Book Baton

I was happy to be passed the by Matt Webb and Erik Stattin (the latter in Swedish). Here’s my response.

Total number of books owned? I’m not a collector. Well, I am a collector, but I try not to be. I get frustrated with having too many things, including books. So I have donated lots of books to charity. I have one bookshelf, designed for paperbacks, which is about 70 short of its maximum capacity of 240. When it gets full I’ll start applying the “one in, one out” rule. Besides paperbacks, I’d say I have about 50 non-paperbacks and non-paperback-sized books.

I prefer paperbacks. I want books to be light and bendable. And I want them to look read when I have read them.

I wasn’t always a reader. About fifteen years ago, I decided to start reading books. At that time I read very few books, and when I did, it took me months to finish one book. I think I spent nearly a year reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps because it was such a struggle, books never stimulated me anyway near as much as films did. The reason I started to read more was that I felt it must be possible to get captivated by books the way I was captivated by films. As I got more used to reading, I enjoyed it more, but it wasn’t until I started practicing speed reading that reading became less of a struggle for me.

Up until I started this weblog, I read mostly fiction. Writing regularly about things I find interesting made me want to read more nonfiction. So the last few years, I’ve had to remind me to read more fiction. If I don’t, I eventually get exhausted. Since last year, I try to read at least one novel per month.

The last book I bought? As I usually order my books online, I very rarely buy one book. The last shipment contained Stewart Brand’s The Clock of the Long Now and Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit, which I’m currently reading. (And two Swedish books: Kreativitetens geografi by Gunnar Törnqvist and Tystnadens historia by Peter Englund.)

The last book I read? I just finished listening to the audio edition of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I liked a lot. I like listening to audiobooks on my iPod while walking, which I do a lot, and while doing the laundry. It’s easier to maintain the “a novel a month” goal this way.

The last paper book I finished was Tove Jansson’s lovely The Summer Book.

5 books that mean a lot to me? In some book baton post I read, “mean a lot” meant books one has re-read several times. I’m not a re-reader, but I managed to compile a list of books I’ve re-read:

  • Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake, a book which applies Zen Buddhist thinking to being a writer, and in doing so it manages to say much about life as well. It was very inspiring, and because of this and it being so short, I re-read it shortly after finishing it. Writing this, I feel like re-reading it again.
  • Paul Auster’s The Red Notebook is a tiny volume, at least in the Swedish edition I’ve got. Very short stories which I’ve re-read several times.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh’s Zen Keys. This is a book I’ve re-read for another reason: because I didn’t get it. I still didn’t get it the second read, and I probably would get it only after decades of _zazen. But I still liked it. There was a period in my life when I read a lot of Zen and Buddhist books.
  • David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which I re-read simply because Allen suggests a re-read three months after first reading it. Like he said, it gave me a couple of new insights about the productivity method suggested in the book. It’s a great method for getting your stuff together.
  • Jesper Juul’s Your Competent Child. The Swedish edition I’ve got suffers from poor editing, so I had to re-read it to get what he was saying. But of these five books, this book is the one that has influenced me the most. The most useful trick Juul teaches is to always remember to say that “I don’t want you to …” or “I want you to …,” instead of stating whatever it is you want or don’t want your child to do as if it were a universal law—“You can’t …” or “You have to ….” Phrasing it this way makes you catch yourself when you make insane demands of your child, but it also emphasizes that it’s a dialogue, a negotiation, and that it’s important to express what you want. As a parent, I’m not always right, and my child has the right to point this out. Juul’s book is very sensible and very humane, and I wish that every parent has read it.

But none of these five books—the only five I could remember re-reading—are books I thought of when starting to think about my response to the book baton. In fact, I find it hard to make lists of favorite books. Whichever I’ve just read is my favorite. A couple of months back, Getting Things Done was my favorite. Shortly before that, it was Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn. One of my favorite authors is Italo Calvino, and I read the first book by him last year. If I’d name a favorite by him, I think it would be The Invisible Cities. Another of my favorites is the already mentioned Paul Auster, but I can’t say I remember any of his books, although I remember being engrossed in The New York Trilogy.

My memory is bad.

Then again, I like most books I read, with a few exceptions. Of the books I’ve read last year and the year before that, there are only a couple I remember I didn’t like that much: Tony Buzan’s Use Your Head, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and Michael Crichton’s Prey.

5 folks I’d like to see answer this meme? I get to pick six; in alphabetical order: Svante Adermark, Rob Annable, Rod McLaren, Kjell Nilsson, Jonas Söderström, and Malte Tancred.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on June 26, 2005. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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