15 Book Meme

2 August, 2009

Sucked in (I blame Julia (who blamed Christopher (who blamed Greg Laden)))…

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

I’m not going to attempt chronological order, I will just list them as they occur to me:

  1. Dune, Frank Herbert.  I had read many of the ‘young adult’ science fiction books (so mediocre that I cannot remember any of them) and had decided that science fiction was useless.  Then my Dad suggested I try Dune.  I think I was twelve.  It took me two months to get past the first two or three chapters.  I put it down for six months.  I picked it up again and was entranced.  Here was a book which dealt with ecology, realistic economics, and religion.  I still read the Dune books every two or three years.
  2. The Lorax, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Suess).  This was the first book I ever read with full sentences (previous ones had been Dr. Suess’s ABCs (Big C, Little C, what begins with C?  Camel on the ceiling, LSD) and the like).  Growing up in the National Park Service, I was aware of the idea of conservation, but had never had it explained in a way suitable for my age.  I made sure both (((Kids))) read The Lorax.
  3. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf.  This book showed me that pacifism was an acceptable philosophy.  I am still a pacifist (though I am for a strong (and rational) defense (I view war as the enemy)).  Ferdinand the bull gave me philosophical strength to take an unpopular stand which I believed in strongly, even in the face of popular opprobrium.
  4. Harry Potter and the Fill-in-the-Blanks, by J. K. Rowling.  I can’t pick out just one of the Harry Potter books, so I’ll just count them as one.  Rowling’s ability to set a scene, and her imagination make the books wonderfully readable.  Plus, I can relate to Harry.  I got picked on, too.  He handled it better, though.
  5. A Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchmann.  When I was fourteen, I picked up a leather-bound copy of A Distant Mirror at a used book store for fifty cents.  I was entranced.  This was history.  Not the shit they shovelled into us at school.  This book changed my dream from palaeontology to history.
  6. Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army, by David Isby.  Late in high school, my interest in history had transformed into military history.  I started collecting any book I could find (used, of course).  Isby’s treatment of the philosophy of the Red (Soviet) Army fueled a maturation in my reading from the weapons to the thought behind the weapons. 
  7. Gateway, by Frederick Pohl.  Another science fiction tale which came at the right time.  In high school, I felt that I had no control whatsoever over my life.  It was nice to read a story about people who had no control but managed to muddle through.  The later books in the series are good, and introduce some wild concepts, but they cannot touch the freshness of the original.
  8. Hit or Myth, etc., by Robert Lynn Asprin.  They appeal to my sense of humour. 
  9. Landscape Turned Red:  The Battle of Antietam, Stephen W. Sears.  Another serendipitous find.  It fuelled my interest in military history and, since we lived in Sharpsburg, I was able to walk the field of battle, with the book in my hand, and live the battle.
  10. 1632, by Eric Flint.  My favourite alternate history book (/series).  It’s a roaring adventure, well written, and, best of all, I didn’t toss it down halfway through because of massive anachronisms, historical mistakes, or other literary faux pas.
  11. The Dinosaur Heresies, by Robert T. Bakker.  Growing up, I (like many kids) developed an interest in dinosaurs.  I read every book I could find (most of them from the 50s and 60s) and was depressed to find out that they were evolutionary dead ends, failures, decadent, incompetent, slow and stupid.  Bakker’s book re-awakened an old interest.  Best of all, I could follow his argument despite my non-science geek background.
  12. Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar:  Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Tom Cathcart and Daniel Klein.  Every time I run across a philosophical argument on the blogs, I pull this book out and have a clue what the hell ya’ll are talking about. 
  13. Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?, David Fromkin.  A wonderful revision the seminal event which created our present.  It is well written, well argued, and damned enjoyable.  And challenging.
  14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Do I need to explain that one?
  15. The Romance of the Colorado River:  An Account of the Second Powell Expedition Down the Grand Canyon in 1871, Frederick S. Dellenbaugh.  I lived at the Grand Canyon for five years.  I know that, when I visit there again, my view will be coloured by the time I spent living there.  It will not be fresh.  No problem.  I can (and do) lose myself in Dellenbaugh’s account of Powell’s expedition.  It gives me a fresh perspective every time I read it.

If you look up the definition of eclectic, a list of the books in my house is included.


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  2. Nice list! I’ve seen this meme floating around, but you inspired me to give a go, too. I made my list, but am adding descriptions and reasons now. Two of the books on your list were just added to my Amazon wish list, too. 🙂

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  4. Interesting. I think if I’d included a Tuchman book on my list it would have been The Guns of August.

  5. Lessee…

    The Adventurer (Waltarai)
    The Wanderer (Waltarai)
    The Philosophy of Elbert Hubbard
    Fire Hunter
    Red Planet
    Starship Troopers
    Bronco Apache
    Spirit Horses
    Heart of Oak
    The Age of Reason
    MacAuslin Omnibus
    Parthian Shot
    The War of the Flea
    Charlotte’s Web
    Royal Flash

  6. I think I need to read some of these books – Dune especially. It’s been fascinating actually to see everyone else’s choices.

  7. I loved Hit or Myth. 🙂

    After the works of Paine and Nietzsche, I guess I’d add:
    Slaughterhouse Five
    Le Morte d’Arthur
    Wuthering Heights
    Great Expectations
    The Hobbit
    AD&D Player’s Handbook
    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  8. Dan: Which books?

    Nan: I enjoy Guns of August (and The Proud Tower), but A Distant Mirror sticks with me as the first non-military history that was both enjoying and challenging.

    Sarge: Damn. Forgot Starship Troopers.

    Julia: I think you would enjoy Dune. The ecological aspect is wonderful.

    Philly: Damn. Forgot Hitchhikers. And the AD&D Handbook? I thought you were old enought to have been into the original white boxed set (which I have (scary)).

  9. (((Billy))),

    Gateway and Plato and a Platypus. 🙂

  10. Dan: I hope you enjoy Gateway. It’s a short read, but quite thought provoking. Enjoy.

  11. Hateful Coward!

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