Friday, 20 August 2010

Booking Through Thursday (on Sunday): A reading questionnaire

 This meme is completed as part of Booking Through Thursday

1. Favourite childhood book?
Difficult to select just one. The first book I remember reading to myself was Matilda by Roald Dahl, huddled under my duvet after being put to bed. I simply couldn’t put it down and its probably still the single book I most remember from my childhood. That said, I loved all of Roald Dahl’s books (other than James and the Giant Peach) as well as Willard Price’s Adventure series and the six Green Watch books by Anthony Masters.

My dad read me The Hobbit and that was stunningly exciting and we followed it up with The Lord of the Rings but I got bored of waiting for us to read it together in the evening and decided to finish the last 400-odd pages myself. I’ll never forget how proud I was to be reading such a long book.

2. What are you reading right now?
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore. It’s a sequel to The Siege and has been longlisted for the Booker Prize this year.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I don’t ever use the library. Can’t face giving a book back after reading it!

4. Bad book habit?
Breaking spines. I don’t consider it a bad habit but everyone else seems to!

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
See question 3.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No and I don’t much want one either. Far prefer the physical product that can be placed on a bookshelf and enjoyed long after it has been read.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One at a time. I’ve never been able to read more than one book at any one time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Yes. Ironically enough I read less than I did. However, that is largely due to no longer being a bookseller rather than writing the blog per se. Otherwise I think I read a little more broadly than ever before.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far?)
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. I quite enjoyed aspects of it but Martel seems to feel the need to tell the reader everything he is doing which becomes incredibly annoying.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year?
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper (non-fiction). A stunning work of journalism.
Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor (fiction). Prose doesn’t get more beautiful than this.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
At least once or twice a year. Earlier this year I asked Megan to pick any book and I would read it. Little did I know she would chose 1010 pages of Gone With the Wind!

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
It used to be literary fiction written by male middle-aged authors. Now I’m not sure I have one. I tend to read literary fiction of all sorts, some non-fiction, and teenage fantasy series.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Definitely. Best possible use of a bus journey. Sadly I don’t get the bus very often though.

14. Favourite place to read?
The bath. Sadly I haven’t had a proper one for over a year which is at least partly responsible for the dip in the quantity of books I read.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Very much in favour. I’ll lend anything, so long as I get it back.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Yes, it’s the way I mark pages with quotes I want to go back and look at for reviews. Megan made a great elastic bookmark a couple of years ago so that’s now how I mark the page I’m on.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Not any more. I would like to, but Megan banned me from doing that! (Also, I tend not to have a pencil near me when I’m reading and I’m too lazy to get up and get one.)

18.  Not even with text books?
DEFINITELY with text books. I use pencils, pens, and highlighters too! And even in library text books.

19. What is your favourite language to read in?
English. It’s the only language I can read in.

20. What makes you love a book?
In general, I tend to get on best with books which have a strong and interesting narrative voice. Books like Jane Eyre, Midnight’s Children, Netherland, Underground Man etc. I’m generally prefer books written in the first person. But I don’t think there is any one thing that makes me love a book. They tend to have at least one of the following though
  • An engaging narrative voice
  • Beautiful (or interesting) prose
  • Engaging characters
  • Exciting plot
  • Compelling, thought provoking ideas

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If I love it and think the person I am recommending it to might like it too.

22. Favourite genre?
Haven’t we already done this question? I guess literary fiction or young adult fantasy series.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Science Fiction. I’ve only really read Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? but I really want to read more, particularly things by Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov.

Favourite biography?
I don’t think I’ve read many biographies. Can’t say that there is one that particularly sticks out though I guess if I had to pick one it would be A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yes. But I don’t have an opinion on them as a genre. It just doesn’t really appeal to me.

26. Favourite cookbook?
Delia Smith’s Italian cookbook has lots of delicious recipes and otherwise any one of the specifically vegetarian cookbooks we have.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Inspired me to move further towards veganism.

28. Favourite reading snack?
Chocolate. Always chocolate. Especially Kitkats.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I didn’t ruin the experience but I definitely enjoyed the Harry Potter books from 5 onwards as I was too excited about reading them.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Quite often. I rarely disagree with the specifics of a review, though sometimes with the overall interpretation of these specifics. I tend to assimilate other reviews into my thoughts on a book to the extent that I’m starting to worry whether I actually have opinions of my own!

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I would never completely trash a book but in the past I have written a negative review in which I tried to couch the negatives within an appreciation of the positives.

