Curses, memed again

At least book memes are easy for me.

A book that changed my life: John Tyler Bonner, On Development: The Biology of Form(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). This just happened to be the first book on developmental biology I read.

A book I’ve read more than once: Herbert Mason’s translation of the Gilgamesh(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). I still bring this one out now and then, for the resonance of it’s sorrow over human mortality.

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island: An impossible decision. First choice: Mary Jane West-Eberhard, Developmental Plasticity and Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Second choice: Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), because editing it would pass the time.

A book that made me laugh: Joseph Heller, Catch 22(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Funniest book ever.

A book that I wish had been written: My own. <sigh> Classes have started, it’s a struggle to find the time.

A book that I wish had never been written: Various frauds and swindlers and sanctimonious pissants, The Holy Bible. I’m so predictable.

A book I’ve been meaning to read: Natalie Angier, Woman: An Intimate Geography(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). It’s on the table right now.

I’m currently reading: Wallace Arthur, Creatures of Accident: The Rise of the Animal Kingdom(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). There will be a review here sometime. I love it from the title on.

I’m supposed to pass this one on, but infections aren’t made by the virus’s choice, so if you leave a comment here, consider yourself contaminated.


  1. tacitus says

    The problem with wishing that the Bible had never been written is that something else would almost certainly have take its place. And there is no guarantee that it would have been any better.

  2. George says

    Currently reading: three Shakespeares (the for Kids Shakespeare series, if you must know) one Camus (okay, in truth a Richie Rich comic disguised by Camus cover).

  3. Chris B. says

    PZ, what book is this you’re writing? Something for the masses? (N.b. I am one of the masses.)

  4. Russell says

    The obvious choice of book, when stranded on a desert isle, is Dave Gerr’s, The Nature of Boats: Insights and Esoterica for the Nautically Obsessed. Inspiration and escape instructions, all rolled into one.

  5. says

    Irrelevant note:

    The “random quote” feature just delivered up the following, attributed to Clark Adams:

    If Atheism is a religion, then health is a disease!

    I was sure I had thought of that myself! Although I’d always expressed it as, “Atheism is no more a religion than . . .” Hmph. So much for my claims to aphoristic originality.

  6. Carlie says

    The “book I’ve read more than once” question I’ve seen before, and it’s always bothered me. For me, that would be all of them, except for the really bad ones. Do a lot of people really just read most books once and that’s it? Even on two-week library checkouts I usually skim them again one more time, in case I missed anything the first time through.

  7. speedwell says

    I always wondered why the answer to “what book would you want if you were stuck in a desert island” was not the hypothetical “How to Survive on and Escape from a Desert Island.” I like Russell’s suggestion. :)

  8. Krakus says

    Book read more than once: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco…layer upon layer of meaning impossible to derive from a single reading.

    Book that made me laugh: I agree with PZ, Catch 22 was the first book I read that I laughed out loud.

    Book that should never have been written: I’m not sure the Bible was actually ever written as such, since it was just cobbled together from a number of different scriptures and miscopied over the course of a millenium and a half. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why provides some insight into this; though not a scholarly work, it is written by a Biblical scholar and dare I say it, is referenced.

  9. says

    Well, I’ve already caught the virus so now it’s harder for me to catch it again… Your own book? Do tell! :) And if you ever have enough time to edit Gould’s SET, I’m curious what you would edit. I don’t know enough about evolution to know when Gould needs to be edited, but I’m more than willing to read lengthy posts on it and learn as I go. Even if I’m reading Pharyngula 40 years from now. :)

  10. Chris says

    Many books have had me laughing, Catch-22 included. But, the one that actually put me on the floor was Wilt by Tom Sharpe.
    I can see it on the shelf from here. Think i”ll read it again.

  11. says

    A book that changed my life: The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It taught me the nature of love . . . and that we can count all the planets ad infinitum . . . but what really matters is our connection, intention, relation to those we love.
    A book I’ve read more than once: Wow . . . there are so many . . . The Bluest Eye, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, all the ones on this list with special weight to William Goldman and Tom Robbins.

    A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island: The Trilogy of the Rings, Tolkein (if I can bring a set)
    A book that made me laugh: The Princess Bride, William Goldman. “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” Way better than the movie. Of course the opening line to Magic is better “Trust me, that’s what the spider really said to the fly.”
    But, then I think the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?” Do I want to spend time with a wizard or a depressed android? Hopefully, I will never have to make that choice! (42!)
    A book that I wish had been written: Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins. “New Orleans in September is like an obscene phone call from nature . . .” I want to be Alobar! Or, the book that has never been written, but lives within me, that actually helps to achieve world peace, bringing empathy and insight to all who read it.
    A book that I wish had never been written: The Bell Curve, Charles Murray . . . a k a “Let’s cloak our bigotry with science–and cast aspersions on the intellectual capacities of people of color.”
    From whence this darling of the American Enterprise Institute and Cato loftily claims and testifies before congress “It’s really okay to defund public education, those melanin enhanced members of our community are too dumb to learn anyway . . .” Okay so that was a paraphrase, but he makes me sick–literally queasy–okay, but who am I but a stupid brown girl?”
    A book I’ve been meaning to read: I’m pretty goal-oriented, I read the books “I’m meaning to read,” a few of them I haven’t gotten to yet, “Guns, Germs & Steel,” “Fiasco,” “Conservatives Without A Conscience.”
    I’m currently reading: Collapse, Jared Diamond. Strongly recommend it . . . I’ve always wanted to know what the people on Easter Island were thinking when they cut down the last tree. How did they feel following their religious leaders/elites over the cliff? It should be required reading for everyone in this world right now!

