That Danged Book Meme, Amended

It was Pastorius at CUANAS who initially tagged us with this meme. It seemed an impossible task. Name one book I was reading? Have never read just one book in my life. Total number of books owned? Don’t want to go there; it would mean looking at the number of books I’ve lost over the years. Five books which mean a lot to me? FIVE??? You’re kidding. I’m finally getting book cases built to hold some of the precarious stacks of things I can’t let go of… and I do let many of them go to the library sales.

Then Fundamentally Right showed up with the same list of questions in hand. All right, all right. But here’s an amended version of this game of tag.

Total Number Of Books Owned Ever:

Probably as few as three or four thousand, but maybe eight. Who keeps count? And this doesn’t take into consideration the books I really, really wanted but managed to contain myself and get at the library instead. Someone gave me a button that reads “ I am a bookaholic: if you love me don’t let me buy another book.” As a kid, I read to escape a less-than-optimum life. Reading under the covers at night, hoping the nuns couldn’t see the flashlight, I’d covered all the Nancy Drew books by the time I was eight. Ruined my eyesight in the process.

Read-a-holics cannot resist the printed word: It starts with cereal boxes at the breakfast table or newspapers abandoned in the restaurant booth by whomever ate there before you and continues into reading your high school English lit books the day you get them. This is not virtue. A therapist once posed the question: “so when did you discover that books were a neurotic escape?”

Motto: never leave home without a book. You never know when you might be trapped somewhere with nothing to read. Horrors.

A room without a bookcase is boring. Walking into a room with a bookcase is permission to look at someone’s soul.

Last Book Bought:

Books aren’t purchased singly. At the very minimum they come in pairs. The Right Nation (Micklethwait and Woolridge); Donbas (Jacques Sandulescu);Eccentric Culture (Remi Brague); Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology (Gerald May). The list of books in my Amazon shopping cart is eleven. That doesn’t count the ones on the “Buy Later” list. For book-aholics, Amazon’s shopping cart feature is most helpful. Put a book there and sometimes they age out and you lose interest.

Last Book I Read:

Have never read just one book at a time. Unlike the virtuous and diligent Baron, who carefully reads a book from beginning to end (including the footnotes and endnotes), I’m usually working on several things at a time, and not always from the first page. At the moment this is the litter on my side of the bed:

The Case for Democracy Natan Sharansky
The War Against the Terror Masters Michael Ledeen
Browser’s Dictionary John Ciardi
Garden Annual Southern Living
Jersusalem Bible, 1967 Reader’s Edition The Usual Suspects
The Book of Common Prayer
Several recent issues of First Things
Right Nation Micklethwait and Woolridge
Box of Rain Robert Hunter

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

Probably better off mentioning contemporary authors which mean a lot to me:

Jane Austen
Wilfrid Bion
Billy Collins
Theodore Dalrymple
Michael Eigen
Karen Horney
Elmore Leonard (no one has a better ear for American speech than L)
V. S. Naipaul
Flannery O’Connor
Robert Parker (bon bon books. Yum)
Pattiann Rogers
Ferrol Sams
Thomas Sowell
Anne Tyler
Evelyn Waugh
PG Wodehouse

Five Books I’ve Given Away Recently:

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
I Heard God Laughing (Hafiz)
The Way the World Works (Jude Wanniski)
The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
John Boyd: the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Robert Coram)

See why I put off doing this list? It establishes my greed and my attention deficit delusion — the one which allows me to think if I read fast enough, I can catch up.

Who Do I Tag?

I hope none of you has been tagged with this one before:

Bill’s Comments

Hot Needle of Inquiry

L’Ombre de l’Olivier


Toe in the Water

Note from Baron Bodissey, who acted as scribe and editor for his lovely wife on this important post:

She left out Jack Vance. How could she leave out Jack Vance? Everyone: go read Jack Vance books.

