Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig

Fifteen Books

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.

Tags: books, doctor who, history, humour, meme, prehistory, science, scotland, software development, thought

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