Friday, June 10, 2005

Book Meme 

1) Total number of books owned?

8560, at the moment. Since 1997, I've logged everything, books acquired and books seen, into a [Microsoft Access] database, which I use to generate pages of the website -- the Monitor pages, the Directories. When I set up the database, I keyed in ledgers of book and magazine purchases I'd compiled since I was a teenager, representing my entire personal library, excepting sundry encyclopedia volumes, cookbooks, and whatnot. While I've never gotten around to verifying those records against physical volumes on my shelves (I'll get to it someday), I'm reasonably confidant those database records are 99% accurate.

The total does include 'review copies' sent to the website, or sent to me when I was reviewing short fiction, books which get logged whether I intend to keep them or not (let alone read them). They account for about 500 of the total (accumulated over 15 years).

Of the 8560, I've read no more than a third.

2) The last book I bought?

Two shipments came from Amazon on Wednesday: the new books by Stross, Varley, Gerrold, McKillip, Cunningham, and Hartwell/Cramer. A couple of these I'd already seen at the bookstore and are listed on the site; the others will be next week. (And I actually intend to read 2 or 3 of these.)

3) The last book I read? Fully or tried?

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. Before that, Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson. Before that, The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem.

4) 5 books that mean a lot to me?

  • The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. The rare early SF 'classic' that I can still be charmed and moved by.

  • The Masks of Time, by Robert Silverberg. Silverberg, as I may have mentioned once before in this blog, was the writer who expanded my conception of what SF could be, beyond my earlier experience of reading Asimov Clarke and Heinlein. I like all his late-'60s to mid-'70s work a lot, especially the short fiction, and have always had a particular fondness for this one novel.

  • The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, by Gene Wolfe. And beyond Silverberg, in a way, Wolfe, with stories of subtlety and beauty rarely matched any time by anyone (including, for my money, most later Wolfe short fiction).

  • On Human Nature, by Edward O. Wilson, and The Moral Animal, by Robert Wright. Nonfiction that demonstrates how the assumptions and verities of human existence are shaped by evolutionary contingency, representing views of 'reality' that might well be different in other times and other places... which for me has always been the most vital 'message' of science fiction.

  • Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot. My formal literary education is scant, but this is one modern 'classic' I stumbled upon early and which has always had a SFnal resonance for me, from "Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future" to "We shall not cease from exploration..." Even though I realize my understanding of these words is probably remote from the author's intent.

Some follow-up thoughts next time.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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