Don’t forget Orson Scott Card, Baron. Especially Ender’s Game, which I have given to any number of people and which should be required reading for any boy/man over the age of ten. ~D

12 thoughts on “That Danged Book Meme, Amended

  1. Hi Dymphna,
    I’m glad you and Baron finally got to this. I’m fascinated by books, and I’m fascinated by what books others are reading.

    I walk up to perfect strangers and ask them what they’re reading, so if I like a blog, I definately want to know what the blogger reads.


    I’m so glad you tagged the Neo-neocon. I love her blog as well. How fun.

  2. What a great list of books- some old friends, some I’m looking forward to meeting.
    I relate to the cereal box reading- and I never go anywhere without a book, either. Somerset Maugham, I believe (or possibly Evelyn Waugh, I get them confounded sometimes) said the same thing about people who must read- it was no virtue.

    We recently took our family of nine on a week’s vacation to D.C. I permitted them three changes of clothing, but we had a huge plastic tote and several backpacks full of books.=)

  3. Ah, headmistress and zookeeper (When I had them that age I banged my head against the poles of Mount St. Mother and Mother Superior)–

    It’s nice to meet a fellow-traveler. A few pairs of underwear, a trunk of books. Yes.

    Somerset Maugham’s short stories were what I read while nursing at 2:00 am. In order to stay awake…

    And, of course, I left out soooo much. Flannery O’Connor. How could I forget? And Stephen Mitchell’s Book of Psalms…oh, dear. I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to do that dratted list. And Mary Rose Callaghan’s Prodigal Daughter…oh heavens, how could I forget Jane Austen. I re-read her all the time. I’ll have to amend my post post-haste.

    Maybe I’ll do a book review a week.

    Having run out of PG Wodehouse to read, my youngest has begun writing Bertie and Jeeves adventures himself. Almost letter-pefect, too. His tale of Bertie at the front in WWI is entrancing. Can’t wait to see what happens. May have to lock him in a room to get the ending…


    I do something similar: if someone is reading, I peer and contort myself until I can see the cover… I also have an annoying (to him) habit: whatever the Baron is reading always looks better than what I have (even if I’ve already read his selection) so I dip into his book here and there when he puts it down. Especially if it’s something like PJ O’Rourke, who can be quite mean but still funny.

    Perhaps there should be a list of “Disappointing Authors”?

  4. A professor of Russian and Soviet history I knew years ago drove a 10+ year old car, wore glasses with black plastic frames, bought his clothing at K-Mart, and very likely had a bigger book budget than food budget. He was, true, a bachelor.

    I’ve built bookshelves down hallways exactly 1 book deep, just to hold the overflow from somewhere else. Last year a visit to Powell’s in Oregon resulted in coming dangerously close to violating FAA regulations for carry-on stuff, but we made it…and I read a 1st edition of “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” on the airliner homebound. is more dangerous to me than Spamazon, because of the “first edition” search feature.

    Books in the house I am currently reading:
    “The Tank Killers” – history of WWII US Army tank destroyer units
    “How the Irish saved civilization”
    “The battle that stopped Rome”
    “Tidal wave” by Robert Prechter (economics,alarming)
    “The case of the moth-eaten mink” (Perry Mason).

    Recently finished “Born Fighting” by Webb, about the Scots-Irish.

    I may have read portions of “Enders Game” serialized in Analog or Galaxy back when. It is one good book for boys and young men, but ultimately “Starship Troopers”, “Citizen of the Galaxy” and “Tunnel in the Sky” are more important. In fact, I argue that “Citizen” and “Troopers” are now indespensible in the era of the Jihad, for psychological and philosophical preparation, especially for those that are unchurched.

    In the Wein of von Salm, some men sang the Te Deum, some sang drinking songs, some of the Landsknechte sang “Ein Grosse Festung..”, but all were welcomed so long as they could be part of the fight. There was no place for cowards or temporizers. Geometry was taught to students on the rooftops, after we emplaced the Royals.

  5. You’ve tapped me, and so duty calls. I must prepare my answer.

    But in the first part of your post (where you describe being a bookaholic, and the fact that you read so many books at once), you pretty much described me, only so much more eloquently than I was about to do it. Can I just cut and paste that part of your answer onto my blog? It will save me an awful lot of work.

  6. Graf–

    How the Irish Saved Civilization is wonderful reading. Those solitary monks portray a side of Irish character you don’t often see.

    If you want a more optimistic view of economics I highly recommend Jude Wanniski’s How the World Works. It hasn’t dated. His optimism is like Wretchard’s — part of who he is. Also, when he’s done with you, you’ll understand supply-side economics.

    Ender’s Game is a brilliant portrayal of an elitist warrior culture and its effects, good and bad, on human beings. It is essentially male; the story could only have been written by a man. A woman can only observe, she can’t really participate.

    No one writes with a clearer eye about the family than does Orson Scott Card, but in Ender he has created a little boy who explains to us what it means to be a boy.

    “Elitist warrior culture” is not pejorative. We need them and they need us.

  7. Thanks for the tag, Dymphna. I read a kindred soul in the associated matter with your choices.

    My version will be forthcoming.

  8. I am familiar with Wanniski. Supply-side economics is somewhat useful, but Austrian economics may be more useful. However, Prechter is an Elliot Wave theorist, and the alarming part about that is how well Elliot Wave theory ties in with the research of Kondriateff, the Soviet economist who discovered a multi-generational cycle (50-75 years) in capitalist economies. This cycle has been traced back into the 18th century if memory serves. I suspect it is tied to debt, human lifespan, and cultural forgetfulness. Explaining why would take much too long. Prechter is alarming because his method of making predictions has had some success since 1980 or so; when he predicts a 1930’s level depression in the next 10 years or less, he has better credentials for being right than most.

    I’ve read “Enders Game”, just likely in pieces in the magazines. It is a bit 2-dimensional in character development. So is “Starship Troopers”, for that matter, but the introduction of a class entitled “History and Moral Principles” enabled Heinlein to inject chunks of philosophy in bite-sizes that are easy to chomp down on.

    Philosophy is important for a leader at any level. “Why fight” for a member of a squad boils down to interpersonal relations, but above that some degree of “why we are right” matters. Unhappily the spread of Marxist concepts since the 1920’s has seriously degraded the ability of many people to think well, or even at all. Seeing the world through the murky lens of “oppressors/oppressed” has led to some huge blunders in the social arena of the West, and now to strategic blunders as well.

    In memetic terms, the Marxist meme may be extremely anti-survival for a society.

    The Spanish mercenaries who came to von Salm in Wein did not have such a meme, they were of the generation that kicked the Caliphate out of Iberia; thus, they came ready to fight, not fret. This difference is important.

  9. Because World War I is so much part of discussions round here lately, you can’t go far wrong having a look at David Stevenson’s Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy.

    Not as much a military history, but an account of the reasons for the war, and the political, strategic, economic and cultural factors that kept it going.

    I would quibble with some of the author’s arguments, but, in my opinion, it’s one of the most worthwhile studies of the whole subject published in the last 20 years.

    I’m going to do a book post on my own blog when I have some time, perhaps this evening. No doubt my own list is much more lowbrow than most of what you folks are reading !

  10. I’ve read “Enders Game”… It is a bit 2-dimensional in character development.

    Nabokov he’s not. Orson Scott Card’s gift is his ability to make family relationships believable. And to bring the struggles of young boys to the printed page. That’s why I give Ender to boys — so they can know they’re not alone. Even boys who don’t (usually )read like Ender.

    Unhappily the spread of Marxist concepts since the 1920’s has seriously degraded the ability of many people to think well, or even at all.

    Well said, sir! You give me hope that perhaps socialism has within it the seeds of its own destruction. Or maybe all uptopian views do, even the dysphoric ones.

    And thanks for the info on economics theory — always welcome. I’ll look it up.

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