned before I am a fiction/story addict. At first I thought they were not useful, but then I read your post and I know they were useful. they got me through my teen years (the most miserable years of my life)and were instrumental in my surviving. I could shut my door to my room and live other lives and travel and learn about other courntries and history. So the fiction was and is still useful. thanks for making me THINK, you are so good at that.

Ginny said...

A thought provoking post, since I never even considered this before. First, the Bible for sure. I have been reading for 50 years, as well, so we have something else in common. I would also say several refrence books on how to buy and store and how long all the different foods keep.

GB said...

Well i'd have great difficulty with that one. In fact it comes into the unanswerable category so far as I'm concerned. Hwever it's fascinating seeing what you and other people think.

It's the term 'useful' which poses some difficulties for me. I thought you dealt with the challenge admirably.

DawnTreader said...

Reading some of the answers of other BTT participants (link at the top of the post) it seems almost everyone had difficulties nailing their answer down to just one book. Also seems that with the word 'useful' people do tend to think mostly of books with titles like "How to..." I'm not so sure though... I think we learn lots of things through fiction as well; we just don't categorize that knowledge quite in the same way in our brains.


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