This was written maybe 6 or 7 years ago: I'll update it one day...
I usually read an average of 2 or 3 books each week, and have done for close to 25 years. The vast majority of these are fiction, usually in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, crime fiction and horror, and those are the ones I want to talk about here.
Rather than give you links to my favourite novelists, I thought I'd just include a table of their names, major titles and a short blurb, and let you go looking: reading about books is never as good as reading books!
|Iain M Banks||Consider Phlebas, Player of Games, Use of Weapons, Look to Windward, Inversions, Dead Air, The Algebraist, Feersum Endjinn, lots more||The Scottish legend: my favourite book of all time, apart from Only Forward, is Use of Weapons - no, it's Look to Windward, no... arrghh: the man is a genius. He also writes non-SF novels that are amazing (and doesn't use the M in his name in those)|
|Stephen Donaldson||The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (big series!), Mordant's Need (small series), The Gap series (huge and amazing, if harrowing), Daughter of Regals (short stories), Reave the Just (short stories)||The two short story collections are astonishing - and the novels rule too. The Gap series... I can't write about it - read it!|
|David Gemmell||Legend, The King Beyond the Gate, the Waylander series, the Jerusalem Man series, Sword In The Storm, Ravenheart, lots more||Characterisation, action and the best (because most complex and nuanced) moral voice in fantasy fiction today. Gemmell's novels are all about faith and fear and courage - amazing.|
|William Gibson||Burning Chrome (short stories), Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow's Parties, The Difference Engine (with Bruce Sterling), Pattern Recognition.||The cyberpunk master just keeps getting better and better.|
|Neal Stephenson||Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle||No-one else writes as funny, as serious and as mind-blowing as Stephenson. Snow Crash particularly blends mafia pizza delivery with Sumerian mythology and neuro-linguistic theory: a tour de force|
|Michael Marshall Smith||Only Forward, Spares||'Only Forward' is my favourite novel of all time. Get it, read it - even ask to borrow it from me: just read it! 'Spares' is great too, and his novels under the name 'Michael Marshall' (The Straw Men, The Lonely Dead, Blood of Angels) are wonderful too.|
|Jack Womack||Ambient, Terraplane, Heathern, Elvissey, Random Acts of Senseless Violence, Let's Put the Future Behind Us...||Plays with language and ideas, and shows us a future we wouldn't want to live in, but that is all too plausible... read him!|
|Bruce Sterling||The Artificial Kid, Schismatrix, Crystal Express (short stories), Holy Fire, Zeitgeist||The philosopher of the post-human: Sterling tells fascinating stories, and has dealt more interestingly than anyone else I know (in fiction or otherwise) with the effects of technology on humans.|
|Ed McBain||Far too many to list - this guy is prolific!||Crime fiction, often set in a sort of alternative NewYork. Reliably rivetting. Also wrote the fantastic 'Blackboard Jungle' (some of the best evocations of the experience of teaching anywhere) under his real name, Evan Hunter.|
|Clive Barker||Cabal, Imajica, Weaveworld, The Great and Secret Show, Gallilee, Sacrament, Coldheart Canyon||The dark master - lots of explicit sex and violence, so not for the fainthearted, but he shows us worlds of wonder and extremity like no-one else.|
|Stephen King||Again, way too many to list.||OK, he's no secret! But perhaps you haven't realised before what a great story teller he is - and also what a moral heart informs all his work.|
|Anthony Burgess||A Clockwork Orange, Any Old Iron, The Piano Players, Earthly Powers, the Enderby series, and heaps more.||Very, very versatile of voice and always thoughtful and excellent.|
Sue and I like playing role playing games (RPGs) like Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, Icewind Dale 1& 2, Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2, Fable and others together. We also played older games like Eye of the Beholder and graphical puzzle adventures like Myst and Riven. One person (usually me, though this is sometimes a bone of contention!) does the keyboard and mouse 'driving' while the other one thinks and provides suggestions.
I also enjoy first person shooters (FPSs) like Quake, Unreal, Unreal 2, Unreal Tournament, Half-life 1 & 2 and all the various expansion packs and even Daikatana. I usually play these by myself in single player mode, or over the net with friends. Older games like Bioforge are cool too.
Probably my favourite genre, though, is 'first person sneakers' (also FPSs, confusingly!) like the Thief series, System Shock 1 & 2 and Deus Ex 1 & 2. I particularly like the Thief and Deus Ex series because they're not about shooting everything in sight - in fact they have a moral stance against carnage - but about thinking and sneaking and being careful.
The music section used to say 'my tastes are pretty eclectic', but I guess they're really not! I do like the old school hiphop of Run-DMC, Arrested Development, Salt 'n' Pepa and Ice-T.
But beyond that, most of what I listen to on a regular basis fits on the continuum of 'white men with guitars'!
Older metal stuff includes Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. For newer noize, Fear Factory is fun, and I also enjoy Evergrey and Moonspell, but Opeth is my particular favourite at the moment.
I made this Metal Education page to share a bunch of my favourite bands and songs with some friends of mine and friends of Cassie's. If you ask very nicely I might even send you a CD of those songs...
On the other end of the spectrum, Peter Gabriel is always amazing, and I've been enjoying the Finn Brothers album and the latest David Gilmour album recently.
Each of the 'major' 20th century philosophers of science (and I know that's a controversial judgement right there!) - Sir Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn - has been quite influential both in how I think about science and in my views on philosophy and life more generally, but the perspectives I find really fascinating and influential are the (somewhat opposed, but less than they'd tell you!) ideas of Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend.
There's a good brief discussion of 20th century philosophy of science here: http://www.philosopher.org.uk/sci.htm, and two of my papers draw on these ideas and apply them to education: Feyerabend Revisited: Epistemological Anarchy and Disciplined Eclecticism in Educational Research and Sketching Some Postmodern Alternatives: Beyond Paradigms and Research Programs as Referents for Science Education.
I also find Jurgen Habermas' early work on 'Knowledge and Human Interests' to be an enormously valuable tool for thinking about different forms of knowledge and their appropriate domains of usefulness.
And last but not least, Max van Manen's work on pedagogy and the tact and thoughtfulness required in teaching has been very influential on my thinking about education, and his hermeneutic phenomenological approach to human science research has influenced my research approaches.