Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Settling Down with a Don

There are several definitions of "don" including (but not limited to):

-a Spanish gentleman or nobleman
-preceptor: teacher at a university or college (especially at Cambridge or Oxford)
-the head of an organized crime family
-Celtic goddess; mother of Gwydion and Arianrhod; corresponds to Irish Danu

In the case of Mary Beard, it's definitely the second definition. She's a professor of Classics at Cambridge, and her blog, aptly titled "A Don's Life," has been running on the Times website since 2006.

There's been a lot of talk about blogs-turned-books lately, and so it's timely that I happened to pick this book up off my shelves. Since I've been having trouble settling on a book, it's nice to have one that's humorous, and the sections are super-short. Each blog entry runs around 2-3 pages, and Beard is quite the spirited commentator. I love her very refined British wit.

My favorite entry thus far is titled, "Ask a Silly Question," from July 13, 2006. The university holds "media training" occasionally wherein the staff learn all sorts of tips and tricks for handling themselves on radio and television. Tips like wearing soft, pastel colors to look one's best, and the age-old ability to avoid the question at hand in favor of promoting a specific agenda. Beard is highly amused by the training, which essentially asks academics--pros at answering questions--how NOT to answer the question. She writes:

I don't imagine I shall be following all the rules we were given. Honestly, I can't see me in the recommended pastel colours and trim jackets, even if they are flattering in front of the camera. But, at the very least, it's nice to know what the rules are that you're breaking.
Ahh, yes. I feel the same way about rule breaking.

When it comes to blogs-turned-books this one seems like the best kind. While it makes me feel a little icky to think of a blog created simply in hopes of getting a book deal (and it happens a lot), Beard's is certainly a well established and maintained blog of quality that's been made into a book. I love it so far, so let's hope it holds out! This could be just the pinch I needed to keep on my reading wave this year.

Read Mary Beard's blog.

FTC blah blah: Received this one FREEEEE and IN THE MAIL from a publicist. Do you need to know which one? I can't recall. Let me know via royal decree or carrier pigeon. *smooches*


  1. I actually have this book on my nightstand! I pick it up occasioanlly and read a few entries (chapters?)...it's perfect for when I'm in between books.

  2. lol, I love your FCT disclaimer :P

    I have my issues with blogs turned into books too, but there are always exceptions!

  3. This one has been on my TBR list for a while. I've been encouraging my library to purchase a copy but, sadly, that campaign seems to have failed. I think I'm reaching the point now where my interest in the book is sufficient to warrant the forking over of cash (this is very shocking to my system). Sounds like it would be worth it though!

  4. I waaaaaaaant this! My library doesn't have it and has ignored my requests that they order it. Sigh.

  5. I like blogs that turn into books, as long as they began as blogs not hooks to catch book deals with. I would like to hear about teaching Classics and Cambridge, Classics is a fascinating subject.

  6. I haven't had much luck reading books which started off as blogs.. Something just seems off. This though sounds really interesting. I've read two books recently (fiction) which had academic settings and I really enjoyed them so I'll have to add this one to my list in case I'm still on a university kick :)

  7. Great minds, Jill, great minds. I love the short sections. Perfect for my ailing attention span.

    Nymeth, thank you, thank you. lol

    Claire, the forking over of cash is quite extreme, but if you like academic and history and humor and the Romans in general, I think you'll love this one.

    Jenny, you and Claire should band together and terrify your respective libraries.

    Jodie, this is the perfect blog-turned-book. It's not showy or self-absorbed. Just fun and smart and awesome.

    Iliana, this one reminds more of a newspaper column turned book. More Nick Hornby than Julie Powell.


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