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Member: Rule42

CollectionsYour library (86), Anthony Burgess (30), Jeffery Deaver (8), E. M. Forster / W. Somerset Maugham (6), Graham Greene (4), Howard Jacobson (5), John le Carré (6), David Lodge (8), John Mortimer (17), George Orwell / Aldous Huxley (10), Evelyn Waugh (7), Donald E. Westlake (30), History (16), History of Science (21), Philosophy (13), Shakespeare Bios & Shakespeareana (20), Currently reading (10), Read but unowned (1), All collections (284)

Reviews2 reviews

Tagshumor (38), wit (23), satire (17), philosophy (16), social satire (16), Norton 'Great Discoveries' series (12), Shakespeare biography (Stratfordian) (10), British history (9), farce (7), intellectual biography (6) — see all tags

MediaBook (284), Paper Book (283), Ebook (1)

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About me*** See random book selections from my LT catalogued library ***
.
________________________________ ~ ________________________________

Read this and weep!

In 2007 the National Education Association commissioned a survey titled "Reading at Risk" and learned that 57% of Americans had not read a single book in a year, and that the average American reads only five books a year!

So is it that those 57% of Americans (over 160,000,000 people!) simply don't want to read, or that they can't read? Does it even matter? Because as Mark Twain supposedly once said, "the man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."

What makes that 57% statistic truly scary is the subsequent realization that many of the 43% of Americans that did manage to crack open a book in 2007 only read a Dan Brown or Harry Potter novel ... or "If I Did It" by O.J. Simpson!
________________________________ ~ ________________________________

Video Links

What are you reading for?
Experiences Down The Mine
Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star
Playing Beethoven the way it should be played
Atheist Spirituality
A Thousand Years of Darkness
A Stick in the Mud
Force Majeure
Is that a fact?
Dorian Gray né Harry Webb
Who Done It?
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My Secret Angst

Alan Harper (having a nervous breakdown in a book store): "Life's too damn short. I'll never have enough time to read all the great classics I've always wanted to read."

Charlie Harper (trying to placate his neurotic brother): "Well ... perhaps if you put a few books by the toilet and read one every couple of weeks you'll be able knock a whole bunch off."

Alan Harper (sliding despairingly to the floor): "No, no, no ... don't you see? It's too late. There just aren't enough bowel movements left!"

- Classic scene from the American sitcom Two and a Half Men
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Cheese and Onions

"This is terrible," she said. "Such bloody clumsiness." She breathed on him (though a young lady should not eat, because of the known redolence of onions, onions) onions. "I'd like a bit of cheese now," she crunched. "Have you any Black Diamond cheddar? Not too fresh, if that's possible. I like it a bit hard."

"Would you also like," he asked humbly, "some very strong tea? We do a very good line in that."

"It must be really strong, though. I'm glad there's something you do a very good line in. These lines are a bloody disgrace. And you call yourself a poet."

"I didn't - I never -" But she smiled when she said it.

- Just one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite novels.
________________________________ ~ ________________________________

Books most recently read include:





________________________________ ~ ________________________________

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved and, next to Nature, Art:
I warm'd both hands before the fire of life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.


Walter Savage Landor
________________________________ ~ ________________________________

My Favorite Authors:

To kick things off, here are a few Kurt Vonnegut quotes (because IMHO he is soooo damn quotable!) ...

- "Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?"
- "Educating a beautiful woman is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch. Everything stops."
- "True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."
- "Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia."
- "Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."


Since the few books I have bothered to catalogue on LT are just an arbitrary random selection of what I own and read (NOT necessarily the same thing!) I probably should state here who my favorite authors are, as much as I really hate the concept of compiling some kind of Rule42 "Hall of Fame" of English literature / pulp fiction.

My main reading interests lie in the area of humor, philosophy and political / psychological sociology (which might just be a fancy way of saying "the human condition"). Consequently, Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorite authors since he is a master of satire and the very sorry state of the human condition. As was Mark Twain before him, another of my venerated "hall-of-famers". However, you won't find many, if any, of the works of either of these two personal literary favorites catalogued here because I had them all catalogued elsewhere long before LT came into existence.

I have read, and own multiple copies (mostly signed leatherbound and first trade editions) of, everything Vonnegut has published and I am an avid collector of his works - mostly because he is eminently collectible. Unlike Vonnegut, first editions of Mark Twain are a little out of my price range, but back in 1996 I invested in The Oxford Mark Twain, which is a 29-volume series that reproduced facsimile copies of the first editions of each of the 29 works of Twain that were published during his own lifetime. This was probably one of the smartest purchases of reading material I have ever made, and I am now happily committed to similarly reading everything Mr. Clements wrote in the heavily illustrated format that it was originally published by the author.

