Coming soon to a book meme near you

Like any good library book, a book meme ought to be borrowed liberally and repeatedly. Tracey borrowed it from Lisa, and now I’m borrowing it from Tracey.

1. Favorite childhood book?

Heh, kind of all of them!  But the one I distinctly remember is Half Magic by Edward Eager.  My copy had an orange cover, and was battered into submission in my heedless youth.  Eventually it fled, no doubt to preserve its yellowing pages with dignity, and leaving me wiser in its absence.  Now I take much better care of my books, including the new copy of Half Magic I found in the bargain bin.  There are books I know are clearly better, but this was an early love that I got to recover, so it goes here.

2. What are you reading right now?

Tom Rogers’ Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics, in which the author destroys bad movie science (warning – contains math), and Dry Storeroom #1 by Dr. Richard Fortey, a semi-memoir, semi-history/behind-the-scenes look at the British Natural History Museum.  Fascinating so far.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

Right now, none.  We have a great library, and usually find what we look for – or what surprises us, which is often better.

4. Bad book habit?

Oh, I used to be a nightmare – looking at my longest-owned books is a litany of book-reading sins.  I’d dogear them, I wasn’t always careful about the fragility of older pages, and worst, because I could never bother to stop reading long enough, there are water stains from books left face-down on wet counters, food and juice stains from stuff I spilled while I was reading… None of this happens any more.  Though – to my credit, I have never ripped out pages to smoke them.

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

My wife may have a few, but I don’t currently.  Well – more specifically, I don’t know what’s out in my name because my wife just grabs my card if she can’t find hers.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

One Kindle.  Again – Ladybug’s.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?

Prefer’s got nuthin’ t’do with it.  I just read.  I pick them up and chow them down.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Well, sometimes I talk about books in intrusive, nosey memes, which I never did before blogging.  But I forgive you.  S’fun.

9. Least favorite book you read this year?

If it bores me, I put it down and that’s the end.  It’s hard to do.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

I found some beautiful old hardcovers at a yard sale that I bought, including a copy of Anne of Avonlea.  I already own it, and I didn’t care, and I re-read it and it was lovely.  For new books – Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde.  Brilliant.

And there’s more – but it’s HUGE so I’m sticking the last twelve miles of it below the jump.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I don’t really have a comfort zone in reading.  If all you ever look for is what you already know, why bother reading?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

It’s not this meme, I tell you.  Your beginning to work my nerves, Nosey.

13. Can you read on the bus?

Would you, could you, without fuss?  Would you read inside a car?  Would you, could you, travel far?  Would you answer many questions?  Would they give you indigestions?

14. Favorite place to read?

THE BUS  Hahahah, no, j/k memey kthx! =)  I like to curl up in the corner of a sofa.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I don’t mind, unless the borrowee doesn’t return them.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

No more.  I’m a reformed character.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Depends.  Something might really strike me.  But I’ve overdone it, and with an older paperback that I could “replace,” but not easily.  Kind of annoys me to think about, so I very rarely do it anymore.

18. Not even with text books?

I actually did do a lot of underlining in my “How to Write Intrusive, Nosey Book Memes.”  No, wait – those weren’t underlines, those were cross-outs.  There’s a big red X in there somewhere, too.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

Well, they say Shakespeare loses something if you don’t read it in the original Klingon.  Still, I soldier onward in English.

20. What makes you love a book?

It really helps to enjoy the book.  Older books (especially hardcover) have an advantage of that wonderful solid thump when you close them, and the smell of the glue and the ink and the pages, and the charm of fonts you don’t see much of anymore.  But of course, they have to bring the goods in content or it’s no use.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

I’m not often moved to up and rave about books to friends.  The ones I enjoy, I mention.  Sometimes people will see me with a book they’re curious about and I’ll loan it when I’m finished.

22. Favorite genre?

The good ones.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?

Pfffft.  If I like it, I seek it out.  It’s not like I wander the aisles of Mondo Box Bookstore, lamenting that there just aren’t any Westerns or Romances or Poetry.

24. Favorite biography?

Man, I wish I read more biography.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Oh HELLS TO THE NO.  Remember “stuff I discard because I’m bored.”  Here it is.  Almost every one I’ve cracked looks more like trying to convince you that you have the problem that the author specializes in fixing – which often turns out to be not really a problem, unless you call “dealing with life” a problem.

Note – I’m not talking about people who are really struggling with an issue, seeking out something specific.  I’m talking about the flood of flim-flammery in the Christian Inspirational category.  No doubt they do help some folks – they sell well enough, anyway – but I tend to think that the one they help most is the author/ministry, and financially rather than emotionally or mentally.  If you really want to improve your life, apparently the thing to do is:

  1. package some elementary advice, personal anecdotes, and generic Scriptures in an attractive font
  2. paste the front with a picture of yourself wearing a great suit
  3. profit!

26. Favorite cookbook?

Cook-In, Kathleen Dunning Fisher, 1969.  A cookbook for duffers like me.  My mom has a copy, signed by the author, who as I recall lived nearby when we were on Long Island.  Now out of print.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or nonfiction)?

