Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Book Meme

As noted previously, I was tagged for the book meme by Liam. Here’s my shot at it, slightly changed from what I had posted in a combox once at Crystal’s. My list is likely to be far more plebeian than Liam’s fine list, which was certainly more intellectual. :-)

1. One book that changed my life

The Mythmaker, by Hyam Maccoby. It rocked my world and my perception of what I thought I knew. If my faith hadn’t been so strong, it really might have shaken it, but as I’ve since read other more talented authors in a similar vein, it has actually turned out to be faith-affirming in the long run. Maccoby’s approach is now a little dated, and some of his conclusions well-refuted, but it opened me up to a new avenue of scholarship that I find fascinating.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. A short but wide-ranging novel telling the story of World War I from a German perspective. Infantryman Paul Baumer tells the story of life in the trenches with his beloved comrades. None of them make it... I first read it in the Classics Illustrated comic book series when I was a kid, and it prompted me to read the book. It was the first serious, adult novel I had ever read. Remarque was a brilliant writer and storyteller, and the flow was riveting.

3. One Book you’d want on a desert island

The Bible. I think I’d really need it. Plus, it has everything in it that you could possibly want to read about. In addition to being the divinely inspired Word, it is fabulous literature.

4. One book that made you laugh

Without Feathers, by Woody Allen, and the shorter companion volume, Getting Even. It’s sad how art imitated life, and Allen’s life suffered a meltdown. I thought he was very funny at one time. I miss going to see his movies with a clear conscience.

A close runner-up would be The Best of Bad Hemingway competition, edited by George Plympton. I love Hemingway's short stories, and these parodies were hilarious.

5. One book that made you cry

I can’t thing of a book that has actually brought me to tears. Not the way some movies have, for instance. The closest was Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. Another story of the First World War... The novel contains the thoughts of a wounded American soldier who gradually comes to the realization that he’s lost his arms, legs, sight, hearing, and ability to smell or speak. Eventually he learns to communicate with the outside world, but the outside world doesn’t want to hear him. They silence him.

Close runner-up: The Catcher In The Rye, by J. D. Salinger

6. One book you wish had been written

Java Made Easy for the Procedural Code Programmer. I’m an old COBOL programmer. Java and other object-oriented languages have been tough for me to master.

7. One Book that you wish had never been written

Hard to narrow it down, but there are a lot that come to mind… More than in some of the other categories.

It would be easy to say Mein Kampf, but I really don’t know how influential it was. I had to read it once, and it was so illogical, incoherent, and scatterbrained, it’s hard to imagine how even the staunchest Nazi could have made any sense of it.

Liam makes a great point about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This tract written by the Czarist secret police is still making the rounds.

Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, or anything by Ayn Rand. I loathe Rand’s Objectivism, which was gussied-up selfishness given the veneer of a “philosophy”

Calvin’s Institutes, although I’m not looking for trouble with anyone. I’m not a big fan of Augustine to begin with, and it seems to me that Calvinism is like Augustinianism on steroids.

While I admire things that Tom Friedman has written about the Midlde East, I detest the globalization happy-talk he sells in books like The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World is Flat.

8. One book you are currently reading

I have a list of three books I’m working my way through over on the right, above my links. One book that I recently finished was Mayflower. A Story of Community, Courage, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick. The Mayflower story covered only about the first third of the book. The rest was about the fragile, intense, and complicated relationship between the English settlers and the Native Americans, which culminated in the calamitous King Philip’s War, which almost wiped the settlers out, and was devastating to the Indians of New England A fascinating read. I recommend it highly.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read

There are quite a few important books that I’ve started in the past but have not quite been able to finish. Two of them that I need to get back to are A Peace to End All Peace. The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin. The other is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared diamond.

10. Now tag five people

You know what? I can’t tag five, I don’t have enough correspondents here to do it. I’ll name Paula, Steve, Don, and the Minor Friar.


Paula said...

Jeff, sorry...I saw the tag only now.I was so immersed in my problems in the last time.:-(. I will do the post in the next days. Thanks for coming at my blog and supporting me with your comments.

Jeff said...

Hi Paula!

Good to see you again. Is everything looking better with those problems as we wind up the week? :-)

Paula said...

Yep, i start to see the light...feeling very tired, but is all week I leave to see my parents, so I will be away from blogging 2 weeks.

cowboyangel said...


Enjoyed your list. I see we both listed Without Feathers. (I was one of the other people tagged by Liam.) And good comment on Friedman - I don't know why he's considered such an expert on globalization. Or on the Middle East, for that matter. I do recommend finishing A Peace to End All Peace. It's quite good and provides a good backdrop on things as they stand now in the Middle East.

Jeff said...


Good to hear from another Without Feathers fan!

I've been mulling over a thread about Tom Friedman for some time, wondering how hard or soft I want to come down on him.

You're right, I need to get back to A Peace to End All Peace, once I get through my current backlog of unread stuff. It's a serious read that requires a lot of attention. Not one of those books that you can skim though fast.