Books Meme

Okay, after me starting off the favourite songs meme and partaking in Steve’s favourite films meme and recently reading about Dan’s glass book dream review eaters site I thought maybe it was time to talk about my favourite books.

However, in order to make this a little more difificult, I’m setting up the meme in as seven separate questions, to give a total of twelve to sixteen answers, each of which you have to rigidly follow, because… well, because. All right?

Note also that it’s favourite single books, not a particular series. And you’re allowed to answer in a lot less detail than me, and there’s no need to link everything to the nth degree either!

The categories are:

  1. 1. Two books that you liked before you were ten
  2. 2. Two travel books or biographies that you like
  3. 3. Two non-fiction books you like (any area)
  4. 4. Two fiction or non-fiction books you like (specific named category)
  5. 5. Two fiction books you like (any category)
  6. 6. Two of your favourite writers
  7. 7. Zero to four items that were “bubbling under”

Before I Was Ten…

The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)
This one just had to make it in here because it’s the first book I remember specifically wanting. I was about five, and we were having this book read to us at school, but I was impatient to learn more. My parents agreed to get me the book, but on condition (if memory serves) that I read it myself. I mean, I presume they helped but it was this book that started me on the journey to bookworm-land. We’ll just gloss over some of the sexism and racism, because while not excusable, it’s important to remember that attitudes were on the whole very different when the book was written to what they are today.
The Fellowship Of The Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien)
The Lord Of The Rings is one of the finest adventure stories ever told, but my own rules restrict me to a single volume, and I’ll pick the Fellowship. It may seem a strange choice as an under 10s entrant, but by the time my parents split up in 1984, I’d borrowed the entire series of these books from Newham library at least half a dozen times and read them all, after being introduced to Tolkien through the “Riddles In The Dark” chapter of The Hobbit, which was included in some “stages in reading” book I was going through at school.

Travel Books or Biographies

Who Ate All The Pies? (Mick Quinn)
Mick Quinn is a Scouser who used to play for Newcastle. He scored a lot of goals for the club — particularly in his first season — and is remembered with fondness by a lot of fans, particularly those such as myself who are more rotund in appearance. Micky Quinn was a fellow fatty, but that never stopped him. Plus the book is worth reading to find out the reason why Quinny was jumping into the crowd on his debut, yelling “That’s who the fuck Mick Quinn is!” . Kafka it ain’t; but it is a thumping good read.
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis (Tony Hawks)
It begis, seemingly like the rest of Tony’s books, with a bet against his mate and fellow comedian, Arthur Smith. In this case, the pair of them have been watching England play Moldova at football (that’s soccer to our US brethren) and for some reason, given that Tony’s been known to play a game or two of tennis to a decent standard, they have a bet that Tony can’t track down every member of that Moldovan team who played against England, play a set of tennis against each of them individually, and win each and every set. The book is therefore — like much of Tony’s other stuff — a beautiful mixture of travelogue and absurdity.

Non-Fiction (Any)

A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
Bill’s one of my favourite writers: he has the ability to make it feel like he’s just chatting to you, and manages to impart information in a lovely casual way. He can also mix the serious with the flippant and tells a good story. In this case he attempts to tell the history of, well, everything and make it presentable in an entertaining manner to the layman. He does a bloody good job of it, too.
The Riddle And The Knight (Giles Milton)
This is an entertaining historical romp; part travelogue and part history as Giles traces the purported footsteps of Sir John Mandeville, who wrote a book describing his “Travels” in the 1350s, claiming he’d spent a thirty-four year pilgrimage away from England. Some of his book we seem fairly safe in presuming is fiction — such as his encounters with dog-headed women, but some, like his description of Constantinople seem very plausible and it is left to Giles to try and establish the level of historical accuracy in the book and whether or not Sir John actually did go anywhere.

