Books, Glorious Books!

Books, Glorious Books!

Right now, I’m on holiday in Derbyshire without WiFi. I’m probably writing, because I will have the means to do that, but blogging is somewhat difficult from mobile with (likely) limited signal, so I’m writing this in advance. Because I think I’m convinced that blog readers are like babies — you don’t have object permanence and so if I disappear from view, you’ll become convinced that I no longer exist. Or something. Anyway.

Scheduled posts seem like a good time to do blog meme thingymajigs, since I don’t yet know what observations I’m going to make about the world next week, and Engie from Musings From Neville’s Navel posted 55 bookish questions which I thought I’d tackle. Wahey.

1. Favourite childhood book?

Not sure. Possibly The Hobbit. I know it’s not really a children’s book, but I adored it from the age of seven, so whatever, it counts. I was also a big fan of Roald Dahl’s books. And the Book of Esther. You know, from the Bible. I was a really weird child.

2. What are you reading right now?

I don’t know. I can’t see the future. Maybe something by Oscar Wilde? I’m planning to take my Kindle away with me and I recently downloaded a lot of Wilde, so possibly that. (Technically I’m reading, like, nine different things — Goodreads judges me every time I log in. But I’m not really reading them.)

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

None, because now that I’m over 18 I have to pay to reserve stuff, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

4. Bad book habit?

Getting stuck reading a difficult book so not reading anything for weeks.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

Yep. Kindle Keyboard with experimental 3G (basically 3G that doesn’t work because they hadn’t figured it out back in the dark ages of 2011). Don’t use it a lot, though.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

When I’m reading multiple books it’s usually ‘Well, this one I’m actually reading, and that one I keep meaning to go back to but haven’t got around to it’. I’m not capable of maintaining multiple books at once. I do it anyway.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

I have been blogging for so long that I can’t remember what I was like before. Probably? I recently started a book blog, so that encourages me to read things with the intention to review, and to analyse what it is I like about them.

9. Least favourite book you read this year so far?

It’s a tie between WARP: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer, Clockwise by Elle Strauss, and Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. The first two were huge disappointments compared to other works by the authors; the last was a let-down after everything I’d heard about it, as I loathed it. Although maybe Tess of the d’Urbervilles should get an honourable mention.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year?

Can’t decide. Loved The Stress Of Her Regard by Tim Powers, which I reviewed on my book blog. Loved a number of books, but some of them were rereads.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Quite a bit. I don’t have a clearly-defined zone. But sometimes I’ll put a book down if it makes me physically uncomfortable, as opposed to being just a bit different from other things I read.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

I read mostly fantasy. I lean towards the humorous end of the genre, and love urban fantasy. Humorous urban fantasy (think Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, or The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare) has got to win out. I also like historical stuff. And SF. I dunno, I don’t really have a zone.

13. Can you read in the car?

Nah. I can write, though. Wrote most of my novel Forget My Wings sitting in the backseat of a car on a trip to Scotland — I don’t have to look at the screen to write, so I can do that quite happily. Reading’s more tricky.

14. Favourite place to read?

Probably in bed or on the sofa, as the light’s good in those places. When I was a kid I always used to read sitting on the stairs, though, getting in everyone’s way.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

Depends on the book and the condition it’s in. If it’s something I bought new, I’ll have kept it nice, so no. If it’s a battered old book I’ve written in and read a thousand times, sure. Some books I have a couple of copies of, and I lend out the spares. True story.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

Yeah. Mostly not to mark my place, though — more to mark a particular quote that I want to share with someone when I’ve charged my phone or got to some way of communicating with them. I don’t do it to other people’s books, new books, or library books that aren’t already battered.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Guilty as charged. My copy of Hamlet has more annotations than text — you can’t get through English Lit A-Level without becoming pretty relaxed about writing in books. My comments throughout Tess got sarkier as I went on, too. In non-fiction, I mark interesting passages and sometimes make sarcastic comments when I disagree with the writers.

18. Not even with textbooks?

You were expecting me to say no, won’t you? HA. FOOLED YOU. (I’m a lover of stories. Books are just … receptacles. They’re not sacred.)

19. What is your favourite language to read in?

English. At the moment.

20. What makes you love a book?

When it makes me stop and rethink my entire worldview; when I can see myself in a character so much that I don’t feel able to pull myself away from them; when I get so attached to everyone that I stay up until 2am to finish it and cry about what happened; when the prose makes me catch my breath. Also, when it makes me snort-laugh through my nose.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

A strong emotional reaction. If it’s hilarity, I want to share the fun; if it’s tragedy, I want my friends to go through the same pain I went through.

22. Favourite genre?

Probably fantasy. I tried to branch out a few years ago but I always come back there.

