I've been tagged by Kate with an irresistible meme, and I'm powerless.
1. One book that changed your life:
Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard
In a lot of ways, Dillard taught me to see. She gave me tools I use every day, and hope to use for every day I have left. Her prose is full of awe and wonder and reverence. This is my favorite of all her books.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupery
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I reread it last year, and kept reading bits of it aloud to anyone who happened by. It is the story of the early mail pilots, and the prose is simply luminous, utterly transcendent.
3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
The Oxford Book Of American Poetry
4. One book that made you laugh:
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
I've talked about this at length, both in this blog and in real life. I may have spoken about this book to my cashier at the grocery today. It's that funny. I have a copy of my own, and at least two spares ready to press into the hands of potential converts. I'll not say any more, but here's one excerpt that makes me guffaw each and every time I read it.
"Then one day I found a fat female scorpion in the wall wearing what at first glance appeared to be a pale fawn fur coat. Closer inspection proved that this strange garment was made up of a mass of tiny babies clinging to the mother's back. I was enraptured by this family, and I made up my mind to smuggle them into the house and up to my bedroom so that I might keep them and watch them grow up. With infinite care I manoeuvred the mother and family into a matchbox, and then hurried to the villa. It was rather unfortunate that just as I entered the door lunch should be served; however I placed the match box carefully on the mantelpiece in the drawing-room, so that the scorpions should get plenty of air, and made my way to the dining-room and joined the family for the meal. Dawdling over my food, feeding Roger surreptitiously under the table and listening to the family arguing, I completely forgot about my exciting new captures. At last Larry, having finished, fetched the cigarettes from the drawing-room, and lying back in his chair he put one in his mouth and picked up the matchbox he had brought. Oblivious of my impending doom I watched him interestedly as, still talking glibly, he opened the matchbox.
Now I maintain to this day that the female scorpion meant no harm. She was agitated and a trifle annoyed at being shut up in a matchbox for so long, and so she seized the first opportunity to escape. She hoisted herself out of the box with great rapidity, her babies clinging on desperately, and scuttled on to the back of Larry's hand. There, not quite certain what to do next, she paused, her sting curved up at the ready. Larry, feeling the movement of her claws, glanced down to see what it was, and from that moment things got increasingly confused.
He uttered a roar of fright that made Lugaretzia drop a plate and brought Roger out from beneath the table, barking wildly. With a flick of his hand he sent the unfortunate scorpion flying down the table, and she landed midway between Margo and Leslie, scattering babies like confetti as she thumped on the cloth. Thoroughly enraged at this treatment, the creature sped towards Leslie, her sting quivering with emotion. Leslie leapt to his feet, overturning his chair and flicked out desperately with his napkin, sending the scorpion rolling across the cloth towards Margo, who promptly let out a scream that any railway engine would have been proud to produce. Mother, completely bewildered by this sudden and rapid change from peace to chaos, put on her glasses and peered down the table to see what was causing the pandemonium, and at that moment Margo, in a vain attempt to stop the scorpion's advance, hurled a glass of water at it. The shower missed the animal completely, but successfully drenched Mother, who, not being able to stand cold water, promptly lost her breath and sat gasping at the end of the table, unable even to protest. The scorpion had now gone to ground under Leslie's plate, while her babies swarmed wildly all over the table. Roger, mystified by the panic, but determined to do his share, ran around and round the room, barking hysterically.
"It's that bloody boy again ..." bellowed Larry.
"Look out! Look out! They're coming!" screamed Margo.
"All we need is a book," roared Leslie; "don't panic, hit 'em with a book."
"What on earth's the matter with you all?" Mother kept imploring, mopping her glasses.
"It's that bloody boy ... he'll kill the lot of us ... Look at the table ... knee deep in scorpions ..."
"Quick ... quick ... do something ...Look out, look out!"
"Stop screeching and get me a book, for God's sake ... You're worse than the dog ... Shut up, Roger ..."
"By the Grace of God I wasn't bitten ..."
"Look out ... there's another one ... Quick ... quick..."
"Oh, shut up and get me a book or something ... "
"But how did the scorpions get on the table, dear?"
"That bloody boy ... Every matchbox in the house is a deathtrap ..."
"Look out, it's coming towards me ... Quick, quick, do something ..."
"Hit it with your knife ... your knife ... Go on, hit it ..."
Since no one bothered to explain things to him, Roger was under the mistaken impression that the family was being attacked, and that it was his duty to defend them. As Lugaretzia was the only stranger in the room, he came to the logical conclusion that she must be the responsible party, so he bit her on the ankle. This did not help matters very much.
By the time a certain amount of order had been restored, all the baby scorpions had hidden themselves under various plates and bits of cutlery. Eventually, after impassioned pleas on my part, backed up by Mother, Leslie's suggestion that the whole lot be slaughtered was quashed. While the family, still simmering with rage and fright, retired to the drawing-room, I spent half an hour rounding up the babies ..."
MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956
5. One book that made you cry:
...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer makes me weep buckets at the end, in a most satisfying sort of way. It's a wonderful book, following a literary club from the years following the Civil War to the 1930's. I like to tell people that I love it because nothing happens, and by that I mean it's a huge and believable slice of life. Nothing feels labored, nothing seems overdone, no coincidences stretch my credulity, and yet by the end, the life most closely followed by this book is as familiar and true as my own skin. I learned a lot about being grown-up from this book, and read it every summer for many years. I haven't read it in maybe 12 years, I think I'm due for a reread.
6. One book that you wish had been written:
One more book of Ray Carver's poems.
7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Any of the books which give people reason to believe that killing other people is the direct command of a supreme being.
8. One book you’re currently reading:
Terrors of the Table: The Curious History of Nutrition by Walter Gratzer.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. Now tag five people: If delphica, kid_lit_fan, browse, debilyn, and arrietty_clock were so inclined, I'd love to hear their answers, but would be thrilled to read anyone else's who'd like to share.