Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Stinkypaw asked: What do you like to read?
We've already discussed that the first book I remember asking my mom to buy for me was a Star Trek book, but actually the first book I remember reading was a clever tale of a boy and his android companion called The Runaway Robot, by Lester DelRay. We ordered it from the Scholastic Book Club, and I reread it numerous times over my life. The original fell apart about 10 years ago, but shortly after I got married I went to the oracle of commercialism, e-Bay, and found a hard cover copy that I now own. The COTA has shown little interest in it, but I feel better for still having it. I read it again not too long ago, and though simplistic it is still a very fun read.
Between Star Trek and The Runaway Robot my enjoyment of hard-core Science Fiction was set. The term does not refer to space pr0n, but rather the genre of Science Fiction(you will never see me use the obnoxious abbreviation sci-fi)that sticks as close as possible to scientific probability. Of course, as we learn more about the universe such things change, sometimes drastically, but then it becomes very interesting to see what the common scientific assumptions were way back when. The first really hard-core books I read were Issac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. I had been intimidated by the reputation of Asimov, but when I finally picked up the book I found it remarkably easy to read. It was also interesting from the point of view that in the 50's, when he wrote the series, atomic energy was 'the new thing' and Asimov envisioned it powering everything from starships to wrist watches. When I was in 6th grade I remember reading H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds. The nineteenth century prose threw me for a while(who knew that the word ejaculate could be used in polite company) but Wells had a way with words that is sheer mastery. I have also always been fascinated by vampires and ghosts, so naturally Anne Rice's vampire books are faves. The odd thing about Ms. Rice, to me anyway, is that whenever I've tried to read her non-vampire related books, she just seems long winded and boring. The Mayfair Witches series, for example. It took me nearly a year to read the first book, and when the second ended with enough finality that I felt no need to read the third I was greatly relieved. Another master of the horror genre, and who also writes brilliant Science Fiction, is Dan Simmons. His book Carrion Comfort is the only book I've ever read that had a scene in it that made me put the book down and walk away from it for a while. And his Hyperion series is a Science Fiction classic. One author whom I discovered later in life is Robert Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land is rightfully one of Science Fiction's 'must reads', but in my opinion so are his Friday and Time Enough For Love.
My forays into the world of Non-Fiction are fewer. I am an unashamed escapist, so I tend toward books that transport me somewhere else. But when I do stick to the 'real' world I like books that either make fun of it, or help me understand it better. Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time does a wonderful job of making the arcane world of quantum phenomena somewhat more understandable to the mathematically challenged like yours truly, and is actually fun to read. Books like Imponderables and The Physics of Star Trek help to answer the myriad of questions that float about our highly technical, yet almost wholly misunderstood world. And then there are the humorists. Dave Barry being at the apex, with Scott Adams a very close second. Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes will always bring a smile, as will Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury.
I have read very few of 'the classics', I'm afraid. I read Catcher in the Rye for the first time a couple of years ago, and I think you are right, Monkey. (I think it was you who said this) If I had read it as a teenager I might have gotten more out of it. I enjoyed it, but found myself wondering at the following it has. I also tried to read Moby Dick not too long ago, but it meanders so much that I lost interest. I intend to try again, though. As for classic American literature, I mostly find it dry and boring. I guess I'm something of a snob, although I do my best not to disparage such genres, but if there aren't robots or vampires I tend to lose interest. I am, however, always open to suggestions, and will usually give any book a chance. I've even tried to read some biographies. Last Christmas I asked for, and received, Niel Armstrong's biography First Man. Unfortunately either I'm ill equipped for the style in which such books are written, or the author is not very good at his job. The thing reads like a text book, and I barely made it to Neil's high school graduation before I found myself putting longer and longer gaps between reading sessions. I eventually gave up with no small disappointment.
Some notable omissions to my preferred authors are Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and most Fantasy authors. I have tried to read several of King's books, including Christine, The Stand, and It, and have yet to finish one. I agonized over this for many years when it finally hit me like a lightning bolt: I don't have to like Stephen King. It was the same with Bradbury. I read Fahrenheit 451 in the 7th grade, and while I liked the premise, I didn't care for the book. Then in High School I took a class on Science Fiction where we studied, in depth, Fahrenheit 451.(the teacher was a Bradbury fanatic) I liked it even less the second time around, and analyzing every page was agony. What I eventually realized was that while King and Bradbury are marvellous at creating well-told stories, I cannot stomach their writing styles. As for the Fantasy genre, I have read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy a few times, as well as some of the Xanth books, and attempted to read the interminable Shannara series by Terry Brooks, but they usually are so poorly written, or such absolute rip-offs of Tolkien that I get quickly disgusted and put the book down. One notable exception is the Noble Dead series by Barb and J.C. Hendee, which combines a well written world of swords and sorcery with vampires and other undead nasties. We are thoroughly enjoying that series.
Wow. This was just supposed to be a short intro before a list of authors. I guess I made the coffee a little stronger than usual this morning. I hope this wasn't too boring, and I'd love to hear your favorite books/authors.