Hello, my name is Ana and I'm a twenty-something bookworm. I also work in public libraries. It always feels a bit awkward to just talk about myself, so here's a self-interview to make things easier:
Why do you blog?
I started this blog without quite knowing what I was doing: I stumbled upon the first Once Upon a Time Challenge and needed a place to post my thoughts on the books I was going to read for it. So I blew the dust off my old blogger account, which I only used to comment on a few friend's blogs, and in March 2007 things mean a lot was born.
I was fortunate enough to be immediately welcomed by a community of enthusiastic book lovers who made me feel right at home. I had been looking for a bookish online community for a long while, but for some reason I had never thought to look for book blogs before. Suddenly they were everywhere, and I couldn't be happier. So yes, clichéd though this might sound, the reason why I hooked so quickly was the community. I don't have many bookish friends offline, so I was thrilled to discover people who were as enthusiastic about books as I am. Not only that, but they were also friendly, open-minded, respectful of different opinions, unpretentious and passionate. How could I not stick around?
These days I blog because I like sharing my thoughts on what I read; because I really like the fact that writing here encourages me to read more thoughtfully; because it's a great way to meet fellow readers and make new friends; because it makes me happy to introduce people to books they might love; and because thanks to blogging I can easily stay on top of book-related news and constantly discover wonderful books I probably would never hear of otherwise. My wishlist has more than tripled ever since I started blogging, and I bought more books in the past four years than in any other period of my life. Possibly this last bit isn't entirely a good thing, but the bottom line is: blogging has enriched my life.
Why do you read?
The simplest answer would be something along the lines of, "because it's one of my favourite things to do". But of course, there's a bit more to it than that. I read because I like stories; because I believe they're important. I read because I like language. I read because I'm interested in people, even though I'm a shy person. Reading gives me access to other experiences, other ways of living and thinking and feeling, other realities, other selves. I like to think that it helps me understand other people and the world in general a little better. John Connoly, author of The Book of Lost Things, put it better than I possibly could:
I think the act of reading imbues the reader with a sensitivity towards the outside world that people who don’t read can sometimes lack. I know it seems like a contradiction in terms; after all, reading is such a solitary act that it appears to represent a disengagement from day-to-day life. But reading, and in particular the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways (…) It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another, which is a precursor of empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being.As did John Green:
I would argue that books, more than other media, allow us to live inside the lives of others because we have to translate scratches on a page into ideas and make the story ours. We become co-creators of the story, and they allow us to inhabit someone else's body for a while. Books give us the faith that others are real, that their joy and pain should matter to us, and that ours can matter to them. In some ways, this confirms our own existence, because most of our mattering is in the context of one another.What do you read?
I'm a fan of speculative fiction, fairy tales and mythology, historical fiction, Victorian and neo-Victorian novels, feminist fiction and non-fiction, literature from the early 20th century (particularly the 1930's), Gothic novels, historical mysteries, YA, children's books, almost anything involving metafiction, and comics aka graphic novels. But I'll read pretty much anything as long as it captures my interest. The things I'm the least likely to read are probably romances, thrillers and self-help or inspirational books, but I don't really like the idea of casting a whole genre aside.
I'll read anything that I find enjoyable - and I'm defining "enjoyable" very broadly here. A deeply distressing book can make for a very rewarding reading experience, even if one wouldn't call it enjoyable in the traditional sense of the word. The one thing I don't believe in is forcing myself through a book when every minute of it is agony just so I can say that I've read it, or just because I hope that reading it will turn me into a Better, More Cultured Person. Which is not to say that I don't read difficult or demanding books, or that I don't find these rewarding. I absolutely do, but I completely reject the idea that if a book doesn't take a lot of effort to read, then it must be rubbish. Some books demand a lot out of us, and that's fine. Others don't, and that's perfectly fine too. Reading should never be seen as a bitter pill you swallow because It's Good For You.
I also don't believe in patronizing or looking down on others for their reading tastes. No genre is inherently superior to another, and so on and so forth. I'm sure you've heard it all before. Let me resort to quoting again, this time from Nick Hornby's The Complete Polysyllabic Spree (a book that perfectly sums up my reading philosophy):
If reading books is to survive as a leisure activity – and there are statistics which show that this is by no means assured – then we have to promote the joys of reading, rather than the (dubious) benefits. I would never attempt to dissuade someone from reading a book. But please, if you’re reading a book that’s killing you put it down and read something else, just like you would reach for the remote if you weren’t enjoying a TV programme.Where can I contact you?
And please, please stop patronizing those who are reading a book – The Da Vinci Code maybe – because they are enjoying it. For a start, none of us know what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing.
You can e-mail me at untuneric at gmail dot com. Comments, questions, suggestions, etc. are more than welcome. You can also use my contact form.
Where else can you be found online?
Librarything, Good Reads, Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest and Last.fm. You're very welcome to friend or follow me on any of these sites. I am also part of a feminist group blog, Lady Business.
What do you do besides reading?
