In revenge for the thorough trashing I have been giving them, The Monarchist has decided to burden me with one of the book memes that have been floating around the Internet here and there.
Number of books I own: Well, this is a tricky question. I am of limited means, and I just moved and left most of my books in the care of others. My current ownership is probably not much more than 30. Previously, I lived with probably several hundred books, most of them technical, and some of them rather dated. I now live in the vicinity of libraries of various sizes (some of them very large and comprehensive), so I haven't felt too much pressure to actually buy books.
Last book I bought: Keyboard Musicianship: piano for adults, book one. By James Lyke et al. I am taking a few weeks worth of piano classes to give myself a hobby and brush up on my musical skills (used to be a bassoonist), alas now rusty. This book is fairly comprehensive and includes an instructional CD, which should hopefully last me beyond this 3-4 weeks.
Last book I read: I'm a sci-fi addict (for more recent work, never got too attracted to Heinlein and company): Changing Vision by Julie E. Czernda. It wasn't very good, I'm afraid to say; I've seen similar themes done better. It's in my favorite category of SF---interspecies/intercultural contact fiction---which is why I got it. But it left something to be desired. If you must, the last serious (as though fiction were unimportant) book was Statistical Natural Language Processing by Chris Manning and Hinrich Schütze. I didn't read all of it, though.
Five books that mean a lot to me:
This is an interesting question. I've read a lot of books, but I'm supposed to pick the ones that "mean a lot to me." What does that mean? I guess it should be books that had some influence on my development as a person in some way. Whatever that means. Now, there are actually many of these, but I'm going to try and pick a representative sample.
Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh. Really, almost all of the contact fiction written by her, she's really the queen of this subgenre.
Rhyme and Reason: an Introduction to the Minimalist Syntax by Juan Uriagereka. A Socratic-style explanation and defence of the 90s version of Chomsky's Minimalist Programme in syntax. It starts from very elementary principles, and is intended for a general audience, except for segments of the book that are marked off as too technical. The first chapter is especially fun for non-linguists, as it relates this form of syntactic analysis to observations from a number of other scientists.
Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths. Linda McQuaig. A very enjoyable send-up of some of the hysterias that surrounded the early 90s. The Cult of Impotence forms an excellent sequel. I haven't had time to read the two or three books she's written that followed it.
The Silmarillion. J. R. R. Tolkien's breathtaking epic history of a universe. After all, I am Mandos, how could I not cite this?
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I read this when I was much younger, and I believe it is a necessity for everyone to read in the 8-16 group. It's superficially in the Harry Potter vein, but I think it far outstrips the Rowlings franchise in terms of subtlety. Rather than separate the world into a mundane world and a fun (if dangerous) world of magical wishes, Cooper totally intertwines the magical world and the real, modern world using often-grim British rural folklore. The whole series is good; for instance, one sequel, The Grey King, embeds a cosmic battle within an emotional family feud among Welsh farmers.
I understand one is supposed to pass this on as though it were the flu or something. So here are my victims: