Doing the Meme Thing

September 18, 2009

Let me get this out of the way first: you should not tag me with memes. I’ll only do the ones I find interesting anyway, and I’ll take my own sweet time doing them. Of course it’s pretty optimistic on my part to think anyone would consider tagging me, but now I’ve got the official disclaimer, just in case.

Now that’s out of the way, the meme was to think of 15 books in 15 minutes that “will always stick with you.” Officially I think you were supposed to list your favorites first, but I’m not doing that. I didn’t cheat, didn’t look at any bookshelves or websites or anything, it was strictly from memory. I didn’t use a stopwatch but I think I came up with most of them pretty quickly. So let’s go to the scoreboard:

Desolation Road, Ian McDonald

The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander

The Final Encyclopedia, Gordon R. Dickson

The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Hayao Miyazaki

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card

Dune, Frank Herbert

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Nation, Terry Pratchett

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein

The Rise of Endymion, Dan Simmons

But we can’t just list them without comments, can we? Desolation Road was the second book I read by Ian McDonald, but it was the one that really blew me away with his unique ideas and writing style. The Book of Three could be a stand-in for Alexander’s whole Chronicles of Prydain, but it was the first of the series and the one that got me interested in that world. Nausicaa is a manga, but that hasn’t stopped Nausicaa the character from becoming one of my all-time favorites. To Kill a Mockingbird seems a bit obvious, and maybe the movie is influencing me a bit, but I also didn’t want the list to be all SciFi/Fantasy. I picked The Hobbit over Lord of the Rings not because I think it’s better, but because it “sticks with me” more according to the meme. The Hobbit has more of a sense of fun, where LotR just has a sense of impending doom, so I think that’s why The Hobbit came to mind first. Along the same lines, most people wouldn’t say Speaker for the Dead or Rise of Endymion are the best books by those authors (especially Simmons), but the themes in those books resonated more for me than Ender’s Game or Hyperion, respectively. Nation is the most recent book on the list, so maybe it benefits from being fresh in my mind, but I think it fits in pretty well. I guess I’ll have to do this exercise again in a few years to see how it holds up.

If you were counting, you may have noticed that’s only 14 books. I spent most of the time trying to decide what should be #15, but since nothing really stood out I felt like I had to just stop at 14.

Books I considered for #15:

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

The Doomsday Book, Connie Willis

Only Begotten Daughter, James Morrow

The Elfstones of Shannara, Terry Brooks

When I finally did start looking at my bookshelves and such, I also came up with

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

Battle Angel Alita (series), Yukito Kishiro

Phantom Tollbooth probably would have joined that group that was just out of the top 15. Battle Angel Alita seems too long to call one story, and no single volume stands out enough to make it.

But then I thought of one more book that really could make the cut: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. When I was a kid I was a big fan of Baum’s whole Oz series, and I suspect that influenced me in favor of SciFi and Fantasy later on. I still have good memories of reading those books. I need to get new copies since I don’t seem to have them now. The kids today can have their Harry Potter, I’ll take my Dorothy Gale every time.


One more book just occurred to me as I was writing this. Something you probably haven’t heard of:

There’s a Marmot on the Telephone by Joe Van Wormer

Joe Van Wormer wrote a number of books featuring his wildlife photography, discussing the characteristics of the animals in his pictures and the photographic techniques he was using. Marmot is a little bit different in that it tells the story of a marmot that he and his family kept as a pet. If you were to read it, I’d like to think you’d find it entertaining, but probably not mind-blowing. What sets it apart for me is that Joe Van Wormer was my grandfather, and one of the people in the books is my mother when she was a teenager. To have that little piece of family history preserved like that is just the coolest thing you can imagine. If any book could be said to “stick with me” it would be that.


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