Agh! I’ve been tagged by Muddleman. Now, I have to admit that as a general rule I do not do memes, or tags, or any of that sort of thing, because I’m really just too good for them. And I also I generally find them to be annoying filler. But this tag happens to be about books, and I thought it might be a nice supplement to the Book Project, so I decided to do it anyway. But don’t worry, it won’t be a regular thing, and I expect all you would-be taggers to keep this fact in mind.
1. One book that changed your life.
The Sparrow. Which, oddly enough, I wrote about just yesterday. This book had a profound impact on who I am today. It helped me to develop a stronger sense of self, and it reminded me that self integrity is something which someone can never take away from you. I try to live every day as an eschet chayil. I also regularly dispense copies of this book, especially to my younger mentees, because I think it’s just that good.
2. One book that you have read more than once.
I’m tempted to say The Sparrow again, because it’s true, but I guess that would be cheating. The fact of the matter is that I read most books more than once, because I believe that books develop deeper, hidden meanings every time you read them. But for the sake of answering the damn question, I’ll say The Chronicles of Narnia, which is seven books, not one, but I think you know what I mean. I try to read these books every year, and every year I enjoy them even more, learning more about myself and reexamining the way I think about faith and honor. They are also just plain good. I also know that there’s a fair amount of dispute about reading order, so let it be known for the record that I read them in chronological as in story-chronological order, rather than the order in which C.S. Lewis wrote them.
3. One book you would want on a desert island.
The Sparrow? Ok, fine, you want a real answer. I’d say the Oxford English Dictionary (the full version, which is again not one book, but I think we have established that I am a cheater anyway). I love the OED, and I think that having it on a desert island would be pretty much the most awesome thing ever. I would be insanely erudite if I ever got rescued, and if I didn’t, I would still have fun. Although if it was a real desert island, I probably wouldn’t last very long, so I would just be very well read on the A’s before keeling over.
4. Two books that made you laugh.
Again, The Sparrow is a pretty big contender, because it has some wonderfully funny moments. It Must Have Been Something I Ate, because Jeffrey Steingarten is incredibly witty in a dry, snarky way which I deeply appreciate, and he can turn a phrase quite beautifully. The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts is another, although it also has parts which are deeply sad. I would also add the works of Bill Bryson and Gerald Durrell to this list. Again with the cheating, sorry.
5. One book that made you cry.
The Sparrow. Also Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, because it was really, really sad when Dumbledore died, even though I had predicted that it was going to happen. I’ll bet you were expecting something deep here, like Anna Karenina, weren’t you? Suckers.
6. One book you wish you’d written.
I’m going to go ahead and say any shitty book I have ever read, because I could have done a much better job. There are lots of books I love, but I wouldn’t want to have written them, because then they would be different, and I might not like them.
7. One book you wish had never been written.
All of the goddamn fucking yuppie bullshit spiritual shit like the Carlos Casteneda crap that people are constantly trying to shove down my throat. Oh, and Reviving Ophelia. In fact, the entire self help/emotional bullshit memoir genre can just die, in my opinion. It’s not just bad, I think it’s also ultimately self harming, unlike cheesy mystery novels, which may not be my thing, but don’t seem to be harmful to their readers.
8. Two books you are currently reading.
I don’t read multiple books at once. I think it is a nasty and somewhat suspect habit. Right now I am reading Rule Number Two, a book written by a combat doctor who served in Iraq. Obviously you’ll be hearing more about this book soon, but so far my stance is “meh.” I’m trying to read as much of the literature coming out of the war as possible, and I have to say, a lot of it is pure, unadulterated crap. But it’s too early to make a full judgment on this book, so don’t hold me to “meh.”
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read.
I actually can’t really think of one. I mean I put book recommendations into my library order queue, and obviously those are books I’ve “been meaning” to read, but not in the way that people have “been meaning” to read such-and-such a famous classic that they feel guilty for not reading. By the way, don’t let people make you feel guilty for not reading classics. I happen to think that most of them are pretty dull, actually, a fact which makes my father quite irritable.
10. Five people that I tag.
No, the madness stops here. I am the firebreak in memeland.
One interesting thing about this list is that it doesn’t ask for a favourite book, which I actually greatly appreciate, because I don’t really play favourites. There are certainly some books that I think are really, really good, and I might be able to assemble a top 10 list, but to say that one book is better than all the others would be far too emotionally stressful. And mean. I wouldn’t want a book to feel all upset because it was number four instead of number three, you know?
I’m also going to go ahead and encourage people in the comments to add questions to the list, because I figure assembling a view of my reading habits and philosophy might be useful, given my ambitious project for the year. And because inevitably I will say something which conflicts with one of my answers later this year, and this way you’ll have positive proof my hypocrisy to point to, and I know you all enjoy being able to do that.
Incidentally, you might be wondering why all of the links go to Cody’s Books, instead of Amazon. It’s because Cody’s is an independent bookstore, and I think it is really important to support independent bookstores whenever possible. If you want to read any of the books I’ve listed here (or in the Book Project), I hope you consider buying them from your local independent bookstore (or ordering them from the library). I’m not trying to bag on people who use Amazon to send me books, because I understand the desire to use a cheap, trusted service for mail-order, but for your own reading needs…