Blog memes: they were a thing in the Noughties, y’know. [grandpa-simpson.gif] Now Matt Webb’s bringin’ sexy back*, and I figure, why the hell not, given it’s books, and I can’t resist a humblebrag about books. So, four questions:
How many books do you own?
I can’t cite a precise number, but I can state a verifiable lower bound for the estimate, because I keep a catalogue of my books on LibraryThing (and you can browse it here if that’s a thing you’d like to do). So I have at least 1,309 books that a) have a usable barcode and b) a catalogue entry on LibraryThing; there may be up to a hundred others that are uncatalogued, because I did the cataloguing at the same time as packing for my relocation to Sweden, and I didn’t have the time to search up the titles that didn’t just scan in first time.
(I would also note that I probably had closer to 2,000 books before relocating, and cut my collection in half because shipping books internationally in bulk is hella expensive, because they’re heavy and take up a lot of room. Furthermore, the remaining total was just over 1,000 on my arrival in Malmö, which gives you an idea of my rate of accessions… though a lot of the purchases of the last couple of years were enabled by having a research budget that allowed for buying academic titles without digging into my own household budget.)
What is the last book you bought?
What is the last book you read?
Uh, see above. Last fiction title was a re-read of Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space, the first reading of which I can date very accurately to early 2003 thanks to there still being an old Wedgewood Rooms flyer tucked in to it as a bookmark, complete with notes for the front-of-house staff roster that week. What an astonishing debut novel… I’m better equipped to recognise its (frequently acknowledged) debt to Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix this time round, not to mention the influence of the much-missed Iain (M) Banks on early C21st space opera, but also to observe that it’s very ambitiously plotted, and reads pretty fast for a 500-page paperback with a fairly small typeface.
(And with an insincere apology for namedropping, I will also note that Al Reynolds is a lovely chap, utterly devoid of pretensions.)
What are 5 books that mean a lot to you?
Ooof, well… with the caveat that I’d probably give totally different answers if you asked me again tomorrow, and the choice to include series as well as stand-alone titles:
- Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles. Anne McCaffrey was my sfnal gateway drug—yeah, I know, I know—but May’s largely forgotten four-book epic was the means of my habituation to the sfnal sublime(s).
- Brian Aldiss’s Helliconia. I re-read this every couple of years, from the yellowing first paperback printing that I found in a long-since-gone second-hand bookstore in Southsea some time around the turn of the century. It’s a flawed saga, but still my yardstick for the potential of sf to build a new world from the ground up.
- Bruce Sterling’s Zeitgeist. A savagely underrated title in the Sterling canon, if you ask me… and three editors did ask me, so I said so for the academic record.
- Claire North’s Notes from the Burning World. A more contemporary choice, and one that I now realise I never got round to writing up, despite my intentions at the time… but hey, I read it while I had the ‘rona, and it’s been a busy year, OK? Definite contender for The Most Solarpunk Book That I’ve Never Heard Solarpunks Mention, but that may have a lot to do with what I consider to be solarpunk’s failure to confront the obverse of its utopian urges.
- William Gibson’s All Tomorrow’s Parties. Hard pressed to pick a single Gibson… heck, I’d find it hard to pick just a single trilogy, but if I did, it would be the Bridge trilogy, because I missed the Sprawl trilogy when it was a fresh thing, but I read the Bridge books in the late Nineties, when they seemed pretty prophetic to someone living in a very liminal and precarious cultural milieu. They still have a kind of contact high effect, to be honest.
Hmmm… without planning to, I have listed only science fiction titles here. Which is perhaps no great surprise… but like I say, this would be a different list if you asked me tomorrow, or next year, or if you stipulated non-genre fiction (as if that’s even a thing), or non-fiction, or theory, or whatever else.
Back in the blog meme heyday, we would tag people to prod them into picking up the baton and writing their own post… but I’m no longer sure who still reads this thing that has their own blog, let alone who has the time. (I don’t really have the time myself; this is some classic displacement activity going on right here.) So I’ll just say “reciprocate if you feel the urge”… though a pingback is always welcome, less for the SEO juice, and more for the knowing that someone’s reading along out there in RSS Land.
[ * I defend this choice of appalling pop-cultural reference on the basis that it is roughly contemporary with the meme phenomenon in question. Whatever happened to Justin Timberlake? I could g**gle it, but I don’t really care that much… ]