When it comes to writing I have three phases: writing, reading and digesting. At the moment I’m in a reading phase. I don’t know what the next stage will be: yes, I’m posting but that doesn’t mean I’m in a writing phrase. I probably am, though.

In this reading phase I’ve read several books so far. One I’ve read again, for the first time in a year or two, is The World’s Most Evil Men by Neil Blandford and Bruce Jones. I like to read this occasionally to remind me what any of us is capable of. (I don’t know if there’s a comparable publication on women, but it would have to include Ranavalona I, queen of Madagascar in the mid 19th century.)

A second book is Social Intelligence: the new science of success by Karl Albrecht. Social intelligence is related to emotional intelligence but is more than only EQ. One neat concept I’ve learned from this book is E-Prime language. Invented by Dr David Bourland in the mid 1960s, it avoids the use of the “to be” verbs. This means you have to use verbs that describe the action, not the person. E-Prime minimises labelling and defining people by their job, race, sexual orientation, age, and so on. At first sight, I think it’s an excellent concept, and it’s one that I use in part anyway: I try to avoid labelling people; as an engineer, as bisexual, as Macedonian, because a person is greater than (the sum of) their job, sexuality, nationality et cetera. Yes, I used E-Prime before it became popular. Not that it has become popular. Q.E.D. – but only if it does become popular.

A third book I’m going through for the second time is Dan Hofstadter’s The Earth Moves about Galileo’s[1] deposition before the Inquisition. The book reminds me how most topics are more convoluted than they appear at first. For instance, all the people involved in Galileo-gate were (1) devoted Roman Catholics – including Galileo himself; (2) to a greater or lesser extent, educated in and aware of the sciences; and (3) real, actual human beings, not the one-dimensional caricatures they are often presented as: the objective, far-seeing, truth seeking scientist with no time for religious superstitions, oppressed by a science-hating monolithic religious hierarchy determined to crush him to preserve their dominion.

A fourth book, which I bought yesterday and have just finished, is The Jesus Scandals by David Instone-Brewer, who shows how Jesus was far more radical than we imagine from even a thoughtful reading of the Gospels. The book describes how many norms Jesus broke and why his life and teachings were scandalous, at different levels, to so many people, both then and now.

I recall speaking with someone years ago who asked me if I was a “reader”: that is, a person who reads a lot. I answered hesitantly, trying to recall how many books I’d read recently. I started to say that I used to read a fair bit but…. She interrupted brusquely, “Well, you’re not then!” After this discourtesy, I didn’t bother to tell her that I hadn’t read many books lately because I was writing one.

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Endnotes

[1] I think Napoleon Bonaparte and Galileo Galileo are the only household names who we commonly identify by their first names.

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