Yesterday, I spent the workday strolling through data -- reading the responses to various arguments we're testing out in an effort to build public support for a ban on nuclear weapons. I was assembling the pieces that would illustrate our analysis. If you listen closely you can actually hear the sounds of people's mental gears grinding as they try to think on the subject . . .
In the evening, I backtracked a full century, and took down from the shelf David Harum, a book of my great-great grandfather's that I'd never read. It was a best-seller in 1899 and still a thoroughly entertaining portrait of 19th century life and language in central New York state -- pretty much the setting that Bayard Tewksbury (the ancestor whose book I've inherited) would have lived in.
Sometimes Monica gets oppressed by the burden of books that I carry with me, but they are like roots to me. The Zane Grey novels from my grandfather's study in Airydale, the pressed plants in my great-grandmother's herbarium, the smoke-stained Dumas and Edgar Rice Borroughs novels from Galilee, the Little Feather books that my father got for his 11th Christmas in 1951. The books that I discovered as a child on the dark shelves of the shiproom during long summers at Lake Como: Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Dave Fearless, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, stories of Edgar Allen Poe. They all connect me to generations of my page-turning, book-devouring ancestors.