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15 books in 15 minutes


I'm not really clear on what the "15 books in 15 minutes" meme is supposed to be about. The instructions say:

[...] don't take too long to think about it. [List f]ifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Put your top 3 first.

But what does "that will always stick with you" mean? That you'll always remember details of vividly? That you'll always remember the titles of? That you loved? And why the first fifteen that you can recall—is the idea that if they come to mind faster, they must be strongest in your memory/most important?

Anyway, I got tagged by this meme again today, and figured I would finally do it, just to see whether the results would be interesting. I made myself not look at my bookcases or any other reference materials. I decided that "will always stick with you" meant, more or less, books that I had read in high school or earlier, and that made a strong impression on me, and (mostly) that I went back and re-read later (which I don't usually do), and that I think I remember reasonably well, and that influenced my thinking (about writing, about the world, about people, etc).

Here are the fifteen that I came up with in the first five minutes, reordered (as requested in the rules) to put my favorite three first:

  • The Last Unicorn
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Very Far Away from Anywhere Else
  • Time Enough for Love
  • Dune
  • Watership Down
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Bone People
  • The Spy Lady and the Muffin Man
  • The Bully of Barkham Street/A Dog on Barkham Street
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Peter Graves
  • Illuminatus!
  • The Once and Future King

The first three are among my favorite books ever. I have no idea why the Heinlein popped into my head. Dune and Watership Down are on the list primarily for the worldbuilding (I suppose Left Hand of Darkness belongs with them); Bone People is haunting and uncomfortable and excellent and unlike most of what I read; Spy Lady is there as a representative of the marvelous Sesyle Joslin (who also wrote The Night They Stole the Alphabet, among others); the Barkham Street books blew my mind by having the bully/villain in one be the sympathetic protagonist of the other; Lord of the Rings and Alice and Narnia are deeply suffused through my childhood and young adulthood; Peter Graves represents several books by William Pene du Bois (The Twenty-One Balloons is better known, but Peter Graves stuck with me a bit more vividly); Illuminatus! blew my mind in a multitude of ways the summer before ninth grade, and was hugely influential in shaping who I am; Once and Future King had a bunch of memorable and cool stuff in it.

Interestingly, not many of these books are by women, even though quite a few of my favorite authors are women.

Since I had some time left in the 15 minutes, I spent the next five minutes finding my favorite-authors list. A quick perusal of that led me to add a few more books:

  • Little, Big
  • Pilgrimage: The Book of the People
  • The Dark Is Rising
  • The Princess Bride
  • Watchmen
  • The Thurb Revolution
  • Swordspoint
  • Stepping from the Shadows
  • The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)

That last being there as a representative of everything by the marvelous Ellen Raskin.

(Note, btw, that a lot of my favorite works of fiction are short stories, but putting them on the list seemed out of keeping with the spirit of the thing, to the extent that I understand that spirit, which isn't much.)

And I'm tempted to add Tigana, except that I didn't read it 'til a few years ago, so it hasn't yet stood the test of time for me the way those others have.

Of course, there are lots of other books that I read and loved and remember fondly and so on; see my kids' books list for some such. But the abovelisted are some of the ones that really stand out in my memory.

Total elapsed time: 13 minutes to put the list together; another half-hour to write it up and post it.


"The Bully of Barkham Street/A Dog on Barkham Street"

You get so many points for this. I've been recommending it for YEARS as an excellent kids' book look at multiple viewpoints.

My favorite Panshin is The Universal Pantograph.

:) Thanks!

And hee re Pantograph. I suppose it's possible that I'll like that one better, but I love Thurb so much that it seems unlikely. But I hope that some day I'll get to find out.

It occurs to me that several of the books on this list that I remember best are ones that either I read aloud to others (which required first reading, then re-reading aloud to myself as practice, then reading aloud to others, then in some cases reading aloud to others again) or I heard read aloud to me (and usually later re-read to myself). So now I'm thinking that hearing something read (well) aloud may help me remember it; and presumably reading something myself multiple times (whether silently or aloud) also helps with that.

I would think that you're right about remembering better after you both read it and hear it or say it--do you find seeing the movie makes it better or worse?

(Of course, having just seen the movie Fahrenheit 451 and everyone wandering around muttering their books to themselves, your comment about reading out loud to remember it is a little creepily a propos. ;)

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