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Fifteen Books You Meet In Heaven
Boot worship
Here are fifteen books which really influenced me. These are not necessarily my favorite books (in fact, I *hate* some of them), but they really affected me growing up. I wanted to explain I changed, and when the books are about, so there are some spoilers below.

1. Douglas Hofstadter "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"

This is my favorite book. It's a tough read. It's a combination of some hardcore computer science theory and "Alice in Wonderland" styled anecdotes. I was a pretentious teenager, carrying this book from class to class and reading it during my spare time. I think it took me a year to read the whole thing. Years later at a computer conference on artificial intelligence, a small group of us geeks stood around and admitted that Hofstadter's book was a big reason we all started to study cognitive science.

2. David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace "The Book of Lists"

I was born in 1969, so I grew up in the seventies. That was a weird time to be a kid - a lot of adults were starting to concentrate on improving themselves. It was a time of "Passages" and women's lib and "key parties". As a child, I was fascinated by this new strange world of adults who were going to see movies like "10" and reading erotic fiction by Danielle Steele. Why were they so childish when it came to sex? This book had some kinky lists of "favorite sexual positions" and other glimpses into the world of adults I would soon join.

3. Bill Peet "Buford the Little Bighorn"

My favorite children's book. Let everyone else have Dr. Seuss... I loved Bill Peet. Other favorites were "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel", "Alice in Wonderland", "The Little Prince", and Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island". Even today, I love to read juvenile fiction like "I Am The Cheese", "The Phantom Tollbooth", and "Redwall". Maybe I'll always be a kid at heart.

4. david stein "Carried Away"

When I read this book last year, I had no idea how much it would affect me. I had to read it with my eyes squinted half-shut, peering between my fingers like watching a horror movie. Not because I hated the book... no, no, far from it. It's because it affected me so strongly that reading it was like a kick to the gut. It described the kind of S&M relationship I wanted to have, but was unable to. It was incredibly painful to read about the life I wanted to lead, but it still gave me a lot of hope (and tons of masturbation fantasies!)

5. Leo A. Frankowski "The Cross-Time Engineer (Adventures of Conrad Stargard, Book 1)"

I love this book. I've tried to get into science fiction and fantasy novels, but besides "Starship Troopers" and Ray Bradbury, nothing has ever stuck. But this one is about a science geek who goes back to medieval Poland, and I think I've read every book in the series six or seven times. It makes me miss the wonderful times I had in college with the Society for Creative Anachronism.

6. Douglas Adams "The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy"

In my opinion, the funniest book in the english language. The first page is classic, and it only gets better from there. I have never found a book that made me laugh as much as this one did. I love puzzles, games, and wordplay, so british humor is right up my alley. Are they any books half as funny as this one? Any recommendations?

7. Laura Antoniou "The Marketplace"

When a lot of S&M slaves talk about the kind of relationship they want, and what slavery means to them, I think they are referring to this book. For better or worse, Antoniou nails exactly why a masochist would submit, and what they are expecting, fearing, and hoping for in the back of their mind. Unfortunately, life is not like this. But when I'm serving and things are tough, I find myself reflecting on this book and what the characters thought and felt, and it really centers me.

8. Jane Wagner "J.T."

As a child, I assumed that adults would never hurt or lie to me. It was a tough lesson to learn that was not necessarily so. I loved reading children's stories, and in most fiction of that type, the hero always wins and there is a moral in the end. Even the darker stories that we hipsters like ("The Witches", "Holes", "Lemony Snicket") have positive characters and satisfying endings. I remember the first short story I read where the protagonist is bullied, and then turns around and bullies a smaller kid. I was shocked! The "hero" of my story turned out to be the villian, and it was a huge lesson for me. But the *worst* was this story called "J.T." about an inner city boy who finds a lost kitten, only for it to get run over and die. End of story. What kind of sadistic writing is that?!?!

9. Franklin W. Dixon "The Witchmasters Key, The Hardy Boys Series #55"

I read all of the Hardy Boys books, and had a crush on Frank. Not Joe... Frank. He was the smart one, the one played by Parker Stevenson. While everyone loved Shaun Cassidy, I wanted to be with the "other guy". Imagine what happened to my prepubescent emotions when I read the following passage:

The man spoke again. "You must swear allegiance to me!"

Joe clenched his fist and screwed up all his courage. "Nuts to you!" he replied.

"Second the motion!" Frank blurted out.

Satan shook with rage. "You cheeky impostors! You're no apprentices! No!"

His seething voice became a low whine. "You had your chance to leave England. We gave you plenty of warnings. You refused to heed. Now you will remain with us FOREVER! He Goat, prepare the rack! But first, the potion!"

