Stewart tagged me about books. Quite daunting, in a way, but here goes:
How many books do you own?: Far too many. I don't actually know and I'd have to spend ages counting, but at a rough guess I'd go to about 1,000. More than 5 anyway - I believe that was the limit of primitive people's reckoning.
Last book I read: Don't let's go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. A wonderfully bleak and evocative picture of a childhood in Rhodesia as it went through the painful process of becoming Zimbabwe.
Lord of the Rings has to come first, despite the rather predictable nature of such a choice. I first read it forty years ago (Oh dear) during what I still look back fondly on as my last "proper" illness: I was still living at home, working in my first teaching job, and caught a cold which ended up as bronchitis. I stayed in bed for the eight days it took me to finish the book, getting up in the evenings to avoid starting another section too late in the day. My mother brought me cups of tea and tempting little meals. Bliss! But now I can't read any of it without recalling the wonderfully addictive sensation of the cough medicine I had to take.
Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell. I love the evocation of mediaeval Paris and the way the characters slip in and out of Latin in the dialogue. There is a wonderfully moving example of the patripassian heresy in the book, as well as the darkness in men's hearts.
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. Actually I love Greene's books, but this is one that I taught to a Higher class once and so came to know it really well. Its structure is fascinating and the imagery wonderful - and that's before you consider the story itself. Years later a student in another Higher class chose it for his Review of Personal Reading and became so obsessed by it that he was in danger of neglecting his other work. He did rather well, I remember.
The Collected Poems of R.S.Thomas. I suspect this tag may be about novels, but as it doesn't say so I'm ignoring the suspicion. Thomas' poetry is taut, bleak, moves me to tears with some lines (usually the final two in a poem) and has been instrumental in developing my own theology over the years - to say nothing of my own poetry writing.
The King Must Die by Mary Renault. I read this long before I first visited Crete, but on the seven occasions on which I have since stayed on the island I have found myself thinking of its powerful evocation of the ancient world of the bull dance and the labyrinth.
And of course this list leaves out the hundreds of books I've enjoyed over the years - the Pyms, the Howatches (before they became so formulaic), the Hornblower books, the Auels, the Sharpe books, the Conan Doyles, the Edmund Crispins and the Michael Inneses which were my introduction to detective fiction ... I fondly salute them all.
And I tag : Di, Kimberly, Andrew (because I'm sure he spends too much time over a computer), Neil and Ewan because it was the dickens of a job to get him to read any fiction in his formative years.