April 17, 2006

The book tag

Yes. A full year after this tag was first seen in the blogworld, it has reached these humble backwaters. Many thanks to LAK. One warns the reader that this might turn out to be a rather rambly and self-centred post (yes, even by this blog’s standards). And one shall use the first person, just this once (hey, it’s books we’re talking about – that’s getting personal).

1. Total number of books I own

Here, in Singapore, I have very few indeed because I don’t buy books too often these days (I’m not counting techie books, of course). Refuse to be burdened with a surfeit of possessions and all that.

If we’re talking about the family home back in India the number is probably close to five hundred although, to be honest, many of those have not been bought by me or even explicitly for me; everyone in the family reads quite a bit. And I’ve read maybe half of them, which is apparently characteristic of a genuine book-lover.

If we count the books I used to have as a child and then passed on to cousins, and the books at the grandparents’ places that I have full access to and shall inherit (at least if sibling and cousins can quietly be eliminated), then we’re talking thousands.

2. Last book I bought

I picked up a copy of The Source by James Michener at a garage sale last year. Haven’t bought any books since then. Imagine.

3. Last book I read

Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse. I think I’d read it before, but a bad memory is something one tends to take full advantage of.

4. Currently reading

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Yes, of course I’ve read it before. Come to think of it, I seem to be in the middle of a sort of rereading-old-favourites phase. I find that I can appreciate writing much better now that I’m trying to write a bit myself.* And I always have the niggling feeling that I haven’t read a book ‘properly’ enough, that I should come back to it when my sensibilities have evolved to the point where they can fully appreciate its worth.

I’d also started Tom Sharpe’s The Throwback and John Banville’s Book of Evidence, but had to return them due to various library-related issues that have been hinted at on this blog and will not be discussed now because that would make me extremely mad.

5. Five books that mean the most to me

Okay. In approximately the order that I read them.

1) Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham : Because whenever I attempt to recall my very earliest memories, I see a pair of curious catlike characters engaged in a semi-heated, perfectly rhymed exchange that goes:

“Do you like green eggs and ham?”
“I do not like them, Sam-I-am!”

I read somewhere recently that Seuss used only fifty different words in the book, nearly all of them monosyllabic, and that Sam-I-am consistently speaks in trochees while the other, unnamed protagonist speaks exclusively in iambs. Quite remarkable.

And, well, now you know where the penchant for whacky poetry comes from.

2) The three kiddie books E.B. White wrote – Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan. Each is an absolute gem. I fancy I spent a large part of my childhood believing that animals in foreign countries really could talk.

3) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov : Asimov was probably the closest thing (you will, of course, forgive me for calling him a thing) I ever had to a teenage idol. I was always more of a robot-stories person – I remember having read a couple of Foundation books, but psychohistory never appealed to me as much as the robots did. The idea of imposing a hierarchy of laws on an automaton, and investigating how those laws would cause it to behave in unusual situations, thrilled me greatly.**

I read one of Asimov’s books again a few months ago, for old times’ sake. And, to my amazement, I was disappointed. The language did not flow, the characters weren’t fleshed out properly. The ideas were there, of course, the imagination was impressive; but the execution lacked flourish. I guess I’ve outgrown him. Strange, it feels.

4) 1089 and All That by David Acheson. A marvellous little book that made me look at mathematics with wonder, mitigating some of the damage inflicted by years of schooling.

5) Silas Marner by George Eliot. Rarely read outside literature classes at your local Arts college, perhaps, but I found it to be brilliantly written, and very moving, at many different levels. It offered me an intriguing look at the idea of ‘rootedness’ at a time when I’d just left home myself for the world beyond. Plus it was short.

I haven’t read that much, to be honest, especially after engineering happened. It was with much awe that I read the book-tag posts of some of the scorchingly erudite folks we find on the blogosphere. I nurse more than a tinge of regret for not having kept that childhood reading habit going, at least not with the same pick-up-book-first-thing-in-the-morning intensity. Ah well.

* Yes, that’s what I’m doing on this blog. Not to look so surprised.

