Mum-is-thinking tagged me to answer a book survey. My answers are a motley collection, and I think that motley collections are always the most interesting. I’m guessing that people like to read these kinds of meme-tag surveys because they either want to hear how others have loved the same books they have, or else want to hear about books they had not yet (or possibly would not have) encountered, but would also enjoy.

One book that changed my life
I’ll have to take this is “one of many” rather than as “the one with the greatest impact” because surely different books have had done this at different stages in my life. There are a lot of contenders for books that were the first (if not always the best) to open up my knowledge-base to completely new fields of understanding, such as those on AD/HD or autism. Those are valuable in that regard, but more important are the books that give a different kind of insight, looking behind social paradigms to critically analyse the how and why of human interaction.

For the way that humans interact with their environments, Donald A. Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things looks at the problems that bad design causes people, and how people assume that their difficulties are considered to be their fault, rather than bad design. He touches but lightly on the issues of handicap accessibility, and I don’t think he mentions Universal Design at all, but the central message is still the same. My inner geek adores good, useful, imaginative and æsthetic design, and it drives me nutz when tools, machines or environments are badly designed.

For the way that humans interact with medical & emotional health care providers, Paula Kamen’s All In My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, And Only Slightly Enlightening Headache that describes some of the problems with the medical models of psychology, such as being a problem patient rather than a person with a problem, or the need to find “cures” for everything when instead one can be helped and be healed without being cured.

Strong messages from both of these books.

One book that you’ve read more than once
Who doesn’t have a comfily-tattered set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s four-volume Middle Earth trilogy? (Yes, trilogy means three books, but The Hobbit is part of the Lord of the Rings, and science fiction & fantasy is rife with trilogies composed of more than three volumes.) For my favorite re-read when stuck abed with a nasty virus, I really enjoy Anne McCaffrey & S.M. Stirling’s The City Who Fought. It’s a fun piece of adult science fiction with the well-drawn characters and nitty-gritty techy details and swashbuckling action that make for a engaging read.

One book you’d want on a desert island
Most people like to pack either something really long, or else an extensive practical reference book. But I don’t think that I’d want to be stuck with some interminably long piece of fiction, no matter how well-written, and I’ve probably read enough references over the years that I could eventually solve any manner of functional issues. What I want would be a huge book of blank pages, so I could keep a journal of thoughts about various things. It’s often difficult for me to work out mental explorations without a written medium. I’ll remember or figure out the right knots for lashing together poles, but being able to compose my thoughts is integral to my equalibrium.

One book that made you laugh
Terry Pratchett’s Mort was the first Discworld novel I ever read, and Death is still my favorite character, possibly because he’s so practical and the human world doesn’t always make sense to him. Plus, he talks in ALL CAPS. Soul Music is damn funny, too. I love the puns and unexpected turns in Pratchett’s books.

One book that made you cry
Ebbing & Gammon’s General Chemistry (sixth edition). The authors of this uninspired, heavy tome had an interminable number of equations to solve. I made it through four semesters of chemistry and sweated through this volume for half of them.

One book you wish you had written
Actually, I’m still compiling thoughts for my next book. I don’t tend to dwell on wish-I-had’s.

One book you’re currently reading
I never read just one book at a time, which explains why it takes me so long to finish anything! I just finished Joseph P. Shapiro’s No Pity. I’m furthest into Majia Nadesan’s most interesting Constructing Autism, which I will finish as soon as I remember where the hell I left the book laying about.

Currently my bedside pile contains: Thomas Skrtic’s Behind Special Education, Alfie Kohn’s What Does It Mean to Be Educated?, Kegan & Lahey’s How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communications, Fisher & Shapiro’s beyond reason, and Walter Kauffmann’s translation of Basic Writings of Nietzsche (maybe after finishing the book I’ll be able to spell N’s name without looking it up every time). I had just started on Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene and then my daughter took it back with her to college; bad girl. By default I’m also reading Hardman, Drew & Egan’s Human Exceptionality: School, Community and Family because it’s my current textbook.

One book you’ve been meaning to read
The future pile-by-my-bed: Daniel C. Dennett’s freedom evolves, John H. Holland’s Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity, Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (I think that one may take a study-buddy to gain the most benefit), the Routledge Critical Thinker’s series editions about Gilles Deleuze, Jaques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, Eli Maor’s e: the Story of a Number, and David Darling’s Universal Book of Mathematics. Doubtless there’s more, but that’s what’s on that section of my bookcase.

Tag five other book lovers
Anna, Catana, David, Liam, and Whomever wishes they’d been tagged but felt like they needed some kind of “official” sanction to simply write and post a list!


  1. David N. Andrews BA-status, PgCertSpEd (pending) said,

    10 September 2006 at 22:00

    “Good luck with the thesis.”

    Thanks, Sharon… it’s in now :D

  2. Sharon said,

    4 September 2006 at 4:27

    These lists are great, and as you say, I’ve had lots of inspiration of books to discover.
    Have you read any of Alfie Kohn’s other books and what do you think of them. I’ve read ‘Punished by rewards’ and think it’s true that many of us try to manipulate our children through praise just as much as through punishment. I remember when I took Duncan at school on his 1st day, and the teacher was using the ‘good sitting’, ‘good talking’, ‘good xyz’ expressions all over the place. I was wondering, if they use the same formulation when accompanying the children to the toilet…

    David, I like your choices too. I went through a period of reading all the Sharpe books. It always felt like a kind of guilty pleasure, I couldn’t believe the extremes he took things to at times, and the language is often totally offensive (not the swearing, I can handle that, more the terms for people). But all that and the ludicrous farce is what these books are all about, and you have to laugh.
    Good luck with the thesis.

  3. David N. Andrews BA-status, PgCertSpEd (pending) said,

    3 September 2006 at 1:41

    Oh bugger… can I think of books to fit the rubrics there?

    *One book that changed my life:

    Coon, D., “Introduction to Psychology”, 1994-ish – got me into psychology as a field of study and from there I went into it professionally.

    *One book that you’ve read more than once:

    Sharpe, T., The Wilt Trilogy: “Wilt”, “Wilt on High” and “The Wilt Alternative” – insanely funny.

    *One book you’d want on a desert island:

    Sharpe, T., “The Throwback” – insanely funny – this book actually helped with a serious depression when I was having a shite time at university.

    *One book that made you laugh:

    The Tom Sharpe ones just above ….

    *One book that made you cry:

    Books don’t make me cry but some make me angry, just for existing… one such would be Evidence of Harm, which I think has been an inspiration for some activities which are (at best) misguided and (at worst) downright horrible… haven’t read the whole text but have seen many quotes from it, and they strike me as being completely fallacious.

    *One book you wish you had written:

    Actually writing one, slowly but surely, “An educational psychology of autistic difficulties”, or summat like that.

    *One book you’re currently reading:

    Tennant, M., “Psychology and Adult Education” – useful in my work as a teacher and psychologist dealing with adult education.

    *One book you’ve been meaning to read:

    Not sure yet…. have to finish writing my thesis first….. :/

  4. Catana said,

    2 September 2006 at 17:03

    Afraid I’m the last person in the world you should have tagged. My answers would be pretty boring, for the questions I could even answer, and I don’t know five people to pass it on to. Honestly! I’m not into the social side of blogging, so I’m a total washout with these things. Yours is one of the very few blogs where I even comment. Thanks for the thought, though.

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