I feel an impulse to write a long essay on what links all these various favorites together.
But I won't. I'll just list them.
These are in no particular order, except for the first one.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
"This book is like lightning from a clear sky... it is good news, good beyond hope. Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart."
—C.S. Lewis' review of The Lord of the Rings, 1954
The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book.
If you haven't read it, do so immediately— and don't imagine that seeing the movies counts.
|The Stand , Stephen King||The Mars Series , Edgar Rice Burroughs|
|The Chronicles of Narnia , CS Lewis||Harry Potter , JK Rowling|
|The Land that Time Forgot , Edgar Rice Burroughs||The Dragonriders of Pern , Anne McCaffrey|
|It , Stephen King||Tarzan of the Apes , Edgar Rice Burroughs|
|Sherlock Holmes , Arthur Conan Doyle||The Foundation Trilogy , Isaac Asimov|
It's hard to keep the above list down to a reasonable length: I stopped myself at Lord of the Rings plus a top ten.
And I must not forget the book that started me on reading:
The Enormous Egg , Oliver Butterworth
I was going to add an additional list of favorite non-fiction: though not as endlessly rereadable as a great novel, there are some books on documentary subjects I enjoy returning to from time to time. But after some thought, I discovered it was a lot harder to decide which books counted as "favorites" and which were just good, so in the end I just shrugged and said: let's go on to the next section.
Movies & TV
If I start talking about Doctor Who I'll have to add an entire folder of pages to my site. But there are plenty of pages out there to tell you about it, so I'll resist the urge.
If The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book, and Doctor Who my favorite TV show, which of them is my favorite thing of all things? They're tied.
I'm excluding shows currently on-air from this list: they have to prove they'll stick with me after they're no longer current.
I'm not really a model railroader. Proper model railroaders do everything they can to replicate the actual operations of a cargo delivery company. Ideally they base their model off some actual railroad that exists or once existed, designing scenery that matches the real-life setting, towns and businesses served off those the "prototype" served, and so on. Even if they "freelance"— i.e. make up a fictional railroad— they do everything they can to make sure their model operates exactly like a real railroad. There are even articles in hobby magazines about how to prepare realistic paperwork for assigning cars with certain cargoes to certain destinations, which they use in operating sessions so real they could serve as training for getting a job with a real company.
By contrast, I play with toy trains.
The only prototype I'm interested in is the I&FRR— the Imagination & Fantasy Railroad. The old I&F started operations in my head, sometime when I was around ten years old or even younger, when on visits to my grandparents' house in Longview, TX my grandfather would take me out to the local depot to watch the freight trains go by. He'd laugh and say "Don't be afrait' of the freight!" Later, at night, while lying in bed next to an open window, beyond the nearby sound of summer crickets I'd hear a distant train whistle— signaling the I&F to begin another busy night.
The I&F runs between a depot on a small-town Texas main street and a switchyard in a larger Texas town (but not in a big city). In between, despite the fact that this is geographically impossible, it goes through the Rocky mountains, and the southwestern deserts, where cowboys & indians watch its trains go by. It vaults over vast canyons on amazing trestle bridges, and passes through dark, mysterious tunnels that always come out somewhere different than you'd expect. There are probably volcanoes along the way, and there are definitely dinosaurs. The I&F runs, and always will run, firmly inside the Neverland.
No model can capture the I&F, no more than any model can capture a real prototype. The I&F remains always just beyond reach, and if you could ever reach it— well, that would ruin it. My main layout, which I call the Twin Canyons Railroad, only represents a tiny bit of it. It includes the two towns served by the I&F, the only parts of the prototype that anyone can actually visit, and in between takes a journey through a mountain ridge with waterfalls and canyons on either side. The drawing above gives the track plan I worked from, though I made some on-the-fly changes when actually laying track.
At present I've finished the TCRR up to the point I can run trains on it, but haven't yet started the scenery— I'm reluctant to take that next step, knowing that the layout is closer to the I&F while the scenery remains in my imagination. But I'll take the plunge one of these days. In the meantime, here's a little gallery of how things stand now:
Smalltown Texas Main Street
(depot not added yet, though its tracks are there)
Switchyard in the larger town
Center island where mountains will go
Backboard for the mountain ridge has been added.
This trestle bridge isn't in my track plan, but I decided to add it.
There will be a waterfall behind it.
—The Order of the Stick (I wasn't sure whether to include this in "books," but it's a webcomic so I figured "Other" was more apt.)
—Comic Books: for around twenty years or so I was an avid reader of DC comics (I never got into Marvel). I read widely right across the DC Universe, but my focus is definitely on their top two, Superman and Batman. Of those two, Superman is definitely the best, although he is the hardest to write well and the creators have often let him down. A few years back I found myself growing increasingly unhappy with what DC was doing, across all their titles: to my own tastes, at least, the quality of storytelling dropped off horribly. Because of past glories I kept on reading the DCU long past when I stopped enjoying it, hoping the quality would return, but I finally let it drop.
I will always have my boxes of back issues.
—Home Cooking: there are three reasons I am a home cook:
- I have to eat.
- Instant ramen is boring.
- Alton Brown is awesome.
—Anime: I used to follow anime more than I do now. I've got a decent collection of titles from the seventies through the nineties, but I haven't kept up with newer anime (although I still eagerly await whatever comes next from Studio Ghibli). Here are some of the favorites I still enjoy:
- As noted, anything from Studio Ghibli
- Rumiko Takahashi's classics: Urusei Yatstura, Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2
- Macross (but please ignore the dubbed "Robotech" version)
- Oh My Goddess! (or for the purists, "Ah! My Goddess")
- Dirty Pair (original, not "Flash")
- Sailor Moon (at all costs, stay away from the dubbed version. Mere seconds of exposure to it have been proven to cause cerebral hemorrhaging.)