Non-Fiction (Science)

The Mismeasure Of Man (Stephen Jay Gould)
Bizarrely, despite owning this book for years, picking it up to check it and so on, it’s only when I try to find it on Wikipedia that I actually notice it’s not called “…the mismeasurement of…”! Stephen Jay Gould is a naturalist and evolutionary biologist who has written most of his works about evolution. However in this particular book he looks at the “science” of intelligence testing, such as the flaws in craniometry methods (craniometry assumes you can determine intellegence based on cranium size) which included the classification of skulls. The results naturally showed white European males were more intelligent than other groups because they had the largest skulls. Why did they have the largest skulls? Why because when there was some doubt which ethnic group a skull belonged to they just looked at the shape and size of it — large ones were obviously European, and smaller ones were obviously female, or African or something. It’s no surprise therefore that the male European skulls turned out larger on average…
A Briefer History of Time (Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow)
Note that I say briefer, not just “Brief”. The Brief History of Time was Stephen’s international bestseller that was actually read by about eleven people, and actually understood by only about two of those. In a briefer history of time, without going too easy on the concepts — there were one or two pages I had to read three or four times to make sure I was getting it right — but he skips the majority of the high-powered maths and keeps it readable. It’s a thoroughly interesting book, and only difficult going some of the time. But no-one said explaining the universe would be easy

Fiction (Any)

The Legacy of Heorot (Larry Niven, Steven Barnes & Jerry Pournelle)
This book tells the story of colonists attempting to settle a strange new world — in the true, planetary sense — and is on the one hand a driving thriller pitting the colonists against technological hazards, such as the dangers inherent in cryogenic sleep as well as the rather dangerous “new world” fauna, and on the other it’s also a rich and well thought out look at alien biology. Beware the Grendel, that’s all I’m going to say.
Witches Abroad (Terry Pratchett)
While the “Witches” set of characters from the Discworld series aren’t my favourites (give me the City Guard or the Librarian, the Bursar and Archchancellor Ridcully any day), this book takes an entertaining romp through other stories, including a little cameo for a certain creature looking for “his preciouss”, a vampire killed by a combination of a well-thrown garlic sausage and a cat coming across it in bat form and thinking it was just a mouse with wings on, and of course the whole Cinderella story where the witches have to try to prevent Embers from marrying the prince…

Favourite Writers

Isaac Asimov
For me, Asimov was the master of SF. It’s as simple as that. From short stories to huge novels, and probably most famous as the man who created the Laws of Robotics. However, he wasn’t just an SF man; his work spanned fiction and non-fiction, encompassing various different genres and including the excellent armchair and dining-club detectives The Black Widowers, who were based on a dining club Asimov actually attended. I also remember shedding a tear when I heard that Isaac Asimov had died, which shows how much I thought of him, I guess…
Terry Pratchett
What can I say, but the man is funny. I knew I was going to like him from the moment I read Rincewind’s description of chaos in the opening Discworld book The Colour of Magic. He’s very, very, funny. He can also be very, very pointed in his social satire, however. For example, I’ve just recently read Thud!, the latest Discworld book to make paperback, which in a very humourous way deals in the not-at-all funny subject of racism, and there are great big dollops of relevance to present day situations liberally sprinkled throughout the book — but the important thing is, it’s not some sort of morality tale, it’s still a bloody good story. And that’s why he’s so popular.

Bubbling Under

There were three notables here: Ian Rankin, creator of the Inspector Rebus stories ought to have made it into the favourite writers category, as should Bill Bryson, and a special mention has to be given to the book “The Quest for the Sword of Infinity” by Samantha Lee, of which I can track down very little as it seems to have escaped the attention of pretty much everyone but me, and a few specialist booksellers, but nearly made it to my under 10s category, and this book was the book that made me want to be a writer — an ambition that’s never left me since! If any of you have a copy of this book (and/or the others in it’s series), and you don’t want it any more, please do let me know…

One Response to “Books Meme”

  1. Steve responds:

    I’m with you on Bryson. The Riddle of the Knight…I’m sure I have a copy of this! I’ll have to dig it out.
    Anyway, I’m off to do my list now…

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