Several men seized the boys, pinioning their arms and forcing their heads back. Two women came forward with gold flagons in their hands. The metal gleamed in the dim light.

Frank recognized the crest - a griffin carrying off a knight in armor and the legend: Avoir la Serre Bonne.

The flagon was from Professor Rowbotham's Witch Museum! A split second later Frank felt something cold touch his lips. The witch tilted the flagon and a bitter liquid streamed into his mouth and down his throat. He choked on it.

Joe was also forced to swallow the fluid. They felt themselves growing faint.

"They've poisoned us! Frank coughed.

Satan cackled. "it would be fortunately for you if we had. This poition will make you easier to handle, that is all. We want you to be awake for the climax."

"The climax?" Joe gasped.

"The rack!"

Two medieval torture instruments occupied one corner of the room. They looked like wooden bed frames with slats held together by thick ropes. But the head and foot of each frame were movable and could be extended by a winch.

The Hardys were thrown on the racks. Their hands and feet were bound tightly in a spread-eagle position.

He Goat chuckled. "Now we are going to give you the treatment!" As he turned toward the winch, his mask slipped far enough to reveal his face.

Goodman, the Craighead butler!

"How did you get here?" Frank cried out.

He Goat adjusted his mask and chuckled again. "It doesn't matter than you know who I am. You won't tell anybody."

Seizing the handle of the winch, he began to turn it. Frank felt his arms and legs drawn taut by the ropes. The stretching continued, causing sharp pains in his wrists and ankles.

Another witch turned the handle of the rack Joe had been tied to. The pain becaome agonizing, and when the boys cried out for help, the witches erupted into spasms of fiendish mirth.

They ceased at a signal from Satan. "That will do for now," he commanded. "The torture will resume in a moment. Keep the racks in readiness."


10. Michael Medved "The Golden Turkey Awards"

It's a shame that Michael Medved turned out to be such an anti-gay asshole. But this book was very influential to me as a teenager. Even after VHS players came out and rental places were on every corner in the eighties, it was still hard to find rare movies if you lived away from a big city. I got most of my alternative media through 'zines (ah... I miss "Film Threat"), and mailed away for bootleg dubs of rare movies. I don't think you kids today with your Netflix and your Youtube know how lucky you have it!

11. (author unknown) "Monsters You Don't Know About"

When I got to college, I knew that I wanted to study artificial intelligence. However, since computer science was invented after the Dewey Decimal system, any books on AI were stuck at the very beginning in the 000 section. This is also the section for general knowledge and for books about books. So, imagine my surprise when I went down into the very scary and very cool stacks of books in the immense college library and started at the first first 000 shelf. Right next to the information theory books I wanted to study was a book titled "Monsters You Don't Know About", describing Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. I realized that computer science is a fantasyland based on constructing digital castles in the clouds, and concentrated on a practical electrical engineering major instead!

12. Robert Pirsig "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

I had a pretentous period in high school where I read nothing but Herman Hesse. My best friend and I were amateur philosophers, and we loved to talk about Life and Meaning. Pirsig was like a drug for us... filled with our own self importance, we tried to figure out the meaning of life, without any life experience behind us. I don't mean to make fun of the person I was - we were young and beautiful and full of wonder and energy. I still feel that way most of the time, though I don't turn to books to teach me about life.

13. The bible

I didn't really grow up in a religious family. In fact, I'd say my dad is either a diligent atheist or a lackadaisical christian because he never goes to church. It amounts to the same thing. But I was lucky enough to attend many different styles of churches as a youth: I was baptized presbyterian, confirmed lutheran, dated a Mormon girl, practiced buddism, married a former baptist and catholic, and attended unitarian and church of christ services during college. I've never been muslim or jewish, but I *have* read the bible many times. I still find it a bizarre funhouse of contradictory stories and ideas. I think it is an amazing book, but also childish and dangerous, too. I am amazed that few americans have studied the bible, and when they do they pick out easy-to-read sections. You've got to tackle the surreal prophets who read like drug addicts, the psychotic blather of Paul, and the sexual eroticism of Song of Solomon to get the full feel of of the book. It's a weird combination of random books by numerous authors over hundreds of years, and not anything I would put any faith in.

14. Richard Bach "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"

I think I got this book as a graduation gift, along with Kahlil Gibran's "The Prohpet". Hey, it was the seventies. We were reading a lot of books on EST, and "The Tao of Physics" and other wacky philosophical books. It's the same thing people do today with "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" or "The Secret". For some reason, I still love Richard Bach. I know it's corny and hasn't aged well, but every time I read it (it's a short book) it strikes something in my soul, and that counts for something.

