Not sure who passed the baton to me (or whether anyone had actually done that), but I'd like to join the internet throng in displaying my bookshelves. Actually, itís a good chance for me to get off my comfortable position and start to update my catalogue; something I have neglected to do for several months. A flurry of activities brings me to the following facts:
Well, I have 5 bookshelves in my bedroom, all lining the walls. They are inhabited by, according to my last count, 987 books! So 13 more and I will be reaching the magic number of 1000.
What kinds of books are those? I was curious myself. I mean wow... almost a thousand books! Well. They are roughly 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction books. The fiction books include 353 novels (roughly 60% in English and 40% in Indonesian, with 1 in French), 38 short stories collection, several plays (Ibsen and Shakespeare), several poetry books and also some mythology books.
Whose novels I read? Letís see. From the Indonesian platoon of writers I like Pramoedya Ananta Toer and YB Mangunwijaya the best. I have a dozen books from each of them. I also like Sindhunata, Umar Kayam, Ayu Utami, Dee, Arswendo Atmowiloto, and Ahmad Tohari.
From the realm of books written in English I like W Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Jostein Gaarder. There was a time when I was crazy about all the books written by James Michener, Leon Uris, James Clavell, Pearl S. Buck, Nawal el-Saadawi and Agatha Christie, so I have quite a lot of their books. I also have classic books from Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott and Victor Hugo, which I like a lot.
I like these books as well: The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi), Roots (Alex Haley), 100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), The Gods of Small Things (Arundhati Roy), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera), The Years with Laura Diaz (Carlos Fuentes), Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel), Toto-Chan (Tetsuko Kuroyanagi), The Mystic Masseur (VS Naipaul) and Siddharta (Herman Hesse).
Of course, I own the books of my favourite writer ever: JRR Tolkien; from The Hobbit to The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales.
Not to forget are the children books. There in a bookshelf, thereís a complete set of JK Rowlingís Harry Potter which I enjoy very much. Next to them is a row of books by Enid Blyton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Astrid Lindgren and Roald Dahl, which are the books of my childhood days, thanks to dad who has passed on his love of books to me and my siblings. Next to these are a row of comics Ė Calvin and Hobbes, and Japanese manga Kung Fu Boy. So no, I am not always a serious person, as some people may think :)
Half of the non fiction books are divided into the followings: travel books, science, biography, history, and other social science books. There are also several health and self-help books, and amazingly quite a number of cookbooks. Not that I like cooking very much, I inherited those from my boyfriend who dumped a carton of books before he had to move house.
The other half consists of reference books, i.e. a set of Grolierís Encyclopedia of Knowledge, which I used a lot in the days when Google wasnít my best friend yet, a set of Indonesian Heritage series, which I consult quite often when I need to write or explain about Indonesia to foreigners, a set of Encyclopedia of Art, and several dictionaries, thesaurus and grammar books for Indonesian, English, French, Spanish and Chinese (yes, there was a time when I was very ambitious).
The last but not least, of course are the many many books on Geoscience. These books on Geology, Geophysics, Petroleum Geology, Sedimentology, Stratigraphy, Log analysis, Structural Geology, Basin analysis etc lined a separate bookshelf.
A portion of one bookshelf is devoted to magazines. I donít subscribe to any of them but whenever I go abroad I buy several. These are the magazines I like to read: National Geographic, New Scientist, Scientific American, Discover, Astronomy Now, Focus, Asian Diver (and other diving magazines), and Digital Photography (or other photography magazines).
Books being read or recently read
If you ask me whether I have read all the 987 books I own, the answer is no. There are about 18% I havenít read. Usually I buy books in batches especially whenever I have a chance to go abroad, for example to Singapore or London. This is because while books in English are now available in Jakarta bookshops such as QB, Aksara and Kinokuniya, the choices are still not as great as what are available in Singapore or London. Buying books in batches makes me always have stacks of books waiting to be read. Also, people know I love books so I get books from them and these have added to the height of the stacks of unread books.