Since I now work in literature I probably wouldn’t ever write a hugely negative review as I may have to work with an author somewhere down the line. This has happened at least twice in the last couple of years.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Russian. Because translation from it is so difficult.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Didn’t particularly want to read it and it took me at least 250 pages to get into it but once I did I mostly enjoyed it.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
The Gormanghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. Long and with tiny print.

35. Favourite Poet?
Very difficult question as I haven’t read much by anyone. I tend to like some of the more traditional verse poets whose rhymes and pacing are easier to get hold of.

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

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Never. Though there are plenty of books I’ve bought and not read.

38. Favourite fictional character?
Probably Jane Eyre. I find her eminently likable and her narrative voice is perfect.

Others would be Gabriel Syme (The Man Who Was Thursday), Yossarian (Catch-22), Alex Perchov (Everything is Illuminated) and Who? (253).

39. Favourite fictional villain?
I can’t think of any one villain that I love, though the Tzaddik from Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart seriees springs to mind sticks in my mind. Otherwise I don’t like powerlessness in novels so the most effecting villains are usually faceless, unseen malevolences or corrupt systems.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
I don’t pick books specifically for vacation but will often try and take one book set in the country I am visiting. Have been saving The Corrections by Janathan Franzen for the next time we go to the States.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Maybe a couple of weeks, though I can’t say when that would have been.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
There are only two that I can remember not finishing.
Last Orders by Graham Swift
Darkmans by Nicola Barker

Neither was right for me at the time I started it.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Someone talking to me

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
Without a doubt it has to be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are excellent films in their own right.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
I don’t tend to care too much if a film adaptation is good or bad but Eragon was a terrible.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I can’t think. Since writing so many reviews and working in literature I don’t tend to have to buy many books so I rarely have any sort of large spree. With vouchers I’ve probably spent £60 or £70 at once but very little of that would have been actual money.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Never. I can’t really skim-read anything. I often read the first and last page before starting a new book though.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
The only thing that would make me stop a book before finishing it would be if I proved unable to get into it. As before, I think this only really happens if I’m not in a reading mindset anyway or the book isn’t the right book for me at a particular time.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. All my books are alphabetised by author and I spend considerable amounts of time keeping them that way. I can’t conceive of books shelved in any other way. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep them and purchase a new bookshelf every year or so.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
LOTS! Well, lots that I haven’t got around to reading because I’m scared of their length. I wouldn’t say ‘avoiding’ though. I will definitely get to them one day.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
The Bird Room by Chris Killen. It presented such a depressing view of men that I felt personally tainted by it. All the men do is carry on monosyllabic conversations in pubs, make a mess of relationships by being needy and pathetic, and blandly surf online porn. I like characters to be inspirational, or at least impressive in some way, but none of them were.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
I honestly can’t remember whether I’ve ever picked up a book not expecting to like it. The closest I’ve come recently were with Gone With the Wind (dread on beginning such a long book) and The Knife of Never Letting Go (not inclined to read another teenage fantasy book). Both times the expectation proved groundless.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Famished Road by Ben Okri. I tend to love magical realism and saved it to read on my first holiday to the African continent but I just couldn’t get into it. The endless dreamscapes completely alienated me from the characters and what was happening. I’m not a big fan of realist novels but The Famished Road almost changed that. It took me two months to finish and I was very close to not bothering.

55. Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Haruki Murakami. If ever I fall out of love with reading or struggle with a couple of books in a row I reach for a Murakami and it never fails to re-energise me. The only problem I have is that there are only a couple of his I have left to read which means I’ll soon need a replacement!


pupski said...

really enjoyed this post, especially as it made me really think about what I read. I totally agreed with you about "Last Orders" by Graham Swift, I tried to read it after i had read "Waterland" but found it quite boring - not a good trait in a book. Also Eragon - what a let down - we saw it on TV and ended up changing channels!

You should definitely give Gormanghast a go - it won't seem so daunting now especially if you take it one book at a time. The first two are excellent, but, as in many trilogies the last is a bit weird.

Sam Ruddock said...

I will definitely give Gormanghast a go soon. I've got a shelf of 25 books which I want to have read by the end of 2011 and its there so without fail by then I will have done it. Especially if you think I can could it as three separate books!

I to read Last Orders after loving Waterland but I just couldn't get into it. The narrators all seemed to be speaking in the same voice to me and I just couldn't differentiate them. I also had a book I had to read for work and used that as an excuse to put it aside. Will definitely go back to it one day, though. (wont do the same with Darkmans, though!)