One book that changed your life:
Honestly, the Bible — and if you want to hear more about that, let me know — but on a less macro level, it’s a tie. Both Michael Fleisher’s Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Heroes, Volume 1: Batman and David Gerrold’s The World Of Star Trek examine, in different ways, the effects of details on a serial work. (Kind of like a Bible commentary, come to think of it….) I devoured both at an early age, when my brain was eager to make sense of all sorts of things. With the combination of Gerrold’s intellectualism and the Fleisher book’s nitpicking, in hindsight it was inevitable I’d be on a site like this talking about these books.
One book you’ve read more than once:
The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe. Man, I love this book, from its epic sweep to its use of language and its undeniable wit. I probably read it every other year, and it never loses any of its power.
One book you would want on a desert island:
I’m probably cheating by counting The Lord of the Rings as one book, but that’s how it was written, right? (The Hobbit would be pushing it, and The Silmarillion would be right out.) Please forgive the nerdiness of this choice. It’s dense enough to withstand multiple readings and back-to-front analyses, so it’d keep me busy whiile I fought off polar bears and looked for that stupid hatch….
One book that made you laugh:
Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In, by John “Joe Bob Briggs” Bloom. I feel certain that most folks reading this are familiar with Joe Bob’s particular brand of redneck criticism, but it was never as potent as in this first book. Blending B-movie reviews with satire, a lurid personal life, and people who just didn’t get the joke, Joe Bob showed that sometimes all you want to know is the amount of boobs, blood, and twitching dead bodies. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but it’s worth the search just for the Terminator review. Tom says check it out.
One book that made you cry:
Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s a sappy story, but at the same time Hillenbrand tells it with convincing vigor. Even the high points carry with them the creeping dread of tragedy just around the corner. Those tragic parts didn’t make me misty, though — it was the end. Knowing that the players endured so much, and achieved so much, and feeling their joys and pains, I was sorry to see them just fade away. At the same time, I was glad to have shared, however indirectly, in their amazing stories.
One book you wish you had written:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. Actually, I want to write the Silver Age account of K&C’s lives. Chabon did such a great job fitting their stories to the arc of the Golden Age, I was waiting for the return of the Flash and the birth of the Fantastic Four to breathe new life into their comics careers.
One book you wish had never been written:
I’m not really a hater, so this was not an easy as you’d think. I guess it would be The Bridges Of Madison County, by Robert James Waller. Had it never been written, I would never have been tempted to read it, in a so-bad-it-must-be-good mindset. Actually, this booby prize should probably go to its wretched follow-up, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, which I was sure had to be so bad, etc. No, it was just bad.
One book you are currently reading:
Thunderball, by Ian Fleming. To prepare for every new Bond film, I watch all the existing ones in order; but since Casino Royale is the last Fleming book to be “officially” adapted, I decided to re-read all the Fleming novels (and short story collections) as well. Thunderball is also a kind of nexus of literary and filmed Bond, being (I think) the last book published before the movies hit.
One book you have been meaning to read:
For about ten years I’ve been meaning to finish Godel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It’s a meditation on (probably grossly oversimplifying this) repetitive structures and how they relate to Bach fugues, Escher drawings, computers, and Lewis Carroll. Maybe next vacation, if The Right Stuff doesn’t tempt me first.