Saturday, April 03, 2010

15 Things About Me and Books

Yes, it's the old meme. I got reminded of it by the Pegasus Librarian. By the way, she links to a few other people who have done it if you are curious. Anyhow, this seems like a nice reflective exercise, and since I have not been blogging in a while, which could be a topic for another post, I going to use it as a way to get back on track.

So, here goes:

  1. One of the earliest books I remember receiving as a gift was a copy of Fábulas de Iriarte. It was a children's edition. "Fábulas" is the Spanish word for "fable." It was basically a collection of fables; it was illustrated and very colorful. A gift from one of my aunts.
  2. I read The Illiad as a child; I don't think I was in my teens yet. Basically my mother suggested it since she noticed I liked classical mythology a lot. I had been reading Hamilton's Mythology around that time. That copy of The Illiad was in Spanish translation.
  3. My mother was a big fan of Agatha Christie. She would read them in Spanish translation. The editions were published by Editorial Molino (Spanish Wikipedia entry; I could not find an English version), and they were pretty affordable paperbacks. The publishing house was known for publishing many famous popular authors. To this day, some of their editions are big collectibles. Anyhow, mom had a lot of those Agatha Christie editions, and seeing them on the shelf is one of my memories of her. For her, getting a new Christie mystery was a favorite gift. I remember when she finally read Curtain, the novel that deals with Hercule Poirot's last case. She was not happy at all about the ending. I have read a few Agatha Christie novels, in part because I wanted to know what it was appealed so much to my mother. I personally like those featuring Hercule Poirot the most.
  4. Going back to that edition of The Illiad, it was part of a collection of literary classics my parents acquired over time. I don't know how many folks out there recall this, but there were days when you could get encyclopedia sets, so on one volume at a time at your grocery store (or other retailers). My parents bought volumes of some literary classics set. I wish I could remember the publisher, but they were a pretty good quality hardcover set. It had stuff like The Illiad, The Brothers Karamazov, Becquer's Rimas y Leyendas (Rhymes and Legends), so on. These were in Spanish. I got my first exposure to classic literature from those books that my parents bought, in large measure because my mother believed her three boys should have books, including good classics, in the house. Unfortunately, due to various moves over time, the collection was eventually lost.
  5. I did not read a lot of comics as a kid. In fact, I really came to discover and enjoy comics and graphic novels as an adult. This is now one of my favorite reading formats. I also enjoy reading manga and related formats.
  6. I usually have at least three books going at any given time. It boils down to one nonfiction book, a fiction book, and a graphic novel or manga. This can vary somewhat, but that is the basic pattern. One variation is if I am reading something in Spanish, in which case I could have two novels, for instance: one in English and one in Spanish. I do it so I always have something to read based on my mood.
  7. I am a firm believer in dropping any book that does not catch my interest. Life is too short as it is to waste it on a bad book or on a book that just does not fit my mood at the time.
  8. I reread One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish) every couple of years or so. I basically do it whenever I get the urge to go back to Macondo. I always find something new every time I read it. It never loses the wonder for me.
  9. I wish I was fluent in at least three more languages. While I am thankful that I can read stuff in translation, I wish I could read more stuff in the original. Besides, it is common knowledge the U.S. misses an awful lot of literature from around the world because of lack of translations.
  10. I have read the Bible from cover to cover. And in my case, it was the Roman Catholic edition. In other words, it has a few extra books Protestants leave out. I did this mostly so I could say I did, not out of any particular spiritual need. However, it has proven useful since now I have a pretty good sense of what the book contains.
  11. I have also read a few other sacred books. I have read parts of the Qur'an, all of the Analects of Confucius, all of the Dhammapada, parts of the Upanishads, and all of the Bhagavad Gita. I figured it would be a good idea to have a sense of what other sacred texts say. It was sort of a way to expand my horizons. Also, when it comes to the Qur'an, it is good to have a sense of what that text contains given current geopolitics. And yes, when I say the Qur'an, I mean a translation. I can't read Arabic (see #9 above).
  12. When it comes to books, I will buy books if I want to keep them, add them to my personal collection, or if they are rare, i.e. next to impossible that a library will carry them. If it is a book I just want to read once, I will try to borrow it first. The "read it once" issue usually applies to books in current events and other topics that have a short shelf life so to speak.
  13. I was forced to do a major book weed of our home collections (my wife has her own bookshelves, so does our daughter) when we moved from Indiana to Texas. At that point, I got rid of most, if not all, of the texts I had collected during graduate school. For me, that was a big break with the past. We did another one when we moved from Houston to Tyler, TX. We either donated to a public library or sold them to a used bookstore. The great loss in moving to Tyler was a set of Library of America books, which we donated to one of the public libraries in Houston. It was painful, but when you live in an apartment, you only have so much space. As a result, I am very careful what I purchase. However, I am happy to say I still have a pretty big personal library.
  14. I do not lend books from my personal library. This is specially applicable to my graphic novels. The rule is void for my wife and daughter because I know they can be trusted to return it. In fact, when it comes to my science fiction, especially short stories, my wife usually borrows them and reads them right away (in addition to any she gets on her own). Anyone else, go get your own copy. I will be happy to refer you to your nearest local library, you miscreants.
  15. One of my recent joys as a reader is that my daughter is an avid reader. It is also a joy because we now borrow books from each other once in a while.
I could probably do a couple more above 15, but let's leave it here for now.

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