Monday, June 20, 2005

The Price I Pay For Being Smart

There's a book "meme" going around the blogosphere as we speak - from what I understand, it's a series of questions on any particular topic that bloggers are asked to fill out and then pass on. A bit like those annoying chain letter e-mails but supposedly more insightful. Anyway, Chris at Stumbling and Mumbling has passed this one on to me. It's the price I pay for being smart, apparently. Here goes...

Number of books I own: No idea. Into the hundreds, certainly. My family home is literally full of books, and it's dangerous to let any of my family loose in a bookstore. But at the moment I'm at university, with access to a copyright library, and somewhat more limited storage space. Still, I estimate I have about 20-30 books actually with me at the moment, and will have at least ten times more back home.

Last Book I Bought: Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.

Last Book I Read: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Thoroughly fascinating book - I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of the immigrant characters and how they became increasingly "Americanised", whilst exploring their fundamental identity.

Five Books which mean a lot to me:

1. Beyond A Boundary by CLR James: quite simply, the best book ever written. A brilliant piece of work, linking history, sport, politics, and personal reminiscence. It was great to read a book that told me there were other people in the world to whom cricket means as much as it does to me.

2. Ajax: The Dutch, The War, by Simon Kuper: As strange as it sounds, this probably did as much as any other book to change the way I think about history. It made me realise just how much matters such as sporting culture can actually shed light on the political opinions of any group of people, and how their interactions actually transcend the sporting context in which they take place. Another book falling into this category is Beyond the Shadow of the Senators.

3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley: This one means as much to me for a memory outside of the book as the book itself. I'd been reading the book at a poolside on holiday in Canada, when walking back through the reception a member of the hotel staff recognised the book and engaged me in conversation about it. That's one of the great things about reading - it's a conversation starter, not just with the author, but with anyone else who has ever read the book. In any case, it is a superb piece of work, and is far, far more meaningful than Orwell's 1984.

4. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson: It's not his best book (that's The Lost Continent, if you're wondering). But his stories of travel as a student inspired me, and infused me with the desire to travel around Europe myself when old enough. Three Interrail trips later, I can definitely say it was a dream worth having.

5. True Tales of American Life, edited by Paul Auster: A interesting and irreverent collection of small stories from the "average American". The quality of writing, given that these stories are by no means from professional writers, amazes me. More than that, however, the building of small tale after small tale provides a convincing picture of a kind of national identity, whilst
showing the diversity of human experience.