Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Another Book Meme

Total Number of Books?

Many years ago, I did an inventory and found that I owned 700 books, of which 100 were still unread. I tried to do an updated count last weekend, but I got confused over whether I was at 350 or 450 and I hadn’t even left my basement yet, so I gave up. I’m estimating 1000 books owned and 200 unread.

Last Book Read?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I’m inching through the series at a snail’s pace now that school has started, but this one is a surprising favourite of mine. It was perhaps the biggest let-down of the series when it first came out – after all the drama of Voldemort’s return in Book 4, the ensuing Sitzkrieg was infuriating. But every time I read it I like it more: I enjoy the students’ subversion against Dolores Umbridge (especially in light of Neville’s later comments about how bolstered he always was by Harry’s refusal to remain prudently silent), and I like the way the novel exposes the lack of democratic institutions (such as a free press or regular elections) within the wizarding world. I especially enjoy the Owl examinations at the end, the Great Hall filled with students at individual desks, gripping their quills tightly and answering questions like “What is the incantation and wand movement required to make objects fly?” This book places Snape in a newly sympathetic light as the victim of bullying by James and Sirius; there is something terribly poignant about the popular, arrogant Padfoot and Prongs throwing their weight around Hogwarts with so little life and freedom ahead of them.

Last Book Bought?
Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale, on Jonniker’s recommendation. Haven’t started it yet (see above).

Five Meaningful Books?
I’m tempted to steal Mom-NOS’s selections for this one: she beautifully describes the impact of Paul Collins’s Not Even Wrong and Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. It’s tempting, also, to stick with my regulars: Emily of New Moon or Pride and Prejudice. But it doesn’t say “the five MOST meaningful books you’ve ever read” – just five meaningful books. So I’ll try to strike out for some new territory here.

Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey: Before we started dating, I mentioned to the-man-who-would-be-hubby that I had been looking for this book, an in-depth description of the Myers-Briggs personality types. A week later, he showed up at church with a copy he had just happened to stumble across in his travels. I paid him $20 for it, and he kept the bill, vowing to use it one day either to (a) buy me a ring, or (b) get drunk.

Atonement, by Ian McEwen: This is the book that convinced me (against all previous evidence) that I can actually enjoy recent, highly acclaimed fiction. I picked it up because the title references a major and yet insufficiently understood theological concept, and then I kept reading because the heroine is really Emily of New Moon transplanted into an Agatha-Christie-style 1930s manor house in England. Young introspective writer-wannabe meets detective novel – even all the postmodern experimentation couldn’t quite ruin it for me.

I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence, by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Richard Clark Kroeger: Obscure though it may be, this book changed my life and made faith possible for me again. The whole book focuses on a single passage in 1 Timothy, explaining it in historical context so that it becomes something other than bewildering nonsense. Also, the book demonstrated that it’s possible to be educated, feminist, and rigorously orthodox.

Rilla of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery: All my life I’ve been fascinated by the history of the two world wars, in part because this book convinced me that the Great War was fought by my friends and brothers.

Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, by Paul Collins (I tried to resist; I failed): Nearly two years ago, I picked up this book from the bargain table at Chapters, the first step on a long road of self-doubt and indecision, of trying to understand what autism is and how my knowledge of it can help Bub. The book is satisfyingly quirky in its historical and geographical breadth – it moves, at times unpredictably, from Jonathan Swift and the court of mad King George to Nazi-era Austria and the offices of Hans Asperger. At the heart of it, though, is the author’s son Morgan. I don’t know, to this day, whether I love Morgan so passionately because he reminds me of Bub, or just because Collins is that good a writer.

Tags?

Mary G of Them’s My Sentiments, Mary Murtz of The Eleventh, Mary, mom of many of Owlhaven and Mary-LUE of Life, the Universe and Everything. (If you’re not named Mary you don’t get tagged, but feel free to get in on the open invitation from Mom-NOS. I did.)

31 comments:

Bon said...

everytime you write about books i'm left breathless...and hopelessly jealous of all your literature students. you have such a precise and vivid, tantalizing way of making all those books leap off the page for me...i know damn well that if i picked many of them up myself (and i do love to read, i'm just a vague skimmer type), i'd never see what you do in them. but after you've planted the seed? maybe then. :)

Amanda said...

