Friday, September 16, 2005

Books, Books, and More Books!

I promised myself I'd do this "book meme" thing that Aaron (Wow! You've been mentioned in two straight blogs! Aren't you proud? Aren't you??? Goochie goochie goo! Who's the big boy? Who's the big boy?!?!? Youuuu areeeee! Wheeeeeeeee!) "infected" me with about thirteen years ago. So who's ready? Memememememe!

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned:
Hmm, including school textbooks I've saved and the books I had as a child (Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and Hardy Boys books anyone?), probably about 125-150, give or take a bunch or two.

2. Last Book I Bought:
The last book I bought for personal reading was Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, which I will talk more about later. Technically, the last book I bought was for school though, and I bought a few: Plautus' Four Comedies, Machiavelli's Mandragola, and Emile Habiby's The Secret Life of Saeed.

I read "The Braggart Soldier" by Plautus, which is a play, and it was pretty humorous and witty, which surprised me as Plautus lived from 254-184 BC. I guess I just expected that people who lived that long ago didn't have senses of humor or something, because when I found myself laughing at this play, I was almost caught off guard. Of course, it is translated for a modern audience, but I was impressed at how well it adapts to a modern audience.

I haven't finished "Mandragola" yet, but I'm about halfway through it. So far, my conclusion is that even though I'm sure Machiavelli was an outstanding thinker in his time, this play just proves the fact that just because you're well learned doesn't mean you're inherently funny too. The dialogue and overall setup of the whole thing is so pretentious I can hardly keep myself from skimming through it half-heartedly. It just seems to be following the common cliche of that time involving a treacherous love story with plenty of conniving, back-stabbing, lying, and cheating. Hey, that's what "The Braggart Soldier" was about too, but at least Plautus has some wit and sarcasm in his bitingly fast-paced humor, unlike the slow crawl that is "Mandragola". But hey, I've still got 20 pages left, there's still hope. Right? RIGHT!?!?!

3. Last Book I Read:
For Fun: Small Gods. To be honest, the reason I didn't do this blog topic when I was first "infected" with it was because the last book I had read at that time was A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, and I had just written an essay about it and I didn't really like the book all that much, so I didn't feel like putting it down as being the last book I had read. I wanted to be able to mention a book that I could be proud to proclaim as being the last book I have read. And this book, my friends, is worth all the praise worthy of being called the last book I have read. For fun, that is...

For School: Heart of Darkness. I read this book once before, in my last semester at OCC. We had about a month to read it, so I happily took just about the whole month to plow through it, reading a few pages a day. That's probably why I wasn't too fond of it, because I didn't really give myself a chance to get into it. So this time, I read it in two days, and I enjoyed it much more since I knew what to expect this time and I was looking forward to getting to some of my favorite parts. Plus, my teacher only gave us a week to read it and I left it to the last two days.

Procrastination is an amazing motivator.

4. Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:

(In no particular order)

a) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett - Finally, I get to talk about this book. First, some background:

I had recently finished reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which was, at that time, probably one of the funniest novels I've ever read. I wasn't really looking to get a new book at the time, but Erica and I went to a Barnes and Noble anyway. As we stepped in, I remember just letting the book store floor plan do with me what it would, and it took me straight to the science fiction section. Looking for nothing in particular, I was looking at various titles of books, seeing if anything struck my interest. After about 5 seconds, I saw a picture of a turtle on the spine of a book. My reptilian instincts kicked in, and I was immediately drawn to it. I picked it out, and looked at it. It boasted a picture of a smirking turtle with a black eyepatch over one eye, and it was entitled, Small Gods.

As you can see from my previous blog, I will buy anything with a turtle on it. If someone manufactured a Scratch N' Sniff that smelled like week old underwear, marinated in sewage-covered roadkill droppings, but there was a picture of a turtle on it, I'd buy it in a second.

Back to the story. At this time, I had no idea who Terry Pratchett was. I had no idea he was a British writer similar to Douglas Adams, with quite a reputation and an entire ever-growing series of books. So the turtle intrigued me. Now it was time for the book to win me over with its content. As we walked through the store, I read the first few pages, laughing out loud more than once, reading select parts to Erica to gauge her reaction to make sure it wasn't just me being partial to its humor due to the fact that there was a turtle on the cover. And sure enough, she laughed too. I think she sensed that if she didn't put in a good laugh for the book, we'd be there all day trying to decide if I should get it or not. So I decided to take a chance and buy it, and let me tell $7 I've ever spent.

