I hate to end this series of prompt posts on a weak note. Perhaps I’ll come up with something splendid and impressive on the morrow, like a new letter beginning a secret word which is relevant to more interesting books that I haven’t talked about yet.
But for today, the question is “What book is so good that you didn’t go to sleep until you’d finished it?”
The thing is, I am rather good at staying awake most of the time, which is to say that lately it’s taken more effort to go to bed than to stay up past 1 or 2 AM.
So the last books I stayed up to finish, more because I was determined to finish reading them than because they were so gripping, were BJ Novak’s One More Thing and CS Lewis’s Spirits in Bondage. Both are interesting enough; Spirits in Bondage was Jack’s first published book and represents his pre-conversion regard for Nature, red in tooth and claw. One More Thing is also a first book, though Novak has years of writing for television under his belt. The “stories and other stories” vary in length and in theme, though they all have something of the same tone: light-hearted, verbally playful, taking things to their logical conclusion, and touched with the same edge of despair that ended up taking Douglas Adams off my “favorite authors everrr!” list.
Taken together, these books could also have been Zzz-snatchers in another sense: they could fill one’s head with the unsettling threat of quiet doubts. Maybe. I didn’t quite ruminate on them long enough to let the doubts creep in, though.
Since leaving college, there’s been less call for me to buy books: they aren’t needed for a class, I can typically borrow them from the library, and if it’s something I really love, I probably already own it.
This sums it up neatly.
But there are occasions when I can’t resist. The last few things I’ve bought include:
Lingua Latina per se illustrata. Pars I: Familia Romana, Grammatica Latina. This was actually for an immersive Latin class I took last Labor Day weekend. Instead of translating English to Latin and vice versa, it presents a number of pictures, graphs, and simple sentences to build one’s understanding entirely in Latin.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. I love me some Allie Brosh, especially ~secret things~ that weren’t shared on her website. A lot of it is visible there, but hey, nice to not rely on an internet connection to look at it if I don’t want to. The book is of course hilarious, and (near the end) a bit deeper of an examination of human nature than I had expected.
The Blood of the Lamb: a novel. I totally bought this with one-click by mistake, and then didn’t cancel it. It looks interesting enough, though.
X marks the spot, though the spot is arbitrary: the prompt called for looking at one’s bookshelf and, starting at the upper left, counting to the 27th book. I’m pretty sure this is because Jamie was 27 when she wrote her original post and not for any other arcane numerological reasons. Being 27 myself, I followed suit on each of my bookcases.
This seems especially arbitrary because I need to reorganize my shelves.
If only the 27th book on at least one of my shelves were Munster’s Cosmographia Universalis, or something along the lines of the Musgrave Ritual! Then there would be some point to marking the spot.
Pearl Buck is all “do not hunt for the X to see what treasure is buried in the earth; the treasure IS the earth”
Photographing my bookshelves reminded me just how many books I have: between four and five hundred, perhaps half of them unread. Dozens have been dragged back and forth between my parents’ home and my college, and then to my Ann Arbor apartment, and then to the house I live in now. They’ll all be boxed up and moved again in a couple months.
So it’s a bad habit that I often neglect the books I own (“They’re mine! I have all the time in the world to read them!”) in favor of library books (“Oooh! I don’t have to buy this but I can absorb all its stories and characters and ideas before returning it!”), though perhaps that’s preferable to buying even more books and then being stymied by indecision whenever I regard my shelves.
But I have a worse habit yet, which is checking out about 3 dozen books and a dozen CDs from the library and then ignoring them, too. They wait week after week on the bookshelf I purchased specifically for borrowed books. Eventually, the library e-mails me a notice that someone else has requested this or that item and I can no longer renew it. So then the book is in demand. Then I start to read it. Then I find that I have wasted the time I might have spent with it, and either keep it until it’s two weeks overdue, or return it unfinished and pine after it.
