February session

The February session will be held on Wednesday February 23rd, at the usual time and place.

Here, I will post some answers to questions that were asked in the January session. I will also post links to matters that were discussed in the January session.

Later, I will post some suggestions for chapters or sections of “Wind, Sand and Stars” to read. We don’t have time to read the whole book, page by page.

You can help me choose chapters or sections. Tell me which chapter or section you enjoyed reading (in English or in Japanese).

Also, as you are reading, ask your questions in the comments. I will answer in the comments or at the next (February) session.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Possible future reading projects

wind sand and stars
wind sand and stars by ed ed, on Flickr


Now we are reading “Wind, Sand and Stars” by Antoine de St Exupery. I imagine we will take about 3 months over this book.

Next, we will read a book by Bernard Malamud (I’m thinking of a short story called The Natural).

What shall we read after that?

Here are some suggestions.  I don’t expect everyone in our group will be interested in all of these. Some ideas are (much) more demanding than others. Some of them are definitely “study” rather than “reading for pleasure”. I may decide to create new groups meeting on different days, for example I am thinking of creating a Study Group for reading about Free-market Economics. Some teachers of economics and teachers of Business English have already expressed interest in such a Study Group.

  1. Choose a theme for the year, and read several books on that theme during the course of the year.
    1. E.g. “children’s stories”
    2. or “children’s stories that have not yet been translated into Japanese”
      1. We could then also work on creating our own translation and, who knows? Maybe even publishing it!
    3. Basics of economics – reading 2 or 3 basic economics books for English-speaking highschool students.
      1. Some of these books have not yet been translated into Japanese.
    4. A 10-session course on “teaching children how to resist”. This course was designed by an American historian and economist (a retired professor). Here is his introduction to his course:
      1. Teenagers need guidance. They need role models. They need adult supervision from people who say, “Do as I say, just as I do.”
      2. Here is a home school course on civics, or economics, or history. Or maybe a summer school course in between the junior and senior year.
      3. Do not send a student to college without this.
    5. A 100-month course on how to be cultural literate in Western literature!
      1. Part 1 (books 1-50), and
      2. part 2 (books 51-100).
    6. A “Great (Western) Books” course – a slightly less ambitious version of #5.
      1. This course would start with easier books and move on to harder ones.
      2. Participants could drop out (or drop in) at any stage.
      3. The course would involve discussing the books as well as reading them.
      4. Homework would include writing your own discussion questions. 
      5. This is definitely a course of study, not a “relaxed reading” course.
    7. An 18-20-session course on logic and analysis, using actual English-language newspaper articles from the Japan Times, Asahi Evening News, and other Japan-based news media. This is a course in thinking, and how to think clearly. As a teacher, I see a great need for such a course in schools and universities, not only in Japan. Such a course should be taught in Japanese, but I do not know anyone teaching such a course. I cannot teach such a course in Japanese, but I can do it in English. Perhaps someone who takes my course in English can then create a similar course in Japanese. That would be a great challenge!
    8. Liberty and the system of individual enterprise. Here is a list of 125 books. We don’t have to read all of them.
    9. One annual theme could be an author, for example,
      1. Reading 12 books by Rudyard Kipling, or
      2. 12 books by Dickens, or
      3. etc.
    10. Some more “yearly themes”
      1. “spy stories” 
      2. “detective stories”
      3. “women authors”
      4. travel fiction
      5. science fiction
      6. Commonwealth fiction (writing by authors from English-speaking countries OTHER than the U.K. and the U.S.A.)
      7. writing by authors whose native language was not English, e.g.
        1. Joseph Conrad,

Spring cleaning – what to do with your old books

Originally uploaded by Mistress B

In Japan, the days leading up to New Year’s Day are the time for spring cleaning. We had two guests for New Year, so we did quite a bit of “spring cleaning”. We also threw away a lot of old things that were just taking up space.

I have a lot of books. Some of them I no longer want. They are mostly in good condition. It seems a shame to just throw them in the garbage.

I tried re-selling them on Amazon. You need to register as a seller, but once that is done, the process is fairly simple (but not VERY simple – I had to get my sons to help me read the Japanese instructions from time to time). Yes, I sell on Amazon Japan. Why? Because Japan is where my bank account is. To sell on Amazon UK (for instance), I need a UK bank account, which I don’t have.

I started selling books on Amazon over 9 months ago. How’s buiness? Slow! Nothing happened until last month when suddenly 2 people bought a couple of my books. I was selling English books, not Japanese books, and this is Japan, not England, so …

What alternatives are there to re-selling your old books on Amazon? One alternative is to give your books away. A Google search found these two online book-exchange sites:

  1. みんなの物々交換
  2. Bookmooch

They both seem to work the same way:

  • You list the books (or CDs or whatever) that you want to give away,
  • and you also list the books or CDs that you want,
  • and the website searches its customer database to find someone who wants what you are giving away,
  • and someone who is giving away what you are looking for.

Bookmooch is international and works in English, which is easier for me, so I have been using that. It works on a point system. When you offer a book, you get 0.1 points. When you send a book to someone not in your country, you get 2 points. You can then use those points to “buy” books that you want on Bookmooch.

I offered 10 books, and I got 6 requests in just a few days. Most of the books I am selling are not popular books, so I was impressed. Although I am giving the books away and in addition I must pay for postage, I have been enjoying getting rid of my books in this fashion. As the Japanese say すっきりします!

I can also use Bookmooch to request books that I want. Instead of paying for them with money, I “pay” for them using my Bookmooch points. I just asked Bookmooch if any Bookmooch member is giving away “Wind, Sand and Stars”, but unfortunately not.

Do you have a good way to get rid of your unwanted books, or to buy books cheaply?

Bookmooch - click on the image to visit Bookmooch
Bookmooch - click on the image to visit Bookmooch