Reading all over the land

So, with Christmas coming up I have begun to collect for myself a whole series of exciting books to tide me over the festive period. My current non-holiday reading is a set of Epistemology primers, which, whilst most educational (ask me about the difference between de re and de dicto beliefs; I can explain it with a joke about your Mother!), isn’t exactly the most thrilling material.I think I’ve mentioned the opportunity cost of reading before; every book I read is a lost chance to read some other book. It’s a problem all academics face; it’s especially difficult when you are trying to work out which assigned texts to give to a class. Do you know how many primers there are on epistemology? Hundreds. If not thousands. I’ve read about a dozen and none of them have been particularly perfect for my needs.One solution to this problem is, of course, peer review. I’m talking here about the process by which you poll other academics to see what they are using as their core textbooks (the other trick is to search the websites of other Departments and see what they are using as their prescribed textbooks). This process extends to other areas; one colleague of mine writes a lot of co-authored papers because it allows him to write on areas he would otherwise be unqualified to remark upon. It sounds a little dubious but its not just above board but right and proper. Academics are, largely, over-specialised (one day I might write my rant on why Dawkin’s should not be allowed to write on the subject of religion) and this can limit our contribution to particular discourses. It makes sense, then, to team up with some other overly-specialised academic and pool resources. A lot of very important work gets done this way and it often promotes the cross-pollination of ideas; I’m not especially adept at some of the more esoteric areas of the Physics of Time but, luckily, philosophers like Huw Price are (or know someone who is) so I may not be good with the equations but I can, at least, read some very good material on the subject that won’t cause my head to explode.Another solution is a good research assistant. I am a research assistant to a supervisor in that my PhD dovetails into an area that he wants to know more about. Research assistants read material so you don’t have to; well, they read a lot more material than they then recommend you should read.None of which is particularly informative as to my Christmas Reading List. This Christmas sees a repeat of ‘Foucault’s Pendulum;’ possibly the best novel on Conspiracy Theories, ‘The Hollow Man;’ a murder novel that closes the book on locked room mysteries (and it unrelated to the similar sounding book by Nicky Hagar), ‘Blandings Castle and Other Stories;’ for what is a week in the country without Wodehouse? ‘Can There Be a Philosophy of Archaeology?’ Yes, and I want to see if the approach detailed here is similar to a failed research project of my own from last year. ‘Strange Angel: the otherworldy life of rocket John Whiteside Parsons;’ Parsons was one of Crowley’s favourites but his most interesting associate was a young L. Ron Hubbard. I saw a play based on his life in London earlier this year and it was fascinating (if not actually all that good a piece of theatre). There’s also ‘The Square Root of 2: A Dialogue Concerning a Number and a Sequence’ (because I have an unnatural love of certain numbers) and ‘Inhuman Deaths: Murder in Tudor England’ (because, well, it sounds interesting). There’s more, but this excuse for an informative post has gone on too long and I really should get back to read Audi’s rather dense work on epistemology.Pity me.