My Top Novels, Poetry and Comics

Since a dozen of my friends have posted various versions of the list ten books that touched you I will share 10 books that heavily influenced me before high school. I was a precocious reader and at 10 was reading at a college level so I kind of skipped young adult books for the most part.

1. Dune by Frank Herbert (my first difficult book that I had to get a dictionary to help and practiced trying to say all the words with weird spellings)
2. Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (beginning a life long fascination with logic and deduction)
3. Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov (was given a giant book of Asimov classics which were my first SF stories)
4. Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow (a collection of military SF short stories which was my first anthology including Heinlein, PKD, Card, Nourse, Laumer, Saberhagen, Haldeman, Sheffield, Teddy the fish and other greats)
5. Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke (my first SF story with a twist at the end)
6. Magician by Raymond E Feist (my first fantasy series and I could never decide if I related more to Pug or Tomas)
7. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (introduced me to Alexandre Dumas besides being an amazingly powerful story of vengeance and I highly recommend the demolished man and the men who killed mohammed)
8. The Cycle of Fire by Janny Wurts (my second fantasy series that ended up twisting into a SF story and coincidentally Feist and Wurts would end up teaming up on a series years later.
9. The White Plague by Frank Herbert (my first apocalypse end of the world story which ended up being followed by the stand by Stephen King)
10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (My favorite kid book/series along with the really weird short stories he wrote that I found in the elementary school library hidden in a cubbyhole)

Honorable mentions that were read a little later in high school or didn’t have as much of an impact as the above: Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear, City by Clifford Simak, the Lensmen/Skylark by EE doc Smith, A wizard of earthsea and left hand of darkness by Ursula K Leguin, Dorsai! by Gordon R Dickson and the rest of the Childe Cycle and Wolfling also by GRD, The Glassbead Game by Herman Hesse, I am barbarian and princess of mars by Burroughs, Lest Darkness Falls by L Sprague de Camp, Peter the Great by Robert K Massie, the hero with a thousand faces, occidental mythology and a dozen other Joseph Campbell books, and A history of the Swedish People by Vilhelm Moberg.

Ah, and before I forget of course Tolkien which would be my fourth fantasy series after the white gold wielder series and followed by Belgariad.

Top five for Poetry:

1.The Childe Roland unto the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning
2. Love Poems by Elizabeth Browning
3. Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake
4. Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas
5. Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge.

Honorable Mention:

Ulysses by Tennyson mainly for this part:

“I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.”

Top ten for Comic Books:
Transmetropolitan, Planetary, Hellblazer, Global Frequency, Watchmen, the secret history (come on guys and translate some more books!), sandman, annihilation, Promethea, and House of M.

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The Tyranny of Niceness

This post is inspired by reading this post from the The Advice Goddess Blog. I stole some of Christina’s lines directly and the general trend of the piece but I’d like to think my elaboration is of interest.

Our latest generation can’t argue. They think that creating tension is bad and a sign of something wrong or that something has gone wrong. It is part of the Tyranny of Niceness in which rocking the boat is the greatest sin and tolerance is the greatest virtue.

If you can’t argue then you can’t think.

One of the best ways to refine your ideas is to fight. A good vigorous debate between friends is a blast as well as a passionate argument between rivals. As long as your goal is to enhance your own understanding and delve into the truth such arguments are one of the best ways to enhance the mind. Those who argue with no intention of changing their mind and who openly state that no evidence will ever possibly convert them to any other view are already lost to reason.

If no one challenges your thoughts and opinions then the ruts of conventional thinking just grow deeper and stronger until you’re unable to critically examine your own beliefs and knowledge. Thus, the extreme polarization in America today where those who have the most extreme views are unopposed by the sensible majority and exist in an echo room listening only to those thoughts that agree with them. Those who dare challenge your paradigm are the enemy and whatever the enemy says is suspect as you already know and believe that passionately that your ideas are superior and correct.

The tradition upholding the ideals of free thought, liberty, and speaking your mind are quintessentially american. The latest generation has been raised without this and don’t know it and don’t appreciate it. One of the largest polls ever conducted on high school students showed that the vast majority think that the government should censor the media and those with unpopular opinions should be prevented from sharing their thoughts rather than being argued for and against in the free market of ideas. The ideas should just be quietly shut down and censored by central authority so as to avoid upsetting anyone. Again the tyranny of niceness rears its ugly head. As mentioned in the link Ethics Professors can’t find a single topic or ethical conundrum that their students will find objectionable and will actively stand up against! They just want SOMEONE else to make the decisions and shut up unpopular or divergent thoughts so they don’t have to critically apply their reason or make anyone uncomfortable.

The education system is partly to blame for this. An anecdotal story from an article in Newsweek I read years ago tells how a boy stood up and yelled at his teacher to stop being mean to a girl in their classroom. The girl had asked a question and the teacher mocked her calling her stupid and saying the question was dumb. The boy continued saying that in the first day of class the teacher had said to ask any questions you have and don’t worry there are no dumb questions so she was being mean AND being an hypocrite…the school’s response was to expel the boy for being intolerant and showing a lack of respect for authority.

Reminds me of a great speech given by Al Pacino in a Scent of a Woman.