Professor James Murray, editor of the Oxford English Dictionary

The chief executive of the Oxford University Press, Nigel Portwood, made headlines recently when he announced that the third edition of Oxford English Dictionary (OED) would likely only exist in electronic form.  The decision has not been finalized, but the publication of the third edition is still years away from completion.   It’s no small task to create the multi-volume OED.  In fact, 80 lexicographers have been hard at work for the last 21 years to publish the third edition and it’s still only 28 per cent complete.  But, according to Mr. Portwood, “the print dictionary market is just disappearing; it is falling away by tens of per cent a year.” This fact seems to indicate that when the third edition is finally finished it would be more cost effective to only issue an electronic version of the multi-volume set.

Central Library’s Brown Baggers Book Group just finished Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman; a fascinating story of the Oxford English Dictionary’s beginnings and of two important figures in the dictionary’s completion:  Professor James Murray and Dr. W. C. Minor.  I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t read it, but one guy is the professor and the other is the madman.  There was a spirited discussion surrounding the painstaking process of not only defining a word, but tracing the etymology of a word.

It seems as if other high profile and traditionally printed media also recently announced the possibility of a jump into the paperless realm.  Maybe ‘announced’ isn’t the proper word.  Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times, stated at a London conference in the beginning of September that “we will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD.” I’ll admit that when I read this my first thought was, “what a shame”…but I read the report online, which is how I get most of my news these days.  And, I suspect, most of us are reading about current events on our computers, iphones and ipods, Blackberry’s,etc. etc. etc.  Ladies and gentlemen, the digital age is upon us.  The question is where will we go from here?

If you’re interested in attending the Central Library’s Brown Baggers Book Group we usually meet the third Thursday of each month in the Madison Room.  The October meeting will be on the 2nd Thursday, October 14th, and we will discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Hope you can make it!

Best of the best? You decide.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kevin Kelly’s CoolTools site I give it a glowing recommendation.  Kevin Kelly is the co-founder of Wired magazine.  From 1984 to 1990 Kevin was editor and publisher of the Whole Earth Review, which must be where the idea for CoolTools blossomed.  Basically, the site is devoted to consumer reviews.  Tools, as defined by the site, “can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material or website that is tried and true.”  The site isn’t trying to sell you anything.  Anyone can post a review of any item that seems worthy of a positive comment.

His recent post on the best magazine articles caught my eye.  Each article has a full text link.  And, there are quite a few:  160 by my count.  Of course, best, like favorite, is a loaded term.  But the beauty of a site like CoolTools is that it’s reader generated.  If you feel like an article is omitted you have the power to share its value.

Here’s the link:

Happy Reading!

Summer Reads ~ a series

So, it’s official.  School’s out for summer.  It’s been a while since I’ve really looked forward to summer break.  It didn’t matter if it was Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.  One day bled into the next, into the next.  My folks would let me play outside with the neighborhood kids until the street lights came on, and sometimes I’d sneak out and play ‘man hunt’ (glorified hide and seek) long after they had gone to bed.  Summer break does have an immediate impact for me and my husband Dan.  Our commute into Charlottesville may be a bit smoother minus the dreaded yellow bus.  During the school year I find myself wondering, often out loud, how long it takes to find your seat and sit in it.

I consider myself a seasonal reader.  I don’t mean that I only read during certain times of the year, I mean I read certain types of books during certain times of the year.  Summer=lighter fare.  Intense subjects and weighty ideas seem not to jive with the heat and humidity.  Longer days mean more time outside in the garden or on the river (I am one of the few, proud residents of Howardsville ~ where the Rockfish meets the James)

Now, of course there is the beach vacation.  The sand, the surf, the cooler, the book….  But, do you really want to read and reread the same sentence from Thus Spoke Zarathustra?

So by now maybe you’re thinking that I’ll give you a list of what some folks call ‘Chick Lit.’  I find this term slightly offensive.  In my opinion, Dan Brown is just as bland as Sophie Kinsella.  (and, that is just my opinion, read their stuff and think for yourself)  I’m thinking more along the lines of Mary Roach.

I was gifted a copy of Roach’s first book, Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers, by my sister-in-law.  As a July baby, the book fit perfectly into my less-is-more mantra for summer reading.  Who could go wrong with chapters titled ‘Crimes of Anatomy: Body snatching and other sordid tales from the dawn of human dissection’ and ‘Dead Man Driving:  Human crash test dummies and the ghastly, necessary science of impact tolerance.’  I can presume that the chapter ‘How to Know if You’re Dead:  Beating-heart cadavers, live burial, and the scientific search for the soul,’ led her to her next book:  Spook:  Science Tackles the Afterlife. There’s a local connection in this story:  UVA’s Division of Perceptual Studies is tapped for their work on reincarnation and near-death studies.  Her third book, Bonk:  The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, is, well, not very Victorian-esque.   I won’t re-cap chapters here.  Perhaps Pamela Paul, reviewing the book for the New York Times, said it best:  “In short, she takes an entertaining topic and showcases its creepier side.  And then she makes the creepy funny.”

So there you have it.  A first installment of suggested summer reading fun; technically, we have until September 22nd until we switch our seasonal gears to fall.

(book covers courtesy of Baker &  Taylor)