Book meme

Oblogation: What you’re under when someone asks you to write about something on your blog.

The problem I have with the book meme I foisted upon Chris at TIS is the scale of chain mail expansion. With each person in the meme tagging five other people, it’s not long before my entire blogging audience is consumed in memeness. I’m not even finished with my previous meme obligations.

I’m sure it’s all a plot by Amazon to spritz their flagging Google ranking.

My book reading has slowed down significantly since I became an Internet devotee, so forgive the ancient history.

Total number of books owned

In our house there are approximately 1000 books. When we lived in a 12-foot wide terrace we were quite ruthless in our book culling, so we’re probably down a couple of hundred from par.

Last book bought

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell By Susanna Clarke which I’m quite enjoying reading, but I’ve been distracted with some other projects. It’s on my bedside table, half read.

Last book read

Like Girtby, the last book I read was actually a kids book (hmm this will be a challenge for Amazon… or not) The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer.

The last book I read to myself without my lips moving (much) was Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. A feat of genius. A swashbuckling (Arr!) historical masterpiece. It only suffers from one thing — that a friend put his finger on — Neal Stephenson writes like he doesn’t know how to end a book. I’m sure he gets close to page 1000 and thinks “Oh shit, I had better kill off a Shaftoe and tie it all up so I can get my advance.”

Before reading Cryptonomicon I read Quicksilver, and before that I read Gleick’s must-read Isaac Newton biography. Astute readers will note the breadcrumbs I have been following. I have The System of the World and The Confusion sitting on the bedside table — my input queue.

Five books that mean a lot to you

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

Haldeman is an Astronomer, drafted into the US Army to serve in Vietnam. He says that even today little pieces of shrapnel work their way out of his body. Most of Haldeman’s work is best viewed through the lens of his Vietnam experience.

Forever War, like most of Haldeman’s Sci-Fi, is an anti-war story. It has been widely interpreted as a reaction to Heinlein’s glorification of war in Starship Troopers, but I doubt it. Forever war has some nice hard (for the time) Sci-Fi ideas such as fighting a war that takes hundreds or thousands of years to reach the enemy, only to discover that their technology has advanced hundreds of years beyond yours by the time you engage.

In order to cram more than my allocated 5 books into the list I put what I think the most popular Haldeman novel in the list, rather than what I consider his most interesting and though provoking — Buying Time (or The Long habit of Living as it was known in Australia). I believe it is out of print, and my copy is still on loan to someone I haven’t seen in 10 years.

Lyonesse — Suldrun’s Garden by Jack Vance

Lyonesse is a fairy tale for grown ups. An intriguing and often heart-wrenching plot. Incidental features of the trilogy include strong references to Arthurian legends (it’s set in approximately Arthurian times) and a system of magic humourously administered by language lawyer sandestins.

I was hooked on Jack Vance from the moment I read the Dying Earth books, particularly the very funny Cugel’s Saga.

It seems Jack Vance always stayed well away from public relations machinery, so not a lot was known about him, but some interesting bios have surfaced recently (e.g. here and here. The wife of another science fiction writer on my list once told me that Jack Vance’s eyesight had been failing for years and that before Lyonesse he had almost completely lost his vision. Jack used a special typewriter that one of his children modified for him, with different shaped objects glued to the keys. His wife proofreads and edits the text.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K LeGuinn

A difficult book to get into, but very rewarding. A fascinating journey into a very alien culture — Anarchism — with big picture ideas about culture and humanity. I first read The Dispossessed after finishing Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which provides interesting contrast. I read that John Quiggin was re-reading it recently.

Honourable mentions for Lathe of Heaven, and The Left Hand of Darkness.

Managing the Software Process, Watts Humphrey

This was my introduction to software process metrics, CMM and *good practice*. While it was a valuable book at the time, it is now quite dated. It was after I made fun of the strange names of the process luminaries of the day (Watts Humphrey, Grady Booch, Walker Royce) that Mr Rohan started calling me by my adopted process luminary name: Sprinter.

Object-Oriented Analysis and Design with Applications (1st Edition), Grady Booch

This book was my OO methodology bible on my first OO job. Sure it was missing any description of methodology and just headed straight in there with OOD in a kind of… YOU ARE FEELING VERY SLEEPY! YOU CAN FORGET THE OOA PART AND SKIP STRAIGHT TO THE SECTION ON OOD AS REALLY THIS IDEA OF OOA IS KINDA BORING AND UNNECESSARY ANYWAY. OOD’S WHERE THE KOOL KIDS HANG! ALSO HAVE YOU NOTICED MY COMPANY SELLS C++ COMPONENT LIBRARIES AND A CLOUD DRAWING APPLICATION?… Anyway, for our project we stole Ivar Jacobson’s use cases, some Firesmith and then patched it all up with some Rumbaugh and called it Booch Methodology.

Nothing scares defense people like software documented with pictures of clouds. Particularly when you show clouds inside and *outside* of subsystem boxes. Defense people want the smoke to remain *inside* the boxes, or even better, for there to not be any smoke at all.

But I digress. Let’s just say I agree with the reviewer who titled their review “[4 out of 5 stars] Overrated somewhat dated book of great historical importance.”

Runners up: The Bible, some Shakespeare (even better, Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human) and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tag FiveTwo people

In what’s left unmemed in my hemisphere of the blogosphere I tag:

3 thoughts on “Book meme”

  1. One of the two reasons that Sureka and I moved out of our flat into a house was that we ran out of wall space to put bookshelves against…

  2. Future plans for our house include turning one of our rooms into something we can call a library without having to suspend disbelief.

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