I really shouldn't be displacing like this, but I can't resist questionaires, especially about bookies. I got this rather lovely meme from rysmiel.
3 books you use most often for reference
To be honest, I mostly use the web for reference these days. Hm.
Chambers Dictionary The best small dictionary on the market; I can't afford the full OED, and regardless, sometimes a small dictionary is what I'm after.
Hertz' Chumash Yes, I know the translation is not ideal, (KJV with the obviously Christian bits mostly Bowdlerized) and I know that Hertz' commentary spends a lot of time polemicking against approaches to Judaism I have more sympathy with than his. But there aren't that many good translations available as parallel texts, and I know my way round the Hertz, and I happen to own a copy (it was a desperately unoriginal Bat Mitzvah present...) And it has a lot of information that is hard to find elsewhere convenientely collated into one place.
The Penguin Dictionary of 20th Century Quotations (ed JM Cohen & MJ Cohen) A general, rather than a 20th century, dictionary would be more use, but again, it's a matter of what I happen to own. Actually quotations are one thing I'd rather use a book for than the web; assessing reliability online takes longer than it's usually worth.
3 books you read on "high rotation"
There's actually almost nothing I reread at all; 'high rotation' in this case is every few years, and I was hard pushed to think of three.
JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings Explaining why I love this book so much could take a whole post to itself. Suffice to say I find something new in it every time I reread it, ever since my dad read it aloud to me when I was 8.
William Horwood: Skallagrigg In a way Skallagrigg tends towards the sentimental, but it's amazingly well written, and treats fairly unusual subjects. The fact that I reread it at all shows how much it means to me.
The only other one that might have gone on this list was AS Byatt's Babel Tower; I discovered it more recently than Skallagrigg, and have therefore only read it twice so far, but I suspect I shall be coming back to it more in the future.
3 books you read for comfort
Well, see above; I get a lot of comfort from rereading familiar and beautifully written books. But to choose something different as well:
Michelle Magorian: Goodnight Mr Tom It's a children's book, but that doesn't prevent it from being well-written, complex, moving and highly readable. I love children's authors who avoid patronizing.
Edmond Rostand: Cyrano de Bergerac I always weep buckets over this one, total self-indulgence. I can't take my own troubles seriously while crying my eyes out over some fictional star-crossed lovers. And I love the language of it; knowing large chunks of the poetry by heart incresaes the comfort value! (Yes, you can all laugh at me now, I don't mind.)
Rudyard Kipling: Puck of Pook's Hill Again, hard to think of a third here. But I was brought up on Kipling and tend to return to his stuff from time to time.
3 books you really ought to read
Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo Well, Michael gave me a copy of this for my birthday, so obviously I ought to read it. But I've been holding out for a copy in French, because I'm a snob like that.
The Koran I've seen this among various people's answers to this questionnaire, so this is not an original thought. The main reason I haven't read it is not knowing how to find a translation I'm confident of; the copy I have is abridged (it was given to me by some Muslim equivalents of evangelists, yuk yuk yuk), which puts me right off.
3 books you will never read
Um, there are few books I'll never read; I'm not at all a snob about trash, and there are few books I find so bad that I can't derive some pleasure from the act of reading them. So I could only think of two.
Marquis de Sade: The 120 days of Sodom Cos I can't cope with S&M. Nuff said. I probably won't read The Story of O either.
Protocols like Mein Kampf, I considered putting on the never read, list, but ultimately decided against on the grounds that there might come a point where it feels like a necessary value of knowing the enemy.
I told you I was scraping the barrel; I really couldn't think of anything that I intend that strongly never to read. So I was being slightly facetious in picking something 'obvious' that I could be expected not to want to read.
a necessary value of knowing the enemy The section of my enemy that is that bleeping stupid? I think I'll pass.
There's a limit to how far I'm prepared to take the principle that I shouldn't judge a book by second-hand impressions. I'm fairly confident that Protocols simply rehashes a lot of stuff that has been said many times before and since (some of which I have read, at least in extract; my choice wasn't intended as general comment to the effect that I won't read anything deliberately antisemitic). I'm prepared to take the risk of being wrong in that assessment rather than waste time reading the thing.
I may at some point read Mein Kampf, on the grounds that it may not be entirely devoid of historical interest. And I'd possibly read Pugio Fideii if I happened upon a copy. At least, those come lower on the anaethema list than Protocols!
Reference books: can't think of anything other than the OED that I use all that regularly, and since I use the online version I'm not sure that counts. I do dip into the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable a fair bit, but to be honest everything else varies according to what I'm working on this time. I'm still a poor wee undergrad!
"High rotation" tends to vary. I'll reread a book several times over four years, say, and then put it aside for another four. </i>The Lord of the Rings</i> has definitely been there. Total escapism, apart from anything else (we're moving into the next category here). Patrick White's The Vivisector and Christa Wolf's Medea are probably the main ones at the mo. Just reread the latter yesterday and there is always so much more there, not to mention the thrill of reading incredible writing.
"Comfort reading": developing a tendency towards P.G. Wodehouse in moments of stress. "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome and the (separate but related) novel "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis. Fantastic comedy, never stales. Although it's probably about time I put those two away for a few years, I've been reading them to death.
My "really ought to read" list can go on and on and on. If we ignore whole subjects (history, philosophy and so forth), I suppose the ones I currently feel most guilty about are the Bible (the whole thing), Ulysses by Joyce, Tristam Shandy by Sterne. (Those last two were spur of the moment, they were both the biggest, scariest books on my second-year course.) I'm currently attempting to read Rabelais so he doesn't count any more, I suppose.
