What book (a classic?) do you hate?
I didn’t get along with Wuthering Heights at all when I tried it. But then again I was something like 14, and I don’t necessarily trust my 14-year-old self. So one of these days I want to give it another go. My tastes and interests have changed a lot over the years, and even if I still don’t enjoy it I’m sure I’ll at least appreciate it at another level.
To what extent do you judge people by what they read?
I try really hard not to. I’ve written a lot about this over the years, so I’ll avoid repeating myself, but I believe that the fact that we uphold scales of worth when it comes to reading is a harmful thing. This has serious implications for the kind of outreach and reader development work (some) librarians do, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, especially when I was in library school. As Nick Hornby wisely puts its,
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.Having said that, of course I’m not perfect: a couple of authors that bring out all the small-minded snobbishness in me are Paulo Coelho and Kate Morton. But I try to snap out of it, because I really don’t want to be that person.
What television series would you recommend as the literariest?
I’m not sure if in this context “literary” means “with bookish ties” or “that shares the most qualities with literature”. If it’s the former, earlier this year I really enjoyed Call the Midwife, which is based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs; if it’s the latter, I loved Six Feet Under for all the reasons why I love my favourite books: the characterisation, its ability to move me, the fact that it invites me to empathise with complicated and imperfect characters, the thematic scope and emotional range, etc.
Describe your ideal home library.
Floor to ceiling shelves with lots of available space; a couch, beanbags, and lots of cushions all over the floor; French windows to let in lots of sunlight; a desk and comfortable chair for blogging purposes; an armchair and fireplace; tea and coffee making equipment; and perhaps a reading nook like one of these.
Books or sex?
Ha – isn’t it great that we don’t actually have to choose?
How do you decide what to read next?
I’d like to say I just follow my whims, but half the time that’s not actually true. I have a text document in my desktop called “Reading Plans” where I list what I want to get to next for whatever reason – because it’s due at the library, because it’s a review copy, because I borrowed it from a friend and really shouldn’t keep it forever, because I made some sort of commitment to read it (bloggy project, read-along, etc), or simply because I feel like it. In case you’re curious, here’s what’s on the file at the moment:
- Scenes from an Early Life
- Where Things Come Back
- Buried Treasure
- Tea by the Nursery Fire
- The Age of Wonder
- The Song of Achilles
- Feeling Sorry for Celia
Sadly not very much, which is why I cling to you lot so desperately. I talk to my partner about whatever I’m reading, but sometimes I fear that “talk at” would be a more accurate way to phrase it. Now that I have a bloggy neighbour, though, I do get to talk about books face to face more often than before :D
Does blogging ever get in the way of reading for you, or does it enhance it?
It enhances it in so many ways I don’t even know where to start: it encourages me to think more deeply about my reading, it keeps me on my toes intellectually, it introduces me to books and authors I’d never have discovered otherwise, and it generally makes reading more fun. I’m sure I’d have more time to read if I didn’t blog, but I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near as excited about reading without this community.
How often do you re-read books, and which have you re-read the most?
These days, nowhere near often enough. This is one of the downsides of blogging: it keeps me focused on new, shiny books (not necessarily new releases; just books that are new to me) instead of on my old favourites. I love rereading, and before blogging I used to do it a lot: I’ve reread Neil Gaiman’s early books, Fire and Hemlock and my favourite Discworld novels four or five times. Every year I say this is a habit I want to return to, and yet every year I fail.
Are there genres of writing that you won’t read?
There isn’t anything I refuse to read point blank, because I think it’s silly to see genres as anything more than a classification system. As the great China Miéville once put it, there are aesthetic traditions and storytelling protocols associated with each genre, and writers get to play with them in all sorts of ways. But that doesn’t mean that genre will tell you anything whatsoever about a book’s level of depth and complexity, about its characterisation, about its degree of social and political engagement, about what it has to say about the real world and the whole business of being human. Assuming that most readers of this or that genre must not like smart, nuanced or politically aware books as much as you is extremely patronising. Besides, there are remarkable books in every section of the bookshop, and I’d hate to deprive myself of them because I’d made hasty assumptions about what belonging to this or that genre means.
Having said that, there are a couple of genres I’ve barely read at all, mostly because I don’t know a lot about them and feel very intimidated. Take romance, for example: it’s a huge genre, and how do I even begin to find what I like? Thankfully The Real Ana has been helping me with this: she recently lent me a romance novel by Rose Lerner, so I guess we’ll see how that goes.
When you go on holiday do you take a holiday from reading, or is your case full of books?
A holiday from reading? *gasp* But aren’t holidays all about having MOAR time to read? In all seriousness, I do take books with me when I travel, and having an e-reader has made the selection process a lot easier. When I go on a short city break, for example, I barely do any reading other than on the plane or train, but it’s good to have the option anyway.
How do you shelve your books: alphabetically, fic and non-fic, or by theme etc?
Mostly by theme. The majority of my books are currently in storage at my parents’, but the one meagre bookshelf I have here is organised as follows: Children’s and YA, Non-Fiction, SF/F, General Fiction, Graphic Novels, and Cookbooks.
Tell me about an author you’ve recently discovered (whether new or old), and want to read much more of.
The last author I discovered whose entire back catalogue I vowed to read was Eva Ibbotson, but it’s been about a year and a half now. Actually, the other day I was thinking about the reading stats I always post at the end of the year: one of the categories I use is “favourite author discovered this year”, and I realised I have absolutely no idea who I’ll pick for 2012. This makes me very sad indeed.
And finally for fun, what books do you want for Christmas?
ALL THE BOOKS! I gave my partner my Christmas wishlist the other day and there are almost 20 books in there. Obviously I don’t expect him to get them all, but the more options he has the more likely he is to surprise me. I always enjoy getting non-fiction the library doesn’t have and that I’m not likely to get myself for Christmas. This year, I have my eye on Bad Pharma, The Geek Manifesto, The Blind Giant, Bloody Nasty People, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, etc.
I’m terrible at coming up with questions of my own, so I hope nobody minds if I skip that step. Feel free to answer these questions yourselves, though, either in a post or in the comments. Have a great Sunday!