15 Books

Recently, I completed a meme on Facebook called '15 Books'. The idea was to write a list of fifteen books I'd read that have always stuck with me. So I wrote the list - and enjoyed doing so - and decided to pad out my list a bit cos, you know - it's revolutionary stuff that needs to be documented!

This, in case you need to be informed, is a completely self-indulgent post and your attention is not required - it's mostly so when I'm very, very old I'll have something to read.

(sorry, i haven't quite finished this.. but I will soon. right after I fix the poxy spacing - but right now I have to brush my hair and go out I have to finish my sandwich)

  1. The Water Babies by Rev Charles Kingsley
  2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  3. The Adventures of Pooh Bear by AA Milne
  4. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
  6. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  7. Dune by Frank Herbert
  8. Salam's Lot by Stephen King
  9. Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green by Michael Wilcox
  10. How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People by Jonar C Nader
  11. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
  12. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  13. Skip Intro by Duncan McAlister and Michelangelo Capraro
  14. Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
  15. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

How do you know that? Have you been there to see? And if you had been there to see, and had seen none, that would not prove that there were none . . . And no one has a right to say that no water babies exist till they have seen no water babies existing, which is quite a different thing, mind, from not seeing water babies.

The Water Babies by Rev Charles Kingsley

I read The Water Babies by Rev Charles Kingsley on a school holiday stay with my Aunty Pat who lived in Wellington. I was about 11 years old and was so proud of myself for reading this entire chapter book. Oh yes, it has picture plates and incidental illustrations - I have it listed here first as I have stored in my memory as the first proper book I ever read, cover to cover.

Which is interesting, because it is not correct.

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?

Alice: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The first every chapter book I read - yes, it had illustrations too - was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I wasn't even at McKillop Girls College when I read Alice, so that would make me not even ten years old, reading by the light from the hall. I insisted (I think, probably insisted) the light be left on because I was (and still am) afraid of the dark. Being a naturally-born night owl, the light provided just enough illumination to read the words on the page though I avoided eye-contact with the illustrations because they were very scary. But then again, so is the book - bloody terrifying stuff. I've read Alice again a few more times since then and it's still wonderfully weird and worrying.

It was around this time I was gifted a beautiful, white bound, gold embossed copy of Peter Pan by J M Barri. I have not counted this book as part of the 15 books I'm talking about - but I just remembered it, and while I know I read the story at the time, I know I loved it as much for its covers as for the wonderful pages in between.

You can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count.

Rabbit, speaking of Christopher Robin in The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne

Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner AA Milne books have always been part of my life. I suppose my aunts had copies, I know for sure I pilfered some from my Grandparents, just to have. I used to make up music to go with Pooh's hums and sing them - I was going to say 'to myself', but let's face it, I'm sure it was louder than that. "The more it snows tiddley-pom.." It wasn't until I was in my early teens that I actually read the stories. Simply put: they make me laugh. Belly laugh. Fall off the bed, laugh. Can't finish reading Pooh Sticks to my small children because I can't stop laughing long enough to draw a breath.

Which is a shame, because I'm sure if I'd ever been able to control myself long enough to complete any of the stories, they might've liked AA Milne too.

Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thank goodness, by the time I made it to the previously-mentioned college, I could read during the light of the day. I started McKillop in March aged 11. The library was a wonderful place - not large, but comfy and new and warm. With carpet. And chairs! And shared tables for studying!! I read Big House in the Little Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder because of an English assignment and became hooked on the Wilder family's adventures on the new American frontier. Working my way through the entire series, from the Little House in the Big Woods to the Big House on the Little Prairie and beyond - only to finish, and start again.

I read a bunch of books like this at the time - including Little Women and every single Trixie Beldon mystery I could get my hands on. All this reading, sprinkled with horror and Twilight Zone comics from the local book exchange.

Lucy felt a little frightened, but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well. She looked back over her shoulder and there, between the dark tree trunks, she could see the open doorway of the wardrobe and even catch a glimpse of the empty room from which she had set out. (She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very sill thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

I was in primary school when my teacher read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us. I would have been 8 or 9 years old at the time and completely captivated by the story. So much so I read that same story 11 times over the next few years, and when I got my first paying job (vegetable stand at the side of the road) I could finally buy the complete boxed set. I still have those books, although The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe no longer holds itself together. I read each of the other stories in The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis at least a few times each. My favourite in the series was The Horse and His Boy, with Prince Caspian a very close second; my least favourite was The Magician's Nephew. I still liked it though - that Digory was such a prig.

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee;
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.

Macbeth (Act II, scene i) by William Shakespeare

Macbeth was my first Shakespearian play. I was 13 and in Form 3 when we were required to read it. I tried a few times, but got 'cock blocked' by the writing - it's strange stuff, isn't it? But I had to read the book for school - I didn't want my English teaching nun on my back because I didn't read the material! So I did decided to read it - didn't try to understand it - just read the words and let them soak into me. By a third of the way through the book I was 'getting it' and by half way, I was hooked. As soon as I'd finished, I started again, and LOVED it. I loved talking about the book in class, finding out what all that language meant, loved the way the words painted the story. I studied Hamlet the following year, but read several of the other plays for pleasure. A few years ago, I found a very old copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in a second hand store. The book had tissue-thin pages, an etching of the author on the inside page, gold embossed spine with custom initials of the owner on the cover, and inked on the inside cover, and dedication to a dear niece, and the date 1878. The golden place ribbon has fallen away, but the book is a lovely thing to hold and read.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Bene Gesserit Creed, Dune by Frank Herbert

I am not sure why my mother bought Dune by Frank Herbert. I don't know my mother well, really, but I didn't think this kind of story was her bag. Not even sure if she ever read it. But I found it and decided to give it a go. It began a very long love affair for me with very thick books. For a while there, that's how I chose what I would read: science fiction or fantasy? check; more than 2 inches thick? check. I was around 14 years old so this was quite a task for me to take on. Like Shakespeare's Macbeth, I found the first third of the book was tough until I got into the rhythm and the action started heating up. As soon as I finished the book I started again - this time, with hindsight - the first third of the book I had struggled with, made much more sense. I read other books in the series, but after Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, I didn't feel the need to continue following the House of Atreides.

Glynis Mayberry called Mabel Werts, said she was frightened, and asked if she could come over and spend the evening with her until her husband got back from Waterville. Mabel agreed with almost pitiful relief, and when she opened the door ten minutes later, Glynis was standing there stark naked, her purse over her arm, grinning with huge, ravenous incisors. Mabel had time to scream, but only once.

Salam's Lot by Stephen King

I was at the very beginning of my Stephen King hook. 15 years old and loving every scary thing I could get my hands on, this latest book didn't have a blurb on the back cover. I had read Cujo and Christine before this and so already knew I liked the author's work, but I had no idea what this story was about. I started reading Salem's Lot, and with no inkling about the plot, it unfolded before me. I absolutely loved the story and I think the unfolding had so much to do with it. I spent all my pay on his books, devouring everyone as it arrived on the bookshelves at the local stationery shop. I don't think there was a Stephen King release that I didn't own over those few years - and you know how prolific he was - it was wonderful. I was a little (understatement) upset one day to discover my mother had lent my entire collection to a friend's son to read. Needless to say, as I feared at the time, I never saw those books again.

Among other things, you will discover that yellow and blue do not make green, that the artist's primary colors, pure red, yellow and blue, do not exist and that virtually everything that has ever been written about color mixing has been inaccurate."

Blue and Yellow don't make Green by Michael Wilcox

Look, you can call me crazy, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green by Michael Wilcox changed my life. It's not a challenging book, it has lots of lovely pictures and some great ideas for techniques. But for me, it was life changing. It made me understand colour. From that day to this, it gave me the eyes to see colour in colour. To be able to recognise that a colour with more blue in it feels cool - and you might say, well duh Michelle - anyone who looks at a bluey-green is going to think it feels cool - it might remind them of a walk in the bush, or a winter's day at the beach. But what if that colour is red. Would you have ever thought red was a cool colour? or Yellow? cool, really? or what about a warm blue? nonsense, you think? This book changed my world.

Anyone who knows me might suggest I wouldn't need to read a book called How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People, and maybe I didn't because I spent most of the time just agreeing with the author Jonar C Nader. I don't have much to say about this book except, given the choice between it, and The Bible when deciding how to live my life, Nader's wins hands down. On reflection, that wasn't a very fair comment, cows of a different colour can't really be compared with apples and pears on a level playing field - but you get my drift.