** If anyone’s interested, one has found an IEEE paper on the technological implications of the Laws here. Do read it through, and kindly explain it to us afterwards.


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Yes... I have read most of your list LOL I could be called a true lover of books.

I also love I, Robot when I first read it at 14 years old. When I read it recently, I was sad at how different it was to what I remember.

Falstaff said...

One: Okay, being even slightly critical of Asimov on a public forum read by people like me is a BAD idea. Remember, robots are programmed not to harm humans. The rest of us can do what we like.

Anonymous said...

I haven't touched Asimov as yet but it'll be taken care of in 10 days.

Charlotte's Web *sigh* What a heartbreakingly innocent book. I read it as an 18 year old but it's charm still seeped through me as I read it. And I'm not even fond of animals - that's how good I thought it was in its simplicity.

*twiddles thumbs* I kind of..... don't read much anymore barring the few I can squeeze in between summer school.

I once averaged 2 books/day or roughly 500 pages/day until grade 10 till CBSE took me by my throat.

Oh look it seems like I just wrote a mini-autobiography here.

*leaves shamefacedly*

Casablanca said...

1089 and All That sounds totally intriguing. Shall look for it the next time I head to Borders. You see, unlike the One, I've totally given up on library memberships and stuff. Too much effort, na.

One in a Billion said...

Cynthia: You noticed the thing with I, Robot too, huh. You echo one’s feelings exactly.

Falstaff: Aha. So sentiment does triumph over reason sometimes, it would seem. Even in your case!

Dee: Oh, mini-autobiographies are quite all right. Especially when they include nice things about Charlotte’s Web.

Casa: One hasn’t seen it at Borders, actually. We might need to make a few Discreet Inquiries.

Casablanca said...

Oh, is that so? Well, can always ask them to order for us. Such lovely people that they are.

On a side note, inspired by One's suggestion to celebrate half-birthdays with cachaca, I went ahead and tried the Caipirinha. We likey! Much thanks for such inspiration.

Cheshire Cat said...

"1089 and All That"

I was excited for a second there - thought you wrote "1066 and All That" (no, wait: it was Sellars and Yeatman!). A minor comic gem; English writers seem to specialize in those. Of course, it pales into insignificance in comparison to Jane Austen's authoritative "The History of England", written when she was fifteen.

I imagined, from your comic verse, that you were a devotee of Lewis Carroll?

One in a Billion said...

Casa: Excellent, excellent. The Caipiroska is next.

Cheshire Cat: Yes, the name of this book was a pun on 1066 And All That. Acheson presumably intended to imply that he was taking the same lighthearted approach to mathematics that Sellar and Yeatman had taken to history. Which was, of course, a Good Thing.

And yes, one admires Carroll greatly. The Hunting of the Snark would have been, well, number six.

LAK said...

Yay, you did it finally!What is Jeeves in the Morning? I 've read Jeeves in the Offing, and Joy in the Morning. Is this some kind of combo? Vaise, publishers have this sneaky habit of bringing out the same book under a different alias--eg Agatha Christie's Ten little niggers=And then there were none;Dumb Witness= Poirot loses a client; After the funeral=Funerals are fatal. Sigh.

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Jeeves in the Morning is, it seems, the U.S. title of Joy in the Morning. Much trivia.

And this multiple-names thing is very common, no? One finds it vaguely irritating. Heck, they did it with the first Potter too.

the Monk said...

Ah, Asimov. Yeah, the Robot series were something else. My favourite's always been the The Robots of Dawn. But nothing holds a candle to Second Foundation, if you ask me. The way the Mule is defeated, and then Preem Palver. Excuse me while I go into raptures.

One in a Billion said...

Monk: Hmm. One never actually got as far as Second Foundation. So the Mule is finally defeated, eh? Excellent, excellent. Yes, one shall try to get hold of it.

tangled said...

Yes, truly a Good Thing. Suddenly so many common friends around. Every book in the comments yay! And I totally agree on the Asimov thing. I forgave him his lop-sided writing purely because all the pretty visions...