December 4 Blog: Best Book

December 4 Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

I need to divide this blog into two parts: knitting and non-knitting. I'll take the non-knitting book first.

The best non-knitting book of the year for me is Lila by Robert Pirsig.

One reason is that it is the only non-knitting book I have read for pleasure this year. Indeed, it is the probably the only one since I started grad school in the fall of 2006. This is such a sad statement. It turns out that one of the downsides of working on a masters in public administration is that I had to read page upon page of dry, horribly written dreck. By the time I finished, I lost my joy of reading. It took the urging of a friend for me to open the pages of this book, and it took me months to read it.

Like Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the book is two journeys in one narrative. Phaedrus continues the philosophical journey he began in the first book while traveling towards the ocean on a sailboat. On the way, he lays out a fully developed metaphysics, tries to save a woman, and explores the nature of madness.

I can't seem to describe the metaphysics that Pirsig builds like an elegant stone wall without making a hash of it, so I won't try. I still have the book at my beside, and I will read it again in 2010 so that I can get a better grasp on the ideas.

There is an excellent description of the sensation of sex from a man's point of view, fascinating for this woman to read. There is also an amusing takedown of the way universities teach philosophy. Pirsig points out that what is really taught is philosophology, or the study of what philosophers have thought, with no room for students to engage in original thought and analysis.

The book left me feeling hopeful at the end. That alone means I want to wrestle again with its ideas. It has also been a private pleasure.

I spent more time with knitting books than any other genre over the past year. The best book of the year for me in this category is a kind of philosophical treatise itself: New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Book One by Cat Bordhi.

Take a look at your foot. If you were to measure it, you would discover that the widths are about the same around the midpoint of the foot and around the lower calf. This would imply that you could knit a tube and be done with it. The trouble is that the ankle in the middle is a lot wider, and requires extra fabric for a good fit. The traditional sock pattern solves this engineering problem by adding a wedge of fabric at each ankle, which also turns the sock and makes it L-shaped. Cat discovered that you don't have to add the extra fabric at the ankle - that you can add it on the top of the foot, on the bottom, all on one side, or evenly distributed around the sock. In this book she creates eight different sock architectures that play with the form of the sock and open up many creative possibilities for the adventurous knitter.

Bordhi, like Pirsig, is a truly original thinker. To encounter her ideas is to breath deeply of fresh air. I gave a copy of this book to my daughter.


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