The original meme: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
In my variant I’m dividing the list into three parts. Five books I read from ages 10-19, then five I read from 20-29, and finally five I read from 30-39. It wouldn’t be fair to do one for the next decade since I’ve been 40 for less than two weeks and the only book I’ve read in that period is Halting State by Charles Stross. I enjoyed it once I got past the wall of tech babble Stross seems so fond of, but I don’t think it’ll stay with me forever (but Githyanki will, so you’re safe there, Charlie!). In any case, on to my list.
1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
2. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
3. Black Company by Glen Cook.
4. Living My Life by Emma Goldman.
5. 1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion by Caroline Coon.
6. L’Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.
7. The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer.
8. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.
9. God’s Chinese Son by Jonathan Spence.
10. Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.
11. Stalingrad by Antony Beevor.
12. American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 by Sally Denton.
13. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman.
14. Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad.
15. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… SPENCE?!
Your interest in Taiping history surprises me. I spent a Fulbright year in Nanjing studying the Taiping Rebellion. What made Spence's account unforgettable for you?
I found the whole story of the Taiping Rebellion fascinating. That one man's weird interpretation of Christianity led to a conflict of that size and scope is amazing.
Totally. Part of what's fascinating to me is the Taiping Rebellion isn't only time that happened. In fact, there are a lot of hybrid Christian/indigenous religions spawning out of intercultural contact.
Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet, was very similar, inventing the "longhouse religion."
Simon Kimbangu founded a syncretic Christian African church around 1920 in the Congo.
There's even several contemporary pseudo-Christian cults in China, many of whom contain echos of Taiping concepts. The most dangerous is probably the Eastern Lightning, which has been known to kidnap other Chinese Christians and force them to convert.