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Book Meme

What is the total number of books I've owned?

No idea, really, but probably pushing a thousand, although I got rid of a lot when I moved in 2003. Before I got my first computer (in 1988), books and records were my principal diversion and entertainment. I returned to college in 1988 as an English major specifically because I wanted a liberal-arts education and to become “well-read.” Four years of reading great novels won't make you well-read, of course, but it was a life-changing experience nevertheless.

I used to buy books more quickly than I could read them; there are some books I own that I have never read. The accumulation created storage problems, and I eventually decided that I would simply stop buying shelves. If I wanted to add a book, I had to get rid of one first to make room.


What was the last book that I bought?

Getting Things Done by David Allen.


What was the last book that I read?

Getting Things Done by David Allen. I haven't finished reading it, nor started implementing the principles, but his philosophy looks promising.


Name 5 books that mean a lot to you.

My favorite question. I'm not sure I can stop at five. Let's see...

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein. I was given this book around my 10th birthday by erudite and astute friends. At the time I thought books were the most uncool present, especially this one, but it was an inspired gift. I didn't read it until years later, but it became one of my favorites, much more so than The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Boundary Riders by Joan Phipson (1963). Easily my favorite children's book, also a gift. First runner-up would probably be Arnie, the Doughnut by Laurie Keller, which I just read last year. You're never too old for stuff like that!

When I was a kid, I devoured most of the books in the Hardy Boys series and a handful of Tom Swift. A few years ago, I was going through my holdings looking for dead wood and rediscovered my Hardy Boys collection. As I opened one at random I was expecting to be catapulted back to my childhood. Wow, was I disappointed. I mean those books were terrible!

Mainstreams of Modern Art by John Canaday. The book that helped me finally start to “get” art. Runner-up on this topic, The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe. Although I was an English major, my favorite course was the art history survey. Unlike a lot of the students who may have been tempted to doze off in the darkened auditorium as masterpieces flickered across the screen, I was wide awake, enthralled.

In high school, I was absolutely mad for JD Salinger, so some mention of his work should be made. I read everything I could find by him (which wasn't much) I especially liked Nine Stories. I wonder if anyone reads Catcher in the Rye anymore...

I've always been interested in humor. Ring Lardner, Jean Shepherd, and Woody Allen are all favorites. There are a few authors (if not books), I'd like to single out. PG Wodehouse is best known for the Jeeves books, although my favorite work of his is a short story called “Uncle Fred Flits By.” Although Wodehouse is sublime, SJ Perelman is the only author who can consistently make milk come out of my nose. Check out “No Starch in the The Dhoti, S'il Vous Plait.” I should also mention a comic strip that I have only read in “book” form, Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead.

I like books about books and books about words. I have the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, but my most treasured dictionary is a Webster's New International Unabridged Second Edition. This is regarded as the last “prescriptive” dictionary; it took a stand on definitions and usage, rather than merely describing how words are used—and often misused. I'm looking at you, irregardless.

Dictionaries are important, but my favorite word book of all would have to be Henry Fowler's Modern English Usage, especially the first edition, which I don't own.

I really should pick a novel from my four years as an English major. I'll go with a rather obvious choice, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

A few years ago we joined a short-lived book discussion group. We read some terrific mostly-recent fiction. I would have to say that my favorite of that group was Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.

Was that five?


Thanks to Michael for tagging me. As fun as this was, someone has to stop the insanity, so the meme stops here. After all, how is anybody supposed to Get Things Done?

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