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Hidden in Plain Sight; a Few Thoughts on Buying Books and Following after Things that Shine

Dusting off my blog, I came across this blog post in my “Drafts” that I had completely forgotten about. I wrote and completed it in April, 2017, but, for some reason, never published it. It’s funny that this post is all about rediscovering something I’d forgotten about and seeing it again like it was the first time, because, coming across this unpublished and forgotten about post now, two years later, is a very similar experience.

I still haven’t gotten around to reading Michael Polayni’s Personal Knowledge (though coming to this post again has bumped his book up on the list) I and can’t remember exactly why I didn’t publish this back then. But I, the Meg of the Future (and now Present), am grateful to the Meg of the Past for taking the time to write this post (even if I didn’t post it at the time) and happy to find it still rings true. 🙂

April 7th, 2017

I always love it when what I’m reading leads me to discover a new thinker or writer, whose thoughts attract my attention. This sort of following after things that interest me that lead to new discoveries and interests is pretty much how I go about exploring the world and make my way through life and books.

The other day, I was reading about Wittgenstein and different ways to interpret his philosophy, in William Raeper’s and Linda Edwards’s A Brief Guide to Ideas, when I came across a quote by another author/philosopher that I wasn’t familiar with, but whose thoughts I found interesting.

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The name Michael Polanyi seemed a little familiar, but I thought maybe I’d heard someone mention him in passing or something. So I went to Goodreads to find out a little more about Michael Polanyi and his book, Personal Knowledge. (As a side note, often, when I come across an author or book that I’m interested in reading, I’ll go to Goodreads to find out a little more about the author and the book and then, if I’m interested, I’ll add it to my “to read” list. It’s pretty much the best way I’ve found to keep track of the books I want to buy and read.)

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After scanning the description and a few reviews I decided that this was definitely a book I wanted to read. I actually wanted to read it so much that I was about to look it up, and see if I could try to get my hands on a not-too-expensive copy, when the thought struck me that the cover looked somewhat familiar and I’d definitely seen it before. I thought about it for a moment and realised that, yes, it looked very familiar! In fact, it looked just like one of the many books I’d looked at during my latest, out of town, adventures to a bookstore in the beginning of January. I was pretty sure it was one of the 10+ books I decided to take a chance on.

A quick search through my stacks and boxes of books (that I haven’t had the time or space to put on a shelf yet) revealed that, yes, it was! And I’d even bought it for less than three dollars! I was so happy I let out a little squeal of delight and pumped my fist as an exclamation of joy. 🙂

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It was such a weird experience: owning something and yet coming to it, again, as if I was really seeing it for the first time. It was also really interesting for me to see, from different angles, the things that draw me and that I’m drawn to.

Generally speaking, whenever I buy a book, I’m tacitly committing myself to an x amount of my life/time to read and think about it, so buying a book is always, for me, somewhat of a commitment. I really don’t like the idea of buying or having a book that I’m never gonna read or not that interested in just sitting on my shelf and taking up space, even worse is actually reading a book that turns out to be a waste of my time. 😦 I try to avoid both, so I’m pretty picky about the books I decide to buy. I usually like to do my research about both an author and book I’m interested in, before I buy a book–which is why I generally buy most of my books online, it allows me to be more deliberate.

When I came across this book, though, it was the first time I’d heard of Michael Polanyi so had no previous knowledge or research to go on. I was out of town and pressed for time. I had a few minutes to decide, not only, if this was a book (out of the 10,000+ books there) I wanted to take a chance on, but also add to my growing pile of books that I was going to have to lug around the city (with all my other traveling luggage) and then on the train and finally on the overnight bus I was taking home. So I sped-read the back of the book, thumbed through the table of contents and preface and decided that, yes, this was a book I wanted to read and buy, and bought it. Then I pretty much forgot all about it–until the other day. 🙂

It’s curious to think that if I hadn’t come across it and bought it in that bookstore, I still would have eventually, and I would have even gone out of my way to find it and get my hands on it.

But there’s more, as I was writing this, I realised that the quote that initially piqued my attention isn’t even from Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge it’s from article he wrote called “The Unaccountable Element in Science” (You can find a copy here, though you’d need to have or sign up for a Jstor account). And yet, coming back to it, it seems to go fit perfectly with the whole theme of this post.

7C477C20-37E4-4669-BBE4-17027F7ADEF4This is in fact my definition of external reality; reality is something that attracts our attention by clues which harass and beguile our minds into getting ever closer to it, and that, since it owes this attractive power to its independent existence, can always manifest itself in still unexpected ways…If we have grasped a true and deep seated aspect of reality, then its future manifestations will be unexpected confirmations of our present knowledge of it. 
–Michael Polanyi, “The Unaccountable Element in Science”

There really does seem to be an underlying thread, of the C. S. Lewis variety that binds and runs through the things I love and the ideas that capture me. I can’t quite put it into words, but it’s there and guides me. If I’m moving towards the things that shine, I feel like I don’t have to be too worried about missing something; I’ll probably find my way eventually.

Coming Out of Hibernation and How to Read More Books (Part 1?? A Possible Series.)

Hello, Dear Blog, my old friend,

I’ve come to talk with you again…

It’s been over a year and a half since I last posted, though not for a lack of reading. The last year and a half have been some of the most productive reading years of my life, at least when it comes to page count and books–I’ve read over 80 books. It’s more that I couldn’t find the motivation or inspiration to post and even when I felt I had things I wanted to say any attempt to try to put thoughts into words and post felt forced. And, generally, whenever I have to force something, it doesn’t work out very well. So I decided to let things be.

