You’re reading about books…how meta is that?

John Lopez over at No Treason took up the latest blogspam trend (wasn’t it just a year ago we were calling these “memes”?), this time about books. Despite following the chain about five links back, I couldn’t find any authoritative source of this thing, but there seems at least to be a consistent format. Of course, it also seems like the etiquette is to wait to get tagged by somebody else before engaging, but, since readership around here has dwindled pretty significantly around (through nobody’s fault but my own), I figure I might be waiting a while. Plus, it sounds like fun, so here goes:

  • Number of books I own: It’s weird: in most respects I’m one of the laziest, most disorganized people I know (of course, it’s easier to justify this by saying I “work better under pressure”), but I’m actually fairly meticulous about books; they’re generally alphabetized on my shelves (although as I say that I’m looking directly at an unsorted stack which includes Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State, Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Paz’s El laberinto de la soledad) and I actually try to keep lists of what I own and what I’ve read in the last year (which is especially weird because, so far as I can tell, these are the only lists I have ever kept; I don’t even make up a list when I go grocery shopping). Anyway, the point is, by doing a simple line count on the list of books I own and subtracting the overcount for those that take up multiple lines, I (tentatively) conclude that I have 462 books in my one-bedroom apartment (not including various English-to-X dictionaries, my Calvin and Hobbes collection, etc. and also not including the two dozen or so books saved to my hard drive), for which I am rapidly running out of shelf space. Of course, there’s also a stack of books still in my parents’ house that aren’t included in that count, but those don’t number more than 30 or 40, so I think I can safely assume I own about 500 books.
  • Last book I bought: Just this afternoon, I swung by Barnes & Noble to pick up HST’s Fear and Loathing in America: The Gonzo Papers, Vol. II, which should be fun. That having been said, I have to admit I’d actually read Lopez’s post before buying this particular book, so if I’d responded sooner, the answer would have been the French-English dictionary I picked up this morning at the university bookstore, whereas at the time Lopez actually posted, the answer would have been a tie between Valle-Inclán’s Tirano Banderas and Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of my all-time favorite books that, for whatever reason, I’d never actually bought until last week.

    Like Lopez, tossing out a book is, apparently, entirely anathema to my aesthetic makeup; I can’t remember a single book I’ve ever thrown away. I remember being quite traumatized when, sometime in high school, my mother threw out (or maybe she gave them to the local library) some kids’ books (think the terrible later Hardy Boys books, Jack B. Quick books, etc.); not that I was ever going to read the damn things again, but it just seemed so wrong to get rid of any book, even these admittedly pretty badly written examples. I do occasionally give books away, but there’d better be a damn good reason.
  • Last book I read: The System of the World, the third volume of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, for the second time. For whatever reason, every six months or so I need a Stephenson fix, and this was the time. Fortunately, it only took one volume to satisfy that need this time around; usually it’s much worse. For example, last fall, around the time System was coming out, the Stephenson craving kicked in especially strong, and I actually ended up re-reading every book he’d ever written, along with System, in the span of about two weeks. Which, when you consider that such an endeavor requires reading about 5500 pages, is either very impressive or extremely disturbing (I just calculated that 5500 pages / 14 days = 392 pages/day, which seems absurd, but maybe not impossible, given that (a) I devoured the 1000 page System this week in two days and (b) I wasn’t working or taking classes at the time).
  • Five books that mean a lot to me: Christ, I hate these list-making questions (see, my book-related indexing [but not by preference] is a pretty bizarre aberration from my usual behavior). I can never think of just five because there are so many that come to mind. However, I also hate people that just totally ignore the upper limit on such lists, so I’m just going to put down the first five that come to mind, even though it means I’m guaranteed to do one of those theatrical head-slaps tomorrow when I realize that I actually really should have included X. Furthermore, I especially hate the whole “mean a lot to me” thing, because it’s so ambiguous; I mean, I’ve probably read/heard Goodnight Moon more than any other book on Earth, and it obviously meant a great deal to me as a little kid, since I demanded it every night for years as my bedtime story, but including it on such a list seems sort of counter-productive, since I was, after all, about four at the time. On the other hand, that many repetitions at such an impressionable age probably means it’s had a deeper psychological impact on me than any other book (I’m not sure exactly what that impact is, but I’m sure it’s so ingrained as to be entirely subconscious at this point), so excluding it would seem disingenuous as well. So, that being said, I’m just going to put down my five favorite books (within the bounds of my earlier qualifier): Don Quijote, by Cervantes, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Solzhenitsyn, Ulysses, by Joyce, The Death of Artemio Cruz, by Fuentes, and Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, by Wittgenstein (the weird thing about this last selection is that I actually agree much more with the later Wittgenstein of Philosophical Grammar and Philosophical Investigations, but the Tractatus is a much more beautiful work).

Hmm…that ended up being much longer (and probably more boring) than I had originally intended (although, come to think of it, that probably characterizes at least 75% of what I write around here, so it should come as no surprise). Anyway, like I said, it seems that part of the game is to “tag” some other people one wants to see engage in this little exercise, so I hereby officially tag Petya, the guys at Market Theocracy, Billy J, and Neil (assuming they’re even reading this in the first place).

6 Responses to “You’re reading about books…how meta is that?”

  1. billy-jay Says:


  2. mock Says:

    I’m on it!

  3. petya Says:

    i’ll do it tomorrow. 🙂

  4. mock savvy » book junkies Says:

    […] 005

    book junkies
    Filed under: books — mock @ 11:03 pm 
            Following the trend, here are some book facts about myself:     Number of bo [...]
  5. petya Says:

    i’m done. 🙂 i think you’ve read most of them. and those that you haven’t…well, you should.

  6. George Potter Says:

    (crossposted from NO TREASON, with an update on ‘last book read’)

    How many books: A few hundred. It varies. The local library has a cool thing — a trade table. People bring in books and trade them on a one to one basis. Delightfully, about 90% of them are paperback SF novels, and a nice mix of classic and newer stuff.

    Last book bought: Ack, been a while. I’m thinking a paperback TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE to replace a loaner that I never got back.

    Last book read: My absolute classic of classics — THE HUGO WINNERS VOL. 1 & 2. This is the tome my mother taught me to read from. It warped me for life. Clifford Simak’s “The Big Front Yard” is one of those stories I can read again and again. That ode to the power of trade and the individualist themes of Murray Leinster’s “Exploration Team” probably shaped my political mind more than anything else.

    Concurrent with that I read WORLD’S BEST SF 1972, which contained R.A. Lafferty’s jewel of a short story “All Pieces Of A River Shore”. Highly recommended.

    Currently reading: RebelFrire 1.0: Out Of The Gray Zone by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman. Highly recommended. I’m on the second read.)

    Five Books That Mean A Lot: Without repeating authors — TEFL by Heinlein. CHICAGO POEMS by Carl Sandburg. BRIGHTNESS FALLS FROM AIR by James Tiptree, Jr. SNOW CRASH/THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson (I can’t choose.) STEEL BEACH by John Varley.

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