I really can't do this book justice with a short and/or concise plot summary, because I'd be leaving so much out. Lets just say that I've never laughed so much or so hard at any book in my life, ever. And it's not just funny in certain parts either. It is hilarious throughout the entire book; there's never a dull moment.

My favorite character (of course!) is the turtle, who happens to be the great god Om, who accidentally manifests himself into the form of a turtle, and is then too weak to change himself back into a more prestigious creature to inspire his believers. So he's forced to see the world through the eyes of a turtle for three years, until he meets a young yet rather dense worker who believes in him, and the story expands from there, and I won't go any further into it because it's such a fun story that I wouldn't want to spoil it for any potential readers.

Om is the funniest character in the book. For anyone who has seen the show Family Guy, think of Stewie the baby, take his biting sarcasm and wit, remove his swearing and sexual innuendo, place him into the feeble and slow body of a turtle, and increase his comic capability by about 300%, and you have the great god Om.

I could go on and on about this book, and I hope some of you go and read it, especially if you like/love/appreciate turtles and their behavior and mannerisms, as some of the funniest parts are playing off of the fact that this once-powerful god is now shamefully imprisoned in this pathetically weak turtle's body, and the frustration that emanates from these situations is laugh out loud funny.

I have to say it is one of my top three favorite books, if not my favorite. I'll have to read it another time probably before it can claim that prestigious spot.

b) Sphere by Michael Crichton - I promise the rest of my book explanations won't be that long. I first read Sphere back in middle school I think, probably around 6th grade. I have since read it 5 times, and it has been my favorite book for a long time now. It basically got me starting to read other Michael Crichton books and exploring the fiction/science fiction genres. I like Michael Crichton's other books, and I want to read State of Fear when it comes out in paperback, but Sphere's incredibly fascinating story still stays strong in my memory after all these years.

(By the way, don't ever watch the movie version of Sphere. It is horrible. I fell asleep.)

c) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams - These first two books in the Hitchhiker's Guide series opened my eyes to great British authors who can write a fun and interesting story while keeping good-quality humor a constant and ever-present force in the novel. Ever since reading Big Trouble by Dave Barry, I was of the impression that most humorous novels have some funny parts scattered throughout the book, but having something funny on every page, oftentimes more than once a page, just was too much to ask for and didn't happen. And I was disappointed with Dave Barry, as I love his columns and other non-fictional books which are mostly his columns in book version, with some original exceptions, like his famous guides to guys, travel, and so on. But his novel just didn't cut it in the humor department.

Enter Britain. Enter writers such as Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and I'm sure many others whom I have not heard of yet. Douglas Adams made me realize that humor can happen on every page, and Terry Pratchett accentuated that fact by making me laugh even harder on every page. Yes, the first two Hitchhiker's books are hilarious, but I personally am of the opinion that Small Gods beats them both in terms of overall hilarity. But it's a very close call, mind you.

d) Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis - Why not the trilogy? That Hideous Strength just took too long to develop for my tastes. After what seemed like 200-300 pages, they're still slowly building up to the climax, which admittedly, is a fun read, but the trip to get there just was too drawn out for me. But the first two books are fictional/fantasy masterpieces, filled with wonder and exploration and action and fun. I really enjoyed reading them, and I'm sure most everyone has read them at one time or another, so a long explanation isn't needed.

e) The Impatient Turtle by Janette Oke - Yeah, so what? I'm obsessed. I admit it. This was one of my favorite books to read when I was a kid, and was probably part of the reason why I love turtles so much now. It's one of the few books from my childhood that I insist on keeping in the house while almost all of my other childhood books are stashed away in the garage. To be honest, I haven't read it all the way through in a while, so I don't remember the story too well, I just have fond memories of it as a child. And turtles rock.

f) Honorable Mention: Dean Koontz, and pretty much any book he's ever written. I've read probably at least 15 of his novels, and I've enjoyed every single one. He's a fantastic storyteller who usually has some kind of a positive moral at the end of his stories, even though some horrific things can happen to his characters along the way. But the reason he isn't up on the list is because it's 2:30 AM and I don't feel like trying to remember which book of his is my favorite, but it didn't feel right to leave him completely out. So here's to you, Mr. Koontz.

5. People I Will Infect With This Meme:
I don't think it's necessary to infect anyone else on purpose at least. If reading this blog inspires someone to do one of their own to try and make theirs longer than mine or something, then go ahead. Be my guest. And be sure to stop by your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. The power of Om compels you!

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