Books I will never read: I'd probably shy away from Sade and co. as well. I've read The Sadeian Woman by Angela Carter which summarised and analysed quite a bit of Sade, and that was quite scary enough. (If pushed for time, read someone's precis of the author you're avoiding - something I don't do enough, no wonder I'm so bad at deadlines.) I'd go on strike about Freudian literary critics but unfortunately they're everywhere; I think I may even have to cave in and read Freud himself sooner or later.
I just lent Paul If This is a Man, by the way. He was warned that it's not exactly light reading but is still keen; perhaps he was feeling guilty, since I asked him for something light and amusing and he lent me one of the most depressing books I've read in a while, We Who Are About To... by Joanna Russ. Levi is definitely worth it, though, and it's certainly manageable (in the sense of, er, copable).
I would have put it, not as bookies, but as bookses, my preciouss booksess, come to Ryssmiel..
Your "really ought to read" list does go on and on, because it includes a large chunk of the good stuff I've read in my life and some of the interesting but not so good.
And in re: de Sade, having dipped into it, I can say that the only thing more offputting than the content is the prose.
[ "Don't hurt me ! Don't hurt me !" "I will hurt you, mwahaha. But first I shall spend twenty pages explaining why it is right and just and moral that I should hurt you." "Can we just get on with the hurting ?" ]
Shouldn't it be booooookies to indicate desirability? No, because book doens't have an oo sound in it, despite its spelling. But infer from this that you've been reading my webpage too, which is gratifying in an embarrassingly vain way...
I currently feel most guilty about... the Bible (the whole thing) I'm not at all convinced it's worth the effort of reading the whole Bible. (Though admittedly I haven't, so I may not be in the best position to comment!) You possibly ought to read the whole Torah, though not all at once, and some of it you can justifiably skim. And the Gospels for the sake of being multicultural (are we including them under the heading of 'Bible' at this moment?)
Song of Songs and Ruth are worth it just as literature. Sections of some of the prophets at least. (Cue for pseudomonas to say Nach! in despising tones.) But things like Ezra, Daniel, Chronicles, Proverbs, Judges and the deservedly obscure bits of the prophets are quite missable.
"developing a tendency towards P.G. Wodehouse in moments of stress." Careful with those; they're rather like eating too many of your favourite sweets. After 5 or 6 in a row, you start feeling a bit bloated and ill and slightly irritable. I have just about every book he's written but I have to pace myself with them.
I am NOT about to succumb to LJ, by the way, I'm just trying to keep myself awake until it's time to toddle off to the scratch Mozart Requiem. (If I have any voice left, yesterday A and I spent the whole afternoon singing and then went to the scratch Monteverdi Vespers. Renaissance Singers are a lovely bunch, by the way; I've decided I'm still not healthy enough to do a choir this year, but hopefully A will get in, he got on with them very well.)
Hello everyone, by the way.
Rysmiel, have you read Levi? I think it's in The Drowned and the Saved (an analysis of Auschwitz, brilliant and grim reading), when he talks about how some ex-Nazis read his books and wrote to him. One particularly nasty one sent a gushing epistle in which he boasted about having, oh rats' tails, I can't remember, some Jewish text or other on his bookshelf. (Look-what-a-good-boy-am-I sort of thing.) Levi wrote back that he had Mein Kampf on his.
I'd probably read anything if I had to, but some would not be nice going. As you said, know your enemy, but I think there is also a responsibility to keep an open mind. By which I do NOT mean that I support Hitler and co., I mean that refusing to know anything about the ideas you are rejecting is the start of bigotry and/or self-righteousness.
I am NOT about to succumb to LJ, by the way I will refrain from citing you numerous examples of people who started off commenting anonymously and expressed very similar sentiments! But hey, I appreciate having your input even if you're not in fact going to succumb.
refusing to know anything about the ideas you are rejecting is the start of bigotry and/or self-righteousness. This is a very good point.
I admit, I'd understood know your enemy in a different sense, a sort of Machiavellian, you need to know them to know their weaknesses so that you know how to defeat them. That's what I was thinking when I commented, jokingly, that anyone who reads Protocols is too stupid to be worth bothering with.
But yes, if we're talking about a moral obligation to attempt to understand someone, even if they are an enemy, that's a different question altogether. And the enemy's stupidity has very little bearing on that.
My mother bought me a boxed set edition of The Lord of The Rings for my 9th birthday and I've read it every year since. I've been having some interesting discussions with a friend of mine about the ways in which the movies are differing from the book. Since he's an effects editor for ILM with a degree in film, the conversation has been most intriguing.
My choice of comfort books tends to vary, depending mainly on whether school is in session or not. Daniel Pinkwater is always on the list, as are George Orwell and Jack Vance. E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, and C.S. Lewis are for when I'm seriously depressed and in dire need of cheering.
Would this be a good time for me to once again pimp [u]Bridge of Birds[/u] by Barry Hughart? :)
Interesting choices indeed! I don't know Pinkwater at all and have only vaguely heard of Jack Vance. But definitely yay for Nesbit and Eager.
Which CS Lewis? The Narnia books were spoilt for me by a really dreadful teacher who insisted on unpicking the Christian allegory to the point where I completely lost the fun of the story. And I've not read that much of Lewis' adult stuff; I've always found him hard going.
You must be a very exceptional person if you find comfort in George Orwell! He's undoubtedly good, but it's hard to regard him as other than depressing.
Would this be a good time for me to once again pimp [u]Bridge of Birds[/u] by Barry Hughart? Duly added to the reading list. Recommendations always appreciated!