Sunday, 19 April 2009

On Reading

This has been doing the rounds, mostly on LJ, and it's more interesting than the usual book memes.

1) The worst reading experience that you have ever had?
My primary school had a shelf of books for each year group, and one of my teachers allowed me to skip straight from Second Year Infant books to the Fourth Year books, which was where real books (as opposed to graded readers) began. Unfortunately, she left, and when I went to her replacement to say that I had finished the Fourth Year books (at which point I was still in the Third Year of Infants), I was told that I would just have to go back and read the one I had skipped.

How not to inculcate a love of reading. Fortunately I had piles of books at home, and we went to the library as often as we could. But I still harbour a grudge.

2) The best reading experience you have ever had?
Not the first time of reading a favourite, because favourites tend to attain that status gradually, imperceptibly. Probably the moment when I realised that I was actually reading Latin (in a poem by Catullus) instead of rapidly translating as I went along. I'm not sure I could do it now, because languages rust and decay.

3) Which book has affected or influenced you the most so far?
All good Christians should automatically answer "the Bible", shouldn't they? This is a hard one, because I'd answer differently every time I'm asked, depending on what's on my mind. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Meat' has made a lasting difference to what I will buy and cook; Rumer Godden's 'In this house of Brede' and Helen Waddell's 'Peter Abelard' are responsible for most of my theology; Germaine Greer's 'The Whole Woman' taught me that I am a feminist; Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' gave me the sanity to recognise things going wrong, although I could have done with working it out a little earlier.

4) Have you ever read a book that you got really scared of?
When I first read 'The Lord of the Rings' (aged 9 or so) I could only read it in daylight. And I remember reading 'Dracula' one very hot summer holiday, and having to sleep entirely under the duvet for several nights.

5) What do you use as a bookmark?
One carefully chosen one from my collection (a lot of Persephone freebies, some postcards, some embroidered by me or others). Or tickets, old shopping lists, receipts, when out and about. If there is really nothing to hand I don't turn down corners. I memorise the page number (I can remember numbers very easily).

6) When do you usually read? At home, work, while cooking, in the morning, noon, afternoon, before you go to bed...?
All of the above. My favourite way to spend a free afternoon is to take to my bed with a pile of books.

7) Do you remember the first book that you read?
'Roger Red Hat', first in the reading scheme my school used, on my first day of school. I could already read (and may well have read other books at home before that), and I can vividly remember thinking "this book is boring".

8) Which do you prefer - paperback or hardcover?
For practicality and portability, paperback (especially ancient Penguins), or old Oxford Worlds Classics. When I first started buying books in the mid 1990s not a lot of attention seemed to be paid to design of either hardbacks or paperbacks, and hardbacks were very expensive. They are much less so now, and there are lot more attractive books around. Plus, I have more money and less patience, so hardbacks are multiplying on my shelves (and when they are as well-done as 'The Night Watch' by Sarah Waters was, I really can't resist).

9) What are you currently reading? What page are you on?
'A Crown of Lights', by Phil Rickman. Page 107.

10) Do you ever leave "a mark" (deliberate and/or not deliberate) in your books? For example, write in them, underline quotes, coffeemarks or food crumbs and etc.
Not since A-levels (when we had to take the book into the exam). Through two degrees I worked with colour-coded post-it notes and index cards. This is why I can now sell the academic textbooks I no longer want for more money. I am just a little bit smug.

On the other hand, I read at the table. There have been some nasty soup-related incidents. And a few weeks ago I dropped Edmund Crispin's 'The Moving Toyshop' into a puddle when the bus suddenly turned up and I was fumbling for my change.

11) Does the title, amount of pages and the cover affect you when you are considering a specific book?
Title and cover - of course. That is, after all, their purpose. And I hate with a passion television/film tie-in covers (unless more than 20 years old) and will avoid if at all possible. Length not at all, as it makes very little difference to time taken to read a book (it can take weeks to read a hundred pages; I once read all three volumes of 'The Lord of the Rings' in four days).

12) Do you ever browse through to the last pages in order find out the ending?
Yes. And I hate myself for doing it. I nearly always read authorial endnotes before beginning the book, unless the author tells me to stop and go back to the beginning in the first paragraph (which suggests I am far from the only culprit).

13) Has knowing the ending of a book (example, through spoilers or a movie) ever made you decide whether you will read the book or not?
Not in the least. It's how they get there that counts.

14) Is there a book that you have read more than five times?
If I bother to keep a book, it means I think I'll read it again. Anything I've had more than fifteen years (quite a large proportion) has probably been read five times or more.

15) Have you ever been in an accident where the book was the cause? (for example, almost getting hit by a car when reading while walking, or having stacks of books falling on you from a bookshelf...)
Papercuts, heavy books falling from top shelves, falling off chairs while trying to reach top shelf, dropping book on head when dropping off to sleep after reading lying down, tripping over wile reading walking around the house, falling down the stairs while ditto...

16) Do you sell/give away your books or do you keep them, even though you don't like one of them?
I only keep books I think I'll re-read these days, and I cull every six months. The house is small, and it would actually be a real problem if I didn't do this. I don't always get it right, and the third time I re-buy a book, it stays for good. I often give away a copy of something I've bought for myself to someone I think will enjoy it, then buy myself a new copy. Most go to charity shops, but academic textbooks get sold - not because I think I'll make any money (I tend to price very low) but because it's a better way of making sure they get to the people who need them.

17) Do you have some kind of book system, where you write down what you are reading, have bought, will read, will buy and etc?
I list the books I own and am fairly sure I'll keep on Librarything (although there seem to be a few on there that I can't find and suspect I may actually have got rid of). Still a work in progress - I've done about half, I think. Last year I kept a list of books finished in a Moleskine notebook, which I am continuing this year. I also carry want-lists for myself and others, particularly of long series, to reduce duplication (there are between 58 and 62 Chalet School books. I challenge anyone to remember exactly which ones they have in a strange bookshop. Besides, some of the paperbacks were more butchered than others, so I need to know if it's one where a paperback will do, or if I'm holding out for a hardback).

1 comment:

StuckInABook said...

This is a really fun meme, I haven't seen it anywhere else - might well give it a go myself soon...