The Visual Miscellaneum

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If you find yourself on a desert island – or someplace that feels like one – you may want to bring this book along: The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia. Like certain web sites, it sucks you in and before you know it, a few hours have passed. As the author, David McCandless, explains in his introduction, he was “swamped by information…and searching for a better way to see it all and understand it.”  The book is a series of visual charts that illustrate trends, ideas and facts about our hyper-connected world.

It was a middle school student who introduced me to the book. She received a copy as a gift and had it with her at school one day. The page that interests me the most is a word cloud titled “Books Everyone Should Read.”  I looked through the titles and broke them into 3 categories: books I have read, books that are on the proverbial list, and others that I know are out there, but fall under the “life is too short” category. Then there’s that one I had never heard of until this week – Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. According to Wikipedia, Under the Volcano is a semi-autobiographical novel that takes place in a small Mexican town on the Day of the Dead. It sounds serious and “important,” but quite honestly, after reading several descriptions, I put it in the “life is too short” category.

You can probably guess many of the other books on the list: Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Great Expectations, Grapes of Wrath, 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Diary of Anne Frank – and many other worthy selections. One notable exception: Charlotte’s Web. I think E.B. White’s novel should be on all required reading lists. 

In case you are wondering how McCandless determined what “Books Everyone Should Read,” he identifies the source of every visual. In the case of the book cloud, the sources are: the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, the Pulitzer Prize winners, Booker Prize, the BBC’s Big Read, Oprah’s Book Club, World Book Day, and “the author’s top five.” That may explain Under the Volcano!

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