Influential upon myself, I mean. Everyone else is doing it. I suck at lists like this. It’s hard to give an honest answer, in part because I’m not prone to conscious conversion experiences, but mostly because I’m good at repressing things and so really find it hard to remember things I read that really hooked me at the time.
In any event, and in roughly chronological order:
Clive James, Visions Before Midnight or The Crystal Bucket.
I’m a three-time (soon to be four-time) published author. When aspiring authors learn this, they invariably ask what word processor I use. It doesn’t fucking matter! I happen to write in Emacs. I also code in Emacs, which is a nice bonus. Other people write and code in vi. Other people write in Microsoft Word and code in TextMate+ or TextEdit or some fancy web-based collaborative editor like EtherPad or Google Wave.
A prompt from Dan Hirschman made me dig up this review essay on Donald MacKenzie’s An Engine, Not a Camera. A shorter version appeared ages ago on OrgTheory, and this version never quite got finished, but some people have found the discussion useful so here it is as a PDF.
Besides double espressos in the morning and vodka tonics a bit later in the morning, I mean. Books, books, books.
Social Structures, by John Levi Martin. I started reading this at six o’clock this morning while waiting at my departure gate, which was perhaps unwise. Two flights, five cups of coffee and three muffins later, I am in the middle of Chapter 4 and up to my neck in scribbled marginal notes.
Henry beat me to the punch by about five minutes, dammit. Here’s my wordley representation of my book, Last Best Gifts.
I didn’t look at the site closely enough to see if I could get a PDF of the output, but it would be nice to have one.
Matt Yglesias’s book Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats is nearing publication, providing further evidence that very long subtitles beginning with “How …” or “Why …”, and which explain the main thesis of the book, are now completely entrenched in the U.S. publishing industry. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century “Being a …” subtitle.
Anyway, the blurbs are up and the best one is from Ezra Klein, who wins the inaugural CT American Blurbonomics: How to Praise your Friends while Surreptitiously Taking the Piss out of your Enemies award.
Further evidence that blogging has eclipsed the Traditional Publishing Model.
Exhibit A. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard (2007). “A witty and useful piece of literary sociology” (LRB), “funny, smart, and so true” (Clare Messud), “evidently much in need” (NYT), “The runaway French bestseller … that readers everywhere will be talking about—and despite themselves, reading—this holiday season.”
Exhibit B. Books I Did Not Read This Year, by Kieran Healy (2003).
So Laurie, the lucky duck, got a copy of the Atlas of Creation, the amazingly large-format, glossy-photo-laden, funtastic creationist slice of life, courtesy of whoever is bankrolling its author Adnan Oktar. It’s a fantastic educational resource for our three-year-old: she’s already excited about cutting out the photos of the bunnies and fishies, etc, and making them into collages, puppets and so on. Strongly recommended.