But I have a worse habit yet, which is clicking around on Archive of Our Own and reading fanfiction incessantly. It’s like overeating because your body never tells you it’s full. It’s like voluntary insomnia. It’s like opium. I click and click and am not satisfied with clicking until it’s 1 AM and I am going to regret getting up for work in the morning. That’s the worst habit of all.
Most of my favorite authors are dead and therefore I don’t suppose any new works of theirs to be forthcoming (though, of course, one never knows with these people).
Not being super-invested in the publishing world…I suppose there are only a few books I’m looking forward to. First, there are the coming Dresden Files books: Peace Talks, a few other case file books, and the apocalyptic trilogy of Hell’s Bells, Stars and Stones, and Empty Night (what will three books of apocalypse look like? A whole lot of me asking, “Harry, how are you NOT DEAD?” in all likelihood).
Second, there are the last two books of A Song of Ice and Fire: Winds of Winter and Dream of Spring. True, I haven’t even started the series yet. True, a lot of folks have concluded that it’s a lot of ick for no payoff. Buuut I’ll probably read them before too long, and then join Paul and Storm in singing this apostrophe to George R. R. Martin (skipping over the naughtier words):
Yeah, okay, you all know the drill: I will happily fangirl over Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers, Chesterton, Rowling, et alii, et nunc et semper et in sæcula sæculorum.
But they’re such towering figures, so well-loved and widely read, that it feels silly to, you know, take a stand about it. “I am strongly in favor of Jack and Tollers!” I am also in favor of hydration, beautiful vistas, Nutella, and soft kittens. Who’s going to argue against that?
Come fight me.
But there is a more obscure figure, a fellow still hanging about so close to the margins that he was not too busy to answer a question of mine on Reddit. I will take any and all opportunities to love on Mark Forsyth: the Inky Fool, author of The Etymologicon, The Horologicon, The Elements of Eloquence, and The Unknown Unknown.
This post feels like something of a cheat, because really there ought to be more delicious words within it. But I am about to set out my owl jacket and go out to lunch. Consult Inky! He will teach you such beautiful things, words as carminative as wine.
“All-time” is giving me pause. It shouldn’t, really, but it makes me want to hop in a time machine and consult myself just prior to death so as to be sure I am being honest in my reporting.
That not being possible at present, here are my theories for Three Books Which Will Remain Among My Favorites No Matter What:
I am calling the series one long book so as not to play favorites. This world, its characters, its laws and concepts and field for hypothetical questions: they’re so deep in my head that I don’t suppose they’ll ever come out.
Perelandra / Till We Have Faces
Here’s the battle royale: which Lewis book will remain deepest in my affections? The beautiful unfallen world of Venus and Ransom’s defense against the evil nihilists, or the apology Orual makes for her actions?
Just watch: it’ll turn out to be something completely different, like Voyage of the Dawn-Treader or The Four Loves.
I’m not sure that I get something new out of it every time I reread Gaudy Night…but it’s long enough and rich enough that I get a lot of good reminders, and excellent food for thought each time. There’s so much exploration of work, of vocation, of how marriage changes people, of the nature of scholarship, all traced through Harriet’s eyes and mind and desires. It puts a lot of flesh onto her and Peter alike, which is why it continues to delight me.
This apparently refers only to any series in which all the books are published – so Dresden Files or Game of Thrones are right out.
Three come to mind:
Howl’s Moving Castle series – Dianna Wynn Jones
I loved the first book, but haven’t read Castle in the Air or House of Many Ways yet.
Kairos series – Madeleine L’engle
Likewise, I loved A Wrinkle in Time, but never got around to A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, or Many Waters (much less the O’keefe series, or the Chronos books – a shame, because apparently A Ring of Endless Light wins my roommate’s vote for “best sequel ever”).
Discworld – Terry Pratchett
Okay, part of me is uncertain whether the 41 novels constitute “a finished series,” or if they’re even a series proper given all the different threads therein. But I’ve only read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, so I figure I should visit the rest sometime.