The Entertainer Blogger Award comes to me from the talented and entertaining
“You mean old books?”
“Stories written before space travel but about space travel.”
“How could there have been stories about space travel before-“
“The writers,” Pris said, “made it up…” – Philip K. Dick.
Having succumbed to a particularly debilitating bout of Scribe’s Fever a few months ago, it was truly a delight – nay, a blessing – to be presented with this particular Award.
The Entertainer Blogger Award recognizes bloggers who are funny, inspiring and most of all, entertaining. This special Post – also marking my 4th Blogiversary! – happens to appear in the same week that this blog hit the 30,000 views mark.
Yes, yes, this is a BIG brouhaha for me – it makes me want to dance on the beach; shout in the local library. Feel so high, wanna touch the sky etc. etc.
One of the questions asked as part of this Award intrigued me:
What is your favourite book?
Thus, these last few evenings have been spent, deep within the cosy and cushty confines of the Sanctum Sanctorum @ Brad Manor, perchance to pour over the VAST array of books that one has accumulated across four decades and determine – once and for all – which of them proved to be The Life-Changers…
“A room without books is like a body without a soul” – Marcus Tullius Cicero.
The most amazing SF novels to inspire me will – no doubt – feature here @ some point. Probably in two parts. Or even three…
For this Post, we will – whole-heartedly – concentrate on the NON-fiction cabinet of my book collection. Selecting just FIVE titles proved to be quite a perplexing beard-scratcher in itself.
Without further ado, welcome to Brad’s Books
Hmm, sounds like a vintage secondhand tome emporium, lost down some leafy English lane. No doubt such an establishment would look very much like the inside of his head: small, cramped, and full of dust and good reads.
Aah, can see it now: a rather surly-looking fat Persian cat sits in the window, nestled on a comfy, leather-bound edition of How To Spot A Creep From A Distance.
A sign on the door reads: Come In, We Are Awesome!
“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re sceptical” – Arthur C. Clarke.
The first book that springs to mind is the tome that helped get me mixed up in SF in the first place – the joy of The Space Warriors has already been praised elsewhere, but then, it IS fiction, so instead, let me draw your attention to that other hefty tome snapped up around 1979/80: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares.
It is one of those books that could appeal at once to a moppet like me and an intellectual like my father. Its in-depth history of SF cinema came with such an incredibly stuffy, hi-brow text for such a small boy to ingest, (read it and appreciated it only fairly recently, in fact) – my immediate attention was especially drawn to the rare stills from the Flash Gordon RKO serials (repeated every morning during the school holidays back then) and Ray Harryhausen filmography then my main obsession.
In addition, it contained conceptual art by Ralph McQuarrie and “exclusive stills” of a space opera – from the director of American Grafitti – that had only appeared in cinemas that past Summer…
While that unexpected smash went on to transform big-budget moviemaking – and the whole course of science fiction (for the better?), Alien Creatures set the standard for what my bookshelves – back then: clean, sturdy and reputable keepers of knowledge – should come to expect…
“Enticing, imaginative, readable, iridescent” – New York Times.
Want to read a book telling the story of how fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution transformed matter and life into consciousness?
Ha! Got just the thing – Cosmos by Carl Sagan admittedly, we were hooked by the ground-breaking TV series in 1980. In such a rare moment, the medium of television actually fulfilled its remit of offering an educational and entertaining programme.
In this bold project, here was someone – Dr. Carl Sagan – prepared to discuss the mysteries of the universe in a captivating and uncomplicated way. Not only did his book instil in me a wonder of science and a zest for all-things-cosmic, it taught me the value of questioning anything and everything (much to my teachers’ annoyance)…
And there are half a dozen groovy quotes accompanying each chapter, so when my blog came to fruition, one automatically assumed that quotes were obligatory – ha!
“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” – Carl Sagan.
“Sh! We hear a rustling in the greenery and a soft sound of running feet. This is Procompsognathus, an early meat-eating dinosaur. But how small it is!”
Every boy should have a book on dinosaurs, so Dinosaurs And Other Prehistoric Reptiles by Jane Werner Watson became my go-to – published in 1978, and it shows. The sauropods had to “stay in swamps to keep their massive bulk upright.” Moreover, the advances and discoveries made in palaeontology since this book’s publication are quite considerable.
However, what sets this tome apart from all the rest is the INCREDIBLE artwork by Rudolph F. Zallinger.
The wonder of this book lies in its staggering timeline. Along the bottom of each page, a yellow, numbered box represents a million yrs; a tiny illo shows which major type of dinosaur roamed Pangaea at that time. While each chapter describes the (pre)history of these palaeontological marvels – from the emergence of fish onto land to the final members of the Cretaceous Period – that timeline works in reverse.