As a result, these last 18 months, I’ve felt more like a consumer of books–reading and reading, but not really synthesizing or processing what I was reading properly or at least not as much as I would like. It’s been frustrating, but I’ve been letting the feeling of frustration build and simmer. I think it’s finally reached a point of critical mass and I’m ready to come out of hibernation.

So here I am, Dear Blog, I’ve missed you and I’m back. 🙂

And, now, Dear Reader,

Here’s a fun, informative and entertaining video I came across a few months ago titled How to Read More Books in the Golden Age of Content. It’s somewhat of an ode to readers of books and lovers of bookstores and chock-full of tips on reading. I highly recommend it to anyone passionate about books or anyone wanting to read more books (especially in this age where we are deluged and drowning in content 😦 ). Thirty minutes might seem a bit long for a video, but it’s quality content and the time just flies by.


Something I found particularly interesting is that most of the reading habits and tips in this video (with the exception of the tips on speed reading) are the same habits I have and the same tips (in some form or another) I give to friends wanting advice on how to read more. It’s been in the back of my mind to start a blog series on the subject for a few years now so perhaps this will be the first in a series of posts on “How to Read More”. We’ll see.

7 Ways to Maximize Your Misery

I’d heard about this video a few times in the last few days, but I finally watched it today, when a friend shared a direct link. Apparently, it’s based off a book by a psychologist named Randy J. Paterson called How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use. I don’t know if I’ll read the book, but the video is great and so true. It made me laugh a lot. 😀


Ps. The last minute is just an ad for Audible.com. I found it a bit annoying. If you want save yourself a bit of time, the maximizing misery part ends at about the 6:15 mark.

Adventures at the Fountain Valley Friends of the Library Bookstore

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At the end of last month/beginning of this month, I visited my brother and his family in California. During one of my last days there, my sister-in-law took me to her favorite place to to look for books: the Fountain Valley Friends of the Library Bookstore; a tiny, little, room of a, gem of a bookstore run by book-loving, friendly, volunteer staff. 🙂

For some reason, I’d always imagined library bookstores to be full of old, worn library books, that no one was reading any more, with ugly library card pockets glued to the front of the book and stamped all over with an ugly “WITHDRAWN” stamp–overall, a pretty drab and aesthetically unappealing collection. I figured if I were to ever visit a library bookstore it would be for the sole purpose of a book’s contents (e.g. to look for some scholarly, obscure book that I couldn’t afford to buy at the regular, new or used price), never for aesthetics. I’d never been to a library bookstore, so I had my doubts when I walked in, but about five minutes later, I was sure that if I lived even remotely near there, I’d likely be a very strong contender for the label of “most frequent customer”. 🙂 It turned out that all the books there were, as far as I could tell, donated by readers. I found a few ex-libris books, but I didn’t find a single ex-library book.

It was such a pleasant surprise to discover a vast and quality selection of books, in excellent condition, in such a tiny place. Best of all, their prices. were. incredible. Most books were 1 dollar; the most expensive books were 2-4 dollars; and romance novels…well, they were on sale! 🙂

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Unfortunately, romance novels aren’t my thing, but I imagined for a moment how lucky I’d be if they were: 100 romance novels for 10 dollars! (Oh, the joy! 😀 )

We only had about thirty minutes there, because closing time was at 5:00 pm, but it was a small enough of a store that I felt I was able survey all the essentials, and yet it still left me with more to explore. As it was, I had a hard enough time cutting down the stack of books that I’d collected, in about 20 minutes, to a size and weight I was sure would be manageable in my luggage on my flight home.

In the end, I settled on the nine awesome and beautiful books you see at the top of this post, for the incredible price of $11! They are all in excellent condition and the Kafka and Isben books look as if they’ve never been read before! I walked away feeling like a treasure hunter who’d stumbled on to some local secret. 🙂

It’s funny because, prior to my trip, I thought I’d have a lot of extra time and imagined that I’d use it to visit plenty of bookstores. Things turned out differently and I ended up without much time to spare, but that was okay, because thirty minutes at the Friends of the Library Bookstore was really all I needed. 🙂

If you’re someone who loves to own a physical copy of the books you read and you’re lucky enough to have a Friends of the Library or any library bookstore in your vicinity, I can’t recommend them enough. They are lovely and fantastic places to explore; the gems you can discover and prices you can purchase them for are a book lover’s best-kept secret.

Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta…

This morning, one of my brothers asked me if I’d seen the “Norway coffee” video that was trending on YouTube (with over a million views). I hadn’t and asked him if it was worthwhile to watch it and give it an additional view. He said it was, so I gave it a view… Actually, I gave it several views. And it’s so worthwhile, I’m sharing it here. 🙂

This isn’t the “How to drink your morning coffee in Norway” version that is trending on YouTube. It’s the version uploaded by the guy in the video. It currently only has 9,500 views, but it could certainly use a few more.

Four Quartets

IMG_4295This arrived in the mail today. I’d been wanting to read it for so long; I sat down and read it in one sitting. It’s pretty much perfect.

More on it later. At the moment, I’m just happy to know I have the rest of my life to meditate on and explore this collection of poems. 🙂

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: “Little Gidding”

I’ve Gone and Done It…

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A wise man once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Well, here’s my first step. May there be many more.