Sep 15, 2013

A Reader’s A to Z

Monster alphabet
Photo credit

I thought I’d try my hand at the following A to Z reading meme, which has been doing the rounds. The meme struck me as both a fun Sunday type post and as a way of getting back into writing, so hooray for killing two birds with one stone. Credit to Melissa, whose formatting I’m borrowing. Here goes:

Authors you've read the most books from:
Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Le Guin, and I’m slowly but surely getting there with Eva Ibbotson. Basically, authors I love who happen to be very prolific.

Best sequel ever:
Patrick Ness’ The Ask and the Answer, which proves that no, the middle book in a trilogy is not inevitably just filler. (Also, if we were counting movies I’d have to say Before Sunset and Before Midnight.)

Currently reading:
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (which has one of the loveliest opening paragraphs ever) and The End of Night by Paul Bogard (which is just the kind of non-fiction I love).

Drink of choice while reading:
Cappuccino or tea, depending on the time of the day. Or hot chocolate for cosy winter evenings.

Ereader or physical book:
Both, both! Isn’t it great that we don’t actually have to pick?

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in high school:
Levy from Fangirl or Park from Eleanor & Park, both by Rainbow Rowell. She writes the best romantic male leads.

Glad you gave this book a chance:
Horrible confession time! Many years ago, before I’d ever tried Sarah Waters, I somehow had the impression that she would be trashy-fun in a Philippa Gregory sort of way, and I was in absolutely no rush to read her. I have no idea where this idea came from, but when I picked up Fingersmith I expected to be entertained but not very impressed. It only took me about twenty pages to move to a state of full on Whoa whoa whoa WHOA where have you been all my life?, though, so needless to say I’m very glad I gave it a chance.

Hidden Gem book:
Oh, so many! Anything by Kij Johnson or Christopher Barzak, A Fine and Private Place, Cold by Bill Streever, etc.

Important moment in your reading life:
Reading A Room of One’s Own for the first time. The bit about Shakespeare’s sister was pretty much my “click” moment.

Just Finished:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. September has been children’s classics months for me so far, and I’m having a blast.

Kind of books you won't read:
Tricky question, because so often “I won’t read x books” turns into “and I look down on people who do” — and I absolutely don’t want to come across that way. So with that disclaimer in mind, I will say that I tend to avoid self-help, because I don’t personally find it useful. (Which doesn’t mean it can’t be for others, blah blah blah.)

Longest book you read:
Either Middlemarch or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Major book hangover because of:
It usually happens whenever I finish anything b Margo Lanagan. This year it also happened with Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things.

Number of bookcases you own:
Three in my current flat, plus two wall-embedded ones.

One book you've read multiple times:
Not a book but a series – Harry Potter. Sandman too.

Preferred place to read:
Bean bags all the way. Also in my garden when it’s sunny.

Quote that inspires you:
I keep coming back to this quote from Carol Tavris’ The Mismeasure of Women, which is a response to the lambasting of women who embody stereotypical ideals of meekness and passivity:
I am certainly not saying that the stereotypic role requirements for women and men are just fine—that, for example, because women are traditionally raised to be deferent and self-obliterating, then we should celebrate deference and martyrdom as ideal female qualities. Such extreme adherence to sex roles has harmful consequences for both sexes. But the point is to direct our attention to the straitjacket, not its dutiful wearer.
I find it useful to keep this point in mind when discussing female characters as well.

Reading Regret:
Not having read Narnia as a child, for reasons I’ve explained before. It’s not that I think critiques of the series are not legitimate, but I wish that I could approach the books and see all the things that people love so passionately about them, rather than just the things that make me feel excluded. Unfortunately I think I missed my window of opportunity for that.

Series you started and need to finish:
Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles. We got lovely shiny new copies of these at my library last week, and I had to resist the urge to bring them all home.

Three of your all-time favourite books:
Fire & Hemlock, Gaudy Night, Delusions of Gender. Predictable Ana is predictable.

Unapologetic fangirl for:
Anything that I’m excited about, because I don’t think you should ever apologise for enthusiasm. But to actually answer the question instead of deconstructing it: children’s literature, Discworld, Chaos Walking, Buffy, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Harry Potter, etc.

Very excited for this release:
New Sarah Waters!!!!111@ (I’ll never be exclamation marked-out for this.)

Worst bookish habit:
I honestly don’t know. A few months ago I’d have said something like “accumulating books and not reading them”, but I’ve mostly made my peace with that.

Xmarks the spot! Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
The top shelf in my living room is the Virago shelf, and book 27 from the left is The Way Things Are by E.M. Delafield (which, predictably, I still haven’t read).

Your last bookish purchase:
My Book Depository cart is full of Autumn-y books; now I just need to actually check out. I’d list them here, but I think I’ll save that for another post. Other than that, I bought a copy of More Than This at the launch event last week.

