Saturday, August 26, 2006


tagged by Cee over at Words and Things

1. One book that changed your life:

In primary school, we had these readers that were colour coded: Green Reader 1,2, 3; Blue Reader 1, 2, 3; Red Reader 1, 2, 3 and so on. They were themed - myth, monsters, family stories - and got progressively more difficult. I can't recall what was the beginner reader colour and what the hierarchy of advancement was. But I do recall that when I learned to read (in first grade) I devoured these. Because I did not have many friends early on in school, I spent a lot of my lunch break in the library, reading my way through the coloured readers. The Librarian, Mrs Reeves (and I haven't forgotten her either), spotted me and my voracious reading, and put me on a course of reading well beyond my years but she thought, within my capabilities. These books were my first friends, and they changed my life because they hooked me early on.

My love affair with books has never ceased. Indeed, I will probably die surrounded by well loved but dusty tomes.

2. One book you have read more than once:

The Road from Coorain and True North by Jill Ker Conway. Okay, I cheated - that's two books. But, I read and re-read them together and therefore really consider them as one. These two books are about Jill Ker Conway's growing up in outback Australia and her difficult journey towards scholarship in 1950s Australia, culminating in her taking a presidency at a liberal arts women's college in USA. These two books inspired me in my academic pursuits and dreams (some now discarded). There is also the third instalment in this autobiographical trilogy: A Woman's Education, written much later than the prior two. I've read that too and really enjoyed it, but it did not speak to me in the same way that The Road from Coorain and True North did.

Jill Ker Conway grounds her story in the landscape and her environment - you can feel the dry heat rising when you read about her early life on a sheep ranch in western New South Wales, the oppressive atmosphere of her boarding college, the stifling and conservative academic environment in the cloisters at Sydney University and, at last, the academic freedom within the cooler climes of the northern hemisphere.

3. One book you would want on a desert island:

Probably a fat collection of essays by a brilliant essayist – Martha Nussbaum, Umberto Eco or Stephen Jay Gould. But who knows what I will have on me when stranded on a desert island - I'm bound to have some reading material and it is probably something like this: two to four novels, one or two collection of short stories, one non-fiction, one collection of essays. Hopefully I'll be stranded with my partner so that he'll have an interesting selection as well! When the two of us travel, we usually take a mini library with us - and we usually come home with another mini-library and nary a souvenir.

4. One book that made you laugh:

Anything by Richard Brautigan has made me laugh and laugh. Recently, it was In Watermelon Sugar. Which also made me cry. But my favourite, and probably because it was my first, is Sombrero Fallout. Now I'm chuckling just thinking about them.

5. One book that made you cry:

Recently, the Full Story by Brian Caswell and David Chiem.

It is the story of a young Viet-Australian man, who leaves his study of the law to become a writer, falls in love and argues with his much loving and heartbroken father. Can you see why I cried? Not excellently written - some flaws - but, nevertheless, had my heart.

6. One book you wish you had written:

My family story. Oh, wait. I'm still writing it.

7. One book you wish had never been written:

This is very difficult. I could be polemical and say: "The Bible" which was the first thing that popped to mind, but that's just me being argumentative. I do not necessarily believe that the Bible should not have been written.

There are a couple of books that make me want to scream if that counts?

Anything by Ayn Rand or DH Lawrence.

8. One book you are currently reading:

I read lots of books at once. I think it's a fear of commitment. At the moment, I am reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth; The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, various collections of short stories (a set by Stanislaw Lem, another by Tom Robbins) and essays on writing; and there are a couple more lying on my bedside table and piled up on the shelves in my study. I've read Vikram Seth before and admire his crisp and densely descriptive writing. I am not persuaded that A Suitable Boy is his best work, but it's thoroughly enjoyable.

The Ethics of What we Eat is very interesting and rather depressing, too. But it's spurred my latent 'ethical living' ideas.

9. One book you have been meaning to read:

The rest of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I have read Justine and am told that, before the story fades from my mind, I must read the others (Balthazar / Mountolive / Clea).

There are plenty of others - but I think that might need to be the subject of another meme (eg: 101 books that are currently on your reading list...)

10. Now tag five people:

No. I will tag as many or as few people as I like. :-P

I'd love to know what books you are reading and have been inspired by - so just tell me because this is a meme that makes you go - ooh! Books! I like books!


Cee said...

Ooh, thanks for the link to the Ethics review. And your description has made me want to read Jill Ker Conway's books. Hope you continue to enjoy A Suitable Boy - I love it, although I am guilty of skimming through the more political sections and concentrating on the love story. Terrible of me, I know.

OTT said...

I'm not even up to the political sections yet (at least, I don't think I am... oh wait. I lie. One political event.) I'm reading another Indian romance / pseudo-auto-biography that i'm really enjoying and might just start getting confused soon...

Yes - you must read Jill Ker Conway. Do not (I repeat) do not watch the ABC TV series. I have not, but Jill Ker Conway had no part in it.

And Ethics is also good - I read and wonder what the Guru would think of it :-)

sume said...

Speaking of books, I thought you might be interested in this one.

Again, if you want it and can't get it let me know. If you 've already seen it, opps, nevermind. ;)

OTT said...

sume -

I have not heard of that one! Thank you for drawing my attention to it. Another one to go on the ever-expanding 'to read' list.

Shall investigate whether I can get it here, although at the moment, I am not acquiring books. The opposite actually. All shall be revealed in the fullness of time :-)

Jaye said...

Hi, saw that you were looking for me on TTR.

Vikram Seth's an Equal Music is one of my favorites. I have the same reaction to it that you do to A Full Story. Predictable book with cliches but mirrors similar events in my life.

I've also been wanting to thank you for turning me on to Anthony Bourdain, that guy's right up my alley!

OTT said...


great to hear from you.

An Equal Music was my first ever Vikram - it is beautiful. Although I have to admit to being a little freaked about the obsessive aspects of the love story. I'm very wary of obsessive love :-)

Very please you enjoyed Monsieur Bourdain - thought it would be a great match!


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