23. Genre you rarely read but wish you did?

Normal fiction. If it’s YA I can find it in the library, but if it’s not, the ‘Fiction’ section is huge and overwhelming and I can’t be dealing with that.

24. Favourite biography?

Not sure I’ve ever read one. Um. Sorry.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Probably. Actually, maybe not. It depends how strict your definition of ‘self help’ really is.

26. Favourite cookbook?

The step-by-step children’s cookbook that I’ve had for years which is the only reason I am great at layer cakes (particularly chocolate ones) and chocolate chip cookies. You can tell how long we’ve had it as I’ve written in different quantities for the recipes to fit our cake tins better.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Can I take ‘this year’ as ‘the last twelve months’ instead of ‘2014’? Because it would have to be The Dream Life Of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin. I wrote about my reaction to it here.

28. Favourite reading snack?


29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Hmm, that’s a tricky one. I may have to agree with Engie and say Divergent. It’s not a bad book, but everyone was raving about it so much, and honestly it didn’t quite hit the spots for me. I think it was too romance-focused for me.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I try not to read what they say until I’ve finished in case they influence me. Quite often, but not always. A lot of bestsellers pass me by, and my criteria for books are different. In the case of Tess of the d’Urbervilles I’d agree with the contemporary critic who wrote, “Thomas Hardy tells an unpleasant story in an unpleasant way.”

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I’ll always review honestly. But I mostly review to recommend things to others, so why waste my energy if I didn’t like it? I only write them when I really, really hated a book, particularly if it was hyped, or if I agreed to write a review before I’d read it.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?

An ancient one. Anglo-Saxon, Old Irish, Old Norse, one of those. Though I’m closer to being about to read in French.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Les Mis, maybe, because it’s so long.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

The absolutely hench archaeology textbooks I’ve borrowed from a library which I need as research for a novel. Or anything I borrowed for research, really. Research is scary.

35. Favourite poet?

A very hard question. I love TS Eliot. Quite like Dylan Thomas, too. A lot of poets I like a single poem by them, but not all their work. I recently read a lot of Christina Rossetti. Shakespeare, obviously. I don’t know.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

I used to borrow seven each week. Now it’s more like two. Every three months. Because I am slow.

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?

It becomes more and more frequent as my attention span / reading time / tolerance for mediocre books becomes smaller.

38. Favourite fictional character?

I want James Morgan to be my friend. Favourite character ever, though, from anything. That’s hard. I don’t know.

39. Favourite fictional villain?

I’m not a huge fan of villains; I prefer my characters morally ambiguous. Though the fairy creature thing in Creature Of The Night by Kate Thompson gave me nightmares. Eesh.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Vacation. *very British scoff* Probably my Kindle; saves space in my luggage. Mostly I just take whatever I’m reading at the time.

41. The longest you’ve gone without reading?

Sometimes I go through a patch of a couple of months where I don’t really read anything, or I only read a few pages.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I don’t understand the appeal of the book. It’s like reading the thoughts of a perpetually immature, misogynistic, self-centred adolescent boy.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

The internet. I go to send a quote to someone and find myself on Facebook. It’s a terrible habit.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?

I really enjoyed The Hunger Games as an adaptation.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

Probably Inkheart, because I loved that book; Eragon, too, and The Golden Compass, though I wasn’t as fond of those books, so it was a bit less painful.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

That one time I went to Foyles and bought eleven books. I can’t remember how much it cost me — some of them were cheap. I don’t tend to spend much in one go, and I mostly buy online / second-hand books these days anyway…

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

Never. Wouldn’t dream of it. When I gave Engie one of my drafts to read and she read the end first, I rewrote the ending and told her she wasn’t allowed to read the new one until she got there. I was so horrified by her flicking to the end.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?

Blatantly sexist narratives. Clunky, incompetent prose. Too much sex. Or anything that triggers bad memories or feelings for me.

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?

Yes. They’re organised differently on each shelf, though — shelves are different heights, so they go where they fit. Most shelves are then alphabetisised, but there are exceptions. I have a lot of books.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

I don’t even remember the last time I got rid of a book. I’m incapable of doing it.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

A lot of Classics I feel like I ‘should’ read, but don’t really want to. And the books I’m meant to be taking back to the library, but haven’t, because I’m distracting myself.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles makes me furious. I can’t even deal with that level of vehement hatred.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

This sounds pretentious, but The Aeneid. It grew on me.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Eoin Colfer is an inconsistent author. I love his writing, but some of his books aren’t as good as the others, and it’s always a disappointment.

55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading?

Anything I’ve read a hundred times before, including Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Both make me laugh and therefore cheer me up, though there are others.

