Readings for the Last Night of the World
Friday December 21, 2012 (that's tomorrow) marks the end of the current “Great Cycle’ of the Long Count Mayan Calendar. For some prognosticators, this signifies the end of the world—figuratively, and perhaps even literally.
So, how to spend that last night?
Why not... read:)
With that in mind, here are personal recommendations from each member of the Humanities & Social Sciences Department at the Toronto Reference Library--books that have informed, nourished and in some cases, transformed our lives. Some are new, some are old--an eclectic, even eccentric, collection that mirrors the people who make up this department.
If you can’t read them all tonight, plan to take at least some of them with you into the new world to come—whatever form it may take.
Egypt, not the Mayan kingdom, has been the lifelong passion and study of one of our staff. Read the book closest to his heart--if you can: Egyptian Grammar: being an introduction to the study of hieroglyphs by Alan H. Gardiner.
If you can only read English, try the autobiography of Egyptologist and controversial folklorist Margaret A. Murray, My First Hundred Years.
No matter what language you speak, see Why We Talk: the evolutionary origins of language by Jean-Louis Dessalles, which links the evolution of language to general evolutionary history. Then read about our evolutionary cousins in The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: a true story of resilience and recovery by Andrew Westoll, and the winner of the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.
Whatever our future may hold, it grows out of our past, and the challenge to understand that past is a life long struggle. Whether celebrated, notorious or blood-curdling, we've found these histories fascinating, illuminating, terrifying:
by Richard J. Evans
by Todd Gordon
One of our most ardent left wingers has been in thrall since she was seventeen to libertarian darling Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. “Romance, mystery, science fiction, metaphysics, politics, economics, sex, love, ethics and philosophy in 1,168 pages” she says.
It's not really surprising--the denizens of the library world are eminently broad minded and contrarian. Maybe that's why Open Minded: Working out the Logic of the Soul is the recommendation of one of our more reflective librarians.
Librarians are also eminently practical and realistic, so please see: The Canadian guide to will and estate plannng: everything you need to know today to protect your wealth and your family tomorrow. See also The Looneyspoons Collection--because we all have to eat, and it might as well be fun and healthy. The practicalities of business, the inspiration of the humanities and the modern thirst for coffee all come together in Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul .
But for many of us, fiction--worlds created and re-created--remains the soul of reading:
Wuthering Heights, despite genteel covers, the great novel of overwhelming passion and all-consuming revenge.
Magnificent Obsession by blockbuster novelist Lloyd C. Douglas--a bestseller from 1929, when inspiration, self-sacrifice and improbably happy endings were still in vogue. You can read it online in 2012 through Project Gutenberg of Australia.
(See also the guilty pleasure of the 1954 Douglas Sirk film.)
And lastly, as a signpost to a new world, the shining words of one of our great poets:
Sunlight at Sherbourne and Bloor
Late afternoon my bike takes me across the city. I wonder how we
fashion our lives, these brilliant disorders, these fine, inspired errors when
--look--the future is utterly implicit in the present,the present is the logical outcome
Of all points in the past, and that building going up across the
street has been going up forever. Everything we do now contains the
seeds of its own unfolding. The bridge eases over the deep ravine.
Something tells me:
You will never do anything more vital, more profound, more perfect or more
Necessary than what you are doing right now.
Today has been Friday, that was its name--Friday--and the
Sunlight at Sherbourne and Bloor completes the city.