book meme

June 11, 2005

in Books, Me

Aydin at Snail’s Tails passed me my first meme – the book meme. I’ve seen this circulating among a lot of blogs I read, so I thought I might get tagged sooner or later.

Total number of books I own/owned:

Every time I see this question, I wonder if there are really people that have so few books that they can go and count them. I have hundreds. In every room at home except the bathroom. More at work. And I only keep what I consider "essential" because we have a small house. Total over a lifetime? Thousands, and I’m only half-way through life.

Five books that have influenced me a lot:

  • The Bird Guide by Chester Reed.  This little book was published in 1905 and a copy was given to me when I was a little girl by an old woman who lived near a vacant lot I explored as a child. It was this humble publication that sparked my interest in birds.  I vividly remember standing at our scarred oak dining room table, perhaps 7 years old, looking at the bright painting of the Scarlet Tanager.   I didn’t believe a bird like that could be found near me, and it became my quest. I was firmly hooked on birds before I saw my first Scarlet Tanager, a species that still takes my breath away. Reed’s book is terribly crude by modern standards, but it set me down the path to my life’s work and passion.
  • Why I’m Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell. I was raised in a religious household, and as a teenager began my exploration of other views, an activity generally discouraged by my parents.  This book started me on my way and is still on my shelf. I eventually tried to look at religion from a lot of different angles, and read the Bible in its entirety, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, several other major texts and a lot of analyses. I’m a pretty well-informed atheist.
  • The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (as well as his other titles).  This was the first Dawkins book I read and offered me the elegantly crafted arguments for evolution I could use to clearly explain it to non-scientists. Dawkins is brilliant at this, of course, plus he taught me not to be apologetic for being an atheist.  Why is it so many people feel reluctant to admit it?  It would seem we should have the respect we are so strenuously expected to provide those who have religious beliefs, however far-out.
  • The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner.  A combination of things I really love in a book: evolutionary ecology, ornithological field work, an interesting tropical setting, great science, and clear writing.
  • Waiting for Fidel by Christopher Hunt.  This funny and spot-on travelogue made me curious about Cuba.  When I finally was able to visit Cuba in 2002, I found that this book, of all those I have read about this enthralling and enigmatic place, most readily captured the experience of being in Cuba. That first trip changed my life on many levels, and I thank Christopher Hunt for having influenced me to go. I’ve since been back two more times, and each time am still too overwhelmed by the complexity of the place and of my feelings to adequately write about it.

Last book I bought:

A multiple batch: Wedding of the Waters by Peter Bernstein on the opening of the Erie Canal, a hugely influencial event for my region; Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard, The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycologists by Nicholas Money because I’m always willing to learn something new; and Evolutionary Ecology of Birds, Life Histories, Mating Systems, and Extinction by Bennett and Owens because it’s my field (and I can write it off). I buy most of my books, but I swap a lot of books with a close friend. The last book she gave me was Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry.

Last book I read for the first time:

Nearly every book I read is for the first time. I never re-read fiction, and will re-read parts of non-fiction books or refer to them from time to time. I’ll amend this to…

Last new book I finished:

Dragon Hunter: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic Expeditions by Michael Novacek. It went well with the recently read The Remarkable Life of William Beebe, Explorer and Naturalist by Carol Grant Gould .

Five other bloggers to tag with this meme:

I’d like to know what these interesting people read and find influencial. Apologies to those previously tagged; I tried to search your blogs to make sure you hadn’t posted this meme.

Aydin June 12, 2005 at 9:27 pm

Thanks for putting up those book names. I have to get the Dragon Hunter & Beebe's biography. Several years ago I read his Galapagos: World's End. He seemed like an interesting character.

afarensis June 13, 2005 at 12:33 pm

Just noticed this. I got passed the book meme by Henry at Webiocosms. You can find it at:
Beak of the Finch was great. I've not read the Russell book – I'll have to check into it.

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