Total number of books owned:
Somewhere between three and four thousand, of which perhaps half are accessible on shelves. Probably a quarter of those could be got rid of, and should be.
Last book bought:
Paperback of The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, because I wanted to read it and couldn’t find the hardcover I bought last year. (Which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the organization of our books.)
Last book read:
The Clan Corporate by Charles Stross. Book 3 of “The Merchant Princes”, due out sometime in 2006.
Five books that mean a lot to you:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. No apologies for this one. Read at 11, it was my first experience of being overwhelmed by a book. To the bogglement of more sensible people, I continue to claim that Tolkien has more in common with the High Moderns than he does with his fellow Inklings or his latter-day imitators. (Conservative critic of industrialism, check; irascible combination of humanism and prejudice, check; traumatized by World War I, check; poured life-force into immense secondary creation built around reworked archaic forms, check.)
The Haunted Fifties by I. F. Stone. The original blogger—self-appointed, nosy, and irrepressible—writing at the height of the Cold War and the peak of his own gifts.
The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell. Now, I believe, superseded as the definitive Orwell text, this four-volume set was salted peanuts to me in my teens, providing a model of clarity, broadmindedness, and (that underrated virtue) productivity to aspire to. Yes, I know the extent to which Orwell’s “plainspoken” persona was itself an artistic creation. And an impressive one, too.
All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, Jr. The definitive history of 1940s science-fiction fandom. Like all great memoirs of bohemian culture, it achieves its best effects by narrating outre events in prose dry enough to light a match. Everyone entering science fiction fandom, in any year, should start by reading this.
The “Aubrey-Maturin” books of Patrick O’Brian (Master and Commander, Post Captain, H.M.S. Surprise, and seventeen further volumes). Really, a single multi-volume historical novel, providing—magisterially—seventy to eighty percent of everything I’ve ever wanted out of good SF.
Tag five people to continue this meme: