I’m following Erqsome’s book meme. When I copied & pasted the list I almost left her commentary because I so agreed with her assessments. I think we’ve bonded in the past over our mutual dislike of Catcher in the Rye and Wuthering Heights, but I also think there was bourbon involved so I can’t be certain.

At any rate, feel free to be a copycat, but be sure to link back so I can see your answers!


1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Underline those you intend to read.
3) Italicise the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (I like these a lot, but they get kinda turgid)
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (I haven’t read the 3rd one yet cause Husband is hogging it)
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (All of them????)
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy I’ve read some but not all…
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (See 33.)
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (I tried, I was underwhelmed)
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel – I really disliked this book
52. Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
I liked this one a lot.
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding – I tried. It hurt my brain.
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73.The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom (Why is this here?)
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I set a fairly high standard for the books I marked “loved”, there were plenty on the list I liked a lot. There were also some I truly hated. I think I’ve marked them accordingly.

William Gibson’s Spook Country is out and Gibson is in town reading and signing this weekend. You know, the guy who came up with the word “cyberspace.” The guy who writes really great books like Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition and All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Neal Stephenson once gave a great interview to slashdot where he was asked, “In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?” I’m copying his whole response here even though it’s long, it’s question number 4 in a long interview that’s mostly not about Gibson. Not that this is really about Gibson, but it makes me laugh.


You don’t have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson’s Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson’s arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled. Gibson and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while. Slowly I gained the upper hand, for, on defense, his Praying Mantis style was no match for my Flying Cloud technique. But I lost him behind a cloud of smoke. Then I had to get out of the place. The streets were crowded with his black-suited minions and I had to turn into a swarm of locusts and fly back to Seattle.

The second time was a few years later when Gibson came through Seattle on his IDORU tour. Between doing some drive-by signings at local bookstores, he came and devastated my quarter of the city. I had been in a trance for seven days and seven nights and was unaware of these goings-on, but he came to me in a vision and taunted me, and left a message on my cellphone. That evening he was doing a reading at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. Swathed in black, I climbed to the top of the hall, mesmerized his snipers, sliced a hole in the roof using a plasma cutter, let myself into the catwalks above the stage, and then leapt down upon him from forty feet above. But I had forgotten that he had once studied in the same monastery as I, and knew all of my techniques. He rolled away at the last moment. I struck only the lectern, smashing it to kindling. Snatching up one jagged shard of oak I adopted the Mountain Tiger position just as you would expect. He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head. From there, the fight proceeded along predictable lines. As a stalemate developed we began to resort more and more to the use of pure energy, modulated by Red Lotus incantations of the third Sung group, which eventually to the collapse of the building’s roof and the loss of eight hundred lives. But as they were only peasants, we did not care.

Our third fight occurred at the Peace Arch on the U.S./Canadian border between Seattle and Vancouver. Gibson wished to retire from that sort of lifestyle that required ceaseless training in the martial arts and sleeping outdoors under the rain. He only wished to sit in his garden brushing out novels on rice paper. But honor dictated that he must fight me for a third time first. Of course the Peace Arch did not remain standing for long. Before long my sword arm hung useless at my side. One of my psi blasts kicked up a large divot of earth and rubble, uncovering a silver metallic object, hitherto buried, that seemed to have been crafted by an industrial designer. It was a nitro-veridian device that had been buried there by Sterling. We were able to fly clear before it detonated. The blast caused a seismic rupture that split off a sizable part of Canada and created what we now know as Vancouver Island. This was the last fight between me and Gibson. For both of us, by studying certain ancient prophecies, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, namely that Sterling’s professed interest in industrial design was a mere cover for work in superweapons. Gibson and I formed a pact to fight Sterling. So far we have made little headway in seeking out his lair of brushed steel and white LEDs, because I had a dentist appointment and Gibson had to attend a writers’ conference, but keep an eye on Slashdot for any further developments.

Don’t know who any of these guys are? Here are the serviceable [tag]wikipedia[/tag] entries on Gibson and Stephenson. And, for good measure, Bruce Sterling.

The January/February 2006 issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a lengthy piece by Caitlin Flanagan titled “Are You There God? It’s Me, Monica: How nice girls got so casual about oral sex.” She’s looking at pop culture as a reflection of an alleged shift in sexual behavior by tweenagers (the middle school crowd), rather than placing blame. Or at least that seems to be her intention. She loses her way about half-way through the piece.

Early on, when she’s still lucid, she mentions a recent Young Adult novel, The Rainbow Party, by Paul Ruditis. The novel, about a bunch of high school sophomores throwing an oral sex party, is allegedly supposed to be an indictment of abstinence only education, but is apparently just bad. Howlingly bad. I haven’t actually seen the book, so I’m not certain if that’s the case or not.