Some people are able to read several books in parallel, moving to the next before finishing one and then back again to the first book. But apparently I donít have as good a multitasking facility as that in my brain, I always have to finish one book before moving on to the next, or I would lose the thread. Therefore if people ask me what book I am reading now, itís just one book Ė Stephen Jay Gouldís I Have Landed.
However the books I read recently include A History of God by Karen Armstrong, Rare Earth by Peter D Ward & Donald Brownlee, Richard Dawkinsí The Selfish Gene, The Human Mind by Robert Winston, Java Man by Garniss Curtis, Carl Swisher and Roger Lewin, and Autistic Journey by Oscar Yura Dompas.
Yes, as can be seen from my recent reading list, I am lately very much into popular science. I think this started when I was reading Bill Brysonís book A Short History of Nearly Everything, which shows that science book can be easy to read and entertaining as well. This brings us to the next question:
Last Books Purchased
Well, after reading Bill Brysonís book I began to amass a series of popular science books which include the ones I recently read, and some other I havenít read, i.e. Stephen Hawkingís The Universe in A Nutshell, Brian Greeneís The Elegant Universe, and The Long Summer by Brian Fagan. The first two was found at a small secondhand bookshop in Islamabad, while the last one was bought at my favourite bookshop, Foyleís in London, along with Joseph Campbellís A Hero with A Thousand Faces and those books i recently read.
The list of last books purchased will also have to include travel books on Ireland, which I visited last May, and a reference book called 'Earth, the definitive visual guide', which is a very good reference book on the earth and its physical aspects.
Books That Mean a Lot to Me
Itís difficult to say. All my books mean a lot to me. If anyone ever borrow one and not return it I will chase him/her to the ends of the earth. Iím very passionate about my books, as you can see. I have been a bookworm since my childhood, I wear a pair of thick glasses, and I'm quite proud of being a nerd; although nowadays I prefer to wear contact lenses - I do care about looks occasionally :D
Anyway since I have to say which books mean a lot to me, when I renewed my catalogue yesterday I looked at my books and tried to remember the contents of each. Some of them I donít remember at all, which probably meant that theyíre not very impressing to me. A lot of them I can still remember but these are the ones that made some very deep impressions:
1. The Lord of The Rings and other JRR Tolkienís books. I remember when my friend Nick Baker gave them to me in 1998 I spent my days living in a world of dream in the Middle Earth. I even hid under my desk in the office so as not to have to stop reading. The real world was a dreary and dry place for me at that time. Even now from time to time I still pick up and re-read those books and feel the same. And by the way, I like the books way better than the films.
2. Pramoedya Ananta Toerís tetralogy. These books were banned during the Suharto regime era because Pram was thought to be connected with the communist party. I remember that dad owned the first one of the four novels and buried it deep under his collection of books (he has a bigger collection than mine). I read this book and was fascinated by it and then borrowed the next ones from my friends Ė three shabby, torn, well read old photocopies of the banned books. When it was re-published I bought the last three books and re-read them all. These books which were set at the beginning of the Indonesian nationalistic movement against the Dutch colonialism were still as enjoyable to read as when they were banned. I think that Pram is one of the best writers we Indonesians have ever had.
3. The Indonesian Heritage series, which explain beautifully my Indonesian heritage from ancient to modern history, the environment, plants, wildlife, performing and visual art, the architecture, religion, rituals, and language and literature.
Well this ends the book baton, I suppose I have to pass it on to other people, but whoever read this and hasnít written his/her own and would like to, please do. As for myself this book baton made me remember I have a promise that I promised myself sometime ago but havenít fulfilled, i.e. to make a book review or at least a summary whenever I read a book. Itís hard work but itís important, I think. So let me start now and hopefully in a few days I will be able to post a book review.
Jakarta, 7 August 2005