I am a sucker for good cover art and this may be one of the reasons e-readers leave me cold. I like holding a book in my hands, studying the art both up close and at a distance and, if there is embossing or folded paper as part of it, running my fingers gently over the cover. But it doesn’t take a three-dimensional look to attract me.
In re-organizing my library for the third time, I had the opportunity to handle every one of the books at least once. I found books I had forgotten I owned. Occasionally, I would look at a book and wonder where it had come from and how it had gotten onto my shelves. I remembered fond and less-than-fond reading experiences. I recalled the excitement of books I just had to purchase at the time. And I admired, fondled and opened pages of many of them, whether I had read them yet or not.
It was fun, this journey though my books, especially when it came to some of the offbeat ones. Among them because it was to that point unread was one of the odder books I own, in terms of cover art: Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons. I remembering buying this book shortly after it was published in 2005 but in spite of having picked it up a couple of times, and reading the gruesome prologue I never went further. Not because it wasn’t interesting—the description of the explosion, its impact and its weird aftermath were compelling in that terrible car accident kind of way—but because something else always seemed to interrupt my reading of it.
Not this time. I sat down and in a day and a half, interrupted only by sleep, I plowed straight through this multifaceted story of science fiction, dreams of space travel, rockets, disdain, persistence, explosives, sex, religious cults, CalTech, the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), the culture of Los Angeles and Pasadena in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the McCarthy witch hunt, and the rise of the defense industries in southern California. To say it was a page-turner would be a belittlement. Thus, I found myself drawn into a part of the history of the city wholly unknown to me but which had been part of my family’s history four generations back. I could not help but be enthralled.
So when I finished that book I wanted another that would grip me equally tightly. Fortunately, the re-re-re-organization brought another one to light that I knew, from having skimmed pages a couple of years ago, would be equally dishy: J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets—and whose cover also attracted me. Almost as much as it repelled me, and nearly as much now as when I was growing up during the 1960s. Had I been older I might well have had my own file, but maybe I did. The commune I lived in at the time, which contained politically active students like myself, was for a time watched, not particularly covertly, by government agents we assumed were the FBI. Our phone often gave signs of being tapped too. I never knew whether to be insulted—we did have freedom, right?—or flattered that we rated our own investigation.
The paperback goes on for 760 pages, an unfortunate size for a paperback because when I try to read it in bed—having come down on Saturday with a bad cold, my first time being sick in about eight years—the dang thing keeps flopping over. Plus my arms and hands are getting tired trying to keep it from flopping over. (I like to read on my side.) But I am shivering again, and my eyes and nose are watering so if you will forgive me I’ll sign out now and head back to bed. Have a good week.
Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
Location: Natchez, Mississippi
Location: New York, New York
Location: Lumberton, North Carolina
The Pub House:
Imaging Books & Reading:
Until next week, read well, read often and read on!