To put this gargantuan chronology into perspective, we homo sapiens barely make it halfway across the first page, while the dinosaurs hold sway throughout the majority of the book’s fifty pages…
Interestingly, the last (first?) beast to be featured is the fish-like Eusthenopteron that swam around 290 million years ago. The otherwise empty timeline terminates at 293 million years BC…
“Down along the sunny shore, Tyrant Lizard finds the hunting better. He can walk fairly fast on his two legs on dry land. But he does not like to get too close to the water…”
“Science Fiction: still for some of us the most marvellous subject – or at least the second most marvellous subject. ‘The glory, jest and riddle of the world’ – at once abominable and abysmal in so many of its manifestations, and yet, in its best, the voice nearest to our inner voice” – Brian W. Aldiss (1925 – 2017).
Now, where would this blog be without The Science Fiction Source Book?!
Acquired during a Withdrawn Stock sale @ the local library, this veritable encyclopaedia of science fiction, first published in 1984 – edited by David Wingrove, with a Foreword by Brian W. Aldiss – represents, arguably, the best thirty-five pence ever spent.
Following an introductory decade by decade Brief History of SF, there are sections discussing the sub-genres of SF; various small features describing the Art of Writing contributed by a whole host of leading writers; and a considerable A-Z Consumers’ Guide: listing authors from Edwin A. Abbott to Roger Zelazny.
It has flown with me between three countries, in my travel bag, nestled next to both my writing journals, a copy of either Scientific Enquirer or The Economist, and whatever novel piqued my interest at that time.
Even now, as this Post is prepared on my Dashboard, the Source Book lies in easy reach…
“The strength of Maisel’s approach to his grand theme lies precisely in its breadth… it is generously illustrated with diagrams, maps and graphs… both scholarly and accessible to non-specialists; indeed it is a tour de force” – David R. Harris, Director, Institute of Archaeology, London.
Twenty years ago this quarter, mu Ancient History abd Archaeology degree @ The University Of Manchester began.
When the Unconditional Offer arrived through the post, my parents were so delighted. And relieved. My freelance journalism career had come to an abrupt, unforeseen halt the year before so my life needed a dramatic upturn. The next letter to come from Manchester felt like a dream – it contained a READING LIST!!
Thus ensued a (mostly) satisfying book-hunt. At the Top Of The List – and deservedly so when recalling it in hindsight – was: The Emergence Of Civilization by Charles Keith Maisels.
Integrating Archaeology, Ecology and Textual History to produce a new Anthropological perspective, it charts the rise from hunter/gathering – through farming and advances in social complexity – to the rise of city-states in the ancient Near East.
Now, you’d think that a textbook with such chapters as:
“The relationship of demography and technology to social structure,”
“Is agriculture the outcome of technological discoveries?”
and – whisper it – “The ecology of the Zagrosian Arc,”
would make for trying and tiresome studying, but no!
Far from it!
It proved to be endlessly fascinating, responsible for helping me to produce some of my most successful essays. My interest was, however, not all it managed to absorb…
One day, somebody accidentally sat on my backpack (don’t ask), thereby squashing my daily banana onto this academic behemoth. All three page edges remain cursed by dark, frightful – but fruity – stains. But for months the sweet essence of banana lingered.
Lo, every book tells its own story…
“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life” – Mark Twain.
THANK YOU SO MUCH to each, and everyone of you, who have Liked and Commented on my various movies, comics, books, science and fiction gubbins.
Brad is a humble wordsmith, but is nothing without YOUR appreciation.
There is a lot more cool stuff yet to come. Promise!
And who does Brad Nominate for this Award?
Well, automatically, YOU who are reading this! (If you want to do an Entertainer Blogger post let me know and you will receive the full set of questions!)
By the way, this Post could not finish without a special shout-out to the Best Book Blogger In The Blogosphere, who can read a novel AND post its review faster than Brad can eat a burrito – that’s some considerable talent right there…
Think she might be absolutely thrilled to see this: 🙂
“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his/her life to this war with the forces of oblivion” – Umberto Eco.
As soon as this Post goes out, no doubt another half-dozen life-changing titles will spring to mind.
For the moment, this insightful, perhaps interesting – dare one say it – entertaining – Post looks groovy enough.
As for the Book With The Greatest Title Of All Time – it didn’t take long at all to work that one out: 😉
“Books are a uniquely portable magic” – Stephen King.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them” – Ray Bradbury.