1. Favorite childhood book?
2. What are you reading right now?
Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. A thriller that takes place in Soviet Russia in 1953, the year of Stalin’s death. I cannot put it down. Halfway through now. An exhilarating read.
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
4. Bad book habit?
I don’t know if it’s bad, but I write in most of my books.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
6. Do you have an e-reader?
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I usually juggle. I have a “commute book”, which is usually different from my real “leisure book”. Commute books need to have short chapters, and need to be easily digestible. Also small in size, since I carry them about. “Leisure books” for me are usually big, and daunting, and challenging. 800 page biographies of Rockefeller, for example. My Leisure books are commitments. Then I usually have a third book going – which is usually a book of essays or interviews, things I dip in and out of as the mood takes me.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
9. Least favorite book you read this year?
Well, I finally had to put down Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I got 200 pages in before I finally realized how bored I was. I still had 400 pages to go. I mean, I knew I was bored all along, with many red flags in terms of the writing (“It hurt excruciatingly” is one of the sentences in the book. Reading writing like that is akin to chewing on tinfoil.) but I had some vague interest in the story itself – the idea of these forgotten old Gods clamoring across America, abandoned, demanding to be remembered. I liked the concept a lot. But the writing was slack, uninteresting, totally surface-focused, and also bad. Finally, when Lucille Ball spoke out of the television at the lead character, telling him that America’s new gods were televisions, strip malls and the Internet, I finally put it down. I could deal with many things, but not being lectured to. I could sense that there was a didactic lecturing spirit behind the book, but as long as it was under cover I tried not to notice. But at that point, I finally thought: Nope. Life is too short to keep reading this. “It hurt excruciatingly?” There was another sentence that read something like, “The light that normally comes on when you open a car door did not come on this time.” I mean, honestly? Isn’t there a better way to say that? NEXT. So although I did not finish the book, I put in enough time that I certainly count it as the least favorite thing I read this year. I also read a Young Adult book called House of Stairs by William Sleator – a man who wrote a book I absolutely love called Into the Dream – so I had high hopes, but House of Stairs left me flat. I already can’t remember it. But at least that wasn’t 600 pages long like Gaiman’s book. Sheesh.
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Not all that much. It’s got to be a really good recommendation for me to pick something up that wouldn’t otherwise. But in terms of TOPICS, my “comfort zone” is enormous. I like science, history, true crime, fiction, plays, how-to books, children’s books, biographies, erotica, poetry, war books … My taste is very eclectic.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Good books. I think I covered that in the question above.
13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes! I can read anywhere!
14. Favorite place to read?
In restaurants and coffee shops.
15. What is your policy on book lending?
I rarely lend out books.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I try not to.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
18. Not even with text books?
Love that this question assumes that the answer to the last question was “No.”
19. What is your favorite language to read in?
20. What makes you love a book?
All kinds of things. Good writing, interesting characters, an ability to show me a world I’ve never seen before, or never even thought about before.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I get excited by certain books and recommend them in a very targeted way. “YOU, of all people, should read this book,” I say to a friend. I’m usually not wrong. (Mitchell and I have shared many many books that way, he with me, and me with him.) But there are many I never recommend. Hell, I think everyone should read and love Ulysses, but I figure people need to come to it in their own way. I do love how many people write to me out of the blue about my posts on Ulysses, and how helpful they were to that person when they took on the book.
22. Favorite genre?
I’m not a big genre person.
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
I pretty much am happy with my reading choices.
24. Favorite biography?
I have a couple. Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce, A. Scott Berg’s Lindbergh, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, Joseph Ellis’ American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Simon Callow’s two-volume (so far) biography of Orson Welles, Todd McCarthy’s Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood – I just read Peter Biskind’s Warren Beatty biography and it was faaaaascinating.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Oh yes. A ton. The Road Less Traveled is wonderful, and I’ve read some books pertaining to some of my particular issues which I won’t divulge here, but which were hugely helpful.
26. Favorite cookbook?
The South Beach cookbook.
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or nonfiction)?
I’m not sure what this means. Like I saw God peeping through the clouds? I guess I’ll go with Winter’s Tale, which is not only a phenomenal novel with some of the best writing I have ever encountered, but with a redemptive healing view of humanity.
