Ms. anne book tagged me a while ago and I'm just now getting around to writing this post. As I've mentioned before on my last blog, I used to be a voroceous reader when I was a kid. Books were like food to me. In fact, I read so much that my extended family, mother and friends thought there was something wrong with me.
I still read, but not like I used to. Mostly I read while on MUNI during my commute, but even then I sometimes don't read for days at a time. I rarely read at home now, preferring to spend my time doing other things. Lately, I've been thinking it would be nice to do some reading at home, even a half hour here and there. Reading is a grounding, nostalgic experience for me. It really brings me home to myself, much like my mother's abondigas soup does (Mexican meatball soup).
It seems as I have gotten older, I don't read as fast as I used to. I used to tear through books at lightening speed, but now it can take me a couple of months to finish a book.
Since I'm doing more writing and have always wanted to be a writer, it goes without saying I need to read more books. Most authors say extensive reading, especially in the area that you're writing in, is one of the best ways to learn to write better. I must confess, however, that there is a small possibility that I might like movies a smidge better than I like books. It's difficult to say. A photo finish is the only way to be sure, not that it matters.
On to the tag (I'll also be doing a movie version of these questions in the next post).
A book that changed my life:
A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell. I was in my early 20s when I discovered this book. Richly illustrated and the first book I'd ever seen with the DK style photography (objects photographed on a plain background, museum-style), this book opened up whole worlds for me. From techniques on field collecting to how to set up a work room for your collection and experiments to detailed instructions for preserving specimens, this book is chock full of information beautifully presented. Durrell goes into each major habitat (rocky shore, smooth shore, forest, desert) and includes specimens he has collected from each. From this book, I learned how much I love to crash around on the river bank with a pair of tweezers, a plastic tray and my magnifying lens, how much I love to tidepool, how much I love to go birding and, most importantly, the deep satisfaction that comes with keeping a richly illustrated sketchboook with drawings of plants, birds and other animals. I gave this book away years ago and never got it back. It is now out of print. I need to find another one.
A book that made me laugh:
My favorite book of all time The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll and Martin Gardner. Gardner takes my two favorite books, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There and fills the margins of this book with notes about the history of the characters, of Carroll, of Alice herself, the philosophies, private jokes, politics, mathematics, etc. referred to in the stories. It contains several translations of Jabberwocky, including one by Carroll himself, a "lost" chapter and pencil sketches by Tenniel. Wonderful. Heavenly. Funny as all hell.
A book that made me cry:
The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The three Pullman books from the His Dark Materials trilogy are hands down the best books I've read in the last 15 years. Considered "Young Adult" books they are nevertheless complex, fascinating and extremely ambitious. Their views on religion and the role it plays in society is intense and uncompromising. All the great questions are here: who am I? what is my destiny? what is destiny? who/what is God? what is a soul? what happens after we die? what is the nature of evil? where is my place in this world? Beautiful, glorious, wonderful. I cried at the end of each book. I never wanted these stories to end.
A book I wish had been written:
The Sword and the Angel. An adventure story cutting across parallel universes, ancient and modern times, Heaven and Hell involving a young woman and her magic sword. We are talking about sword fights, car chases, mysteries to solve, tons of history, haunted places, quantum physics, characters from different mythologies, angels, demons, ghosts, etc. The story sort of uses The Divine Comedy as a jumping off point. I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.
A book I wish had never been written:
I can't think of any book. I worked at a bookstore when I was in high school and came to belief that all books have a place in this world, even the dumb ones or the ones that are offensive to me. I once had a conversation with a customer about my feelings on this issue. He challenged me about a book, can't remember which one, when he declared at the cash register in front of a whole line of people: "Are you trying to ban this book, young lady???!!!!"
My response was "Sir, our job is not to ban books here. Our job is to sell books. As many books as possible." He didn't say anything after that, but the customers behind him had a lot to say. That was an interesting day.
A book I am currently reading:
Winkie by Clifford Chase. This book is about a teddy bear that gets falsely accused of mastermining several terrorist plots. I've only just started it, but it's really fun so far.
Longitudes and Attitudes, Exploring the World After September 11 by Thomas Friedman. This is a book with Friedman's New York Times columns just before and after 9/11. Very interesting. Mr. Friedman is thought provoking, very knowledgable about his subject matter and does not shy away from his own opinions.
A book I have been meaning to read:
I have a whole shelf of these, but here are the ones that stand out for me Night by Elie Wiesel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Sumerians, Their History, Culture and Character by Samuel Noah Kramer. For this last book, I've always been curious about the Sumerians, especially their mythology and stories. I've always felt that man's first great civilization might have a lot to teach me about our own.
Since my readership is small, I will refrain from picking specific people to tag, but if you want to do one for me, I would be most appreciative. You can send it to my email address or put it in the comments sections.