Tag! You're it

![][1]John B over at [Blog Meridian][2] has tagged me with a meme - meanining I have to respond, in my blog, to the questions put forth, then "tag" other bloggers for (hopefully) their response.It's my first time being tagged. Let's see how it goes.1. One book that changed your life.I had to think about this. I don't know that any particular book has changed my life. Instead, I think the act of reading - and the choice to be a reader - is what has changed my life: The accumulated weight of dozens, then hundreds of books read, each one adding its own variety of color, knowledge and/or wisdom to my life, each weighed against the other. I'm a different person because I've chosen to read; some people (say, a dude named Cody) would suggest it's made me more pompous. I feel enriched. The truth is probably somewhere in between.If I have to choose, though, I'd say that ["Stranger in a Strange Land"][3] comes closest to having altered my life. I know, I know: Robert Heinlein's a fascist. Still. I was in high school when I picked up the book -- and deliberately put it down about halfway through, badly shaken (and this is no exaggeration) by what it had to say about organized religion in general, and the Christian faith in particular. It set off a chain of internal questions that, half a lifetime later, I'm still trying to answer to my own satisfaction. And I haven't. I don't blame Heinlein for this; but he was the catalyst.I picked up the book again after college. I finished it that time. I plan to read it again soon, and see how my 33-year-old self reacts.2. One book you have read more than once.["A Prayer for Owen Meany"][4]: By turns comic and tragic, the book celebrates the intertwining of faith and doubt better and more entertainingly - and why not be entertained? - than any other book I've experienced. (Sensing a theme here?) I've been a bit of a prozelytizer for this novel: I read it three times; the last, I closed it, walked up to the coffee shop counter and gave it to the barista. I've given it as a present to my father and my wife. It's that good.3. One book you would want on a desert island["Encyclopedia Britannica"][5]: Yes, I'm cheating.4. One book that made you laugh.["The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy"][6]: Because I'm a geek.5. One book that made you cry.["Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"][7] The son of a 9-11 victim searches New York City in a vain attempt to find some surviving relic of his father. I don't cry at books; I did at this one. I'm getting mushy in my old age.6. One book you wish you had written.["The Devil Problem" by David Remnick][8]: A collection of Remnick articles from The New Yorker, I mainly wish I'd written this because I would've had all the experiences he did in writing the articles.8. One book you are currently reading.["Istanbul: Memories and the City"][9]: A beautiful memoir of a melancholy city.9. One book you have been meaning to read.["Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam"][10]: Despite the heavy presence of fiction on this list, I'm also a fan of history, and the excerpts I've read in The Atlantic suggest this book can offer insights into our current predicaments...10. Tag five people.[JD][11] [Jill][12] [Emaw][13] [Woolard][14] [Bill][15]And please: Even if I haven't tagged you, feel free to answer the questions. [1]: http://www.rhettsmith.com/blog/archives/images/books.jpg [2]: http://blogmeridian.blogspot.com/2006/08/book-meme.html [3]: http://www.powells.com/biblio/66-0450547426-1 [4]: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0345361792-1 [5]: http://www.britannica.com/ [6]: com [7]: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0618711651-4 [8]: http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=16-0679452559-0 [9]: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-1400040957-0 [10]: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0871139251-4 [11]: http://www.evolution-nextstep.com [12]: http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/godjilla/ [13]: http://3oclockam.blogspot.com/ [14]: http://woolardspeak.blogspot.com/ [15]: http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/safe_in_the_fire_swamp/


JohnB 11 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for playing, Joel. Interesting choices. But--and I apologize for sounding schoolmarmish--you left out #7: A book you wish had never been written.

Joel 11 years, 3 months ago

Yikes! I missed No. 7!

Is this a book that I wish had never been written, or a book that I've read that I wish had never been written?

Because the world would be much better off without "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which I've never read ... but which has had an unnice influence, to say the least.

Book that I've read that I wish had never been written? Lemme think about that....

Joel 11 years, 3 months ago

And perhaps I'm just sensitive today, John, but when you say "interesting," do you mean "lowbrow and facile"? ; )

I actually wrestled with my answers to these questions quite a bit. I like to read, but I haven't often taken time to think about what individual books have actually meant to me or my understanding of the world - I just let the books work their magic on me. I wouldn't have expected "Stranger in a Strange Land" to have been my answer to the first question, but when I went back and thought about all the books I've read and how they've rippled throughout my life, well ... I couldn't deny it.

I first picked up the book my junior year in high school, when I embarked on a personal project to read "banned" literature" "Catch 22," "Johnny Got His Gun," "Slaughterhouse 5," "Catcher in the Rye," etc. Loved all of 'em except "Catcher." Even given their supposedly controversial elements, though, "Stranger" was the only one I found shocking to the system. It feels like a hugely silly admission ... but we don't generally choose what affects us or how, do we?