Well, that was a crazy long post, but that should stop you missing me too much while you’re away. Feel free to respond to my answers in the comments, and answer the questions yourself on your own blog!


6 thoughts on “Books, Glorious Books!

  1. >>>3. What books do you have on request at the library? None, because now that I’m over 18 I have to pay to reserve stuff, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

    Srsly, you have to PAY to reserve stuff? I’d be so screwed because I’m always reserving books, mostly audio books to listen to on my commute.

    Glad someone else feels the same way about “Tess”. AND “On the Road”. Ever read “The Catcher in the Rye”? I put that in the same category as “On the Road”.

    I always read endings of books once I’m a couple of chapters in. People are horrified. I do it anyway. It’s the best way I’ve ever found to learn how to structure novels.

    1. Omh yes, I detest Catcher with an absolute passion. I finished it, but only because I had to, and genuinely wanted to destroy it when I was done.

      Yep, you have to pay. It’s only like 50p or something, but it adds up. So I don’t really reserve things any more, unless they’re in a library very far away. If they’re just at one at the other end of a single bus route, I’ll travel to get them instead.

      I am absolutely horrified by people who read the endings of books first. You give me pain deep in my soul. So many books rely on a crucial twist at the end – like One Day by David Nicholls or I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak – and reading that would just ruin it completely! Whyyyyyy? Why would you do that?

      1. “Catcher” was a banned book when I was in high school (in the 1960s). When my English teacher told the class about that book he indicated he could get in trouble just for mentioning it. He obviously loved it – he praised it and recommended we read it whenever we could.

        Years later I decided to read it – what a disappointment. I’d expected something remarkable, not a novel about a spoiled whiny entitled brat. I wanted to throw it across the room.

        Why do I read the endings of books first? Well, technically, I don’t read them first. I give any new book I start reading a couple of chapters to grab me. If, by the end of those chapters, I’m not intrigued enough to continue I quit reading.

        Whenever a book really grabs me, a chapter or two in, I go ahead and read the ending.

        Two reasons. I’m an editor, and I purely love the structure of storytelling. If I know the ending I can see how the writer does the construction. And if there are twists and turns, if the story is well done, I appreciate them all that much more. I have at least a couple “tracks” going on in my mind at all times, and while one part of my mind is enjoying the story, another part is enjoying the structure.

        Second, I hate suspense. Over the years I‘ve found quite a number of people who read endings first, or early. Since I love discussing the joys of reading and writing, I’ve discovered that many, like me, share a hatred of suspense. Some people trace it to specific triggers; others, like me, don’t have a particular memory of why suspense and surprise are so anxiety-producing. It may well be an innate part of my personality.

        I want to know what’s going to happen before I read it. Not knowing spoils the reading experience. Whenever I’ve tried to force myself NOT to read the ending, if the book is any good, and if there’s any suspense as to what will happen to the characters, I find I skim. I read too quickly, I don’t savor the experience, and wind up feeling vaguely cheated.

        So, yes, I read endings. If I didn’t, I’d probably stick with nonfiction. There’s nowhere near the same level of suspense in non-fiction.

        1. That’s fair enough, and makes more sense, I guess. Personally, I prefer to be surprised, so that I can look back and see all the clues that led up to it. I also like guessing — I’ll plan out how I’d finish the book if I were writing it and then see what the author does, which can be an interesting exercise.
          I’ve always read quickly and I’ve never felt that robs me of something, but it’s one of the reasons I tend to reread pretty much everything. If I love a book, I’ll read it once for the plot, a handful of times for the characters, and a few more for the writing, ha ha.

          I hated Catcher and it thoroughly depressed me. One of my friends has long said that it’s his favourite book and I couldn’t look at him the same for weeks because I didn’t trust his judgement on anything.

  2. Yay for Engie doing this tag! I did it on my blog too, although I split it into two posts because phewf. 55 is a lot of questions (I discussed them with my sister though, so it ended up like 2 answers per question and that was loooong.)

    I can’t read in the car either, but that’s pretty cool you can write in it. Ugh, I just get sooo motionsick on anything really. I can’t even handle a plane (though admittedly, I’ve only been on a plane twice). Les Mis scares me with size too. I don’t get rid of books either…my mum tried to have a clean out once and that went down like a lead balloon. Basically she picked up a book and said, “But you haven’t read this in 5 years.” To which I said, “BUT I MIGHT ONE DAY.”

    I hope you’re enjoying your holiday, though! XD

    1. Yup, I *can* write in cars. With my wrist problems I’m not doing so at the moment, though – this journey isn’t half as long as the one up to Scotland! I tend to just sleep a lot.

      I intend to have a library when I’m older and it’ll consist of all my books, not things I’ve bought to look impressive. Therefore how can I possibly get rid of them?

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