One of the things that initially attracted me to this series (other than the wonderful facsimile reproductions of the original illustrations) was the fact that the introductions and afterwords in each of these volumes were written by a whole slew of my favorite authors - viz. Kurt Vonnegut, Malcolm Bradbury, E.L.Doctorow, Walter Mosley, Gore Vidal, Arthur Miller, Erica Jong and Ursula K. LeGuin, to name just a few of the 58 literary notables featured in this series paying their own homage to the father of modern American literature.

There are probably only a handful of other writers to whom I am committed to reading almost everything they penned. One is Douglas Adams (and because of his scant output, I unfortunately polished off his entire roster quite some time ago) and another is P.G. Wodehouse (and due to his extraordinarily prolific output, I fortunately still have quite a ways to go yet in order to similarly consume his whole canon). Anthony Burgess, Philip Roth, Evelyn Waugh, Donald Westlake, Walter Mosley and James Lee Burke would be six other authors whose work I avidly collect, read and periodically re-read.

Outside of the specific names listed under the "favorite authors" section at the end of this profile, some of the other writers that I most admire and enthusiastically read and collect are (in no particular order): Marshall McLuhan, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, John Fowles, John MacDonald, Scott Turow, Joseph Heller, John Irving, John Updike, John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, Georges Simenon, Janwillem van de Wetering, Josephine Tey, Umberto Eco, Gore Vidal, Christopher Brookmyre, Paul Theroux, Margaret Atwood, Tom Wolfe, Val McDermid, Angus Wilson, Kingsley Amis, Daphne du Maurier, William Golding, Colin Wilson and John LeCarre. Of the older school, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Hardy have always been long-standing favorites of mine.

The criteria I used to determine whether one of my favorite authors was identified in the above list (rather than in the "favorite authors" section) was that I must own, have read - and here's the kicker, have thoroughly enjoyed! - the equivalent of at least 6 full-length works by an author, poet or playwright before I identify them in that latter section. In most cases I own way more than 6 works by all of the writers mentioned above (plus other writers that get no mention here) but in the case of those listed that don't make the "favorite authors" section I just haven't got around to reading enough of their works yet.

One of my "pet peeves" WRT the habits of other LT members is that I hate it when someone indiscriminately adds virtually every author they've come across into the "favorite authors" section of their profile, thereby making nonsense of the term "favorite" while also screwing up the LT "shared favorites" feature! In order to keep my own list of "favorite authors" suitably trim I realize that over time I will have to raise that threshold of 6; while also fully appreciating that my criterion will increasingly discriminate against authors with a relatively small canon of work (such as Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Adams or Jane Austen).

________________________________ ~ ________________________________

Books I am currently reading include:





________________________________ ~ ________________________________

My Reading Habits:

The guiding principle here is probably best expressed by a Franz Kafka quote: I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us ... We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.

Perhaps that is a little way melodramatic and typically Kafkaesque, but his plea that we should never allow ourselves to become far too comfortable and familiar in our choices of what we read is a very sagacious one. IMO someone that has read only 8 total works but by very different authors is much better read than someone that has consumed 80 titles by the same single genre author such as Agatha Christie - or P.G.Wodehouse to change the example to one of my own favorite restricted genre authors.

Consequently, in addition to being a completist WRT my own personal enthusiasms I also try and keep my reading material as broad as it is deep by regularly cycling in as many of the classics or you-really-should-read authors as I feel I can handle.

I usually have a dozen or more books "on the go" at all times. That way, if my engagement with one slackens, rather than simply abandoning it I can cycle to one of the other ones instead, and return back to the one I moved on from when I feel that I am in a more appropriate frame of mind to concentrate on it again.

The majority of books I read do not need to be cycled in this manner; they will be read within a few days at most (and their book covers are displayed in my list of most recently read books). The cycle list is for longer, dryer or more complex works, and books - such as classics - that I'm determined to complete even though a new Wodehouse, Tom Sharpe or Westlake title is beckoning to me like a siren (and their book covers remain displayed in my list of books currently in progress until finally completed).

I never give up on worthwhile books - they just stay in the recycle queue quite a long time. I rarely, if ever, buy a bad book and consequently don't read any. But if I did, I would drop it like a steaming turd ... because life's too damn short to waste on bad literature! One of the very few books that I own that I would consider to fall into this bad category is Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road'.

________________________________ ~ ________________________________

My Approach to Personal Messaging (PM):

I don't know if others feel exactly as I do about this, but the way that LT only permits duplex conversations via PMs to be displayed in a simplex manner - viz. "my half there, their half here" - is somewhat annoying to me.

