Books by Donald Skiff
I've written a lot of books in the past thirty-five years. Most of them were written for other people, technical instructions and documentation for machinery and computer systems. I enjoyed writing most of them, because they gave me a chance to investigate and try to understand how particular things work. Technology has always fascinated me (I'm sitting here at my computer typing with a little MP3 player strapped to my arm and plugged into my ears, listening to Paul Winter's Canyon, one of my favorite albums.) and I had a good, if modest, career digging into the intricacies of machines. When I retired, about thirteen years ago, I didn't want to quit writing (it's been in my blood since high school), but I wanted to write for me. I had a lot that I wanted to say.
More importantly, I had a lot I wanted to study. The most intricate machine I know is my own head. So I began writing about things that intrigue me. Why do I feel certain ways about some things, even though I think quite differently? How does everything fit together in the universe--at least in my universe? I now have time to read things that I kept putting off for years. In my early adulthood, I studied psychology, not because I wanted to go into it as a profession, but because I wanted to know more about my own mind. All that had to be set aside for some years while I developed a career and a family. In the interim, psychology changed a lot. When I was able to get back to it, I discovered not only the newer ways of thinking about the mind but how they fit into my ultimate question: What's it all about? What's it ALL about?
I first tried my hand at journalism. A friend introduced me to a young man who had grown up in institutions, and as a result had never learned how to live in the "outside world." He and I collaborated on his life story--as far as it had gone. A sad book, a sad, confused man. The book was never published, and I lost track of him after a few years. Ralph sits in a box under our stairs, perhaps forever.
I spent twenty years associated with a group of people who were trying to put into practice an idealistic view of people when they interact in groups. An offshoot of Humanistic Psychology, the Trust movement (it was, indeed, a movement for a time) followed the teachings of Jack R. Gibb, a psychologist who said that the basic principles of "community" were trust, openness, realization, and interdependence. He lectured and led workshops in his "trust theory" across the continent during the 1970s and 1980s. During more or less the same period, M. Scott Peck was promoting his own version of community building. In my contact with TORI people and others in the movement, I came to realize how important relationships were to me, and I even learned how to "do" relationships a little better. I wrote a number of essays on the subject, some of which appeared in a TORI newsletter that I edited, and others were uploaded to my personal website. Eventually, I collected them into a book, Dreams of Home, which I printed privately in 2000.
More recently, I noticed that my web site (donskiff.com) was filling up with more of my essays and stories. It seemed the time to collect them into a book. As it turned out, they were three books.
Coffee Dreams is a collection of essays about life and about the world as I have cogitated on things over the past six years. Some of it is devoted to philosophy, some to psychology, a lot of things that caught my interest.
Confessions and Memoirs contains more personal essays, a lot of memories that have come back to be relived in a new mental and emotional context.
Where Never Lark is a short book of stories, mostly one story that began as a kind of technical curiosity and developed over a couple of years (seemingly independently of my own direction) into another study of relationships. The others also rather insinuated themselves into my consciousness and no doubt reflect some obscure workings of my mind.
In a little while, as the collection grew, I added another book: Kicking Through the Leaves continues my collection of essays, written since the publication of the above books.
These last four books are available directly from me. Privately printed, they will never appear on the New York Times Best Sellers List; I don't have the time or energy to pursue such notoriety. Click on the links above, browse the descriptions, and if you think one might be worth your time, click here to let me know.
--Don Skiff, November 4, 2007