Stout, Marsh, Dahl, and me

books cats

Ben tagged me! And a fun game of tag it is, too. It’s my turn to address the following list of book-related categories. At the end, I’ll tag some people to go next.

I’ll preface this by saying that although we own hundreds of books (maybe thousands — they line our living room, fill our nightstands, and overflow from boxes in the basement), and I love having them for reference and occasional brief forays, I’m basically pretty limited in my reading preferences. I’ll go through waves of reading one particular author or genre (see “A Book That I’m Currently Reading”), but unless something fairly specific sets me off on a new road (a recommendation from a friend, for example, or a profile in The New Yorker), it’s hard to get me to try something new. For example, I doubt very much that you could ever convince me to read popular fiction. I don’t like much fiction at all — unless it’s written by a very small group of authors whom I adore. I much prefer nonfiction, on any of a variety of subjects.

On to the list…

A Book That Changed My Life
None that I can think of.

A Book That I’ve Read More Than Once

Interestingly, although I claim to not like much fiction, the books that come to mind here are almost all … fiction.

I could keep going a long time here — once I find something I like, I read it and reread it and reread it. I’ve been reading voraciously since I was 5, and my son is following suit, which is great fun.

A Book I’d Want On A Desert Island

The complete works of William Shakespeare. It’s really long and really beautiful, and memorizing plays would give me something to do.

A Book That Made Me Giddy

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when I reached the page where Hagrid says, “Harry, you’re a wizard.”

A Book That I Wish Were Written

Not a clue.

A Book That Made Me Sob

None that I can think of. I don’t read that sort of book, for the same reason that I don’t go to movies with sad endings. I read and watch films to be entertained, not to be brought down.

A Book That I Wish Were Never Written

Ben took mine: The Bible. Unproven words, written by an anonymous group of people years after the events in question, which have fueled hundreds of years of bloodshed and intolerance. No thanks.

A Book That I’m Currently Reading

The Mask of Nostradamus by James Randi. I’ve never known anything about Nostradamus’s “predictions,” and I decided to read this after greatly enjoying Randi’s The Faith Healers and Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions. (Like I said, I get interested in a topic, and I read a lot about it.)

And, on audio CD in the kitchen, Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh.

A Book I’ve Been Meaning To Read

None that I can think of. I come across references to books and decide to read them. Or I pick up something around the house and read (or re-read) that. I don’t have a mental book back-list.

Now: My turn! I tag BluJewel, Bruno, Laura, Over the Hill, and Tim, thereby covering two states and three continents. 🙂


13 responses to “Stout, Marsh, Dahl, and me

  1. I’ve got to take umbrage with you two picking the bible to never have been written. I’m as secular and brutally despising of organized religion as they come, however, you need to look at the bible from its purely oral history roots, the traditions it has preserved, the history it has kept illumined. As with all things it is in the interpretation where the wrongdoing lies.

    That having been said I wish it had still been written, just not read quite as much.

  2. I can see and appreciate your point about the Bible as oral history. I just have trouble separating the historical part of the book from its larger role in representing hundreds of years of religious intolerance. But you’re right about the problem being in the interpretation. And I suppose that if the Bible hadn’t been written, some other similar book would have been, promoting another prophet and leading to just as much violence — we do, after all, also have the Koran, the Torah, and many other religious works. After more thought, my choice in that category appears to have been a gut response arising from my atheism and not an appropriate literary answer. I’ll leave it, though, because it was my original response, and I’m interested to see if anyone else comments on it. Offhand, I can’t think of anything else I wish hadn’t been written.

  3. I’m not religious at all, still I find that the Bible is one of the greatest literary works that has ever been written. Most of our proverbs come from the Bible. In constrast with the first comment, I wish it had been read more, not at random as is done now, but back to back.
    We have these door-to-door preachers that claim they know the Bible. They have a child citing complete passages. Unfortunately, when they come at my door, they don’t know I can cite complete passages from the Bible too.
    Most people are annoyed when they don’t succeed in getting these people to leave. I, on the other hand, call their bluff. When I quote
    These preachers can’t leave fast enough because they don’t want their children to be corrupted by the many contradictions in the Bible, certainly not when I put the stories in their historical perspective, and, for instance, explain why David wasn’t allowed to build a temple, whereas God had no problem with King Solomon building his (there is proof that part of the message of God to King Solomon was forged and antidated).
    In the end, it’s all politics. Knowing the Bible is one of the best weapons against religious madness. Or why do you think catholics have forbidden common people to read the Bible for hundreds of years?

  4. The Bible plays such a part in our culture precisely because it was the prime religious book. If it hadn’t been, we would probably never have heard of it, despite its supposed “historical” value and supposed literary value. Instead, other books would be as ingrained in our consciousness, perhaps to far better effect. (Do you read the Bhagavadgita or the Buddhist Sutras?)

    I agree that it is pointless to blame a book when the damage is done by the people who read the book. Whether they misinterpret it or not isn’t the point. The point is the harm they do.

