The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The book worm

Maia's dang nabbit gone and tagged me, in a very "only if you want to" manner, which is fine and dandy by me cos I'm on a fake sugar high now and thus in a very obliging mood.

1. One book that changed your life?
There are few non-fiction books that I've read. But I'd like to nominate two of them (yes I know I'm cheating, but Maia cheated first). The first one is Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, which was depressingly revealing about the nature of media. I've looked at the telly and the newspaper quite differently every since.

The second is Andrea Ashworth's Once in a House on Fire, which I recently re-read and previously recommended to Apathy Jack. While I found the writing less exhilirating than when I first read it, the impact remained - it is a powerful and yet commonplace story about growing up poor, and growing up in a violent household, in what became Thatcher's Britain. It jolted me out of my safe North Shore existence, at least inside my head.

2. One book you have read more than once?
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, amongst others. Yes yes I know Heinlein and I aren't on the same side of the spectrum, but within this novel are the seeds for how to run a successful destabilising campaign and bring down a system. Plus I rather like the strong female characters (notably missing from some of his other books), not to mention good ol' tanstaafl.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
I'm going to throw a little bit of a curveball here and say The Bible (although possibly not the King James version). Two reasons. One, I'd like to actually perserve and read it, I imagine some of the stories are quite good although I've always got bogged down in the bit with the long long long whakapapa (I'm thinking of skipping that, just like I always do with the damn poems and songs in LOTR). Two, I can't forget the Firefly scene where River tries to fix it. I think if I was stuck on a desert island that might be an amusing pastime.

4. One book that made you laugh?
I'm going to have to copy Maia, but I swear I would have given this answer even if she hadn't! I still remember vividly the first night I read the first chapter of h2g2. I'd never known that books could be laugh out loud funny, and I must have been about 12 and I swear it's changed my life, although I've put it here because I already had two books for that section. DNA was responsible for my first online presence, he inspired me to try my hand at writing fiction myself (and then despired me because he was so good and I was so lame), but most of all his books are like a hot water bottle to me, they always cheer me up. I'm forever grateful to my dear friend Flang for the introduction, and also for giving me one of my most treasured books - my illustrated h2g2, which is shiny indeed.

For the record, my all time favourite chapter is Number 18 in Life, the Universe and Everything. Be afraid.

5. One book that made you cry?
I can't think of one right now, but plenty have. I suspect I bawled when I read The Bronze Horseman, and Memoirs of a Geisha, and The Diary of Anne Frank, but it hasn't happened for a while so maybe I'm hardening up?

6. One book you wish had been written?
Returning to the DNA theme, I really really wish he'd finished The Salmon of Doubt. The extract they put in that book of his writing that they put together posthumously was appalling and just showed how long it took him to cut and polish his raw gems so that they were flawless and luminous.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
The third book of the Queen's Quarter series, by Midori Snyder. I wish it had never been written simply because I've been hunting for it since I read the first one, from the library, when I was approximately 9. After a very long search I found a copy of New Moon for myself in my late teens. Then a fair distance further along my lifeline I unearthed Sadar's Keep. But Beldan's Fire still eludes me. I scoured every bookstore in Hay on Wye earlier this year, and still no dice. Not a happy camper.

8. One book you are currently reading?
I can only read one book at a time. Never really been able to abide those multi-book readers. Stupid wide attention spans. Anyway, right now I'm reading The Golden Key by a trio of female fantasy writers (Melanie Rawn, Kate Elliott and Jennifer Roberson). I'm quite enjoying it although I'm only a few chapters in and it's a long book (plus I'm a slooooow reader). I'm trying to get back into reading more sci-fi, but I keep vearing back towards the fantasy section in my weakness for books that are on special.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
So many books, so little time. I could lie and say something worthy by Bruce Jesson but I'm crap at reading true stuff, especially when there's no narrative. I've been meaning to read the Finn's Quest series by NZ writer Eirlys Hunter - I've even got Coldkeep Castle (Book 2) and I gave The Queen-stealers (Book 1) to my niece but I keep forgetting to ask her if I can borrow it back. Would it make me a bad aunt if it took me ages to return it?

Ok, I passive agressively tag Apathy Jack, Mr Frank Stupid, Maria Von Trapp and anyone else who happens past and feels like engaging.


Apathy Jack said...

Done. Not on Brain Stab, but on the true home to intarwub memes, livejournal.

Ghet said...

For stunningly elusive sci-fi and fantasy books, I recommend Bizzy Bees bookshop in Wellington. They're second hand as well as new and they specialise in those genres to a bloody terrifying degree. If I'm after something hard to find, I've given up looking anywhere else, I just go to them first. This would have nothing to do with the fact that the place is run by my best friend's husband...

Joe Hendren said...

Most important thing is that you read what you enjoy - feeling forced to read stuff is what school and uni were all about.

I found travelling turned me into a real history nut once again - do history books have enough narrative for you or are you really looking for 'just a story'?

I know I am a bit of freak for mainly reading non-fiction, though I do find novels aimed at kids (like the hobbit)
a relaxing read.

Jesson's last book 'To build a nation' was a collection of his journalistic pieces - most of them are quite short - if that helps. I recently wrote a review of it for watchdog.

span said...

Ghet - have been to Bizzy Bees but not for years and years, will visit next time I'm in Welly, thanks for the tip off. The only time I've visited to date I was quite ill at the time (nothing to do with Bizzy Bees!) and became very sick in the shop so had to go sit outside. Don't think I even made it to the sci-fi section, lamentably.