Flanagan’s article starts out with a lot of promise, it appears she’s going to really tackle head-on (no pun intended) the hysteria about tween-aged girls and casual oral sex. She even wades into the racial aspects of the hysteria straight-away: Jewish girls seem to be taking the blame for this epidemic of wanton behavior.

Alas, Flanagan rambles and rants and bores the reader so much it seems she’s part of the hysteria herself, rather than a journo looking for answers or at least trying to raise good questions. She takes Doctor Phil to school, however, and for that I’m willing to forgive a lot of sins. A lot of sins. She cogently examines The Lost Children of Rockdale County, a Frontline documentry about a teen syphilis outbreak in an Atlanta suburb. The documentary created quite a stir, flames that Oprah then fueled, according to Flanagan:

Two years later Oprah invited Dr. Phil to her television show to address the topic. “There’s an oral-sex epidemic,” Oprah told the audience point-blank. Teary mothers related their horrifying stories: “A year or two ago she was playing with Barbies and collecting Beanie Babies. And then now all of a sudden she’s into casual oral sex!” Wide-eyed young girls spilled the beans on their slutty classmates, and intimated that they themselves weren’t so different. That the entire subject is ugly and fraught was underscored when Dr. Phil decided to confront a young blowjobber about the error of her ways. She was sitting in the front row next to her mother, who was apparently hoping that public humiliation on a global scale might reform her daughter.

Dr. Phil, who has the vast, impenetrable physique of a pachyderm and the calculated folksiness of a country-music promoter, employs a psychotherapeutic cloak of respectability to legitimize his many prurient obsessions. “When you’re saying ‘It’s just friends,’ let me tell you,” he raged at the poor girl, “a friend doesn’t ask you to go in the bathroom, get on your knees in a urine-splattered tile floor, and stick their penis in your mouth. That’s not what I call a friend.” (Poor Howard Stern has spent years alternately outraged and heartbroken about the FCC’s refusal to sanction women’s talk shows the way it does his morning show, and episodes like this make you realize he has a point.)

I don’t dislike Flanagan. I’m also not terribly familiar with her work, to be honest. A lot, maybe most, of her writing is about the self-involved mommy culture and it’s pretty sharp, except when it devolves into being self-involved. Then it gets unintentionally post-modern.

Nevertheless, I expected more from this article. It’s worth a read, although about half-way through I’d suggest you commence skimming so you don’t lose consciousness.

Naomi Wolf has a much more lucid and concise piece, specifically about young adult fiction, in Sunday’s New York Times Book Section.

Unfortunately for girls, these novels reproduce the dilemma they experience all the time: they are expected to compete with pornography, but can still be labeled sluts. In “Invasion of the Boy Snatchers,” the fourth novel in the “Clique” series, Lisi Harrison reproduces misogynist scenarios of other girls shaming and humiliating a girl who is deemed “slutty” — Nina, an exchange student from Spain. When Harrison writes that Nina’s “massive boobs jiggled,” you know she is doomed to the Westchester equivalent of a scarlet letter.

Though “Rainbow Party” got all the attention last year — that was the novel about oral sex in which the characters even sounded like porn stars: Hunter, Rod and Rusty — kids didn’t buy it, literally. In spite of a shiny, irresistible cover showing a row of candy-colored lipsticks, it was a book more reported about than read.

But teenagers, or their parents, do buy the bad-girls books — the “Clique,” “Gossip Girl” and “A-List” series have all sold more than a million copies. And while the tacky sex scenes in them are annoying, they aren’t really the problem. The problem is a value system in which meanness rules, parents check out, conformity is everything and stressed-out adult values are presumed to be meaningful to teenagers. The books have a kitsch quality — they package corruption with a cute overlay.

[read the entire essay.

Her focus on the abject materialism of several of the hottest new YA series is more interesting, perhaps because it seems like a unique viewpoint – most reviewers, critics and parents never see past the sex.

I have no clue how or if these books are really damaging young minds, if they reflect actual tween/teen-aged culture, if they’re just another component of the larger pop culture, or if this is just another publishing fad.

I can, however, attest to the surrealism of this young children’s CD: “My Name is Cheech the Schoolbus Driver.” Yes, that Cheech. Randomly, did you know he has his own line of hot sauces, available at thecheech.com? Now you do. But back to the CD. Be very, very careful with this thing. The songs are dementedly catchy and you’ll be singing them all day. Just trust me on that.

