Thursday, June 16, 2005

Book Meme

Ken tagged me with this one, so here goes:

Total number of books I own/owned:
Around 3000. This includes the books Jordan owned when we got married and merged our book collections (hey, we both work in publishing--free books are pretty much the only perk). However, I've never been able to fully unleash all of my books onto shelves due to a lack of space in NYC apartments. Hopefully our upcoming move to Austin will solve that dilemma.

Five books that had a big influence on me:

1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
What more can I say? This is the most rewarding and challenging and enjoyable thing I have ever read.

2. U and I by Nicholson Baker
I picked this up the summer after my junior year of high school (mainly because I'd just read Vox) and it was so compelling that I wanted to read the guys he talked about: John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov.

3. Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
Everytime I think that I am having a hard time or struggling in my day-to-day life, I try to think of this book and the way it truly defines what survival means. One of the happier moments in the book is when Levi has been transported to a concentration camp in Denmark (maybe Finland?) and it's bitter cold, he's wearing only rags and wooden shoes that don't fit and he and another prisoner discover some raw potatoes behind the shed where they're working and he's sincerely excited. This is not your life, friend.

4. Hitchcock's Films Revisited by Robin Wood
This is the first book that I ever worked on professionally and truly loved. Wood is the world's preeminent Hitchcock scholar--mainly because he does not try to distance himself from his critical and personal reactions to the films. He talks about his political beliefs in the same breath as his experiences as a gay man and somehow this all makes Hitchcock's films seem more alive and vital.

5. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
I had trouble deciding on a fifth book, but I'm going with Wittgenstein because so much of this book helped form the way I think about the relationship between language, problems, and logical arguments. Sein und Zeit is probably more fun to debate, but I ultimately don't believe that Heidegger's ideas are as fruitful or nuanced as Wittgenstein's (or maybe Heidegger is too nuanced and Wittgenstein is more straightforward, depending on your perspective).

Last book I bought:

Mapquest Road Atlas 2006
Like I said, we're moving to Austin, TX, in three weeks and I'm driving the truck down there myself. Since we don't have a car in NYC, I needed one of these.

Last book I read for the first time:
Vanishing Point by Richard J. Tofel
Great story about a NY State Supreme Court Justice who vanished in 1930. I love histories of New York and I learned a lot about Tammany Hall from this one. It's due back at the library tomorrow.

Five others to tag:

I don't even know five people. Don't feel obligated to respond but I'd be interested in hearing what Brian Kiteley and Stephen Schenkenberg had to say.


hillary said...

Good choice with U & I. I will still put that passage about the hamburger up against almost anything, prose-wise, especially food writing. It really captures a lot of things (the pleasure of a good burger and the desire to get things for free and the shame of being witnessed in both because one seems both gluttonous and cheap). And, yes, it made me want to read Updike too, also I think my junior or senior year in high school.

ken said...

Now, that's what I'm talking about. It's high time I read some Primo Levi.

mattbucher said...

I spent some lonely nights in McDonalds by myself with a book and felt a real kinship with Baker (I even read William James there like he did).

You owe it to yourself to read Survival in Auschwitz (or Reawakening--the sequel--wherein Levi is released from the camp in Poland and then sets out _walking_ back to Italy).

hillary said...

Hee. I've got it too, and have been meaning to get around to it. It's not like it's intimidatingly long.

mbrawner said...

That post ruled. Thanks for that, Matt.