JohnB 11 years, 3 months ago

I understood #7 to be a book we'd read which we wish had never been written, but I agree that Protocols and, for that matter, Mein Kampf would have saved us all considerable grief if their editors had conveniently "lost" the manuscripts somewhere.

I meant "interesting" sincerely; there's not an embarrassment on the list.

My experience in putting my list together was similar to yours; for example, I hadn't really thought about that Jack London collection for a long time, much less that it had changed my life, but that was the first book that came to mind when I read the list. That choice connects me to my father, too, who didn't live to see me complete my first semester of college.

The Stranger is easily more shocking than the other books you named there . . . which was why I was so surprised to hear last week that President Bush had read it at his ranch.

Somewhere, Emerson says that we will eventually read every book we are meant to read--kind of like the Ring of Power wanting to be found. That doesn't mean we'll read ONLY things we're meant to read, of course (at least, I hope I wasn't MEANT to read some of the stuff I've read). I think that's another way of saying that we don't choose what affects us/how it affects us.

leslie 11 years, 3 months ago

  1. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. Made me see my hermit tendencies were OK. Also swooned to Dante's Purgatorio.
  2. True Adventures of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje. Gorgeous book.
  3. Ulysses. It's the only way I'd get through that piece of shit.
  4. Moo by Jane Smiley.
  5. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison.
  6. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. It feels so easy, but I know it's not.
  7. Ulysses, so people like David Ryan couldn't make me feel like a philistine for calling it a piece of shit.
  8. High Tide in Tucson. My Kingsolver kick continues...
  9. Some Jonathan Safran Foer

Joel 11 years, 3 months ago

John: Yeah, "The Stranger" was out of left field -- I've seen some commentary to the effect that the president telling the public he is reading a book about the remorseless killing of an Arab is probably not the best propaganda move during these times of tension in the Middle East. Might be misinterpreted....

Leslie: Have I expressed my fear of Kingsolver? Specifically this: I found "Poisonwood Bible" to be such a perfect novel that I'm afraid to read anything else that she's written, because it couldn't possibly measure up?

So I went back to "Stranger in a Strange Land" last night, specificially to the section that I had found, er, so challenging when I was 17. My 33-year-old self finds the writing to be, well, painfully pedantic. Go figure...

lori 11 years, 3 months ago

  1. Book that changed my life: Parenting with Love and Logic. Seriously. Not because it's awesome, or that Iagree with even half of what they advocate. But because it made me think critically and specifically on how I want to raise my children, and it really empowered me to do things the way that works for my family and not care one bit about what other people think.

  2. Book I've read more than once: Gone to Soldiers, Marge Piercy. Total history fiction, probably trash, but an amazing look into WW II from several perspectives. Made me think about how people actually lived through war, not just about the dry facts associated with my textbooks.

  3. Book I'd want on a desert island: Probably something big enough to provide shade and shelter, that would burn long and low in the cold. I'm imagining that if I honestly were stranded on a desert island, I would be so pissed off that I wouldn't be interested in reading anything.

  4. Book that made me laugh: Naked, by Sedaris. I'm giggling right now just thinking about the nudist camp essay.

  5. Book that made me cry: Walk two moons, by Sharon Creech. A most amazing author of young adult fiction. I read her book by default, I stole it from Lidia on a 10 hour flight after she fell asleep and I realized my book was in my luggage. This woman is an amazing story teller, and if you've never read her stuff, I would recommend starting with this one.

  6. One book I wished I'd have written: Whatever. I'm not a writer, never had any aspirations for this, so this questions means as much to me as something like "One invention you wish you had thought of" or " One building you wish you woudl have designed."

One second thought, I wish I had written the Harry Potter books, because not only would I be rich, but I totally would have had Peter Jackson make the movies with an unlimited budget. I'd like those movies so much better if he had done them!

  1. A book I wish had never been written. The sound and the fury. I hate that book.

  2. Reading right now: Ireland, by Frank Delaney. A history of Ireland told through the voice of a traditional travelling storyteller. Made to read outloud (which I am, to my 11 year old, the only one in the house who apparently loves me enough to put up with me wanting to read it aloud to someone).

  3. One book I've been meaning to read: Oh, I don't know. I've got a notebook full of the names of books I've been meaning to read. Keep the responses coming, maybe I'll read some of them!

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

  1. One book that changed your life. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. This ignited a curiosity about the American Civil War that has led to (what some would call) a full blown obsession.