    The Bible exists and we cannot not “uncreate” it, much as we might wish we could and day-dream about doing so. We are stuck with it. Our labour now is to oppose all those foolish and culpable people who use it as an excuse to perpetrate abuses against their fellows.


    PS Like you, Tiffany, I am an atheist (if you hadn’t guessed from the foregoing) and will be posting something about this on my blog in the near future. I just have to write it first 🙂

  5. I was practically writing another book here just now, so I’ve decided that I might as well write a new entry about Me and the Bible. 🙂

  6. I’m baffled as why quoting Ecclesiastes would cause anyone to run. It’s one of my favorite books of the Bible because it shows the other side of the author’s life (generally accepted, depending on who you talk to, to be Solomon) when compared with Proverbs. Proverbs is simplistic, pie-in-the-sky sound bites, supposedly written by Solomon early in his life. Ecclesiastes is clearly written by “The Teacher” at a late stage of life.

    Both perspectives are interesting and valid. Both speak to people with lessons and wisdom that are hard to dispute. Both say things that, if you’re not at that stage of life, seem to make no sense at all. Maybe it says something about me that I prefer the cynical, I’ve-been-there-so-don’t-screw-up-like-I-did advice of Ecclesiastes to the I’m-the-wisest-man-on-the-planet-so-listen-to-what-I-have-to-say (some would say “youthful and arrogant”) tone of Proverbs.

    When I teach Ecclesiastes in Bible Study, it typically takes about eight weeks to get through it all. It’s dense, deep, thoughtful writing, and says a lot of things that Christians need to hear as much (or more) than anyone else.

    As for me, I’m still working on my “Atheism as a Meme” entry that I’ve been composing for the last 3 weeks. 😀 – Tim

  7. BTW, the class I teach is 10th, 11th, and 12th grade High School students. – Tim

  8. Tim: >>working on my “Atheism as a Meme” entry >>

    Having now looked up “meme” on Wikipedia, and still not really understanding it, I’ll look forward to reading your entry.

    All: Currently wondering if anyone noticed all the books in this post that I DO read, in addition to the one that I don’t…

  9. Comment on the books you DO read? Where’s the fun in that? 😀

    In fact, I can imagine why you’re surprised at very strong reaction to categorizing the most widely published document in the history of mankind as “wish it had never been written.” That’s not to say that your frustration about the violence and intolerance that the Bible has spawned is unwarranted.

    For me though, it’s rather like looking at the Civil War and saying “if only the people of the North had been more tolerant” (and yes, I know that simplifying the Civil War to being only about slavery is EXTREME simplification). Powerful ideas lead to strong emotions which lead to extreme actions. Sometimes, killing and death are the actions. On the other hand, this morning’s news has a bit about a bunch of people at Southeast Christian Church (in Louisville) building houses for victims of Katrina. If faith is what drives these people to do selfless actions, should we cast that aside too?

    WRT memes…

    From Dr. Blakemore’s site:

    “Memes are habits, skills, songs, stories, or any other kind of information that is copied from person to person. Memes, like genes, are replicators. That is, they are information that is copied with variation and selection. Because only some of the variants survive, memes (and hence human cultures) evolve. Memes are copied by imitation, teaching and other methods, and they compete for space in our memories and for the chance to be copied again.”

    In short, she (and Dawkins) note that Christianity is a meme, and a highly addictive/replicative one. It has all the earmarks of a highly refined virus, and they call it as such. I don’t dispute its “meme-ness” in the least.

    What they fail to note (at least publicly) is that Atheism is a meme too, where the benefit/payoff is the satisfaction of knowing/feeling that, unlike those [insert stock insulting label for people of faith here], the Atheist is not so easily fooled, and therefore smarter/wiser. They make a value judgement that Christianity is a destructive meme. I make the value judgement that Atheism is also destructive, and does so by frequently closing the mind of its hosts in a similar (but opposite) way to the way the Christian meme frequently does.

    Like most of my diatribes, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to pseudo-intellectuals suggesting that anyone person of faith is delusional or behaving illogically, generally as a result of them seeing one person of faith acting this way, and lumping everyone else into the same group.

    OK… I’ll shut up now. After all, this isn’t my blog! 😀 – Tim

    P.S. I’m working on my response to the Tag too, but have been too busy writing comments on other people’s blogs. Hmm…

  10. Doh!

    “In fact, I can imagine…”

    In fact, I CAN’T imagine…

  11. >>I can’t imagine why you’re surprised at very strong reaction to categorizing the most widely published document in the history of mankind as “wish it had never been written.” >>

    But I AM surprised. It truly didn’t occur to me that that item on my list would get any more notice than the rest. Instead, I was hoping to encourage some people to read something by James Randi or Rex Stout. 🙂

  12. Pingback: the Bible and me « more than the sum of my parts

  13. Pingback: Books, Books, and More Books « A Fool and his Words are Soon Parted

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