Books, books and more books

I've been tagged by Rachael to write about the books in my life. It's the first time I've been tagged in blogland for anything and I'm surprisingly excited. I had thought that I might feel about this tagging phenomena (is it called a meme?) a bit like how I feel about chain letters and the like, which I really don't like at all. Something to do with the superstition and sense of obligation that often seems to be associated with chain letters, eg if you don't do x y or z, catastrophe such as (insert dire example) will happen to you. Maybe it is the passing on, as in tagging, that I'm not so sure about, but we'll get to that later. Anyhow onto the books.

I love books and have been a voracious reader ever since I can remember. Even when I am really busy, I always have a novel on the go and often read over breakfast. These days, I buy most of my books from the local Brotherhood of St Lawrence opshop. When I'm done, I can either give them back or pass them on to someone else to read. That said, I wish I'd kept a few books I got rid of in the last big purge.

A book that changed my life. At first I couldn't think of any, then my mind was flooded with possibilities. Firstly I thought of all the feminist, history and social theory texts I read at uni. Then I thought of the gardening and cooking books that have changed the way I do things. And then the idea books. All very cool. But the book that changed my life the most, was decidedly uncool and daggy, in that self help kind of way. I'm talking about that bestseller with the yellow cover, Feeling Good by David D Burns. I was compelled to read another book on cognitive behaviour therapy by the doctor who treated me during my meltdown in the mid nineties, but Feeling Good which follows much the same method is the one I keep handy, just in case. Sure, I needed drugs and counselling during the meltdown but CBT helped change my thinking in a way that meant that I could stop being so ruled by my moods and overall, be happy. It also contains the Beck Depression Inventory which is handy whenever the black dog starts sniffing around. If I consistently give myself a score of more than 30, for longer than a week or two, I know that a) I'm depressed enough to be checking the book and b)it's probably time to consider getting some help.

A book I've read more than once. There are many, they are like old friends. Some that come to mind immediately; The Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. For lovers of utopian science fiction, with a feminist twist. The middle books such as Thendara House are my favourites. I would love to see a long running quality TV series based on these books.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood. I love the opening of this book, as the women whisper their names across the old gymnasium... Must get another copy and reread again. Another favourite, The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace is a beautifully told but somewhat savage, coming of age story set in a stoneworkers village as the age of metal dawns. I could go on and on... so many books fit this criteria.

A book I'd like with me if stuck on a desert island. It would have to be something very practical, if I was allowed only one. A survival manual; with sections on finding water, plant and animal identification, constructing shelter and building a raft perhaps. So I could stay alive and go home to read proper books in comfort.

A book that made me laugh. I don't laugh out loud when reading. But I did find Mad about the Boy by Maggie Alderson pretty funny. It's got a gay husband, a love affair with a gym bunny private detective, organised crime, shabby chic style, a funny uncle and a mummy with a happy ending. Perfect holiday reading.

A book that made me cry. Seven little Australians by Ethel Turner. The chapter after Judy is crushed by the tree, saving the general (her little brother). She's too young to die. I also cried reading Feather Crowns by Bobbie Anne Mason. I kept wanting the little quintuplets to live, but I knew they wouldn't. I also cried reading A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. Apparently this is a modern retelling of King Lear, but I thought it was about families and sickness and loss. I was sad before I read this book and it spoke to me quite deeply of loss at the time.

A book I wish had been written. After the birth and death of our son in 2002, I ached for some sort of art that would speak to me of how people mourned these sort of losses, because I had no idea. I read and reread The Tentative Pregnancy by Barbara Katz Rothman, which contained personal stories and was useful to a point, but I wanted literature and art. Sometimes I wonder whether I could write such a book, but I don't know whether I can go back into those feelings for long enough. So I kind of understand why there's not much to read in this vein.

A book I wish had never been written. Can't think of one. Books are good no matter how bad. Although I am sure that there are some out there that are so evil and vile that they should have stayed as unformed thoughts in their author's head.

A book I've been meaning to read. Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flannagan. G gave me a beautiful hardback copy of this book several years ago for my birthday. I got stuck after the first chapter. Must try again as I have heard good reports and I should occasionally read some more challenging literature. Because I know I will enjoy it once I make the effort. And of course there is a teetering pile of books, waiting to be read, beside my bed. Which I love. Oh the possibility!

A book I'm currently reading. The Hinterlands by Robert Morgan. I stumbled on this author when I bought Gap Creek (recommended) from the opshop because it had the Oprah book club sticker on it. So much to like, history, living off the land (a favourite genre of mine), idiomatic language, big themes. The first story in The Hinterlands had me reading every spare moment, especially the bit where the protagonist gives birth alone in a small cabin on a winter's night in the middle of the wilderness and a panther is trying to come through the chimney. She fends him off by burning all the furniture. And gives birth. And has dinner ready when her husband returns. And there is more but I'm not telling.

So who am I going to tag? This is the bit I feel a little hesitant about, but here goes... I tag Alina (who last week sent me the coolest photo, but you'll have to go here to see it. Go on, you know you want to. Thanks Alina!) and I tag Penni whose books I wish to read one day soon. But seriously ladies, if you don't want to do this bookish meme, don't, I will not be in the least offended. You may even tell me off for bugging you. I have to say, it took me a while, but I have had keyboard issues (now fixed) due to a certain little someone and their sticky mitts. However once I got cracking, I really quite enjoyed it.



Penni said...

Thanks for tagging me, it was very exciting. I enjoyed reading your answers too. I haven't read Gould's Book of Fish, though I mean to one day. I actually find Richard Flanagan a bit hard going - I want to like it more than I actually do. He's Tasmanian, so of course I like that and I met him at the pub once and found him very personable (it was around the time that Helen Demidenko won the Miles Franklin)...but yes. I think I am incompatible with him as a reader or something.

Rachel said...

I'm just getting back up to speed after vacation. I'm glad you took up the challenge. I was shy about asking people. I'm glad I asked you. Your answers were fascinating. The only book I've read on your list is the Handmaid's Tale. This is a really cool way to find about new books. Feeling Good intrigues me.

Ann Marie Mitchell said...

I am reading Richard Flanagan's book "The unknown terrorist."
This book is dark, but so liberating in outlook and subject matter - a beautiful voice in these horrible times.
R.Flanagan's characters are so real - I know them.... Yet, I haven't come across such familiar and real characters in such twisted and seemingly contrived contexts. Such horrific contexts are reality for many peoples though.... it's a hard fact. The paranoid state that I can see many of us have to live in ffrom time to time if not ongoing...... is painted like a photograph. Well done to the author is what I say....good on you fella...... something of worth to me anyhow. Check out this book...... it should be on every school syllabus.