Tobias Mutter has worked part-time for Shelf Awareness since the company's inception, when he compiled author TV appearances each weekend during high school. Among other duties (including posting this into Shelf Awareness's CMS), he now regularly writes book reviews and Rediscover backlist columns. Toby has also written a bunch of humorous fantasy and science-fiction manuscripts looking for loving homes. He lives in Manchester, N.H., hopefully soon with a rescue dog.
On your nightstand now:
I don't use my nightstand for books. I have a bookcase, and next to that a desk, and next to that, the floor--which is usually where my "to read" pile terminates. So, starting from the book nearest my sofa, here's what's at bat (or already swinging):
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. I'm over halfway through this blurry labyrinth of New Wave sci-fi. It's my perfect kind of weird, despite being, for long stretches, a bit of a boring book. The writing itself is marvelous.
Iron Council by China Miéville. I loved Perdido Street Station and The Scar. Bas Lag is my bag--I just wish there was more.
Crash by J.G. Ballard. I don't know if the premise (the sexual attraction to--and seeking out of--car accidents) is more horrifying or humorous, which is probably what got my attention in the first place. Plus, everything of Ballard's I've read has been more than worthwhile.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I'll distinguish between favorite books that were read to me at a very young age and books I read myself a little later.
In terms of bedtime favorites, you've got the classics, Goodnight Moon and Blueberries for Sal... all that good stuff. Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon was my hero, and, to much dismay, I recreated his adventures on the walls of a kindergarten bathroom.
Later, I loved the Goosebumps and Animorphs series. I remember starting a reading club for Goosebumps books in second or third grade, maybe? That was my age, but this was during aftercare, a mix of all grades, and when we wouldn't let an illiterate kindergartner join, the whole club was forcibly disbanded. I've been hostile to authority ever since.
Even later, The Lord of the Rings was very important to me (and still is).
Your top five authors:
Ask me again in six months and you'll get a different answer. That's a common response to this question, one I'm forced to echo: China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin, H.P. Lovecraft.
Book you've faked reading:
Many, all in academic contexts, and none because I couldn't--just wouldn't. Whether seventh or 11th grade, I was usually up to some kind of something, like writing book reports for books I didn't read. I'm not proud of any of it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
It depends on the person. Halfway through Dhalgren, for example, I know my parents would hate it and my brother might (maybe) enjoy it. I think The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has something for everyone, but I'll pile House of Leaves on anyone.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Bought? None. Stolen?
Look, it wasn't from a bookstore and I was in middle school. Literally in middle school, where I found an abandoned 1985 U.K. anthology of H.P. Lovecraft stories. Its cover was a particularly hideous rendition of his work, something out of At the Mountains of Madness, gooey and grisly. I couldn't not pick it up, open it, skim and then slow to read its yellowed pages. Yes, I then indefinitely borrowed it, but I was sitting in that classroom for a while and no one came looking for that book. I still have it.
Book you hid from your parents:
If anything, growing up in my house, I had to hide from the books.
Book that changed your life:
The Lord of the Rings changed my life more than once. Tolkien's world exposed me to the magnificent capabilities of storytelling, specifically via long novels, to create fictional worlds richer and more enduring than any other medium. Plus, it's fun fantasy.
Favorite line(s) from a book:
"A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it." --Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
I still get goosebumps reading that.
Five books you'll never part with:
This question had been rather relevant to me lately, what with moving three times in two years. Which of these heavy things do I haul around? I hate e-readers (nothing personal), so I'm stuck with these pages and pages of pulp. Here are five books I haven't parted with yet, and might even make a special effort to hold on to:
The H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus 1: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels of Terror (see above).
A copy of Earth Abides by George R. Stewart that I picked almost at random as a kid. It turned out to be a real treat. I still think about my selection process. It scares me, how many amazing books I have and will continue to pass over accidentally.
Family heirlooms, among which I include the bedtime books mentioned earlier. I'm pretty sure that copy of Blueberries for Sal belonged to my dad as a kid. I love that kind of stuff.
A signed copy of my grandfather's self-published family history. I know it didn't make money, not sure if it broke even. That was unfortunate if a little predictable. However, his work is such a gift to us remaining Mutters.
A copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, aka the Little Red Book, given by my father to his father upon the latter's election to head of the local school board. The note: "From one chairman to another." Yeah, it's hereditary.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Laughing out loud while reading is pretty rare for me. My first trip through Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy led to lots of those, so I'd stick my thumb out for that again.