Thursday, December 15, 2005

15 things about me and books

Now that I've kept track of all these people doing the 15 things about books meme (see below, which I've been updating as I find more), I figured I'd do it myself:

1. I can't remember the first books I read. The earliest books I remember were the Encyclopedia Brown stories (I think that was its name. The main character was super smart and he solved crimes with his friends), the Black Stallion series and the Hardy Boys.

2. My writing interests changed with Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" and "A Swiftly Tilting Planet." I started getting into fantasy works. Then my neighbor, a friend of my parents, started talking to me about this great book I should read: The Hobbit.

3. I was a Tolkien obsessive from my preteen years until the end of high school. I had The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales (which had just been released at that time), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (I remember a conversation in middle school with a girl who said it was creepy and wrong to be reading somebody's letters; I disagreed); Farmer Giles of Ham; The Tolkien Companion; Tolkien's translation of Gawain & the Green Knight; The Road Goes Ever On songbook; and every Tolkien bestiary and dictionary. In fact, I remember just after reading part of the Lord of the Rings vowing to become a writer because I wanted to create worlds like Tolkien had.

4. The second big influence on my reading was a tag sale. My grandmother, who was a secretary in a school, took me to the principal's tag sale. The principal was selling off all of her late husband's paperbacks. I looked at one box and was astounded. Here was Isaac Asimov, Fritz Leiber, Robert Heinlein, Doc Savage, Samuel Delany and Lin Carter. When the principal saw my interest, she said I should just take the whole box. I was astounded. I have never been so grateful for an act of charity in my life. That box opened whole new worlds to me. I still have most of the books from it today.

5. I think I'm a slow reader. It takes me most of a week to read a 200 or so page book. There have been occasions when I read faster, but they are rare.

6. It disturbs me that there are so many classics I haven't read, especially Moby Dick and Ulysses. I'm determined to finish those in the near future.

7. I have so many books now that I get anxious deciding what to read next. I'm right now reading H.P. Lovecraft's story "Dreams in the Witch-House." When I finish that, I'm prepared to start a novel, but should it be Minister Faust's "The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad" or John Farris's "All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By" or Hiromi Goto "The Kappa Child" or "The Dark Sleeper" by Jeffrey E. Barlough or "Low Red Moon" by Caitlin Kiernan or "Home Land" by Sam Lipsyte or "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil" by George Saunders or "Snow Country" by Yasunari Kawabata or "Lud-in-the-Mist" by Hope Mirrlees and what about Christmas with all the new books I'll be getting. Ack! It's actually a great problem to have, but good god I feel like I'll never be able to finish all these great things.

8. I've tried my hand at reviewing books and I think I'm pretty terrible at it. I reviewed Spin most recently and I'm just never comfortable with what I have to say. What right do I have to tell an author they're wrong or aren't writing up to par or whatever. I'm just a copy editor and wannabe fiction writer, I shouldn't be talking.

9. I've worked in journalism for the last 12 years and yet I hardly ever read nonfiction books. I read plenty of newspaper articles and blogs and magazines, but I just find myself far more interested in stories rather than facts. The last two I remember reading were "The Serenity Prayer," a memoir by Elisabeth Sifton -- which was terrific -- and "Hell Bent for Leather" by Seb Hunter, which was fun.

10. I adore used book stores, especially ones that have books piled up all over the place. It's like a treasure hunt, you can find so many hidden gems. And all those old book covers are beautiful. It's so much different than Barnes & Noble or even independent book stores. A used book store just feels so much more lived in. And besides, I can walk in with a $5 bill and walk out with 8 books.

11. I hate that so few people I know in the real world read and enjoy books. They do occasionally and most of them are very literate, but they just don't have the joy of books that I do. I think that's one of the reasons I started blogging, to write to and hear from other people who liked the same kind of weird books I do.