  12. j says

    m!, The Little Prince is a good one. I have it on my bookshelf in three different languages. (Unrelated: I know somebody else who always signs written correspondence as m!. What a coincidence.)

    A book that changed my life was Camus’s The Stranger (or L’étranger, seeing that I’ve only read it in French). Existentialism provided a completely new outlook for me. I also like all the science-fiction classics, of course: Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Brave New World, and even Anthem.

  13. says

    “PZ, what book is this you’re writing? Something for the masses?”

    I’ve been told that the working title is:
    “Courtship and Dating Practices: A Study of Two Midwest Haploids, Daisy and Bill”

  14. says

    For the desert island, I’d grab that bundle of Dobson giveaways- for a nice fire on the beach, and one of those books full of Lifesavers I used to get for Xmas.

  15. says

    Book that changed my life: Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
    Desert island book: I can’t answer this one.
    Book that made me laugh: The Boomer Bible
    Book that I wish I had written: Vendetta (though only when I first got it)
    Book I wish was never written: Whichever book of Plato’s can be traced to have influenced Christianity the most.
    Book meaning to read: Anything on my wishlist, especially my current order-in-progress.
    Currently reading: The Origin of Species [etc] (for the second time)

  16. dichosa says

    Made me think. It is fun to see the commonalities.
    A book that changed my life: Discovering Science on Your Own. As an 8 year old, I refused to return it to the library. Finally in frustration, my parents bought me my own copy.
    A book I’ve read more than once: There are so many. I’m going to pick Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, although St. Exupery’s “Little Prince” or even better, “Wind , Sand and Stars” have many repeats.

    A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island:Yes, impossible. Pepy’s diary. I’ve read it twice and would like to read it again. Fascinating, more than a million words. It take’s pleasant years to read.

    A book that made me laugh:Too many and impossible as well: Mark Twain and J.T. Thurber come to mind. I’ve bookmarked several passages in each so I can read them to guests. I usually laugh too hard while trying to read them out loud.

    A book that I wish I had written: Way too many anything by Faulkner or Conrad for his command of English or M.F.K. Fisher for her joy of life and food.

    A book that I wish had never been written: A bigger struggle here. At first I wanted to pick a theist book, but I have to agree that perhaps it is better “the devil you know”, we could end up with something worse.

    A book I’ve been meaning to read: Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”. I enjoyed “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, but I just can’t make myself start “Collapse”

    I’m currently reading: Bart Ehrman’s, “Lost Christianities” Fascinating read. It’s amazing how xtians don’t know their own history and how their “New Testament” came to be. If they did, it would be a better world.

    A book I want to read again: Adding a new catagory. Is that allowed? So many, including those I listed above. Wila Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and “The Professor’s House” also Thomas Wolf’s “Look Homeward Angel” and Dos Pasos’s “USA” trilogy–I read them so long ago, I’d like to read them again to see if they were as good as I remembered them.

  17. says

    It is fun to see the commonalities . . . for instance “J,” my very best friend since grade school signs all of her things “J” and that what I call her . . .

    It was also fun to see Dichosa’s list and to see so much commonality there! And, then I see the other lists, comments and I think . . . How did I miss “Letters from the Earth” by Twain or “The Adultress” by Camus (although both are more short short stories or novellas or something (not sure of the correct description of form.).

    Also, hate some of the libertarian nonsense of Robert Nozick . . .

    This has been fun PZ! I feel as if I am in over my head here as a total non-scientist, touchy feely, high “E” on the Myers Briggs kind of person of color . . . I’m always a little embarrassed to weigh in since the levels of understanding and discourse makes me shy away from comment!

    So, all of us here love learning and engagement so you’ve provided a way for all of us to find some common ground and to exchange!

  18. Aussiesmurf says

    A book that changed my life: The Justice Game by Geoffrey Robertson. In my formative years as a lawyer, nothing else summarised so many of a lawyer’s vital role.

    A book I’ve read more than once: Lord of the Rings – Still holds up, but has a lot to answer for.

    A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island: Ulysses by James Joyce – I would finally have no excuse but to finish it.

    A book that made me laugh: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. I still chuckle when thinking of the perils of co-habiting with your significant other. Also the Princess Bride by William Goldman.

    A book that I wish had been written: A sequel to Letters from the Inside by John Marsden, where the ending was re-visited. I have never been so shaken by the end of a book (particularly one purportedly written for teenagers).

    A book that I wish had never been written: The 9/11 Commission Report. (wish it had not been needed)

    A book I’ve been meaning to read: Ulysses (see above).

    I’m currently reading: Ex Machina by Brian Vaughan.

  19. clvrmnky says

    I haven’t done a complete read-through yet, but Mitchell’s new English version of Gilgamesh includes a lot of material that has only recently come to light. Apparently we’ve been slowly finding pieces and early translations of tablets that up to now were completely missing.

    I miss the sort of idiosyncratic text (“He moved his mouth to speak”) found in previous translations, but this one is very readable, and the poetry and weight is all there.

    I’m as bit of book geek, too, and while it has nothing to do with cuneiform tablets made of lapis lazuli, it is a beautifully designed volume.