When I go to other people's profiles on LT and read the PMs (to them) which they have left posted up there, it always makes me feel like I'm prying on someone having a private conversation on the telephone - such that I can only hear their side of the conversation and I have to surmise what the person on the other end of the line said from their responses to it; except, in the case of LT PMs, it's really the opposite situation, where I can't actually hear (see) what they are saying, but only what others are saying to them. Anyway, that aspect of posted PMs makes me feel accordingly queasy - as if I was, in a like fashion, snooping on others.

Consequently, so others don't feel that way when reading the PMs from others posted to my profile, I usually take my own PM text (posted to someone else) and intersperse it back, correctly sequenced, into the PM responses I received from that person, and then re-post the combined result back on my own profile in order to reconstitute the conversation that actually occurred. Of course, if there is obvious private content in their messages to me (because they were posted "in the pink") then, for those communications, I don't do that.

________________________________ ~ ________________________________

Books I am about to read include:





________________________________ ~ ________________________________

About my library"When a natural discourse paints a passion or an effect, one feels within oneself the truth of what one reads, which was there before, although one did not know it. Hence one is inclined to love him who makes us feel it, for he has not shown his own riches, but ours." - Blaise Pascal.
________________________________ ~ ________________________________

*** See random book selections from my LT catalogued library ***

What I Got and Not Got:

Only a small selection of my personal library (~10%) is catalogued here for right now. I have absolutely no idea how many books I own - I much prefer to be actually reading 'em rather than anally counting and cataloguing 'em. But based on the average number of books on a typical bookshelf, and multiplying that by the approximate number of bookshelves in all of my bookcases, it comes out at just shy of 1800. About 5% of these are leatherbound (Franklin Library or Easton Press) and about another 5% are softcover; the remainder - the vast majority - are hard bound.

In addition to those books, I also own tons of Computer Science text books (Yourdon, Tanenbaum, James Martin and Donald Knuth all bought their second homes on MY tab), dictionaries and encyclopaedias - none of which, like the majority of my main library, I intend to catalogue here right now. Nor do I intend to catalogue my coffee mugs, Hallmark greeting cards, Christmas ornaments, Rand McNally road maps and Eric Clapton CDs here, even if they all do have an ISBN or any other kind of barcode. After all, one must draw a fine line between organizing the extent of one's personal library and being an anal-retentive moron!

Areas of my main library that have already been catalogued by other means (and so they almost certainly will never appear on LT) includes a shelf and a half of Harvard Classics (the Grolier edition - yes, you SHOULD be impressed!) plus 14 volumes of Black's Readers Service classic works. Ditto 29 volumes of the Oxford University Press Mark Twain (whatever was I thinking, it's not as if Shelley Fisher Fishkin ever bought anything of mine!). Other significant collections of "publisher series" titles owned include:

* almost 100 elegant editions in the Reader's Digest "World's Best Reading" series of classic literary titles;
* about six dozen of the RD ImPress Mystery series of classic detective, crime and espionage titles (entitled The Best Mysteries of All Time);
* the full set of 24 new millennia Black Dog and Leventhal Agatha Christie series titles;
* over six dozen titles in the "The Collector's Wodehouse" series published by The Overlook Press in North America and Everyman's Library elsewhere;
* over a dozen of the Norton Great Discoveries series of History of Science titles.

Oxford University ........... The BD&L Agatha ............. The Overlook Press
Press Mark Twain
........... Christie Collection ............ Collector's Wodehouse

The number of tomes on my book shelves (not to mention also in strategically placed book stacks around my floors) published by both Everyman's Library and The Library of America seems to grow weekly; at any rate, they multiply far quicker than I can catalogue them here. I also own, and have read in its entirety, the complete canon of Kurt Vonnegut. Then there are over 4 dozen of the 'Dilbert' comic-strip and written publications by Scott Adams that are not catalogued here. Finally, I certainly do not wish to admit openly on LibraryThing that I own anything written by Dan Brown so, of course, I won't be cataloguing either of those two books here either!

Phew, that should now significantly cut down the time I spend entering data on LT such that I can finally regain my personal life again. Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket! Unfortunately, my personal life only seems to consist of buying books and building new bookcases ... why is that, I wonder?

