Books have been huge in my life. They’ve been there from the beginning of memory and ever since. The written word is vital to my world, because I have a hearing defect that often disconnects me from the spoken word. Books were never a problem, and they turn out to be such a great source of education as well as enjoyment. They provide comfort, ironically, in both escape from life and connection to it; in books we find common thought shared among human culture past and present.
Actually, it’s reading that matters. That’s why the decline of physical books doesn’t disturb me as much as it does other book-lovers. To me the text is what matters; electronic books seem to make sense in almost every regard. Physical books made of dead trees, and sometimes parts of dead animals, can be a thing of beauty; I hope they never go away entirely. But I’m ready to move to the next generation; I’m ready to “buy the White Album again” when it comes to reading material.
But look, I casually carry my entire music library around with me. Many will choose to cloud their music and download as desired. Who wouldn’t want instant access to their entire library (or the Library of Congress, for that matter).
Here’s a list of my favorites; the ones I re-read:
Science fiction (and fantasy) are a giant fraction of my fiction. I’ve been a fan a long time. Large areas of science fiction are both formative and normative for me. It helped make me who I am by discussing things that—in part—define me.
The list below is a work in progress.
It’ll fill down from the top over time as I refine it. A lot of top favorites get listed first, but after that the order is not really significant.
- Terry Pratchett, Discworld series: my top favorite most tasty SF of all time.
- Larry Niven, Ringworld, many others; major favorite!
- Roger Zelazny, wide variety, Amber series, comedy SF.
- Jack L. Chalker, many series, mind swapping theme common.
- Alan Dean Foster, wide variety, many series, novelizations.
- James Blish, Star Trek novelizations, spiritual SF.
- Piers Anthony, Xanth series, and many others.
- Spider Robinson, various, Callahan’s Saloon.
- David Brin, Uplift series.
- Greg Egan, various hard science SF.
- Allen Steele, hard adventure SF.
- James Hogan, good hard SF, odd politics.
- Orson Scott Card, Ender series (and others), again good SF, odd politics.
…and of course, Isaac Asimov, Arther Clarke, Robert Heinlein,…
I also got hooked on detective (and spy!) stories at an early age. I would have loved to be a spy or a detective. (As a computer programmer I debug, which is a lot like detecting!) A few of these are as formative and normative as the science fiction ones. In particular the first:
- Robert Parker; Spenser—It’s hard to describe how profoundly Spenser’s way of looking at the world has informed my own view.
- Tony Hillerman; Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, NTP—Amazing police procedural mystery stories set among the Navajo in the southwest.
- Sara Paretsky; V.I. Warshawski—Tough, crusty lady, and not exactly a soft interior either, but she’s alright with me. I like a strong, direct woman!
- Sue Grafton; Kinsey Millhone—Got a crush on Kinsey, too. Again, strong and direct. Maybe a little more softened by conflict than V.I.?
- Ian Flemming & John Gardner; James Bond—
- Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett—The story of the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. An involving drama and much about architecture.
- Between the Bridge and the River, Craig Ferguson—A most amazing novel by the late, late night TV show host. Really cool piece of work!
Of course there’s non-fiction of various kinds. A big chunk consists of computer programming books (and earlier, electronics hardware books). I read a lot of physics and hard science books. Philosophy and theories of consciousness interest me.
- Brian Greene
- Lee Smolin
- David Chalmers
Graphic Novels (gnovels!) deserve a special section. Ever since Frank Miller and Alan Moore changed comics forever in the mid 80s, the gnovel has grown into something amazing. It’s a form of story telling between books and moving pictures.
- The Dark Knight Returns
(more to come)