Book Meme

Well, Keith tagged me with the book meme last week. It’s just taken me a while to get round to it…

Total number of books I’ve owned

Abi extracted the figure of about 2300 for the number of books we currently own. This is after some pretty heavy thinning-out of our collection over the last couple of years: we’re probably down about a thousand from our peak. Before then, getting rid of a book was a very rare thing for me, although Abi culled her collection before she moved from California to the UK in 1993. The whole communuty property thing complicates matters, because what is really “mine”, and how do I calculate the books I owned individually before getting married, and so on… I suppose 3500 wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Last book I bought

Not a single book, but a bundle from Amazon:

  • Neal Asher – Cowl. Neal Asher is my highlight of the SF genre this year. His Gridlinked series (Gridlinked, The Line Of Polity, and Brass Man) are top-notch SF adventure stories. Hard-boiled, but with plenty of well-thought out futuristic detail.
  • Christopher Brookmyre – Boiling A Frog. Likewise, Christopher Brookmyre is my top discovery in the mystery/thriller genre in 2005. People have been recommending him to me for years, and now I know why. Exciting plots, writing that is laugh-out-loud funny, and Scottish to the core. Boiling A Frog is the third in the Jack Parlabane series, and the one I should have read before Be My Enemy, but the airport bookstore didn’t have it in stock…
  • Christopher Brookmyre – A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. More Brookmyre, but a stand-alone one this time.
  • Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann – About Face 2.0: The Essentials Of Interaction Design. I’m so overdue for reading this it’s not funny any more. People snigger behind my back when they find out I haven’t even read the first edition.

Last book I read

Currently in the middle of The Skinner by Neal Asher. (Notice a pattern here?)

Last book I finished

Coyote by Allen Steele. I had read most of the Coyote stories that make up this book when they appeared in Asimov’s a few years ago, and was a pleasure to see them here compiled as a novel.

Five books that mean a lot to me

This is the most difficult question. Do I choose my five favourite books? But those might not necessarily be the ones that have the most emotional significance for me. Is it even possible for me to narrow any kind of list down to a top five? Ah, but the question doesn’t actually ask for the five books that mean the most to me, just a lot. Still, it’s hard to keep the numbers down:

  • Bob Shaw – Ship Of Strangers. This is the book that marked my transition from reading kids’ space stories to proper, grown-up science fiction. I vividly remember buying it at De Slegte in Maastricht in anticipation of a long plane journey on my first trip to the US in 1985. It was the 1979 Ace edition with the enticing Vincent di Fate cover, remaindered, with the notch taken out of the bottom of the book. (In fact, in all my years of collecting Bob Shaw books, I’ve never found a copy of this edition that hasn’t had the remaindered notch in it. If anyone knows of such a beast, let me know, and I’ll pay good money for it.) It’s a fix-up novel, consisting of stories about the crew of the survey spaceship Sarafand. Not, in objective terms, Shaw’s best work, but it does contains some excellent stories, and it struck a chord with me at age 14 that is still ringing.
  • Binas. Any Dutch high school student from the last, oh, thirty years or so will know this book. “Binas” stands for “BIologie, NAtuurkunde, Scheikunde” (biology, physics, chemistry). The book is a roughly A5-sized, paperback volume of tables, physical and mathematical formulas, and it is utterly indispensible if you’re studying the sciences. The densities of hundreds of solids and liquids, the rates of decay of isotopes and particles, trigonometric functions, statistical functions, melting and boiling points of materials…it goes on and on. I carried this book with me almost every day from when I got it at school (1986?) until I finished university in 1993. And then again while I was at teacher training college in 1994, and in the classroom in 1995. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve taken it off of my reference bookshelf.
  • Iain Banks – Espedair Street. I read this on the train back up to St. Andrews in January of 1992, after seeing Abi off in Gatwick or Heathrow on her plane back to California. (Actually, it might have been 1993…Abi will probably set me right.) Anyway, upon arriving at Leuchars station in the middle of the evening, all us disembarking passengers found ourselves unable to leave, because of a blizzard and eight foot snowdrifts. Bummer. Fortunately the nearby RAF base learned of our plight, and sent out an expedition to rescue us. I spent most of the rest of that night huddled up next to a radiator in a mess hall, with Abi’s long winter coat to help keep me warm (and remind me of her smell), finishing off the book. The rescue team fed us pies, beans and chips, and replaced the blood in our veins with sweet, milky tea. At around 4am, I got hauled off to a deathly still St. Andrews in the last truck. Espedair Street is inextricably entwined with this experience.
  • Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game because it is FUCKING AWESOME and makes me cry every time I read it. I don’t re-read many books (too many books, not enough time), but this is one of them. Despite also winning the Hugo, I didn’t think the sequel Speaker For The Dead matched it, and Xenocide is the reason I haven’t been inclined to read any more of the series. But when I first read Ender’s Game back in 1990…it just blew me away.
  • Robert Silverberg – Worlds of Wonder (now re-branded as Science Fiction 101, a sucky title). A collection of some of the best science fiction short stories ever written, introduced and critically dissected by Silverberg, interspersed with anecdotes and reminiscences from his own life as a writer. Three books in one, and 100% pure inspiration. Whenever I need to get fired up about writing fiction, this is the book I turn to.

Some close contenders that didn’t quite make it into the five:

Five Six Seven Fuck it, some people I’d like to pass this meme on to

  • Rands, because, y’know, he probably hasn’t anything better to do
  • Richard, because I know he hasn’t anything better to do
  • Riri, because, frankly, I’m amazed it hasn’t hit her yet
  • Frank, because he probably needs a break from changing nappies. (And I still I owe you a present, Frank…I’m working on it…)
  • Spence, because I think it would be really interesting
  • Matt Little and Alistair Laing because they don’t blog enough. Suck it up, guys.
  • Simone Cooper and Guy Gascoigne-Piggford, because we lost touch with them a long time ago, and that’s a shame. Unfortunately, neither of them seem to have blogs, and I doubt if they read this one.

6 Replies to “Book Meme”

  1. I think it was January of 2003, when I visited your parents in the Netherlands and travelled back to Scotland with you. I recall that we stayed with Paul for some of that trip.

    I left that coat behind so I could have it when we I moved to Scotland after the wedding. 🙂

    Come to that, I think we still have that coat – it was loose enough that I could wear it in the winter when I was pregnant.

  2. Yeah, I’ll give it a go…. might take me a couple of weeks to think of the answers, but I am thinking of them.

  3. Hi!

    No, sadly, we don’t have blogs 🙁

    But we do occasionally catch up on other folks’ blogs… and I use livejournal (simonepdx). Guy has an LJ account, too, but he doesn’t post to it; he only uses it to read in and sometimes comment on other people’s stuff.

    We’re still here in Portland, Oregon, and miss you two (and miss having ever met the baby sunpigs of cuteness) terribly.

    Let us know if you are coming to the States anytime, particularly the West Coast.

    Love and hugs (and several Long Island Iced Teas),


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