I’m sure I’m not the only person to have trouble naming one favorite book. Should I choose a book that completely changed my life? A book that I frequently re-read? The best according to literary criteria? A book that always makes me feel happy?
Maybe if I answer all those questions I can then decide on a single book. So here goes:
* A book that changed my life: The Trouble with Tribbles by David Gerrold. I’m sure this seems rather odd, but I have good reasons. I first read this book when I was about 10 or 11. I was watching the short-lived animated Star Trek on Saturday mornings and the tribble episode was my favorite. One day when we were at the grocery store I saw the book and had to have it. So how did it change my life? First, it drew me into the larger world of Star Trek fandom, which had a domino effect that resulted in a major life change at age 30. Second, it mentioned sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein, so I started reading his books, first the boys’ books and then the more adult ones. These books affected my views on just about everything from sex to ethics to philosophy and taught me quite a lot of science, too. Third, after reading the book I sent a letter to the author regarding the language he used in The Trouble with Tribbles, and received a scathing letter in return which was both insulting and disturbing. In the end, it made me rethink the values I had been taught as a child, which I believe to be a good thing. No one should ever blindly believe what they have been taught; it must be examined and if necessary, changed to reflect one’s personal beliefs.
* A book that I frequently re-read: The Complete Stories of Isaac Asimov, Vol. 1 & 2. I’m cheating here, since it’s actually two books, but if they weren’t so big, they would be one. The stories within are funny, dramatic, sad, and suspenseful in turn. And Asimov is my favorite author, so this is a good choice!
* The best book I have read in literary terms: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, hands down. Again I am cheating, but… Tolkien has a great mixture of rich description and dramatic action, not to mention philosophy and an invented language (or 2, since there are 2 forms of Elvish). I have to be honest and say it’s a little too dense for me to read often.
* A book that always makes me happy: Non Campus Mentis, a collection of student blunders in history tests and papers. It is hilarious! No matter how depressed I may be, I cannot manage to read it without laughing out loud! I have heard that some of it may not be legit — could be made up — but do I really care? No! Just reading them amuses me, whether a student really wrote them or not. I keep this book in my crisis kit for when I am feeling down.
Now that I have those covered, I can see my way clear to my favorite book, Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation. As a bit of background, he wrote the original Foundation series in the 1940s, and it was hugely popular. It was so popular that he finally agreed to write more about the Foundations. The first one was actually Foundation’s Edge, which comes after the original three. It was published in 1981. Prelude to Foundation came in 1988, and tells how psychohistory began with Hari Seldon.
Some of these books are available from amazon.com:
Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories, Vol. 1
Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories, Volume 2
J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)
Prelude to Foundation (Foundation, Book 1)