Thursday, August 10, 2006

Literary Meme

Thoughtfully tagged by CalvinPitt, my own contribution to the reading meme:

One book that changed your life:

Changed my life? Hm. Looking back on it, the first book I remember reading that made me say "Hey! This whole 'reading' thing may have some merit to it!" was Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister. Not only was it the first book that made me actively seek other works from the same author, it fostered a love of reading and, of course, hard-boiled shamuses and
duplicitous dames.

One book you've read more than once:

The Face On The Cutting Room Floor, by Cameron McCabe. Written in 1937 or thereabouts, it's British noir set in the seamy underworld of pre-war London filmmaking, and it's got atmosphere so thick you could caulk windows with it. Also has nice narrative trickery, and the whole thing captures the noir spirit perfectly.

One book you would want on a desert island:

Connections, by James Burke. Part history, part fascinating vignettes that essentially trace the history of applied science, as Burke shows how (for example) Neolithic grass-woven baskets provided the foundation for (eventually) the Atlas rocket, by way of air conditioning, Copernicus, postal service, and other innovations. I cannot recommend this book enough to everyone. Funny, engrossing, and the way that inventions and history are connected by chance meetings, mistakes, and coincidence is enough to make you marvel at the fact that sometimes we humans are more lucky than good.

One of the best books ever.

One book that made you laugh:

Of course, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. I first read this when I was 12, and having reread it many times since, it never fails to make me laugh every friggin' time. You know a joke's good when you know exactly where and when it's coming and it still elicits laughter; this book has about a bazillion of those. Nothing else Adams wrote (including the sequels) ever came close to the absurd genius on display here.

One book that made you cry:

Are you ready for this? H.M.S. Ulysses, by Alistair Freakin' McLean. Call me crazy, but this by-the-numbers book about a British destroyer and her crew on a tour of duty during World War 2 had me bawling at the end [MASSIVE SPOILERS AHOY] when the captain and crew decide that the only way to win the battle is to ram the Ulysses into the German fleet and sink her. I swear, it was like losing a family member when that ship sank. *sniff*

One book you wish you had written:

As soon as I finished reading The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, I thought to myself, "Ex-thief blackmailed into working for police in a far-flung future with gizmos, heists, mystery, humor, and shifty moral codes? Dammit. There goes about 250 book ideas I had." Although I would have left out the part where everyone speaks Esperanto in the future. Maybe.

One book you wish had never been written:

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck. I had to slog through this book in high school and a couple of times later for various reasons. I cannot help the fact that I find this book to be about as interesting as Bruce Jones' Hulk, i.e. not very. Woo! Dust Bowl farmers! Immigrants! Misery! Depression! Stultifying fatalism! It's anti-interesting!

One book you are currently reading:

A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. Heard about this awhile ago, just got into it, and it is all kinds of awesome. It's kind of structured like a Tom Clancy medieval fantasy, with short chapters focusing on different characters, a cast of thousands, and gritty dialogue and settings. I dig it very much.

One book you have been meaning to read:

1776, by David McCullough. I'm a history buff, and the American Revolution has always fascinated me from afar --- McCullough's stuff is written more for the casual reader, but it's always vivid and entertaining.

Tag five people:

Jeez, now I gotta find someone who hasn't been tagged yet? I'll go with Kelvin, Plok, Harvey Jerkwater, Sara, and Googum.


Blogger Sara J said...

I'm absolutely shocked that Murder for Christmas isn't on either the list of "currently reading" or "meaning to read".

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Game of Thrones is awesome, but you do Martin a bit of a disservice in comparing him to Clancy; Martin is able to write women with more depth and characterization than Clancy's standard trinity of saintly madonna, bitch/whore, or amazon. But the series is great. No one is safe.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Anon: very true regarding Martin's ability to write women. Thanks for pointing that out.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous carla said...

Connections, by James Burke

IT WAS A BOOK? Man, I was glued ot that TV miniseries when it was on ... uhm, Bravo, or Disovery or something! Wo! Time for me to hit the bookstores...

7:17 PM  
Blogger plok said...

Not only that, but they're still working on the huge, impossible "KnowledgeWeb" online encyclopedia, which is basically Connections in a searchable form...

Me, I don't think it can be done. I hope it can be done! But I don't think it can be done.

Coming in a day late and a dollar short as usual, but my "literary meme" thing is up.

4:37 PM  

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