Friday, September 22, 2006

Book meme

It's taken a while, but the craze for masturblogging memes has finally reached Reptile Towers. The P-G handed me a mission: the favourite book thing. Well, here goes...

1. One book that changed your life: the hardest question first

It is, of course, a bugger of a question, and several potential answers come to mind. At the risk of provoking snorts of derision from 'proper' historians, it's tempting to choose Citizens , by Simon Schama, as being the first book I had read at the time (lower sixth) that contained both good solid research and readable, well-written history. However, it didn't really change my life, only one aspect of it. So perhaps Mukiwa or Rhodesians Never Die by Peter Godwin which introduced me to the little corner of African history I went on to make my own. But really changed my life? Probably not...

2. One book you've read more than once

I must have something close to 2,000 books in my flat - they were in fact a prime reason behind my recent move - of these I would be surprised if there were 50 that I hadn't read at least twice. Some I read very regularly, either as security blanket or simply because there is always something more there than you thought. So apart from all of these, the book I have recently made a habit of taking on every summer holiday I go on is The Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius. Not only is the first instance of scurrilous political biography in literature, it's also hilarious, lewd and even sometimes insightful (but he soon gets over it and goes back to the sex and politics).

3. One book you'd want on a desert island

Hard to know whether this is a On the construction and maintenance of rafts type question or a War and Peace type question. So to strike a compromise I'll take A Social and Economic History of the European population of Northern Rhodesia on the grounds that given an eternity on a desert island without any distractions I might even finish writing the bloody thing.

4. One book that made you laugh

Rain Men by Marcus Berkman hit a damn sight too close to the bone, but it did make me snort with laughter (never a pretty or planned event) on a commuter train at 7.30 in the morning, and that's pretty hard to do.

5. One book that made you cry

Simple really: A Social and Economic History of the European population of Northern Rhodesia. Frustration, rage, eye-strain, you name it...

6. One book you wish you had written

Tempting to say see above, but seriously, anything by PG Wodehouse, partly because I love his books, and I hadn't mentioned them yet, but partly because he does what all writers should try and do: work phenomenally hard at making your writing seem effortless froth.

7. One book you wish had never been written

Tricky, do you go for the Communist Manisfesto or the Da Vinci Code? On reflection I'll play safe and nominate anything by Jacques Derrida. Post-modernist bastard.

8. One book that you are reading at the moment

The Command of the Ocean by NAM Rodgers; the middle volume of his history of the Royal Navy. Early days so far, but good stuff.

9. One book that you've been meaning to read

Hitler's Willing Exceutioners by Jonah Goldhagen. Worthy topic, deep research. Bought it, read the first chapter, and got so bogged down by the turgidity of the prose I've never been able to persuade myself to pick it up since. But I know I ought to...

10. Five people to tag with this

Coming so late onto the scene, most of the bloggers who might feel inclined to pick up a tag from the likes o' me are already done with this. So if anyone who hasn't been tagged wants to do this consider this an open tagging...

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