12. I love short story anthologies, but I hardly ever read them in order. Usually, I read the story or author I've heard something about first. Then once I've read all those, I'll put it aside and occasionally pick it up to take a chance on some other story. Very few anthologies have I read straight through. One of the few I read that way, and probaby my favorite anthology, is Leviathan 3. Single author collections I am much more likely to read straight through. I have no idea why.

13. In high school, if I was given a list of books to choose from for a book report, I usually had read about half of them already. Yet, I always chose a new one to write about. I had a friend who was a troublemaker -- real trouble, he sold illegal guns and took drugs and today is probably either dead or a dangerous man. Anyway, he would ask me to write his book reports for him and he'd give me money in return. I did them, he always paid up. I told him to rewrite them so he wouldn't get caught, I have no idea if he did. Every single time, he would take the report to class and the teacher would know immediately that it wasn't written by him and tear it up. We went through this at least five times. I think I made out the best in the deal.

14. I rarely will read two of the same author's books in a row, no matter how much I enjoyed the first. I don't know why. It's one of the reasons I stay away from trilogies. It took me a long time to read Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow & Thorn series because I read a whole lot of other books between each one (and those books are really long too).

15. I don't get to reread enough. I've read "The Great Gatsby" three times, "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" twice each and "Lolita" twice. Short stories, naturally, I reread much more often. I think this falls under the same category as #7, there's just not enough time to read!

Hope you enjoyed that. Anyone who would like to do this meme, please feel free, but I want to tag three specific people: Cybele, Mike and the Professor.
UPDATE: Mike has taken up the challenge. Check out his list at Morrow Planet.
UPDATE 2: Professor Hex has joined the game.


Anonymous said...

Two extraordinary books I read this year: "Coal Run" by Tawni O'Dell and "The Turtle Warrior" by Mary Relindes Ellis. The latter was especially impressive since it's a first novel. I'm getting ready to listen to Tim Robbins read "The Great Gatsby." Never read the thing!

Dawno said...

Hi! Saw you had linked to my blog while checking out Technorati - wonderful list of 15. I especially relate to #11.

I look forward to coming back and reading often. Thanks for the mention!

Brian said...

Dawno - glad to give you the mention and thanks for checking out the blog. And as for #11, yeah I guess there's quite a few bloggers that would feel that way. At least, I hope I'm not the only one looking for my crowd.
Anonymous-- Thanks for the recommendations. I'll have to check out Tim Robbins reading Gatsby, that sounds like a good match.

Prof. Hex said...

I have accepted your challenge and posted the results. Thanks for the suggestion, it was fun.

Mary Louisa said...

Great list. I esp. enjoyed your #13 entry. Criminals. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Thanks for linking to me in the "other people's book facts." I look forward to more of your blog!

Brian said...

Professor: I've added you to both entries. I'm always impressed by how many authors you've met. I've met zero. And as for the condition of your books, I'm exactly the same way. I've tried writing in books to make notes, etc. But I just can't do it.

Mary Louisa: Thanks for reading and I'm happy to link. I liked your "13. Giving the gift of a book is one of the finest things one can do." (Didn't notice it was the same number on my list you chose until just now!) Especially to kids. I've bought books for my nephew and nieces almost every year. I just hope they enjoy reading them.

Livia Llewellyn said...

Here via LibraryThing - I highly recommend "Low Red Moon". Kiernan is a phenomenal writer, and although I tend to prefer her short stories, LRM is I think her best novel to date.

Brian said...

Livia: Thanks for the recommendation. I love Kiernan's short stories, yet I have not bought a collection of those yet. In fact, "Onion" is one of my all time favorite short stories. I keep putting off Low Red Moon, although Kiernan says its the favorite of her own novels. Depending on what I get for Christmas, that may be the next book in the queue. Right now, I've decided on "The Kappa Child" and am enjoying it.

How did you find my LibraryThing account, may I ask?

Brother D said...

I just posted my own "15 Things . . . "! Thanks for starting this thread - it's been a lot of fun thinking about my own "book history."

Brian said...

Thanks Brother D. I've noted it and will add it to my lists.