The Newsletter 72 Autumn 2015

Wading through a field of books

Duncan McDuie-Ra

Asian Studies is a very broad field. A fairly obvious statement, but at no point does this become more apposite than when boxes and boxes of books contending for the ICAS Book Prize start arriving by courier. As a member of the jury for the Book Prize at ICAS 9 in Adelaide, I started to receive books at my office in late 2013. The final package arrived just a couple of months before the July 2015 conference. Over this period I developed a highly advanced system for organising the books; namely, piling them on the floor with spines facing up – like a library stack that has lost its balance. New packages would come and I would reorder the pile, at first arranging by country focus, then discipline focus, then (when procrastinating and putting off the completion of my own writing) by colour of the spines. Books would come and go from my office floor to home to conferences to fieldwork; some ended up being read through episodes of insomnia or jetlag, some during my daily commute, and while waiting for various appointments to arrive. No matter how much I read the pile on my floor grew.