Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jack Lynch

Jack Lynch is an Associate Professor in the English department of the Newark campus of Rutgers University, specializing in the English literature of the eighteenth century.

His many books include 2009's The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of “Proper” English, from Shakespeare to “South Park”.

Earlier this week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm always in the middle of too many books, some for work, some just for fun. My next big writing project is a history of reference books, from Babylon to Wikipedia, and for that I'm reading Herman Kogan, The Great EB: The Story of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which traces that institution from the middle of the eighteenth century to the late 1950s.

I recently finished Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night, which charmed me; though I didn't have the reference book project in mind when I picked it up, I discovered all sorts of things I'm sure to work into that project. Those who don't know Manguel should track him down, since he's the ultimate bookish type, someone who really lives among, even inside, his books.

A different kind of bookish man is the subject of the book I finished just before Christmas, Jeremy Lewis's Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane. Lane was the founder of Penguin Books, and he helped to revolutionize publishing in the twentieth century. The biography was detailed without getting bogged down in minutiae.

Four books are now in my just-for-fun rotation, and I pick them based on where I am at the time. When I'm in the living room, I'm reading Umberto Eco's new Infinity of Lists. When I'm on the train (I have a long commute), it's Nicholson Baker's most recent novel, The Anthologist (I adore Nicholson Baker, especially The Mezzanine, U and I, and The Size of Thoughts). And my bedtime reading is either George Gissing's New Grub Street -- one of those titles I've always felt guilty about not reading, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly -- or George Saintsbury's Notes on a Cellar Book, since I've become a devoted reader of wine writing in the last few years.

I'm sure I've got bookmarks in the middle of a few dozen other titles, though these are the ones most on my mind this week. When the semester begins in a few weeks and I'm back to the daily grind of teaching and marking papers, I'll value the hours I can devote to books all the more.
Visit Jack Lynch's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue