Log in

No account? Create an account
Gavin Greig [userpic]

Fifteen Books

August 12th, 2009 (09:30 pm)
current location: KY16 8SX

Lifted from huskyteer, the 15 Books meme. List "15 books you've read that will always stick with you"; not necessarily the best, just the ones that stick with you, and you only have 15 minutes. There doesn't seem to be a requirement for an explanation, but I've given one anyway. (I wrote my list first, then the explanations, so not breaking the time stipulation!)

The Last Battle — C.S. Lewis
I devoured the Narnia books when I was about seven years old, and I remember reading in bed one night and turning the page to be confronted with Pauline Baynes' picture of Tash running through the woods. Frightened into tears.
The Lord of the Rings — J.R.R. Tolkien
Building on the impression made by the Narnia books and The Hobbit, this is the book that probably permanently settled my interest in reading fantasy.
Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules — Steve McConnell
A recipe book of how to do software development effectively. Oh for the opportunity. It predates - and therefore doesn't deal with - Agile development practices, but that doesn't reduce the worthiness of what it does cover.
Modern C++ Design — Andrei Alexandrescu
An eye-opener on meta-programming and policy-based design, describing the early development of the Loki library. Possibly worth reading as a mental exercise even if you don't write C++.
Design Patterns — Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software - Gamma, Helm, Johnson, Vlissides
Not quite as much of a ground-breaker as it seemed at the time, as the number of books that have followed in its wake it has been limited. Very important in starting to give developers a language for discussing common designs though.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen — Alan Garner
British legends leaking through into a modern(ish) setting, with a real sense of peril. Also some cracking English dialect and a distinct sense of place. Must be very weird to live near Alderley Edge and read these books.
The Moon of Gomrath — Alan Garner
Same setting, same core characters, many of the same qualities, but quite a different book. That difference earns Alan Garner two places on this list.
The First Hundred Thousand — Ian Hay
Cosy, patronising Scots humour - written at the time one by one of Kitchener's volunteers, a contemporary of and collaborator with P.G. Wodehouse. A much gentler Blackadder IV.
Wee Macgreegor — J.J. Bell
Definitely kailyard, but the first writing I came across that used vernacular Scots (for the dialogue only).
Most Secret War — R.V. Jones
British scientific intelligence during the Second World War. I only later discovered that the author was a Professor of Physics at Aberdeen University, and lived until 1997. My Sixth Year Studies project in Physics at school was to build a seismograph of his design.
Remembrance of the Daleks — Ben Aaronovitch
The best Target novelisation of a Doctor Who story, written by the script writer, who was a fan. It contained quite a bit we didn't see on screen, including a glimpse inside the mind of Arnie the Special Weapons Dalek.
The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams
Funniest book on the planet in the early 80s. Pratchett has surpassed Adams, to my mind, because he doesn't have Adams' slightly bitter streak - but that shouldn't be allowed to take away from Adams' achievement.
The ModelMaker's Handbook — Albert Jackson & David Day
"An illustrated manual of over 1,000 techniques for making all types of models, miniatures and dioramas." I haven't counted them to be sure the blurb's right, but I bought this in a second-hand bookshop for £4.50 when I was a student, and it contained a lot of useful tips that really helped to maintain my interest in painting and modelling.
The Symbol Stones of Scotland — Anthony Jackson
I've no idea how this book is regarded historically, it could be complete bunk. When I read it, though, I thought it was a really interesting analysis of Pictish symbol stones, where they were found, and what their meaning could be. The book's theory is that they're territorial markers, with the pairs of symbols representing marriage alliances. It makes predictions as to where stones with the missing combinations of symbols might be found in future, which is quite interesting...
The River And The Road — Peter James Goodwin
An Englishman drops out of university in the 1970s, and joins Scots travellers in the dying days of fishing for pearls in Scottish rivers. Fascinating book about a way of life that most of us know nothing about, and which is only recently gone. Since 1998 it's been illegal to fish for pearls in Scottish rivers, due to over-fishing; the traditional fishers in the book are already extremely concerned about opportunistic fishers killing mussels indiscriminately in search of pearls, rather than looking for tells on the shell.

Didn't quite make the cut: The Hobbit, various Jennings, Just William, the Saint, Biggles, Jeeves and Wooster, The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham, and so on, most of them because it would have been hard to pick one from a whole series that I enjoyed. The Hobbit was actually on the list from early on, but I had to remove it to make space for the last three, all of which I wanted to include.


Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: August 13th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)
Don Quixote

I also didn't have strong enough memories of one particular book to pick a Biggles, Saint or Wodehouse. Dr No made the cut because it was the first Bond I read, and Midwich Cuckoos because it scared the pants off me in a way the Triffids hadn't.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 13th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)
Saint George

The Kraken Wakes was the first Wyndham book I read, so it wins even though it has pretty strong similarities with The Day of the Triffids.

For some reason, for years after reading it a mental image stuck with me of the beasties marching up the floor of the English Channel. Having recently re-read it, I don't know where I got that from, as it's not in the book. Definitely memorable though.

I see your Don Qixote on a horse and raise you a Saint George on a tank. :-)

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: August 13th, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)

1. JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: read to me as a bed-time story by my father.
2. Omar Khayyam/Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubaiyat: another early introduction by my father, pre-school. Imprinted on my consciousness.
3. Ouida, Under 2 Flags: Victorian romantic adventure – I fell in love with the heroine when I was about 13 and 'came out' to myself at least.
4. William Gaunt, The Æsthetic Adventure: I nicked it from Dad when I was an adolescent. It introduced me to Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Huysmans, and – above all – the divine Aubrey. My weakness for handsome, consumptive æsthetes started here.
5. Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda: swashbuckling adventure, but more going on beneath the surface. Is the narrator reliable? Ruritania remains a favourite mental playground of mine.
6. Dorothy Broster, The Flight of the Heron: the Gary-Stu Jacobite hero annoyed the hell out of me, but oh! the young officer…!
7. Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris: a heartbreakingly tormented and self-destructive intellectual as hero and Gothic architecture – what more could one want?
8. Steven Runciman, History of the Crusades: hopelessly out of date, and now annoys me deeply because of its inaccuracies and novelistic flourishes, but it was my first real introduction to a subject and characters I love.
9. Anthony Bonner, Songs of the Troubadours: an 18th birthday present from my parents, my first book on the subject, which, via its footnotes, introduced me to…
10. Works of Ezra Pound: OK, as a man, he was an odious Fascist sympathiser; as a poet, sheer bloody genius, especially in his use of troubadour themes and motifs. (When he drags his insufferable politics into his work, he just becomes unreadable.)
11. Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars: mediæval Latin poetry – my constant companion through many tribulations.
12. M John Harrison, In Viriconium: fantasy with an 1890s flavour, responsible for my love-affair with vintage fur in homage to the tragic heroine (whom Tilda Swinton ought to play!).
13. Somhairle MacGill-Eain, Spring Tide and Neap Tide: brilliant, world-class 20C Gaelic poetry that always runs through my head. I was also lucky enough to meet and talk to him more than once.
14. François Villon, Œuvres: another of my essential poets – 15C Parisian scholar, burglar, gangster, pimp – in the gutter and looking at the stars.
15. Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita: political satire/brilliantly touching and hilarious fantasy – I now cannot see a black cat without imagining it smoking cigars or swinging from a chandelier firing a pistol…

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: August 14th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Unicorn Lady

My main Pauline Baynes/Narnia related memory is falling in love with Jadis. I found the battle-scene in which she is being mauled by Aslan quite traumatic, and my h/c complex kicked in. I was about 8 or so.

4 Read Comments