15. Roald Dahl "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar"

I think it's great when children's authors get fed up with censoring their books and try writing adult fiction. I was shocked (shocked!) when Judy Blume came out with those adult novels. Us teenagers dogeared all the dirty parts and shared them with our friends. Since I loved Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach", I assumed that I'd love all his other books. Little did I expect how dark his writing can be. Here is a short story from the collection that probably created a lot of my BDSM fantasies. There is a link at the bottom if you want to read the whole thing... but be warned that it's pretty dark. Even better is a story called "The Pig", but that one is not online.

The Swan

Ernie placed his gun on the ground and advanced upon the small boy. He grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Raymond took the roll of string from his pocket and cut off a length of it. Together, they forced the boy's arms in front of him and tied his wrists together tight.

"Now the legs," Raymond said. Peter struggled and received a punch in the stomach. This winded him, and he lay still. Next, they tied his ankles together with more string. He was now trussed up like a chicken and completely helpless.

Ernie picked up his gun, and then, with his other hand, he grabbed one of Peter's arms. Raymond grabbed the other arm and together they began to drag the boy over the grass toward the railway line.

Peter kept absolutely quiet. Whatever it was they were up to, talking to them wasn't going to help matters.

They dragged their victim down the enbankment and on to the railway tracks themselves. Then one took the arms and the other the feet and they lifted him up and laid him down again lengthwise right between two rails.

"You're mad!" Peter said. "You can't do this!"

"'Oo says we can't? This is just a little lesson we're teachin' you not to be cheeky."

"More string," Ernie said.

Raymond produced the ball of string, and the two larger boys now proceeded to tie their victim down in such a way that he couldn't wriggle away from between the rails. They did this by looping string around each of his arms and then threading the string inder the rails on either side. They did the same with his middle body and his ankles. When they had finished, Peter Watson was strung down helpless and virtually immobile between the rails. The only parts of his body he could move to any extent were his head and feet.

Ernie and Raymond stepped back to survey their handiwork. "We done a nice job," Ernie said.

"There's trains every 'arf 'our on this line," Raymond said. "We ain't gonna 'ave long to wait."

Read the whole thing at:

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Wouldnt it be amazing to find that there is no Bible in heaven? I woulc imagine it being banned for being printed by mortals trying to speak for God :) and a weapon used for hate and to instill fear. Wouldnt that be a hoot.

It's still an amazing book, and even though I am an atheist, I love to read and study it.

It is something i shold read someday. i went through all sorts of religous training, but never was a reader as a kid. So somehow i managed to skip reading it and just did the workbooks, i tried reading a "Good News" bible (modern translation) and that didnt work for me either. I always considered once you got the ten commandments down, it pretty much covered everything else .

Don't start from the beginning. Every time I tried that I got bogged down after "Genesis"! Join a study group, if you can find one. Or, find a book that acts like a study guide, helping dsecribe the difficult parts. The new testament is easier to read than the old, in my opinion, but you'll find yourself stopping to think a *lot*. It's not a fast read.

It wasnt a fast read at 12 years old. All i remeber was my kreepy bible study teacher who i called stinky. He would bath in afterhsave.

It needs more car chases and explosions.

That's a good reading list and I'm happy to find that someone else has even heard of Richard Bach, let along enjoys his writing.

I don't believe in philosophy. ;)

To me, even asking the question "What is the meaning of life?" means that one has already completely missed the point, and anything after that is nothing more than mental masturbation. Sure, that can be fun, but it doesn't really accomplish anything.

But philosophy believes in *you* {grin}

There are a lot of fun philosophical questions besides metaphysical ones searching for the meaning of life. The Pirsig book above rants for hundreds of pages about Quality: what makes one thing better than the other? The Japanese love tea cups that are cracked and lopsided... but only if the imperfections are done in a certain way. Why is that? Philosophy is full of fun things to think about.

Because people, once certain basic needs are met, invent complexity. Period. It expresses itself in a nearly endless variety of ways, but that's what's at the root of it all. When life gets too "easy" - we make it harder. That's all there is to it.

The world is full of an endless variety of things to explore. That one reason I love science and math so much. I love to try and figure out how the world works. You're right... everything is simple, once you know some of the rules underneath it. I guess I'm one of those people that can help but look at nature and see a bunch of equations.

Well, that's kind of my point - it's physics and biology all the way down, with math informing them both. There's no mystic nonsense going on, just science we don't grasp yet.