  2. One book you have read more than once. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. This is the one I grab for long plane trips and doctor's visits. Plus I'm a huge nerd so:

  3. One book you would want on a desert island Survive on a Desert Island by Claire Llewellyn.

  4. One book that made you laugh. Cryptonomicon. Every single time I read it. It even makes me laugh when I'm not reading it. There are parts that make me giggle constantly.

  5. One book that made you cry. A Tale of Two Cities. It seemed so unfair to my 10th grade self.

  6. One book you wish you had written. I 2nd the Harry Potter books. To be able to write something that reaches so many people:

  7. One book you wish hadn't been written. This list is huge. Anything by Nicholas Sparks- what dreck. Most anything by Charles Dickens (except ToTC!). Any of the Brian Herbert Dune books- awful. There are so many more:

  8. One book you are currently reading. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I can only take it in small doses, so it takes forever to read, but I like it very much.

  9. One book you have been meaning to read. Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase to Catch Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. Cuz, you know- I'm obsessed.

CafeSiren 11 years, 3 months ago


Funny about your #8, because as I was going through Joel's post and the comments, I was thinking "I'll really have to give this some thought -- except #7. That's easy: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand."

Not trying to pick a fight here. I just found that book pretty darned irritating, and the "Objectivist" movement that it spawned even more so.

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

She's a very polarizing author. I don't buy in to her whole "Objectivist" schtick, but I like how she tells a story, and I can relate to her characters. I love the idea of a strong woman doing what she thinks is right even though all around her are against her. Dagny Taggart is a heroine of mine.

MyName 11 years, 3 months ago


I think it's funny that you liked Neil Stephenson and hated Dune. I know they're not exactly the same genre, but they're kissing cousins.

And why don't you like Dickens? It's easy to be the "strong woman" when you're rich, powerful and hyper-capable, but the characters in Dicken's books have a lot more to do with life hear on Earth than John Galt & co. I like Rand's writing, but her books have too many moral "dilemmas" and they're all contrived by her to make a point about her philosophy. What I like about Dicken's is that his books are about storytelling first and social commentary second.

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

OHHH don't get me wrong- I love Dune. FRANK Herbert. Hated what his son wrote. Somewhat like Michael and Jeff Shaara- the father- quite good. The son- not so much.

As to Dickens. Well, I was forcefed Dickens often in school. Great Expectations in 8th grade, Tale of Two Cities in 10th, David Copperfield in 11th. Tale of Two Cities in French in 12th I think. I had absolutely no connection with the books, save ToTC. (I was a francophile, by the time I read it the first time I'd been taking French for years) I was never excited by his droning, dragging descriptions of every teeny little detail. It seemed to me that Dickens was a writer that would never use a 3 word sentence when a 15 word one would do.

Maybe I'm a more mature reader now, able to pick and chose what bits I like better- hence my affinity for Ayn Rand's story telling and characters, but not necessarily her social issues. However- I'm not going to read any more bloody Dickens and nobody can make me! lol

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

Besides- being rich wasn't what helped Dagny- look at Lillian Rearden. She was rich, and strong (stubborn? smart?). But she was a useless piece of debris. She lacked character and THAT is what made Dagny successful.

cvillehawk 11 years, 3 months ago

Boy does it annoy me that the answers to these questions don't just roll right off my tongue. I'll have to think...

  1. One book that changed your life.

I've really thought about this one and I can't think of one book that totally diverted my path. I will say that as a young English major I was infatuated with verbose, stream-of-consciousness writing like "On The Road" and "As I Lay Dying", and after reading Hemingway's "A Farewell To Arms" it suddenly smacked me over the head that one could wring a great deal of emotion out of very spare prose. That was a good thing for a young reader/writer to discover.

  1. One book you have read more than once.

Only one? Screw that. I re-read Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series every few years. I read Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" repeatedly. I know already that Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series will be on repeat in years to come, though I only discovered them a couple of years ago.

  1. One book you would want on a desert island

Assuming I'm alone, I'd probably need something along the lines of "The Playboy Book: Forty Years"

  1. One book that made you laugh.

I had some good laughs at the first madcap chapter of Bill Buford's "Among the Thugs", but then it turned into a horror show with no jokes left to tell.

  1. One book that made you cry.

I think the end of "The Kite Runner" almost got me. Now that I'm a dad, kids in turmoil are a major weak spot.

  1. One book you wish you had written.

Probably something incredibly affecting and economical like "Ordinary People". I also wish I had been funny enough to write "Hitchhikers Guide".

  1. One book you are currently reading.

Oh, you would ask while I'm reading a sports book. "Fantasyland" by Sam Walker. In my defense, my next read is the autobiography of Sidney Bechet, which I'm going to use as background for a radio show tribute to New Orleans (one year after and all that stuff).

