Monday, May 23, 2005

I've Been Meme'd

Well this is a first for me, I have been tagged by Phil at Umbrae Canarum to participate in an interview about my reading habits. Joy! This is a meme. It's a thoroughly decent participate-if-you-want-to affair, and the way it works is that I get to target three other bloggers to answer these same questions on their blog, and the way they find out about it is if they read this. So it's non-invasive and, well, a little bit of self-indulgent fun. So I nominate Lubos Motl, Peter Woit and Lieven Le Bruyn. Here are my answers:

Total Number of Books I've Owned
Well this isn't easy. I have about 150 books that I have with me, these are mostly books that I have bought on an impulse and haven't liked enough to actually read, but yet still hope to. I think this is worryingly about a quarter of all the books I own! So I think I own about 600 books. The number I have owned and lost/sold/given away/destroyed charismatically is negligible (~15).

Last Book I Bought
I bought three books together, to ensure free delivery: Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel by Professor Rebecca Goldstein (a professor of philosophy); Woken Furies by Richard Morgan; and Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling.

Last Book I Read
I've been struggling with Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson for quite a while now, I'm nearly finished, but I guess this doesn't count. The last book I finished was The Little White Car by Danuta de Rhodes.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to Me
Permit me to say that I am fairly hedonistic when it comes to novels: for a book to mean a lot to me I simply have to have enjoyed it a lot. So without any literary heavyweights and in no particular order,

1. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
Without a doubt this is the book I have enjoyed reading the most. It's a sci-fi tale set on a planet where a few humans from a technologically advanced civilisation live with the indiginous population, masquerading as Gods from Hindu mythology, with the aid of their science. The story is about Mahasamatman "call me Sam", the Buddha, and his war with the other 'deities', and is told with rapid dialogue, a good sense of humour, plenty of action and is wonderfully imaginative.

2. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I read this before going on to Atlas Shrugged, and while the latter has the more exciting political ideas in it, I simply enjoyed this more as a story. I loved the imperturbable hero Howard Roark, the architect whose ideology and muleish pursuit of his passions act as a rock against which the other characters bash and splinter. It has a plethora of deliciously mischevious characters, and has the larger than life tone of a soap opera. Pure fun and inspirational, especially if you have a stubborn streak and it certainly allowed me to enjoy architecture with fresh eyes.

3. Any Human Heart by William Boyd
This is the journal of a fictional man who happens to meet a whole cast of famous faces. I found it simultaneously funny and sad, and never lost interest. I include it here, because lately I keep wanting to reread it, so I must have enjoyed it more than I realised at the time. It's the only book that's made me want to know what the smoke from a fire built from the trees around my house would smell like. Also there's a scene where as an old man, the main character resorts to making a stew using dog food, which I particularly like, and always comes to mind when my cupboards are bare.

4. The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox
Just your average story of the life of a Vintner and his friend the angel, who meet fortuitously one year early in the life of the Vintner and agree to meet at the same time every year, with a few exceptions, until the end of the Vintner's life. A beatiful tale about loss, among other things.

5. Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick
A non-technical biography of Richard Feynman. I love reading biographies of famous scientists, especially those that give insight about their life outside of their work, and Feynman is such a loveable character that it's hard not to enjoy this book.

So there goes the meme, or was that more "me me"?


Peter Woit said...

Hi there,

I'm afraid I won't help spread this meme, since I try and avoid posting either about myself or about non-math/physics topics. But here's a link to something similar, put together partly by a friend of mine:

my answer is in there somewhere, but I won't tell you which it is...


Anonymous said...

Hello Paul and greetings from Croatia,

My two favourite books are 'War and Peace' and 'Stig of the Dump'.

Also, pardon my funny from last week, but to help me in my PhD I need to know more about the Killing Spinor. What are your sources?


muha said...

Gleick biography sux - I think it is gossipy, adorative and overall I think he got Feynman character wrong. Worst thing, it is tedious and not funny.

Maybe you should try "No ordinary genius" from Sykes. This is the ultimate Feynman Ilustrated picturebook - with lots of interviews with Feynman and people who knew him. It is chronological but not exhaustive - and it is completely charming. There is no equations but lots of good short bits. (The last things F. mumbled before returnig to coma was "This dying's boring")

Anonymous said...

Lord of Light is simply the best.

My two favorite quotes: "Give me a forgiving deity any day." and "Doubt, Lady, is chastity of the mind and I bear its seal upon my own."