Roald Dahl - Henry Sugar, OMG I completely left that off my list and yet, when you mention it, the stories came rushing back. I loved that entire book and the store of The Swan didn't resonate any louder with you than it did with me. Thank you for reminding me about them.

Here is a BDSM scene. If I was near you... I'd get a rough looking friend, and we'd kidnap you in the woods. We'd tie you up with rope and put you on the tracks. Maybe the memories of the book would fill your head.

And then, following the plot in the book, we'd make you march around the swamp until you were filthy. Then out would come the feathers. After stripping you of your shirt... we would attach each white feather into your skin with a needle. And that's what the nightmares of children can inspire when we hit adulthood.

The Bible is, indeed, an interesting book. I am (retired) Greek Orthodox Clergy and can read in both Koine (the bible's original Greek) and some Hebrew. Its interesting how translations can be fucked up. Anytime you want to talk bible, let me know....

Over the past few years a few questions

1. Last summer I read the prophets of the old testament. That was mind blowing. I still don't know if they were insane or deluded.

2. Then, for a bit I was fascinated with the garden of eden, dissecting the creation story not as literally true, but as a metaphor of things people find important, ala Joseph Campbell.

3. Recently, I was asking a friend if jesus knew he was divine. I still have doubt on whether he even existed, or was a composite of semi-historical figures the way Robin Hood or King Arthur are.

4. I love and hate Paul. He is a sexist homophobic dick. But his strong conversion hints at a weird fanatical personality that intrigues me, and I try to read his letters to get a glimpse of the man behind them.

5. And of course, I love learning about the history of the bible, when certain books were written, and the gnostic scriptures left out. I love to follow the hippest stuff coming out of the Jesus Institute and modern revisionist thought.

Over the years I was interested in prophecies revealed, the inaccuracies of the bible and what that means, treating the bible as literature or text, the poetry of the bible (psalms, song of solomon), and the wonderful jewish history of Genesis/Exodus/Leviticus. I'd love to learn more about how the bible has been used in the past to support racism and slavery, and how that reflect today's anti-homosexual activists. I don't know enough about the history of religion, from calvinism through the lds church. Then there are all other books I haven't read, like the torah or koran. I've still got a lot to learn and read!

Edited at 2009-08-05 12:40 am (UTC)

I thought you were intense, but to have your response arrive 3 times... well, that's a bit strange. Any time you want to talk/learn/discuss the Bible, Early Church stuff....
I am well versed, and at your disposal.

Of course Xianity has its home in the Torah, and Islam was, for many years, thought to be a heretical view of Xianity.

I might be wrong, but I would conclude that you probably know nothing about the Eastern Orthodox Church.... we're interesting to say the least.

Sorry Sir... the three times happens when someone corrects a post (in my case, spelling errors) and LiveJournal sends a revision every time

I see... thanks! I am quite computer illiterate... My offer is solid. It would be nice to have someone to chat with about this stuff...

1, 2, 6, 12, 14 were identified from the author alone.

I've been itching to reread Godel, Escher, Bach. I've been reading Roger Penrose's The Road to Reality : A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe and Emperor's New Mind : Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. I need to pick up his Shadows of the Mind : A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness. I think it'll complement GEB nicely.

Thanks for the suggestion. I look foward to reading more Dahl.

15. Roald Dahl "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar"

I absolutely love some of these books. My aunt gave me The Witchmaster's Key to read when I was maybe 6 years old for christmas, warping me for life. Seriously, I think that book might have been my introduction to all things kink--and they were rewarded afterwards!

I was crazy about the Hardy Boys growing up. I'd spend a dollar of my allowance every week on one of their books. But it didn't get up to #55 in the '60's.

I've had Godel, Escher, Bach on my shelf forever. Don't know if I'll ever read it.

I have picked up Pirsig's "Zen... " a couple of times this summer, haven't started to reread it yet. I guess I read it in about '74, and was very impressed.

As for the idealism of youth, it's a good time. It's important to make it through and to recall the kernal of idealism. But more pragmatically.

I love the eclecticness of this list! You're definitely not heterogeneous!

My usual comment about the bible: "It's a pretty good fantasy novel, but too much sex and violence for my taste."

Film Threat is still around as a pretty good website -- but there's nothing like those ads in the back of the magazine!

And speaking of books, I was always very fond of that scene in Bull Durham....

Just before the death of actor W.C. Fields, a friend visited Fields' hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. When asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, "I'm looking for loopholes."

(Deleted comment)
Heh! You know there was no "FW Dixon", right? It's a pen name for a bunch of ghostwriters. That's why the books' quality varies so much. But I still love 'em

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