The Avid Reader
Columbus’ Rob Hardy is a psychologist with Community Counseling Services, dividing his time among clients in Columbus, West Point, Macon, Eupora, Ackerman and Louisville.
Most evenings, you might find him in the worn burgundy recliner in his library, a cluttered yet orderly place filled top to bottom with exercise equipment, artwork and — of course — books.
Hardy’s eclectic reading appetite is sated by “nonfiction, history, science, biography. If I read fiction, it’s nothing new. I don’t read anything newer than Joyce.” He names Joyce’s Ulysses as his favorite book: “There’s just nothing better. It’s a book I’ve read 10 times; I’ll go back and read it another 10.”
Some choices from Hardy’s recent reading menu:
1. Tough Without A Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart by Stefan Kanfer — “There was never an actor like Humphrey Bogart, and there never will be again. Kanfer helps us see what was unique in Bogart’s career and in his personality, and how Bogart’s times shaped him and shaped his audience’s enthusiasm for his roles.”
2. The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life by Bettany Hughes — “This is not an evaluation of the philosophy of Socrates as recorded by Plato, but is a surprisingly detailed biography of Socrates and a history of the turbulent Athens of his time. It succeeds wonderfully in both spheres. After all, Socrates was involved in the civic life of his famous city, and he was a soldier for it during the campaigns against Sparta. He wasn’t just a thinker but a skilled man of action.”
3. Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe by Ulinka Rublack — “In Europe from 1300 to 1600, clothes were important in a way they had not been in, say, the Middle Ages. Textiles were of unprecedented variety and came from all over the world, and often wages would be paid in cloth. One of the attractions of this lovely, detailed and erudite volume is seeing how they were engaged all those centuries ago in the same sort of pursuit of fashion that still consumes us.”
4. Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story by Paul Shaw — “ The typeface Helvetica is surely the only one that has ever had a movie documentary made about it, and it is a good movie! It is used especially in public places because of its legibility, and many people think that it has always been the typeface for signs in the subways of New York. That’s not at all possible; Helvetica is a modern typeface created in 1957. It is now the official typeface of such signs; it didn’t get to be by a simple committee decision but by decades of design successes, challenges and failures along the way to the current system. A gorgeous book with lots of pictures of the subways and their different styles of signs.”
5. The First English Dictionary of Slang 1699 — “This is a new issuance of a book published anonymously in London in 1699. Diverting and entertaining it is, more than a dictionary deserves to be. There are plenty of terms for drinking, starting with an amusing term for non-alcohol, ‘Adam’s-Ale,’ which simply means water. We might say now that someone is high on alcohol, and in those days he was ‘in his altitudes.’ To read this book whole is to have a good opportunity to wonder at the mysteries of how some words which were coined for criminal or roguish jargon have become common stock English today, and how some have never made it out of the narrow streets, dark taverns and debtors’ prisons of 17th-century London.”