Something to Share (with a Smile): International Buy a Nun a Book Day

Today, the anniversary of 9/11, with the world holding its breath about Syria and in the sad knowledge that many other parts of the globe are experiencing tragic wars, I thought I would delay writing a more sombre post and give you something to smile about instead — not because I’m being insensitive, but because I know others will provide better reflections on the day than I can. So,

International Buy a Nun a Book Day
International Buy a Nun a Book Day: design by Endre Kormos

Yes, 17 September, the feast of St Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church and polymath, who, among other things, devised an alternative alphabet, is International Buy a Nun a Book Day, when you are encouraged to search out a nun or sister and give her that most precious gift, a good book (preferably asking her first what she’d like). It doesn’t matter whether it’s printed or an electronic download or a voucher to spend in a bookshop. Hopefully, you’ll get to meet some nice people and maybe find a few of your ideas about nuns need revising. We ourselves will be posting a Wish List on FB and here on the blog, which is rather angling of us, but then, did you know that the first book in English on fly fishing was written by a Benedictine nun? Or that one of Britain’s finest Private Presses was run by Benedictine nuns? Books and nuns (especially Benedictine nuns) go together.
🙂

 

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In Praise of Books

Howton Grove Priory: unpacking the library
Howton Grove Priory: unpacking the library

After the oratory or place set aside for prayer and worship, the library is probably the most important part of any Benedictine monastery. Ours began with just a handful of books but has grown over the years, so that it now fills (or rather will fill) the calefactory (photo above), several other parts of the house and the garage. Thanks to a kind benefactor and some diligent saving on our part, we have been able to install some purpose-built bookshelves in the calefactory to house our most important theological works; so now the work of unpacking the library boxes can begin.

There is something very comforting about the presence of books. As we unpack each one, it is greeted like an old friend and welcomed onto its destined shelf. Books have personalities which go beyond their contents. The binding, the paper, the typeface, all convey so much, to say nothing of the pencilled marginalia which recall the efforts to understand, engage with or dispute the arguments of the author. It will be some while before the library at Howton Grove Priory is shelved and catalogued as it should be, but in the meantime, how good it is to have our books back among us!

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Wikipedia Blackout

Whatever one thinks of the legislation being proposed in the U.S. A. — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate — and the implications for British web sites hosted on American servers (as this one is), the blackout of the English-language Wikipedia raises some interesting possibilities. Will people start reading books again and doing their own research the hard way? Will the results be more accurate? Will plagiarism be less of a problem? Shall we look back on 18 January 2012 as a golden moment when we rediscovered the beauty and power of an old technology? Despite my enthusiasm for most things digital, I’m rather hoping we may.

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In Praise of Books

Saturday morning is a good time for indulging a not-so-private enthusiasm for books and reading. I admit I love books: their shape, colour, texture, smell (I got over loving the taste at about age three). I love reading them; I love handling them; I love looking at them on their shelves or wherever they happen to be. Because I am, in some degree, a maker of books myself, I lap up typefaces and layouts, silently noting good or bad typography, choice of paper, ink and binding. I smile over unintentional contradictions, chuckle over misplaced punctuation, purr when I find a gerund or gerundive correctly used. Books are for reading I tell myself, so I don’t mind when the pages are scribbled on, turned down at important passages, loved literally to bits. I like reading on the monastery’s iPod Touch as well. At night, in bed, it’s light and comfortable to hold and there’s a great range of free books I actually want to read, such as Ford’s Handbook for Travellers in Spain, still the most readable guide to Iberia.

Tonight is World Book Night and it’s calculated that over a million books will be given away free at various venues — pubs, clubs and churches, to name but a few. We shall be safely tucked up in bed when all that happens, but tomorrow morning after Mass we shall be giving away new books on Newman and the saints, about thirty all told. You have to be there to get a book, so no email requests, please; and, of course, if you are minded to make a donation towards our Monastery project, we won’t turn it down. Happy reading!

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