Zzz-snactcher. Which book kept you up way too late:
Staying up until 4am on a week night to finish His Dark Materials is probably my record.


  1. I'm reading Waters' The Little Stranger mostly because of your reviews and it is demolishing my expectations just 50 pgs in. I mean, I thought 'social commentary, meh won't it be heavy-handed or totally dull, tho?' BUT NO.IT IS PAINFUL AND MULTIFACETED. I have no idea what to expect and I'm so worried about everyone coz this doesn't seem like a writer who likes happy endings. I can't get into Fingersmith because manipulative doctors are like the worst nightmare ever because of how helpless you become(Like Will Graham with his terrible terrible doctor *shudder*)
    Also ugh now I have to go buy all of Rainbow Rowell's stuff because that particular comment is apparently my tipping point.

  2. Oh, yes, Kij Johnson! I don't recall seeing anyone but you talk about her books but I loved Fudoki. And I am not sure how I forgot about The Ask and the Answer. I wasn't crazy about The Knife of Never Letting Go but then totally loved that second book. Excellent choice. :)

    I really want to read Rainbow Rowell's books. Must add to next book purchase!

  3. I'm with you on accumulating more books than I can read!

  4. What you said about Sarah Waters was exactly my experience, except that The Little Stranger was the first book of hers that I read. And I know where my misconception came from. I heard a radio show all about the BBC production of either Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith, and the commentators were all over themselves with glee about all the sexual content, leaving me with the impression that that was all her books were about. I'm glad I learned there was more to them.

  5. Re Narnia: It might be too late for the books but do you think you might like the films or the very old TV series? I remember that Perry Moore (the author of Hero) was involved with the new set of films until his death and I know Renay was very impressed with his way of talking through critique... It's hard for me to know how you'd fare having come up with the series and the TV program.


    I feel the same way about certain teen things the way you feel about Narnia. I, an eighties freak, loathe The Breakfast Club, because I saw it in my twenties. It's one of those movies you have to watch at the right age.

    And Click is totally going on my reading list.

  7. aw I love that I could sort of guess so many of your answers to this!

    And YES to The Ask and the Answer. Such a fab sequel.

  8. Loved your post, Ana! What a great idea for a Sunday post! I loved what you said about Sarah Waters. And I want to read Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own' - I can't believe that I haven't read it yet. I think 'Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell' is thicker than 'Middlemarch' :) So impressed that you have read 'Jonathan Strange...'! It is still there on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I loved that Carol Tavris quote. I loved your description of your worst bookish habit - “accumulating books and not reading them”. I don't know whether you know - there is a Japanese word for that, Tsundoku. You live the Tsundoku life :)

    Thanks for this beautiful post.

  9. I've read quite a few versions of this meme around the blogosphere recently. Well done Ana not sure I'd get through so many questions!

  10. Fire and Hemlock and Gaudy Night are two of my very favorites, too. And I sort of feel the same way about the Narnia books. I mean, I read them as a kid, but I've never even wanted to reread them as an adult. I felt like that narrator was talking to everyone but me, like I was some kind of imposter for reading those books set in this world where I didn't really belong.

  11. I just love this post to death. Every little word of it. I want to hug it, I love it so much.

    YAY new Sarah Waters!!! I'm so excited!!

  12. Totally identify with staying up way too late to finish His Dark Materials. This was years ago, but I stayed up until dawn to finish that last book. I was working a summer retail job at the time and somehow made it through that workday with little sleep.

  13. Hahahahaha, oh man, I cannot imagine going into Fingersmith expecting something like Philippa Gregory.

    I am sad too that you didn't read the Chronicles of Narnia in time to love them, just because I would have loved so much to read whatever posts you would have written about them if you'd always loved them. (Not to say that I didn't enjoy the post you DID write, because I really did. I thought you said it all perfectly.) One of these days I will have to try and write a proper post about my feelings for CS Lewis.

  14. What a fun post :D I'm bookmarking this to possibly steal it one day ;) And omg new Sarah Waters!!! Thank you for sharing that with us!!!! Also, I owe you an email and MP3s and I haven't forgotten!! Hopefully I have a nice relaxing weekend coming up....*crosses fingers*

  15. What a fun meme. And thanks for sharing such a candid look at your reading life!

  16. I'm just about to do this meme, tonight. I loved your answers, Ana, especially about how Virginia Woolf was your 'click' moment, and how you missed reading Narnia growing up, and so you missed being able to get into the books somehow. This is such a fun meme, isn't it?

    And I was just saying to my daughter as I tucked her into bed, that in an ideal world if I could have anything I wanted, I would have all the books in the world in my library, and drink hot chocolate at night while I read. :-)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.