About a month ago, I came across an article on the Guardian, “From Alright to Zap: An A-Z of horrible words.” Excellent, I thought. I rather enjoy alphabetical lists, and horrible words are always good for either agreement or outrage. Would the perceptive author include the abomination “impactful” or the over-used “utilize”? I turned to the article with interest. After reading it, I thought the article could be more appropriately described as a reflection on how language, English in particular, changes over time. Words shift in use. Neo-logisms appear. Some of these catch on; others fall by the way. It is a helpful reminder to define terms, particularly when I’m using them in a specific and nuanced way. In fact, this article has inspired me to write an alphabet of my own, a list of words I find troublesome as I do scholarly work. My A entry will appear on Monday, and B-Z will follow on from there. Please feel free to indicate any academic jargon you think should be included in the comments.
Tag Archives: lists
My friend the Outdoor Voice recently asked for a list of my ten favourite books. Similar requests have been made by other friends via various social media at various times. This is a hard question. To make it easier, I decided to produce both a fiction and non-fiction list, thus (sneakily) doubling my choices.
These are my favourite novels. The first 9 are in alphabetical order by title (excluding “the” of course), and the tenth is my favourite book. Please note that Possession tops anything non-fictional I’ve read, so it would be my number 1 whether or not I made two lists.
- The Children of Men by P.D. James
- Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
- Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
- Killing the Shadows by Val McDermid
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
- Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
And the top of my list:
- Possession by A.S. Byatt
I sat with this list for a couple of weeks. A few books almost made it, but then were cut in favour of others. I frequently consulted my database of books I have read (records kept since July 1993) in making the list. I excluded two series from consideration: The Chronicles of Narnia and the Potter books. Both of those are favourites, but in both cases the series must be taken as a whole, not split apart. I realize that you can get Narnia all in one volume, but the order is wrong in that volume (in my humble opinion of course).
Which of your favourites are missing from my list?
I list these eight in addition to the six-that-stick other-worldly books I wrote about the other day. These are in no particular order, but are clustered as indicated by the subtitles.
Books other people recommended to me that I was pretty skeptical about:
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The Norwegian gave this book to me. I was pretty skeptical. How interesting can a book about a tiger and a boy in a boat be? If this is what you think, think again. It is really good. Try it and see.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Again, this is the Norwegian’s fault. I should just stop being skeptical of books she gives me and read them. This book won the Booker Prize in 1997. I don’t think the Booker is infallible (there are a couple of Booker-winners that I thought were duds) but I’ve usually enjoyed the winners. This one kept me glued to the pages, plus the writing is beautiful.
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. 1Mom recommended this one to me. I was slightly skeptical because of the title. But I thought I’d give it a try. I usually like the books 1Mom recommends, though we don’t always see eye-to-eye on every book. (Her theory is that this is timing. Sometimes a book comes to you at the right time. I think there’s more to it than that, but agree that timing is important.) This book blew me away for a variety of reasons, not least that it is a window on worlds I didn’t know existed.
Books other people recommended to me, no skepticism to overcome:
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. One of my math students recommended this to me. “You are religious, right? And you like computers? You would like this book.” Who can resist this recommendation?
- Room by Emma Donoghue. This was the first book 1Mom lent me. I read it pretty much in one sitting. It blew me away. Look for the resurrection in it.
Books I read because of the author, but were better than I expected:
- Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. Link this to Cutting for Stone because of the twins if you must, but this is something else entirely. Surreal. Haunting. Mind-blowing. All of these things. Fair warning: it is not The Time-Traveler’s Wife in any way, they just happen to share an author.
- Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams. I expected a nice little scifi adventure and got my mind blown. Kaboom! You should read it even if you don’t like science fiction. It is philosophical. Yes, yes it is. Mind-blowingly philosophical.
- My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Potok’s book stick in my head in general, but this one sticks out more than the others. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Some of it is the art discussion I think.
So there are my 8 books that blew my mind. Which books blow your mind?
Follow-up from the number 7:
Many of you have read my previous post about books I’m not interested in reading — in fact the post has turned out to be the most popular post I’ve published in some time, with over two hundred hits in the last couple of days. I’ve enjoyed the feedback, both in comments on the blog and on fb. I’m not actually sure that I’m open to reconsidering some of the books on that list (as the Constant Reader astutely pointed out on fb), but I’m thinking about some of them in a different way now that you have spoken. Keep speaking! Who knows what will happen.
I’m not interested in these books, even though they are all on lists of the 100 books you should really read in your lifetime. Not Interested. These are the books that I’ve gotten close enough to to get a whiff of what they are about and what they are like and decided I was not interested. I’m not even sure I’m open to your arguments about why I should want to read them. But you can try.
- Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
So tell me, why should I care about any of these?
For some reason, some book bloggers think it is the end of the year. Possibly this funny notion follows the publication of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2013 lists. Why? Why must this happen in November? It is worse than jumping the gun on Christmas (which hasn’t happened as much this year as I’ve seen happen other years). Why wish 2013 away when there are 50 days left in the year? C’mon people, the New Year is soon enough for end of year angst and lists. Mine won’t come out until then. I haven’t finished reading yet.
In other news, it is the Dark Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo. Keep typing all you writers! You can do it! I know you can!