Anyone who doubts the popularity of the Berenstain Bears amongst the toddler-crowd hasnt been hanging with the toddler crowd. Wildy, rock-star popular, those bears are. Right up there with Dr. Seuss and Curious George in the category of books I spend the most time de-drooling and recovering and reshelving.

Childrens librarianship is just like academic librarianship – the only difference being the specific titles one has to clean the saliva and peanut-butter encrusted fingerprints from. Additionally, toddlers wear diapers and don’t pee in the library. Academic and law school librarians only wish their patrons wouldn’t pee in the stacks. But I digress.

I always liked the Berenstain Bears, but even more so after learning of Charles Krauthammer’s dislike of them:

(link dead or missing)I hate the Berenstain Bears, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer fumed in 1989. The raging offense of the Berenstains is the post-feminist Papa Bear, the Alan Alda of grizzlies, a wimp so passive and fumbling he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman.

In 1996, Mr. Berenstain told The Post: ve gotten unkind letters complaining that we are emasculating the men in the family. The absolute truth is that Papa Bear is based on me.â

One of the Berenstains’ early editors complained that the bear family’s clothing, language and general mores were several decades out of date: s just not that way in the real world.

But that’s the way it is in Bear Country, the Berenstains replied.

I’m just genetically predisposed to like almost anything that man dislikes. I can’t help it.

Today’s Post, in a column that is, oddly enough, titled appreciation, levels quite a lot of criticism at the Bears, especially in it’s conclusion:

The larger questions about the popularity of the Berenstain Bears are more troubling: Is this what we really want from children’s books in the first place, a world filled with scares and neuroses and problems to be toughed out and solved? And if it is, aren’t the Berenstain Bears simply teaching to the test, providing a lesson to be spit back, rather than one lived and understood and embraced?

Where is the warmth, the spirit of discovery and imagination in Bear Country? Stan Berenstain taught a million lessons to children, but subtlety and plain old joy weren’t among them.

Now, even when you account for the repetition factor, which I’ll return to in a moment, it’s probably rare for any child to be raised on a strict diet of Bears books. Sure, Bear Country is a kind of freaky place, but all children’s book environments are a bit off-kilter, the enduring ones, anyway. So kids get variety, and I doubt very much that many of them are scarred from the lessons they learn from the Berenstains.

Kids love repetition. I doubt there’s anyone on the planet who doesn’t know that. But even when a kid is hooked on a specific story, you put multiple kids in the story area at the same time and they run the mommys, daddys or nannys ragged – insisting on hearing as many different stories as possible, often read as fast as possible.

It’s like watching toddler speed-dating.

Today I started Libricide : The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century. This one got me thinking.

Over the past 11 years, I have personally sent over 75,000 volumes (hard to be precise without access to my stats, I suspect the number is much higher) to libraries rebuilding after financial disasters, natural disasters, or the fall of repressive governments. Almost every volume crossed my desk or passed through my hands and, hopefully, some of them fell into the hands of people who’s lives were improved, even a tiny bit, by my efforts.

I’ve sent books to every single continent, including a few volumes to Antarctica via a researcher who thought I should be complete in my efforts.

No wonder I could never maintain a manicure more than a few days…

“British Author’s Visa Ordeal Is One for the Books”

Halted en route to a West Coast lecture tour, Ian McEwan, an acclaimed British novelist who lunched last fall with first lady Laura Bush, was denied entry into the United States for 36 hours this week.

McEwan, who has won nearly every major British literary prize and whose best-selling novel “Atonement” won a National Book Critics Circle Award, finally landed in Seattle on Wednesday evening, just 90 minutes before he was scheduled to address 2,500 people packed into a downtown auditorium.

Looking relieved and exhausted, he began his speech by thanking the Department of Homeland Security “for protecting the American public from British novelists.”

He also detailed the literary expertise that Homeland Security officials brought to the three interrogations they put him through. McEwan said one official wanted to know: “What kind of novels do you write: fiction or nonfiction?”

[read the rest of the article, it does indeed get sillier]

You may think you have more important things to do than read, but you’re wrong. And those things are certainly not nearly as interesting as Matt Rossi’s new book, which I’m going to harrass you about endlessly until you buy it. Pre-order Things That Never Were right now. Or at least click the link and check out the groovy cover. You know you want a copy.

Did you know Matt and I went to school together? We didn’t know each other then, but I do recognize him from the coffee shop. Clearly we weren’t meant to know each other then – the fate of the planet probably depended on it.

Did you know that Matt is the heir to the Silly String fortune?

Did you know that Matt created Batgrl and I in a secret lab in Rhode Island?

Did you know Matt was one of the original Bugaloos?

You didn’t know these things? You really need to order his book!