I have at my left elbow a small but imposing stack of books–a half-dozen of them, my haul from Christmas morning. I read thoroughly, not fast; I have a lot of incidental reading that I do as part of my work; and I need to spend ever so many hours noodling online. So this stack of books may be my reading list for 2011.
I’d love to list the titles, but won’t just yet. Instead, I’ll quote a representative opening passage from each book. The titles will appear below the jump, if you want to play.
1. “The idea of selling spring water came to Eric Carlson in 1997, when he observed trucks filled with water traveling up and down Maine highways. To Carlson, it was an epiphany: ‘I was like, “Wow! Water is valuable enough to truck around?” ‘ “
2. “Once it was a far different place. Aboriginal California, with 275,000 to 300,000 residents by current reckoning, was among the most densely populated areas in North America at the time of European contact, but the native peoples left scarcely an imprint on the waterscape or the landscape.”
3. “It is through Jack O’Brien, the Arbiter Elegantiarum Philadelphiae, that I trace my rapport with the historic past through the laying on of hands. He hit me, for pedagogical example, and he had been hit by the great Bob Fitzsimmons, from whom he won the light-heavyweight title in 1906. Jack had a scar to show for it. Fitzsimmons had been hit by Corbett, Corbett by John L. Sullivan, he by Paddy Ryan, with the bare knuckles, and Ryan by Joe Goss, his predecessor, who as a young man had felt the fist of the great Jem Mace. It is a great thrill to feel that all that separates you from the early Victorians is a series of punches on the nose.”
4. “They met at his request on at least six separate occasions, beginning in February 1869. With everyone present, there were just nine in all–the seven distinguished he had selected; his oldest son, Colonel Washington Roebling; and himself. …”
5. “One late night in November 1980 I was flying over the state of Utah on my way back to California. I had an aisle seat, and since I believe that anyone who flies in an airplane and doesn’t spend most of his time looking out the window wastes his money, I walked back to the rear door of the plane and stood for a long time at the door’s tiny aperture, squinting out at Utah.”
6. “There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And never will be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”
1. “Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters,” by Robert Glennon.
2. “The Great Thirst: Californians and Water: A History,” by Norris Hundley, Jr.
3.”The Sweet Science,” by A.J. Liebling.
4. “The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge,” by David McCullough.
5. “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water,” by Marc Reisner.
6. “Song of Myself and Other Poems,” by Walt Whitman, edited by Robert Hass.