Ironically, we will see [ahead in the book] that although string theory has the potential to be the most predictive theory that physicists have ever studied – a theory that has the capacity to explain the most fundamental of nature’s properties – physicists have not as yet been able to make predictions with the precision necessary to confront experimental data. Like a child who receives his or her dream gift for Christmas but can’t quite get it to works because a few pages of the instructions are missing, today’s physicists are in possession of what may well be the Holy Grail of modern science, but they can’t unleash its full predictive power until they succeed in writing the full instruction manual. Nevertheless, as we discuss in this chapter, with a bit of luck, one central feature of string theory could receive experimental verification within the next decade. And with a good deal more luck, indirect fingerprints of the theory could be confirmed at any moment.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

Physics is so very interesting and so very confounding and extremely hard to understand because the concepts fly in the very face of sense and common understandings I have of the world. Yet The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene helps shape these new and wondrous concepts so they will fit (somewhat) into my head. You don't have to read the book if you don't want to - he's made a very accessible documentary series based on the book, and it's available for free on Nova. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/ (while you're there, check out Absolute Zero - fascinating stuff!) Funnily enough, because I wasn't consider a smart kid at school, I wasn't *allowed* to study physics at school - it was Art and Typing for me (I'm not complaining, I loved art and thank god I can touch type, but I would have loved physics too)

Here all of nature was captured, labeled, arranged according to logic that seemed as timeless as if ordered by God, perhaps a God who had mislaid the original paperwork on the Creation and had requested the Field Museum staff to help Him out and keep track of it all. For my five-year-old self, who could derive rapture from a single butterfly, to walk through the Field Museum was to walk through Eden and see all that passed there.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I have bought five copies of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger but do not own a single copy. I keep giving them away to people to read. I'm pretty sure they've liked the book - I've read it a few times and love the story. I am looking forward to the movie, and will accept it for whatever it turns out to be. I won't re-read the book beforehand, but I might read it for a sixth time afterwards. It's taken me a long time to see past Henry in this book though - see past him and to Claire, his wife - for whom the book is named. I didn't like her for a long time - jealousy is such an ugly emotion, Michelle. Henry is such a lovely man. With all his faults and 'condition' he's not, I imagine, an easy man to have in one's life - but the way he is written - oh yes, I want him so much. Their love story is wonderful though - surprising and uncommon - like a dance where first one leads, then the other, no one knowing the whole story, not even at the end. Them, I mean - _we_ know the whole story because we're reading the book! This reminds me of how I feel about the movie, Last of the Mohicans - now wait, hear me out. For 20 years I've been hating Madeleine Stowe in that movie. Hated her, hated her character - why would Hawkeye love her? What did she have that he could possibly want besides the way she looked. He was raised as a Mohawk. Surrounded by practical, tough, hard working women - native women, frontier women, women who could cope in difficult, trying situations - and then here comes Cora Monro, a lady from the East. In her bustled dress and her heeled shoes and summer hat. Yes she's pretty, but I thought he was smarter than that. I don't know how many times I've watched this movie - Daniel Day Lewis running through the forest is enough to let me cope with my feelings towards Ms Monro - maybe a dozen, maybe 15 times. I watched it again last month - twice actually, because I couldn't believe what had happened. I had finally saw that Cora was every bit as tough and resourceful, independent and feisty a woman as needed to be to have a strapping young man like Nathaniel Poe's head turned. And as it is with Claire Abshire - finally - I understand.

Skip Intro: Flash Usability and Interface Design by Duncan McAlister and Michelangelo Capraro is another book that changed my life. This was the book that started me on the road to understanding the philosophy of Adobe (then, Macromedia) Flash. It went a long way to me understanding Actionscript and how to build learning modules with navigation and animation.

I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug. It was a huge brown bastard; had a body like a turd with legs and beady black eyes full of secret rat knowledge. Making a smug huffing sound, it threw itself from the table to the floor, and scuttled back into the hole in the wall where it had spent the last three months planning new ways to screw me around. I’d tried nailing wood over the gap in the wainscot, but it gnawed through it and spat the wet pieces into my shoes. After that, I spiked bait with warfarin, but the poison seemed to somehow cause it to evolve and become a super-rat. I nailed it across the eyes once with a lucky shot with the butt of my gun, but it got up again and shat in my telephone.

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

I couldn't stop reading Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis until I was done.

Take a look at the following list of numbers:, 4, 8, 5, 3, 9, 7, 6. Read them out loud. Now look away and spend twenty seconds memorizing that sequence before saying them out loud. If you speak English, you have about a 50 percent chance of remembering that sequence perfectly. If you’re Chinese, though, you’re almost certain to get it right every time. Why is that? Because as human beings we store digits in a memory loop that runs for about two seconds. We most easily memorize whatever we can say or read within that two-second span. And Chinese speakers get that list of numbers right almost every time because, unlike English, their language allows them to fit all those seven numbers into two seconds.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is the label in my brain for all of his work I've read - both online and offline - so his stories, ideas etc are all jumbled up into this compartment in my brain.

(sorry, i haven't quite finished this.. but I will soon. right after I fix the poxy spacing - but right now I have to brush my hair and go out I have to finish my sandwich)