I'm afraid I'm a bit of an embodiment of some of the clichés of The Bookworm. I'm a cat lady, a tea and coffee drinker, a somewhat shy person, and very much a homebody. I enjoy travelling, hiking or going for long walks in the city, cooking and baking, making bookmarks, spending time with my boyfriend, watching movies and TV series, and listening to music. Music is in fact by biggest passion besides reading, and I'll happily forego my homebody tendencies to go to concerts or music festivals. If you're curious about the kind of music I like, just click over to my last.fm profile.
Where does the name of your blog come from?
From a Red House Painters song. I explained the whole thing here.
Who are your favourite authors?
Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Jeffrey Eugenides, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, John Green, Douglas Adams, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nick Hornby, Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, Christopher Barzak, A.S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, J.D. Salinger, Margo Lanagan, Kij Johnson, Sarah Waters, Dorothy L. Sayers, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Connie Willis, Patrick Ness, Eva Ibbotson, Stella Gibbons, E.M. Delafield, and probably others that I'm forgetting right now.
What about your favourite books?
In no particular order: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Life After God by Douglas Coupland, Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin, Fire & Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman AND Terry Pratchett, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Nation by Terry Pratchett, Looking for Alaska by John Green, A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, and I'd better stop now, no?
And while we're at it, favourite bands?
In no particular order: The National, Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Rós, Interpol, Modest Mouse, Emmy the Great, Joanna Newsom, The Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel, Arcade Fire, Antony & the Johnsons, Belle & Sebastian, Björk, Wilco, Broken Social Scene, Nick Cave,The Cure, The Smiths, Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Tori Amos, Allo' Darlin, Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, Iron & Wine, Jeff Buckley, Kings of Convenience, Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls, Leonard Cohen, Nico, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Frightened Rabbit, Mogwai, Sparklehorse, Owen Pallet, Vampire Weekend, Okkervil River, The New Pornographers, The Magnetic Fields, The Shins, Elliott Smith, Regina Spektor, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Patrick Wolf, Fanfarlo, Jeremy Warmsley, Laura Marling, Neko Case, The Twilight Sad... and so on.
Do you ever write negative reviews?
Here's a question I've actually been asked. Yes, I do. Here's one, and another, and another, and yet another. The thing is, I have pretty good reading instincts, and I'd much rather be reading and writing about books I like than books I dislike, so I tend to avoid books I have strong reasons to suspect I'll dislike. Whether this is a good strategy is up for debate. Blogging and participating in reading challenges have made me become more adventurous, which has resulted in some very pleasant discoveries as well as some not so pleasant but nevertheless illuminating ones.
What you won't catch me doing is saying things like "this book is a total waste of time" or "I wouldn't recommend this to anyone". I wouldn't say that about even Paulo Coelho, tempting though it may be. I'm very much aware of the fact that a book I can't stand could be life-changing for another reader, and I think that to refuse to acknowledge this (or worse, to dismiss and smirk superiorly at fans of a given book you happen to despise) is a sure sign of arrogance and insufferable snobbery, and nothing puts me off as much as that. So if you do catch me saying that, or any other snobbish, dismissive things, please, by all means, call me out for it. I mean it. Or be very, very afraid, because it might be a sign that I was kidnapped and replaced by an Evil Clone. They might be coming for you next.
Why do you link to other reviews at the end of your posts?
The conceptual answer is that I like the fact that it contextualises what I've just written as one reading among many, which is what I believe all reviews to be, even professional ones. There have been countless discussions all over the blogosphere - and outside of it, I'm sure - about what constitutes legitimate intellectual authority and whether or not All Readings Are Created Equal. I don't mean to repeat them here, so I'll just say that I don't want to set up my own writing as the end-all and be-all of book blogging, and that I'm perfectly happy to link to another review even if I disagree with every single word of it.
The more practical answer is that it's useful - it's useful for bloggers to have relevant sites link to them, and it's useful for readers who might have stumbled upon a single review on Google but have no idea of what else is out there. I don't do the snippets from other reviews thing because I believe that context is important, and also because I want readers to click over, read a full review, and possibly discover a new blog that they love. I know that the belief that nobody ever does this and therefore links are useless is pretty widespread, but I've actually had readers thank me for introducing them to new blogs in this way.
Will you link to my review even if I'm a brand new blogger with zero readers?
Sure. Being new doesn't make your thoughts any less legitimate in my eyes. And the same goes for if you're not exclusively or even mostly a book blogger.
Who's the author of the image you use as your header?
Arthur Rackham. It's a detail of this painting. (And yes, it's in the public domain.)
What's this blog about again?
This should give you an idea: a Wordle of my blog, as of March 22nd 2009:
I am a member of The Book Depository's Affiliates program, which means that if you click over to their site from my blog and buy a book (any book; not just a book I reviewed), I'll get 5%. I joined because I was a poor recent graduate with a book addiction to support. I don't expect it to make me much money at all, but every bit helps, right? I'm telling you this for the sake of full disclosure; it does not in any way affect what I write here.
things mean a lot attempts to be a feminist, glbtq-friendly and ally blog. I promise I won't get defensive if I'm ever called out for failing at any of the above, though I do of course realise that it's not anybody's responsibility but my own to educate me or help me become more aware of these things. Also, I have been wrong in the past and will surely be wrong again in the future. But I try to learn, and I believe that counts for something.
One last thing: I'm not a native English speaker, so apologies in advance for the mistakes you'll no doubt find. I try!
(Last updated: October 2012)