You do make a person long to dive between the pages of a book and experience the mind and body escape of complete immersion.

Kyla said...

Perfectly timed! I am paying off my library fines this evening and I'm on the prowl for new books!

Christine said...

i think i am the only person who didn't think atonement was great.

and i still have never read harry potter.

i am such a weirdo.

bubandpie said...

Christine - Nope. I've come across a lot of remarks lately (on blogs and IRL) from people who hated Atonement. That's part of the reason I put it on the list, actually.

Julie said...

Atonement is the only book I have *ever* read for school that I started and couldn't put down. I read it for two different classes in one quarter and wrote what I still consider to be the best academic paper I've ever written on it. I find it fascinating.

I find it interesting for a very specific reason, though. I love how McEwan plays with the idea that we only guess about people's minds, we can never know them. He uses this to his advantage on so many levels -- Briony is constructing a story about Robbie and Cecelia, and about Lola and Robbie, we are constructing a story about Briony. Oh I could go on and on.

But I'm curious about this: do you think that Briony achieves atonement in the end? Do you believe her final story?

I'm still the only person I know who argues that McEwan doesn't expect us to buy her final story -- her supposed correction of the original tale.

MOM-NOS said...

I started Atonement and I tried - oh, how I tried - to get into it. I really believed (and on some level still believe) that I should like it, and that I would like it if I'd only give it a real chance. I picked it up often, but there was always something else that called to me after just a few pages - a bathtub that needed scrubbing, toenails that needed painting, that sort of thing. Never a good sign.

Catherine said...

Ah, books. *swoon*

I actually considered OOTP to be my favorite Harry book when it came out. I thought the psychology of it was perfect, genius even. The internal and social battles that he underwent in that year lay the foundation for everything else, and were necessary for a 15 year old boy who had lived through what he had lived through, especially considering where we all knew he had to go. I think she allowed that book to be a bridge and, while some criticized the lack of drama, I thought it was genius.

Catherine said...

Is that the same Atonement that is being made into a movie? About a girl who saw someone kissing and tattled?

painted maypole said...

particularly loved your story about Please Understand Me II

Omaha Mama said...

Do you know - I haven't read a single piece of literature since my 3 week Harry Potter binge: Summer 2007? I picked up a prequel to the Ya-Yas at my school's library two weeks ago but can't make myself read. These days, the only reading I've been doing is in the context of teaching or blogging. You've inspired me to perhaps pick up a book again. Which is tough, since fall television has begun! That obscure Biblical Timothy book intrigues me though, I may just have to give that one a go. I am need of some faith/inspiration.

bubandpie said...

Julie - Do you mean that you believe the happy ending rather than the sad ending? In that case, what is the purpose of the sad ending? What is Briony trying to achieve by hinting at the events of 1940 as she does in the 1999 epilogue?

As far as her atonement goes, to me the notion of atonement is qualified by the way the novel works to exaggerate Briony's guilt (and thus aggrandize her role in the story). If Briony's sin was playing detective, it's not a sin she's outgrown - all the fingers are still pointing urgently in the direction she wants them to point, but instead of pointing at Robbie she points at Paul Marshall, who may or may not be as guilty as he's painted.

I guess we could see the sad ending as the final victory of self-aggrandizement over atonement - her final attempt to regain center stage (despite her valiant efforts to turn over the spotlight to Robbie and Cecilia).

Mad Hatter said...

Post schmost. The book I want to talk about is on your side bar. I Capture the Castle. Ahhhhhhh! How I loved I Capture the Castle. It seems odd to see it jammed up against Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

bubandpie said...

OM - It's not really an inspirational book, but it did provide a plausible answer to some thorny questions that had been bothering me for awhile - and renewed my faith that there may be equally plausible answers that I just haven't come across yet for other "difficult" passages in the Bible.

Mad - I'm teaching it in November! I'm so excited. Maybe I'll do a post on it then. All I know right now is that I'm going to focus on the way the novel constructs male vs. female writers - the kind of affectionate detachment the novel has from the great tortured male genius model represented by the father (and his experimental modernism) vs. the humbler but more compelling style developed by the daughter as she tells her story. (We're doing it right after Jane Eyre, which I think should work well.)