Hmmm, I seem to own a few titles all to myself. Currently, it is 3 (out of however many I have catalogued to date). But it used to be quite a few more than that. I similarly used to share a number of titles with only one other person, but as LT membership has grown, I now no longer share any of my titles with just one other. And that, right there, is the story of my life ... every time I find a potential "soul mate" they up and disappear off into the sunset! In fact, quite often, there isn't even a sunset! :(

________________________________ ~ ________________________________

My Book Rating Philosophy:

I really only rate the books in my catalogue for my own convenience - mostly in order to remind me how much I might want to re-read that particular book rather than many of the others in my library that I have read. However, since you are now looking at my profile and reading this, and are thus somewhat likely to also take a subsequent peek at my catalogue, you might as well be fully appraised before doing so as to how I actually arrived at the star ratings that you will find assigned to some of my books once you start perusing them.

First off, because only a small fraction of my library (200 books or so) is catalogued here on LT, the titles that I have chosen to include here are all much better than average reads (fiction) or works of reference (non-fiction). That would probably make any title you find in my catalogue worth at least 3 stars, and most likely 4 stars or above, on most other readers' star rating system. So the bottom line is, if I have included a book in my LT catalogue then it is IMHO well worth a read whether or not I have taken the trouble to assign it a star rating here.

Furthermore, I have read many more of the books listed in my catalogue (but by no means ALL of them) than I have rated. In order to try and bring a modicum of objectivity to this blatantly subjective rating process, I have usually only bothered giving ratings to books that I have read (or re-read) in the last ten to twelve years or so (a.k.a. the maturity of my life :( ).

The reason for doing that is because even though I may well know I have read some book when I was much younger - and I still have some residual vague warm and fuzzy feelings about it having been a very good read at the time - nevertheless that really doesn't help me assign it an appropriate star rating NOW ... so I don't even attempt to do so. If my feelings about the book are that strong anyway, I will probably re-read it some time in the future, and so I will rate it here at that time (but don't hold your breath!).

There are also quite a few omnibus editions and collections of multiple stories in my catalogue that I may have dipped into over the years, yet I have still not read the whole book from cover to cover. Once again, until I have read the complete content of such a book (and recently enough to actually remember it clearly enough to be able to rate it!) I don't feel I should assign it a star rating just yet. For all I know, the portions of the book that I still haven't read yet may be truly abysmal ... it CAN happen!

So, with all those caveats out of the way, here is my star rating system:

* .......... way below average for MY tastes - to the point that I disliked it
** ........ very average for MY tastes
*** ...... IMO an enjoyable and satisfying read (for whatever reasons)
**** .... has some special qualities in addition to being enjoyable and satisfying
***** .. Not necessarily a "perfect read" but IMO the book did perfectly achieve what it set out to do

Please note that under this perverse rating system of mine, I may actually "enjoy" reading a 3-star rated book more than a 5-star rated book. Because my rating system is about much more than simply how much the book entertained and distracted me at the time I read it. For instance, I read James Lee Burke or Arthur Conan Doyle mostly for distraction and enjoyment; OTOH I read Joseph Campbell or Immanuel Kant mostly for edification and self-improvement purposes; while I read Franz Kafka or William Golding with a goal of BOTH edification and entertainment. Consequently, I would rate a Kant or Campbell read based on almost completely different criteria than I would a JLB or ACD read.

These distinctions even apply to different works by the same author - thus I will rate a non-fiction title such as Blood, Tears and Folly by Len Deighton based on a completely different set of criteria than, say, The IPCRESS File or Berlin Game.

As stated up top, although I may own one or two 1- and 2-star rated books, I believe all of the books currently listed in my LT catalogue are rated 3 stars and above as per the rating system just defined.

________________________________ ~ ________________________________

GroupsBBC Radio 3 Listeners, Edward De Vere and The Shakespeare Authorship Mystery, The Globe

Favorite authorsDouglas Adams, Scott Adams, Malcolm Bradbury, Anthony Burgess, James Lee Burke, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Len Deighton, Arthur Conan Doyle, E. M. Forster, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, Howard Jacobson, Garrison Keillor, David Lodge, W. Somerset Maugham, John Mortimer, Walter Mosley, Philip Roth, William Shakespeare, Tom Sharpe, Muriel Spark, James Thurber, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Evelyn Waugh, Donald E. Westlake, P. G. Wodehouse (Shared favorites)

Account typepublic, lifetime

URLs /profile/Rule42 (profile)
/catalog/Rule42 (library)

Member sinceNov 17, 2006

Currently readingOctopus omnibus : "Lord Jim" ; "The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'" ; "Typhoon" ; "Nostromo" ; "The Secret Agent" by Joseph Conrad
The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose : From William Caxton to P.G. Wodehouse by Frank Muir
The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess
Of Human Bondage (The Easton Press) by W. Somerset Maugham
The Wings of the Dove (Everymans Library, 230) by Henry James
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