Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Das Book Meme

Memed again! Mr. Bow, James Bow has tagged the house of cynic with the books meme. I shall give it a go.

(1) How many books do you own? (And where do you store them all)

Me love books. And like Mr. Bow, I'm not about to spend the next several hours counting them. I have plenty of books. Book on top of books, tucked in shelves, piled on tables, stashed in my carry bags and pretty much everywhere I am there are books. A while back I trimmed my collection by seven or eight boxes that I felt I could part with (which gave me permission to buy a few boxes more).

(2) What was the last book you bought?

Um, let's see... The Player of Games, Excession, Feersum Endjinn and State of the Art by Iain M. Banks, Canal Dreams, Espedair Street and Whit by Iain Banks, Slippage and Angry Candy by Harlan Ellison, 3rd Edition of Millerson's The Technique of Lighting for Film and Television and the Guerilla Film Maker's Handbook by Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe. Why is that question framed in the singular?

(3) What is the last book you read?

I generally have half a dozen on the go at any one time. Recently finished, Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, among my very favourite authors. I have insisted that a few of my friends that claim to hate reading give him a look. All of them loved Pratchett and one claims to still hate reading but makes the sole exception for the Discworld. Also just finished Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, Banks is the new hero of science fiction literature and his Culture novels are stunning in their depth and complexity. He is establishing himself up among the top writers in the field with folks like Philip K. Dick, J. G. Ballard and William Gibson. If you are a terminal nerd and enjoy science fiction that exceeds convention, give him a look.

(4) Name five books that mean a lot to you.

Oh boy.

The Young Magicians edited by Lin Carter. A collection of "adult fantasy" stories featuring Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft, Tolkien, L. Sprague de Camp and others. I got this book when I was eight years old. One of the things I will always cherish about my mom was that she encouraged me to read widely. She worked as a supervisor of book order for the Dana Porter Arts Library at University of Waterloo and often brought me oddities that crossed her desk. I spent many summer days wandering the stacks and burrowing into the realms of ideas. The Young Magicians was a book that treated fantasy as legitimate literature and not as childish fairy tales. It opened a fascination for speculative fiction that I still embrace.

1984 by George Orwell. Winter, Grade 3. Established my permanent outrage with crimes of the state against the individual. Also inspired rather a few nightmares starring rats. Orwell's bleak vision fascinated me and I became quite a little pain in class as I practiced the art of questioning authority.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary. The family dictionary moved into my room in the summer between first and second grade. Once I discovered that there was a book that divulged the secrets of words I was hooked.

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick. Well I'm just going to chose one of the Dick novels that broke new bounds in my understanding of what science fiction could be. A dark, dystopian nightmare of drugs and control mechanisms. Creepy and compelling, Dick was a fracking genius. His many, many stories are populated with a wealth of fascinating, tragic and very human characters. I read this novel and much of Dick's work during a tumultuous period of bands forming and breaking up, becoming a small time, local pop star and dealing with all of the issues of trust that come along with notoriety. Ahhh, sweet paranoia.

The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard. Not for the faint of heart. Ballard, along with Michael Moorcock, spearheaded the new wave of science fiction coming out of Britain in the late 60s. Ballard brought science fiction back out of the cosmos and parked it chillingly in our back yards and suburbs and housing estates. This grim, ugly book is akin to the surreal, disjointed work of William S. Burroughs. It isn't easy to describe the compressed novels that make up Atrocity Exhibition but it is an aptly titled examination of obsession, depersonalization and cultural/social trauma. It is also the point of one of my favourite stories. Evidently when it was first published it was picked up by Doubleday in the States. Mr. Doubleday was escorting a group of shareholders in the family business through a brand new press facility, showing off the latest in high tech printing, just as the new book was rolling off the line. He scooped up a copy and flipped it open to see the table of contents and there toward the end, "Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan". Being a staunch, conservative Republican, old Mr. Doubleday lost his shit. He shut down the line and ordered all but the author's contractual copies of the book destroyed.

Ballard received his six author's copies with a note from Doubleday himself that accused him of all manner of filth and villainy. To his eternal credit, Ballard packed up one of those precious copies along with a note to, then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan that said, "Just thought you'd like to see what Doubleday is printing about you".

(5) Now pick five individuals to share their lists.

Ummm. Bugger that. Let's just make this one an open thread for anyone who cares to share their love of books.


Ti-Guy said...

I'm a voracious reader, but I don't hold onto books. I give them away. So I measure my reading in terms of books purchased, which is about one a week.

Since the Iraq invasion, I've found fiction less interesting than real life, so I've gone off it. I'm not sure if I'll ever re-acquire the taste.

The best book I've ever read is always...the last one, which in this case is The Fall of the House of Bush by Craig Unger.

Red Tory said...

Lord Dunsany, Ballard, Moorcock... Good picks! I used to be a huge Moorcock fan. Dancers at the End of Time was a great series.

I once counted all of my books many years ago and it was over a thousand. I ended up giving most of them away however. A pretty silly thing to be lumbered with when you move around a lot.

Ti-Guy said...

I realised that by the time I was ready to read a book again, it would finally be in the library and I could get it there. Let them take care of the storage and preservation issues. That's what we pay taxes for.

I'm dreading having to clear out my parents three households (which includes a barn) of books they couldn't bear to part with.

Red Tory said...

A few years ago after my mother passed on, I ended up getting all of my Dad's CDs and books. Most of them were sold off, but I still have hundreds of books from that. Sadly, he had planned on spending the end of his life pouring over "the classics" and then, unsurprisingly, he up and died. So many of them are in mint condition, probably never even cracked. Beautiful leather bound, gilt embossed editions... must have cost him a small fortune over the years. Silly man.

bigcitylib said...

Let me know what you think of Espedair Street. It's the only one on your list of Ian Banks stuff I haven't read.

The Algebraist is terrif, by the way.

Chimera said...

Paraphrasing: "Show me a man's bookshelf and I will tell you all about the man."


Two years ago, I gave away seventeen boxes of hard-cover books, because I didn't have room for them. Broke my heart, but I had no choice. And I only gave away the ones I could easily get back again if I had to do so.

My house is still full of books. I figure if I packed them all up, they'd probably fill another thirty or forty boxes. And more keep following me home, begging for just a little, tiny place on a shelf, out of the way, where they won't be a bother to anyone at all...

Frank Frink said...

Book on top of books, tucked in shelves, piled on tables, stashed in my carry bags and pretty much everywhere I am there are books.

Ditto. Plus a whole lot of CDs across the same locations.

Name five books that mean a lot to you.

Ummm.. only 5! Ok. This list could likely be different in an hour.

- Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky
- Catch-22 Jospeh Heller
- Sometimes A Great Notion Ken Kesey
- Vonnegut - since i can only pick one I'll go with Breakfast of Champions at the moment.
- P. K. Dick - again limiting the choice to one... considering my pseudonym, I'd better go with Man in the High Castle.

M@ said...

1. I have somewhere around 4,000 books by my last estimation. I can't bear to part with books... the complete opposite of Ti-Guy.

2-3. I most recently bought and finished Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh. It was okay. As it turns out I'm not a huge fan of Welsh. I don't think he handles the fragmented narrative all that well, but he seems bound and determined to make it work.

4. Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky), Clayhanger (Arnold Bennett), A People's History of the United States (Howard Zinn), Fluke (Christopher Moore), and The Code of the Woosters (Wodehouse). Note: this list is subject to change without notice.

5. CC? Hello? Also, Richard, Fergus, Phantom, Patrick, and Neo. I'd be fascinated to learn what you're reading these days. Absolutely fascinated.