Florinda said...

I may have to try this meme myself...

Order of the Phoenix is still my favorite Harry Potter book, mainly because of its Portrait of a Wizard as a Fifteen-Year-Old Boy. The intensity, the frustration, the anger - Rowling had the pitch just right, based on my recollection of my son at that age. I think it's the only book I ever re-read within two weeks of finishing it.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

I can't even estimate how many books husband and I own collectively. I'm not bragging - in fact, we've started culling them.

But there's a lot of unread ones in there...oh, yes, indeed.

Rachel said...

Do you mind if I have a go at this meme on my blog? Not quite sure what I have to write but I like the idea.

bubandpie said...

Rachel - Have at it!

Catherine - Yup. I don't know whether I think the movie is a good idea or not. But of course I'll go see it (I always do).

b*babbler said...

I've started Atonement, but have gotten bogged down in the last few days. So far it's been lovely though, and your post has me wanting to pick it up again and dive right in.

As for unread books, I wouldn't even want to hazard a guess. I've been trying to challenge myself to read some of the unread on my shelf instead of buying something new, but oh, it's so very difficult sometimes.

Hmm... now that I think of it, I might have to go do this meme myself.

kgirl said...

you're too smart. atonement is still on my shelf. Now that I see that there is an Montgomery connection, I'm more interested ;)

nomotherearth said...

I keep meaning to read Atonement, but have quite gotten to it yet. I'm almost finished A Thousand Splendid Suns, so maybe I'll pick that up yet.

Oh, how I would like to take your class! No one wants to discuss Jane Eyre - nobody around me has read it. I'm assuming I would like I Capture the Castle?

(When I was younger, I wanted to name my first girl child Rilla)

Annette Lyon said...

I'm SOOO with you on Rilla (but then, you know that. :D). Emily in a modern detective setting? I'm going to have to check that one out.

bubandpie said...

Kgirl, Annette - It's not necessarily the case that McEwen has even read the Emily books, but it's the same character for all that: introverted, intense, smart, romantic... I have no resistance to books about girls like that.

Jenifer said...

You can convinced me to give Atonement a try. I really did not think I would enjoy it...now I am convinced otherwise!

I am so taken with your love and devotion of reading. I have both yet somehow it doesn't manifest into me reading as much as I would like.

I may be to sign up for one of your classes!

ewe are here said...

I still haven't read the last two Potter books; anything more serious than that at the moment is probably just a distant dream. ;-)

Rae said...

I love Rilla of Ingleside. And I saw the Blue Castle in your library thing which is possibly my favorite L.M. Montgomery. And Freddy and Fredericka by Helprin is amazing, I was tempted to sleep with it under my pillow after I was done, because I just didn't want it to be over!

Mary G said...

Okay. I'm giving it a go. But I agree with you that counting them is a challenge.

Mary-LUE said...

I've just found this tag! I'll get on it as soon as possible.

Please Understand Me changed my life and my marriage. My poor ISFP husband! Before I knew and understood his type I was horribly frustrated and he was horribly mistreated! (That statement is only a slight exaggeration.)

I owe having read Rilla of Ingleside to you, B&P. I'll never forget reading it and my daughter buzzing about. I was so engrossed in the story that I threatened some sort of bodily harm if she didn't let Mommy alone to read.

Susanne said...

I simply love book memes. (And obviously book-ish persons even if they read nothing but flickering letters on computer screens nowadays). This said I don't know any of your meaningful books.

And I started a data base for my books when I bought the same book for the third time in a row. There are currently 976 books in there. Unread books? No more than fifty, I'd guess. I purge on a regular basis.

bubandpie said...

Mary-LUE - That's the true measure of a good book, isn't it - mistreatment of those around us. I remember a nasty fight with my mother when I was maybe 13 and she tried to get me to turn my light out just as I was getting to the last chapter of Emily Climbs.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I heard Paul Collins interviewed on the radio the other day about Not Even Wrong and thought I'd like to read it. I read and adored his book Sixpence House.