Reading and Listening
In the last few years as work my book intensified, I found the amount that I was reading significantly reduced. This is something I’m pleased is finally coming back. Due a severe speech issues as a child, I actually learned to read while I was learning to talk (i.e., we’re talking months of speech therapy cards, etc.), and so books always have a special place for me. They’re like friends, old and new, and I have a wide collection of old friends that I keep going back to from time to time.
Some books that I keep on recommending are listed below, in no particular order save for the first, which is and I suspect always shall be my favourite book of all time. (Over time I’ll undoubtedly come back and add more to this list.)
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. This was a “mandatory read’ for my higher school certificate. When I heard we were doing Catch-22, I was annoyed – “war” books were not something I cared for. Seldom could I say I’ve been more wrong about a book before I picked it up – these days I like to go back and re-read it at least once every few years.
- IBM and the Holocaust, by Edwin Black. Sadly I’ve lost my copy of this; having loaned it several years ago, I’ve never got it back, and never got around to purchasing a new copy. It remains though a favourite read insofar as the level of investigation, and the level of horror one experiences when reading it is quite profound.
- The Cluetrain Manifesto is a book comprising some 95 theses surrounding the need for businesses to realign their communications processes and the way they engage with customers. I would argue that the proliferation of business related and company related groups that are evolving on social networking sites like Facebook is a prime example of the logical correctness of many of the arguments put forward in Cluetrain.
- The Great War, by Les Carlyon. While not big on war novels, I did study history, both modern and ancient, at high school, and have maintained a more-than-passing interest in historical works since then. The Great War is a look at the first world war mainly from the perspective of Australian involvement in Europe. If you’re an Australian, I’d suggest this book is as close to a must-read as you can get. Even if you’re not Australian, I’d heartily recommend it due to the way it’s written. While still providing details of the grand scope of the war, Les frequently descends to individual characters, giving descriptions of their lives before or during the war; these often become shatteringly poignant within a page or two, making practically every ‘common’ person you read about in the book appear as a hero.
- Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, by Peter F. Hamilton. A set of two books presenting what I’d consider to be one of the most vivid and detailed science fiction imaginings I’ve ever read. From the first page to the last, the depth of detail is sublime.
- The Gap Series, by Steven Donaldson. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of Steven Donaldson’s works, but seeing his at times operatic and grand writing as applied to science fiction is very, very special.
- The Losers, by David Eddings. There was a time, before I thoroughly worked my way through Steven Donaldson’s writings, that I thought Eddings was an exceptional fantasy writer. These days I’d have to say in retrospect his writings are amongst the worst and most formulaic tripe I’ve ever read. However, having said that, his one volume modern-day fiction piece, The Losers, is an exemplary tale of what can happen when social welfare ceases to care. It should be mandatory reading for anyone planning on entering the social services.
- The Twelve Caesars, by Suetonius. I had a very enthusiastic ancient history teacher who introduced me to the wonders of the Twelve Caesars. Often including the sort of gossip you’d expect to see in a trashy magazine, The Twelve Caesars represents a completely different view of Roman emperors that teaches more about the personal lives and the morals of the times than you might imagine.
I grew up in a relatively small country town which saw me with practically no exposure to a lot of “modern” music at the time, with the radio station in the town primarily playing only country music or golden oldies. Since my parents favoured country music, any music played in the house invariably went down that path.
These days I do my best to avoid country music, and in fact only have a couple very select albums or songs in my collection from that genre – for the most part due to memories associated with the music rather than for the music itself.
Music however plays a very large part of my life. I love music that carries me on a journey, and tend to gravitate to music that either tells a story or carries an emotional charge, regardless of what that charge is.
What I’m listening to constantly changes, but there are some favourites, both old and new, that always end up being on my iPhone. These are:
- Everything by Kate Miller-Heidke. For an example of her awesome vocal talents (and lyrics), check out this video, which is now being used in anti-bullying campaigns in Australian education programmes.
- Rockferry, by Duffy.
- Back to Black, by Amy Winehouse.
- (Newly discovered) Holy Smoke, Gin Wigmore.
- The Dusk Sessions, by Spook.
- Hymns of the 49th Parallel, by k.d. lang.
- Surfacing, by Sarah McLachlan.
- Somewhere over the rainbow / what a wonderful world, by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.
- Tracy Chapman‘s epyonomous debut album.
- A broad selection of Queen albums.
- An equally broad selection of ELO albums.
- Cheapness and Beauty, by Boy George. Honestly, if you think Boy George is defined solely by Culture Club, you’re wrong, and you need to listen to this autobiographical album.
- Carmen, by Bizet.
- Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff.
- Beautiful Awkward Pictures, by Toni Colette and the Finish.
- Just for the heck of it, here’s the top songs (in order) from my iTunes collection in terms of most listened to:
- Lakmé (OperaBabes version)
- Somewhere over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version)
- Jenny Was a Friend of Mine (The Killers)
- Superman (Lazlo Bane)
- Don’t Panic (Coldplay)
- Chelsea Dagger (The Fratellis)
- I can’t decide (Scissor Sisters)
- Into the West (Howard Shore & Annie Lennox)
- Somewhere over the Rainbow / What a beautiful world (medley, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)
- Words (Kate Miller-Heidke)
- Time after Time (Cyndi Lauper and Sarah McLachlan duet)
- In the Middle of Nowhere (Dusty Springfield)
- Jolene (Dolly Parton)
- Spider Pig (Hans Zimmer – yes, the choral arrangement of Spider Pig from The Simpsons movie)
- Look Up (Toni Colelette & the Finish)
- Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray (k.d. lang)
- So Beautiful (Pete Murray)
- River (Sarah McLachlan)
- All Through the Night (Cyndi Lauper and Shaggy)
- Flathead (The Fratellis)
- Voodoo Child (Rogue Traders)
- Mad World (Roland Orzabal; the version made so famous by Donnie Darko)
- Sunny Came Home (Shawn Colvin)
- Little Wonders (Rob Thomas)
- The Eyes of Truth (Enigma)
(In short, my music tastes are all over the place, with the exception of metal styled music.) One thing I find odd looking at my top 25 is that there’s none from Queen or ELO in there, given that they’re definitely my two favourite bands. I guess it’s that when I hit upon an individual song that strikes a chord, I listen to it with great frequency in a short period of time. Queen and ELO songs get equal play and thus never get the huge spikes I get in other songs.