I’m reading A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman at the moment. It’s an amazing read, and perfectly suited to our pandemic present.
It’s a long book, so I feel justified in skipping over the occasionally-lengthy descriptions of battles and campaigns, in favour of the much more interesting economic, social, and cultural history.
As a former History teacher (and someone with an MA in the subject) I’ve always found the undue focus on political and military history a bit boring, which is why I appreciate Tuchman’s comment on how it’s the extremes of time periods that tend to be recounted by historians.
In individuals as in nations, contentment is silent, which tends to unbalance the historical record.Barbara Tuchman, ‘A Distant Mirror’
Tuchman throws in all kinds of interesting tidbits of information, such as two-thirds of the population of Europe being under the age of 21 throughout the 14th century. Half were under 14! She uses this to explain the general lack of maturity in everyone from peasants to nobles.
Some might wonder why I’d want to read something so ‘depressing’ as the population of Europe being reduced by a third during the Black Death. After all, isn’t that a bit close to home right now? I’ve actually found the opposite is true: reading things like this make you realise that we live in much more pleasant, civilised, and reasonable times, and that things could be far, far worse
This post is Day 21 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com
I almost entitled this post ‘nobody cares’. Because, mostly, they don’t. When you write, you should write for yourself, as a way of setting down what you think, sharing your knowledge, and connecting together your experiences.
There have been times in my life when I’ve blogged every day. Any time you see me doing that, it’s probably because I’m having a tough time at home, work, or trying to chew through a knotty problem.
Another title for this post could be ‘write like nobody is reading’. Because, mostly, they aren’t. Even if you’ve got a lot of followers, most people don’t click through, and attention is a valuable commodity. Just because people are looking doesn’t mean they’re reading. And even if they are reading, what you’ve written almost certainly won’t have as much resonance as it does for you.
So just write. Say what’s on your mind and tell the world about it. Not because it’s going to get retweeted, boosted, or liked. But just as an expression of who you are, where you stand, and what you think.
This post is Day 11 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com
Last year, my wiki went down at dougbelshaw.com/wiki. For reasons too boring to go into, I was unable to resurrect it. This made me sad, particularly because there was some stuff on there that didn’t exist anywhere else.
After a brief period of mourning, I got on with my life. Noel De Martin, however, decided to do some digging via the Wayback Machine, and found several pages, which I’m copying-and-pasting to my blog for posterity.
What follows is a snapshot of my ‘Daily reading’ page from January 2017.
Every morning, I read parts of books from the ‘Daily reading’
collection I’ve created on my e-reader. It currently contains these
- Aurelius, Marcus – Mediations
- Currey, Mason – Daily Rituals: how great minds make time, find inspiration, and get to work
- Epictetus – Enchiridion
- Gracián, Baltasar – The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence
- Holiday, Ryan – The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
- Pessoa, Fernando – The Book of Disquiet
- Montaigne, Michel de – The Complete Essays
- Rochefoucauld, François de La – Collected Maxims and other reflections
- Seneca – On the Shortness of Life
All links take you to WorldCat, meaning you should be able to find if a local library has these in stock.
On the bench
Here are the books that used to feature on this list, and may return someday:
I’m very aware that this is a list of dead, white men, but these are just the books I’ve come across so far that are so helpful to me I’m happy to read them on repeat. If you’ve got suggestions of alternatives or anything to help widen my worldview, please do let me know! It needs to be the kind of thing I can finish and then start right back at the beginning again.