Middlemarch and company.

Middlemarch, George Eliot

Love, and a little politics, in an small old english town. About 32 hours of audio, it took me about two weeks. I don’t exactly recall why this got on my reading list, so I didn’t go in with much in the way of expectations, but even under my superficial reflection, a few themes show up in various characters. (Spoiler warning.)

Caleb Garth may be the author’s highest virtue: He believes that good, honest work (particularly, improving and managing land and houses) is an end of itself. In fact his wife has to remind him that he does have a family to support, and it would be a good idea to get paid for his labor.

Mr. Casorbin is an elderly man who has labored his entire life on a great scholarly work. He dies with it incomplete, casting large amounts of bitterness in his wake.

The other characters probably have their own messages, but I didn’t find them as poignant. It was obvious that the characters were all upper class, however – at one point a person experiencing financial trouble (as most do – perhaps another theme, taken together with Caleb Garth) says “We can get by with only one servant.”

The author concludes with books ‘big message,’ thoughtfully saving the read the trouble of discovering it: While we may all dream of greatness, simply being a person who does right each and every day is still a very good thing to be.

The next couple are only one tape each:

A Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi

Packaged as guide to modern business that was the secret to Japan’s success, this classic book is superficially about sword fighting, although it does explicitly claim that the concepts behind the moves have broader application.

This is a very dense book – the kind that requires study to really get anything out of it. As such, the audio presentation isn’t that useful – the speaker is going on to the next section before you can appreciate the use the broader use of a concept, let alone the use in sword fighting alone.

I actually bought this one, and it did just was it was supposed to: fill the gap between the end of Middlemarch and my next trip the library. Sadly, the library’s audio collection doesn’t align too well with my list of things to read, and after grabbing everything that I could find, I started browsing through the shelves and grabbing the first few items that looked interesting, just to keep my next visit at a reasonable distance.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Recommended to me as a guide to communication in general, not just to children. Though I doubt your interlocutor would be flattered if you told him that you were treating him like a child ;^)

The recommendation is one which I’ll say it fulfills, although this is another that would really work better in a written format that you could study a bit – it can go by fairly quickly on tape.

The Man Who Planted Trees, Jean Giono

Unlike the dense works above, this, effectively short story, was so light that they had to insert lots of music to get it on both sides of the tape ;^) It’s the sort of story that exists just to present a very simple idea though, and it’s hard to even call it a spoiler to talk about – the title says enough.

A man, living alone in desolate area, starts planting lots of trees. Over the 30 years of the story, the trees gradually change the climate of the area, even revitalizing the human inhabitants nearby. The message is both about nature, and about the effect one person can have – a person already nearly to ‘retirement age’ with the ‘best years of his life behind him.’

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