NYT By The Book Tag

So I came across another questionnaire/tag (originating post here) that seemed interesting and still like something I could just type away on without much editing or need for photos. With deadlines and stuff looming every which way I look, that is a definite bonus. Also, it’s about books, that’s always good.

What book is on your nightstand now?

My nightstand also houses my shamefully huge to-read pile, but the books actually in progress right now are:

  • The Arabian Nights (Husain Haddawy translation)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien – Unfinished Tales (re-read)
  • Hugh Soar et al. – Secrets of The English War Bow

Sadly, I haven’t been making any progress in the Arabian Nights forever, thanks to so many good comics coming out all the time, and good series to watch, and Tolkien to re-read. But such is to be expected when reading too many books at the same time.

What was the last truly great book that you read?

  • Neil Gaiman – The Ocean At the End of the Lane
  • Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie – The Wicked + The Divine

Neil is always ridiculously good, and Ocean is peak Neil. So. Good.

WicDiv is a comic, but what the hell, comics are books, too. I pondered which volume specifically qualifies for truly great but it’s really all of them. Go get it, it’s amazing!

If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

That’s a tough one because alternatives. I’d love to have tea and general chit-chat with Neal Gaiman, of course. Well, the kind of chit-chat two blokes who practically wear nothing but black clothes would have anyway.

Tolkien is fairly obvious as well, and I’d want to hear his ideas on the nature of myth.

Finally, I’ll sneak Mike Mignola in here, who I’d love to grill about art and maybe doodle a bit together. But he totally qualifies as a writer because he writes the Hellboy stories, and co-writes all the Mignolaverse titles like B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, and Witchfinder.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Hmm, I wear the stuff I like pretty much on my sleeve, so I don’t know how many surprises there might be. I have a big compendium on mens fashion, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (might be surprising to some, given that I’m not much a fan of ‘real’ literature, but Hemingway can write), and Susan Greenfield’s You and Me – The Neuroscience of Identity, which is a horrible train wreck of a treatise, with lousy arguments and extra foam around the mouth.

Maybe some would be surprised to see Cara Ellison’s Embed With Games on my shelf and Hope Nicholson’s (Ed.) The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, but they are both pretty damn good. Also, Hope and Cara are both cool so you should buy their books.

How do you organize your personal library?

Right now, mostly by the principle of wherever some space is available, because I’m running out of shelf space. Comics have their own shelf, manga have their own shelf, philosophy has its own shelf, there’s a few overflowing shelves of art books, and some shelves roughly divided between fiction and nonfiction, but I can’t afford separating by original version vs translation because of space.

I really need a separate shelf for archery books because they’re usurping so much space on the nonfiction shelf.

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

You mean besides my shamefully tall to-read pile? I still haven’t even started on Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mauser stories besides them being right down my alley. There still are some Lovecraft stories I haven’t read yet. I haven’t read The Once Future King yet.

I’m not really embarrassed about any of them, though, because I read other cool stuff in the mean time. I know I’m woefully under-read when it comes to classics and high literature, but that doesn’t cause me any headaches.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

All the way through school I felt I ought to like what everyone was wearing their nose oh-so-high about, but there’s only so many inconsequential stories about dull people doing boring things in their uninspiring world I can take.

Especially towards the end of school, I rarely finished books we were supposed to read because omg, even more of that stuff, but am usually pretty diligent about finishing books. (The ones I read of my own volition, at least)

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I have a real soft spot for pulp stories and ‘genre fiction’. (A bit of a stupid term, because literary fiction is a genre as well. One i steer clear of, incidentally.)

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

The president of what? (Sorry, I could not resist.)

In general, I’d probably choose Mircea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane, or Friedrich Schleiermacher’s On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, because they are both really good at putting things in perspective – and not by introducing something much worse than what we previously thought was bad, but by being really concise and enlightening on what meaning in the world really is and how it works.

The best book in that regard would of course be Edmund Husserl’s Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy (Vol I: General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology), but no-one would read that if I gave it to them.

And Discworld.

What do you plan to read next?

Oh, anything to make that to-read pile smaller.