June 28, 2005

The Book Meme

The Velveteen Rabbi (yes, I know, but it's a really interesting blog) publishes a "book meme" that's going around the internet. It's really a kind of quiz.

Here goes.

Number of books I own

I never counted, but more than I have shelf space for, more than a thousand, I'm sure. I've been giving, selling and tossing away books forever. They seem to breed. And now my daughter gets me to buy many many fantasy novels (and she's moving onto other stuff, too).

Last book I read

The Question of God: C.S.Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. OK, but something less than wonderful--could have been an article, but stretched into a book. It certainly shows that in addition to being a quack, Freud was a very unpleasant person.

Last book I purchased

How to Play From a Fake Book. In my dotage, I'm playing piano the way I want to, and I needed help interpreting chord symbols, like "D7sus". This book helps, but it's not as good an introduction as How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons.

Books That Mean a Lot To Me

Oh boy. Not easy to think of.

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. The great roman à clef about America and politics and the irreplaceable Huey P. Long.

A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Yes, I know, not great poetry, but great fun still, after all these years. Free railway tickets from Lost Angeles to Heaven.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. An icon of fatherhood. Goodnight, cow jumping over the moon.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. Anthropological science fiction at its best.

The War of the End of the World by Vargas Llosa, in Spanish La Guerra del Fin del Mundo. A close-to-true historical novel about an apocalyptic rebellion in Brazil's Northeast. An earlier classic on the same subject is Euclydes da Cunha's Os Sertões, in English with the unprepossessing title Rebellion in the Backlands.

One Hundred Poems from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth. Just about all his poetry appeals to me, but his translations from Chinese and Japanese are particularly fine.

This is a partly political blog, so I suppose I should mention this and this.

Finally, on the Middle East and Central Asia, two good books: A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin and The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk. Both give some historical perspective to today's impatience for outcomes. And one can always read Herodotus. Then you can judge whether much has changed.

Challenge Five More

Hmm. I usually don't like chain letters and "pass this on" stuff.

But, I'll challenge Rick Radcliffe; Dr. Bob; Rick Lee, such a fine photographer (he sees, does he read, too?); Mark Roberts, my favorite blogging pastor (he must have time to read, because he writes); Keith Windschuttle, an Australian historian and iconoclast; and, because he's always challenging and not afraid to be politically incorrect, Steve Sailer who is bound to be reading something I wouldn't think of.

I don't know if any of these folks reads this blog, but we might as well aim high. If anyone takes up this challenge because they saw it here, feel free to put a link in the comments section. I think Haloscan allows them.

UPDATE: I forgot the funniest modern book I ever read, A Confederacy of Dunces, by the prematurely departed John Kennedy Toole. Silly me.

UPDATE 2: Corrected some typos, missing punctuation, and two broken links.

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