Just as an aside?  I LOVE Tracey’s crankypants answers to these questions.  I’m completely cracking up.  I think that Tracey’s reply to this meme is the most inspirational thing I’ve read this year – you know, for the children.

28. Favorite reading snack?

Periodicals.  Pamphlets if I’m not that hungry.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

My least favorite book ever…. Moo by Jane Smiley.  Recommended to me by a well-meaning relative as “real literature” when I was waxing eloquent about the Lord of the Rings.  It was powerfully dull.  I think I only managed to finish it from obligation.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I don’t read a lot of current lit/crit.  Basically, if it’s more recent than my birthdate, I probably haven’t seen a review of it, save the huge phenomenons like the Twilight or Harry Potter books.  Then, well…. I may agree on points, and disagree on others, and have a fun time discussing it with friends.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Mixed.  I have pretty much zero chance of any author giving two shakes what I thought of a book.  It’s not like Jane Smiley is feverishly googling obscure blogs to find out who hated Moo.  But I’m mindful of how cutting it can be to be savaged personally for one’s words, under cloak of anonymity or of “I’ll never meet this guy anyway.”  I mean, just because a writer’s rich and famous doesn’t mean they aren’t still a person with feelings.  I even avoided naming a specific book or author in the flim-flammery department above, because I’m sure that most if not all of them are sincerely convinced that it isn’t a flim-flam, and that their insipid pablum is actual meat-and-potatoes Help for the Suffering.

In fact – again, maybe some people are so hurt that they can only handle pablum, and these books fill a great need I’m missing.  An unkind word would hurt the least secure who find solace in these books.  An honest opinion about the work has to be cautious about keeping the audience out of it.  The author, I suppose, less so, on the theory that they should answer somewhat for their craptitude, but still – there’s a way to be cutting, and unless one is a master like Wilde, Pope, Swift, Twain, Shaw, or Orwell… best to use a lighter touch.

Then again – as you can see elsewhere in this post, I am not shy about my true feelings about stuff.  Conflicted much?  Well, yes.  I’m a work in progress.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

Japanese.  It just seems cool.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

My own journals.  I hate myself sometimes.  That hateful stuff tends to be the stuff that makes it onto the page, which makes it rough to go over.  And as weird as it probably sounds, sometimes I skim through, trying to figure out where I started, where I’ve been recently, where I hope to go as a person.  I keep hoping the next page I write will be happier.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

What, do you think I have a copy of the Necronomicon or something that sticks you with poison needles when you open it?  That there’s an ancient book in the corner that lights up on its own, hissing Reeeeaaaaad meeeeeeeeee like a back-masked vocal track?  A book that threatens to burn down my house the longer I put it off?

35. Favorite poet?

Favorite and poetry are tough sells.  Great poets have such different voices.  I suppose one could prefer the voice of ee cummings to Emily Dickinson, or John Milton to Sylvia Plath… but wouldn’t it depend on mood?  Sometimes I’m in a Robert Frost Mood.  Sometimes I’m in a Shakespeare’s Sonnets Mood.  Don’t make me classify it to death, just let me enjoy.

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

I’m a sucker – I find them in the bargain bins and used bookstores and such, and buy them.  It’s easier to stumble across something cool that way. 

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?

I can’t remember ever doing that.

38. Favorite fictional character?

Seriously – what is your deal with favorites, bests, mosts, leasts, and whatevs?  Whatevs, Nosey.  If the character lives – if they are not merely an invention but a discovery – then they are on the list.  Someday I will meet them all: Anne Shirley, Mr. Darcy and all the Bennets; the Micawbers, Scrooge, and Sidney Carton; Puddnhead Wilson, Tom and Huck and Aunt Polly; Portia, Shylock, Miranda, Prospero; James Bond, Spencer, Marlowe, Holmes and Watson, Gregson and Lestrade; even Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera, no doubt, will observe from a discrete distance.  You can visit Middle-Earth or Avonlea or Narnia or any variety of London.  It’s all there and more, running over, endless, real.  To put any single of one’s own discoveries in that company is to be blessed beyond any dream or deserving.

39. Favorite fictional villain?

At this point, YOU, Nosey.  Shaddup already.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Heh, when I go on a vacation the thing I’m least likely to read is the book I bring.  I usually BUY books on vacation. 

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

I couldn’t tell you.  Seriously, it might be hours.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t read.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

I kept bogging down towards the end of Crime and Punishment.  I’ll have to start over by now to recapture the atmosphere of the book.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Seriously?  Nothing.  I can be pulled out of a book, but I actually lock in pathologically to whatever I’m doing, especially books.  Oh, I’ll stop what I’m reading to take care of the dog or a phone call or whatever, but I’ve had loud parties make no dent in my reading, I’ve actually been late to work because I was reading something, I’ve skipped meals and ignored sleep…. I need an intervention.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

It’s hard to say. 

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

Of a book?  Well, since the seasons are called “books” I’m cheating – The Last Airbender by M Night Shyamalan.  I knew that was gonna just suck out loud.  No, I’m not ready to forgive him.  As for written books, I have to say that the Bond movies bear so little resemblence to the books that I’m surprised they keep the titles.  Not that the movies are just bad, because they’re not, but as they went on from “Goldfinger” and “From Russia With Love” they just got further and further out there.  “Octopussy” and “For Your Eyes Only” are literally nothing but the titles with all new content stuffed inside.  Well, what’s wrong with the actual stuff in the actual books?

