My ten-year labor of
I tried to write How Tradition Works in such a way that it would be understandable by intelligent laypeople while at the same time making a technical contribution to both Anglo-Saxon scholarship and theories of memetics. This was much harder than it sounds, and I'm pretty sure I didn't succeed at every level, but I can give you the testimonials of an English Ph.D. student, a mathematician and a biologist who all claim to have enjoyed it (or to be in the process of enjoying it).
HTW is an attempt to take an interdisciplinary look at how traditions are created, transmitted and modified. I try to develop a general theory of tradition and then test it against traditions from the tenth century. Texts examined include the Rule of St Benedict and the Regularis Concordia, the Old English wills, the Old English translation of the Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang (and if that doesn't make you want to run out and buy it, you have a heart of stone, you do), and the "wisdom poems" of the Exeter Book. There is a historical argument (about the tenth-century Benedictine Reform), a theoretical argument (about how to use "memes" to explain traditions), and a literary argument (about the meanings of various tenth-century texts). Most importantly, the book has a really cool cover illustration, done by my student, the artist Jennifer Schuman, with secret symbolic messages in it. See:
Of course I wish the price ($47) were lower, but the publisher does need to make back their investment to pay my amazing editor. I will also try my best to get gratis copies for any publication that wants to be review the book, and, if you really are so inclined, I will happily sell you an inscribed copy. I am particularly interested in the opinions of scientists, mathematicians and theorists in addition to medievalists, and I will post links to all reviews (or complete reviews if you'll allow me) at the How Tradition Works website. There will also be an errata page (which I desperately hope will be very short)
I tried my best in the years spent writing this book to get a handle on a lot of ideas from biology and math as well as from literature. One very kind anonymous reviewer called it "genuinely interdisciplinary." I'm really interested in entering into a discussion with people who are approaching problems of tradition from different angles. And since I'm just starting in on a new book (From Tradition to Culture: The Exeter Book and the Tenth Century), I'd like to get as much feedback and criticism as possible.
And if nothing else, I'm sure HTW could work as an effective sleep aid--and I guarantee that it won't make you drive around semi-comatose or eat entire packages of hamburger buns while you slumber.