  1. One book you have been meaning to read.

I have "Founding Brothers" on the nightstand short-list, but I just haven't been in the mood for straight history just yet.

And the phantom "wish it had never been written" question?

A book called "Aztec" by Gary Jennings. During my "historical fiction" stage, which mostly led me to good books, I unfortunately got my hands on this. It's over a thousand pages of barbarism with no discernable point. I read all the way through hoping for one, but it never came.

emawkc 11 years, 3 months ago

I was tagged and responded (although, after reading some of the comments here I feel like a complete schmuck for my list.).


thomgreen 11 years, 3 months ago

  1. One book that changed your life.

I'll keep the Heinlein thread going. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress still provides me with philosophies I use in everyday life. When putting together a group at work to tackle a problem I keep the members down to a minimum since the more people you have working on an issue the less likely you'll be able to solve the problem. Also, the ever significant, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"...TANSTAAFL!

  1. One book you have read more than once.

How about the whole Foundation series by Asimov. So, I guess that's more than one book, but I usually re-read this series every couple of years.

  1. One book you would want on a desert island

One of those choose your own adventure books. That way I would have a different story to read every time, well, at least until I was done with all the variations. Otherwise, a year's anthology of SF short stories, from say...1965. I'm not into modern SF too much.

  1. One book that made you laugh.

Jennifer Government, not all the way through, but it had some sarcastic bits in it.

  1. One book that made you cry.

A Wrinkle In Time....a long time ago.

  1. One book you wish you had written.

Something smart like Fast Food Nation, or The Jungle.

  1. One book you wish hadn't been written.

Here comes the blasphemy...how about the Bible.

  1. One book you are currently reading.

One?, try about thirteen, I tend to have a problem focusing on one book at a time and finding the time to finish any of them. How about...1412, The Year China Discovered America.

  1. One book you have been meaning to read.

The Shia Revival...by Vali Nasr. This guy was on The Jon Stewart show and captured my attention with his expertise. I look forward to reading his book.

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

Thomgreen- my hubby put the Bible too... ;)

Joel 11 years, 3 months ago

Thom, Dazie...

I'm gonna stand over here. Away from you. Away from the lightning and stench of sulphur.

; )

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey- it wasn't me. Remember- I said Dickens and Nicholas Sparks.

thomgreen 11 years, 3 months ago

Well either Dazie's husband and I are going to be struck by lightning (could I hit the lottery instead?), or Dazie is going to attacked by lonely, rabid, bon bon eating woman that think Nicholas Sparks' writing is as sacred as the bible. But wait, I totally agree with her, Nicholas Sparks' writing is equivalent to Harlaquin (sp?) Romances but just a minor step up. So I guess I'm S.O.L. no matter what.

One book I'd like to add that never should have been written, or at least should have been written by a ghost writer is the Timothy Treadwell book Among Grizzlies, about his living with the Alaskan Bears. Absolutely horrid writing. I was truly excited to get this book for Christmas one year (before he got mauled), and couldn't recall a book I had read written as poorly as this one.

Joel 11 years, 3 months ago

Thom: Have you seen the documentary about him? Beyond weird.

thomgreen 11 years, 3 months ago

I did. It only concreted by belief that he did more to hurt the cause for Grizzly Bears rather than help it, plus his naivety ended up getting someone else killed also.

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 3 months ago

Did I mention that Sparks is a plagarist? Bah. Bring it on bonbon babes...

Lindsey Slater 11 years, 3 months ago

  1. One book that changed your life. "Broadcasting Realities" by Ken Lindner. I'm a broadcast journalism major, so there you go.

  2. One book that you've read more than once. I often re-read books and had quite the penchant to read books way above my level when I was younger. The book I enjoyed re-reading the most was "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.

  3. One book you would want on a desert island. "The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook." 'Nuff said.

  4. One book that made you laugh. "The 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is #37)" by Bernard Goldberg. Granted, I'm not a staunch conservative (which Goldberg is), but both political spectrums can agree with some people on this list. And it's well written and just hysterical. Goldberg makes his points with good evidence. Who's #1? Michael Moore.

  5. One book that made you cry. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving. And I don't cry.

  6. One book you wish you had written. "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth. So well-written and such a great, great idea for a book.

  7. One book you wish had never been written. I still can't think of a good one that's not super cliche. In asking around the newsroom here in St. Louis, I got Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto for answers. Just can't answer this one.

  8. One book you're currently reading. "I Am Charlotte Simmons" by Tom Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe hit college life on the head with this one, including our slang, activities, and typical debaucheries. It's like he watched my life for inspiration.

  9. One book you've been meaning to read. "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. I've heard from so many people how great this novel is. I bought it, and just haven't gotten myself into yet.

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