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

I don’t know, Nosey.  How much do you spend in a bookstore?  For me, I’m going to say about a hundred bucks.  Mind you, I’ll sometimes buy a CD or DVD or something at Borders, which oomphs the price a bit.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

All the time.  It’s like test-driving a car.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Losing my interest.  Rule one – Do Not Dispel.  Do not yank your reader out of the story with the shock of a high-speed wreck.  Do not make me roll my eyes.  Do not do violence to your own characters’ personalities for the sake of Your Moral or Shocking Plot Point.  If you’ve got a story to tell, Nosey, stay out of its way.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

Allow me to crib from Tracey on this.  “I would like Sheila or Lisa to keep my books organized.”  I know, I married a school librarian and I still can’t find anything.  She despairs of my organization skills.  That being said – I actually do have a scheme to it all, but I read them so much and leave them everywhere, there are large gaps in all the shelves.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

I pretty much have them all.  There are lots of bookshelves, and more boxes that aren’t yet unpacked.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

Yeah… there’s one…  and it’s terrible.  It leaves me voice mails, it wonders why I’m so busy lately, it wants to meet over coffee.  I can’t live with the guilt any more!!  WHYYYYY????

52. Name a book that made you angry.

Are you a book?  You make me angry, Nosey.  No?  OK.  It’s one of the self-help books, an older one purporting to diagnose Your Man’s Problems, why he can’t commit, etc. etc.  Basically, it’s an invitation for the lady to psychologically interrogate the man and stuff his personality and behavior into several unflattering pigeonholes – which will be a great comfort, no doubt, when the man has enough of this crap and runs for the nearest monastery or military recruiter.  Hey, here’s a few pigeonholes you may have missed: Doesn’t Want to Jump Through Your Insane Hoops, Wants a Wife Instead of a Therapist, and Males Are Not Defective Females.  Seriously, the whole book was an insult, and who knows how many young women who could be happy are now miserable because they subjected several suitors to such preposterous over-scrutiny?  Just get to know each other, and if it doesn’t work, you can step away.  That’s all.  It’s tricky enough without the whole self-help profession looking over your shoulder trying to give you (or him) a complex.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

I can’t really answer this.  I’m not one to grab stuff that looks terrible on the off chance I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  The closest thing would be the Potter books, which I started because I felt like I ought to at least know a little about the whole overwhelming phenomenon.  Not bad books, I enjoyed them, but then again, I didn’t expect to hate them because it’s a genre I’m familiar with from childhood.  (Remember the first answer, about ninety years ago?  Yeah, scroll up, Nosey.)

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Mitch Albom.  Just pick one.  Any one.  Even one I haven’t read.  I picked up “Five People You Meet In Heaven” before I knew any better and was blindsided by craptitude.  He made me fire.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

Why should I feel guilty?  There’s stuff I like that’s probably dreck, just like there’s dreck that other people like – even if they know it’s dreck.  I probably annoyed Mitch Albom’s eleventy-jillion readers a minute ago.  Sorry folks.  Freely enjoy your dreck, don’t feel guilty, just don’t expect me to swoon in admiration.  I remain unswooned.


5 thoughts on “Coming soon to a book meme near you

  1. tracey November 1, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    /Are you a book? You make me angry, Nosey./

    Hahahahaha. I love how grumpy we get with memes! Why do we do them, then? I think it’s the visceral pleasure of getting annoyed with them. I mean, if I can’t get irritated at your meme, Memey, you aren’t a good meme.

    We’re nuts. That’s why we’re awesome.

  2. Rob November 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Some tidbits about cookbooks: Our favorite, River Roads I, is out of print in its original form. It’s a collection of favorites from Louisiana. Has recipes that are no longer in favor. In the wild game section, it has recipes for robin breast and I know there is one for jay. It may even have one for 4 and 20 blackbirds. It’s got a section on “How men cook” and all of the female submissions are listed as from “Mrs Joe Robinson” instead of “Mary Robinson”. The recipes are fabulous.

    Hurricane Katrina saw a lot of people lose their favorite cookbooks. They’re mostly irreplaceable, especially if they have handwritten notes in them from your mother or great aunt. They are now on people’s list of things to take if they evacuate. Who would have thunk?

  3. Rob November 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Oh, and I would never try robin breast or any other songbird breast. More into jambalaya, crawfish pie, and file gumbo.

  4. nightfly November 4, 2010 at 10:44 am

    The regional cookbooks are real treasures. It’s not all that hard to find 50’s or 60’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks and the like – a lot of second-hand and consignment stores have stacks of them, and James Lileks made a mint repackaging the worst examples into “The Gallery of Regrettable Food.” What you’re describing is much more rare, especially with the handwritten notes and cards and such that were a part of those books.

    Welcome to the new digs, Rob!

  5. Kate P November 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    I enjoyed your answers! Aren’t old books cool finds?

    I played along over at my place, too.

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