28. Favorite reading snack?
Irrelevant. I am always reading, snack or no.
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
There have been a couple of times when hype held me back from reading a book which I eventually read and then loved (The Time Traveler’s Wife is one. I adored it, but the hype machine turned me off, so I avoided it at first.) In general, I’m a fan of certain authors – so when a new book comes out, I’m in. Some of these authors generate huge amounts of hype: AS Byatt, Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Jeanette Winterson, Michael Chabon, Lorrie Moore. But the hype itself has never ruined one of their books for me.
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Depends on the author we’re talking about. Some authors are praised to the high heavens repeatedly and I can’t understand why, while some of my favorites are ignored or dismissed. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I’m fine with it. I try, however, to talk about what the book IS, not what it is NOT – which is my problem with a lot of critics. They blather on about what they wish the book was, and never address what the book actually IS. I rarely do negative reviews here. I prefer to write about things that turn me on, that are excellent.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I’m not intimidated by much, reading-wise. I have challenging tastes, and I like to be challenged. I read political treatises from the 17th century, and I read Stephen King. I read books about quantum physics and I read in-depth biographies of Alexis DeToqueville. I like hard. But intimidating? Maybe I was intimidated by Middlemarch, its reputation, its sheer SIZE. But that book …. my God. I stopped being intimidated from the first sentence:
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
Oh, George. You are absolutely the best.
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
35. Favorite poet?
Well, my favorite poem is by Auden – but favorite poet, all in all? W.B. Yeats.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
I actually have my own library, right here. I should join a library, though. These are hard times. But I’m definitely an owner of books, not a renter.
37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
38. Favorite fictional character?
Harriet the Spy. Although it kills me to choose just one character, I have so many.
39. Favorite fictional villain?
I have a special fondness for Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities. But I also love Macbeth. And The Big Nurse.
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Something big and rigorous and something I have been putting off. A giant biography, a huge novel, a daunting classic. When I was out on Block Island in January for a month, I brought Chernow’s Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, and finished both when I was out there. When I’m into a book, I read very fast. War and Peace was a perfect vacation novel.
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Last year was a bad year for me. I only read 8 or 9 books last year, and it was a struggle to finish even those. I didn’t read for about 4 months straight last year, and then had a hard time the rest of the year. It took me MONTHS to finish the Nureyev biography. I was so disoriented but finally just gave in to the fact that I could no longer read. I’ve found my sea legs again this year, but last year I didn’t know which end was up. 4 months without one book. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone.
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Well, I just covered that with American Gods. I do have weird guilt about putting down a book before finishing it. It’s like I’m still in school and I need permission. I can be Type A. No, I started it, now let me finish it. If it’s a long book, it is way harder to put it down because I have already invested so much time.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Nothing. I’ve almost been run over by cabs because I am not paying attention, walking with my nose in a book. I can read literally anywhere.
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I think Ordinary People is a VERY good adaptation. I was a fan of the book. The screenplay is better. Also, Emma Thompson’s screenplay for Sense and Sensibility. I’m an Austen fan, but I think Thompson’s screenplay is better than the novel. I think Carrie is a wonderful adaptation, and I may be alone in this, but I think Possession was a good adaptation as well. Possession is one of my favorite books of all time, so I can be protective of such books … but I really felt the changes made there were good and cinematic, and worked. Well done. That is a hard book to capture – when most of it involves people reading things, and I thought they did a great job.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Well, I refused to see The Shipping News based on the cast, so I can’t speak to that, but I imagine it was wretched. I was a big fan of The Perfect Storm and thought they took some liberties with that screenplay that were actually contemptible. The “May Day” call, for example, which never happened, put in by the female sea captain. I was so angry, because then that makes it seem like that ship was lost because the Coast Guard couldn’t get there fast enough … or that they were almost saved … when the whole point of the fucking book is that the ocean periodically SWALLOWS MEN WHOLE. I grew up in the Ocean State. I know of what I speak. The “May Day” call made it seem like maybe those guys had a chance … maybe … when it is clear, in the book, that they never did. And they vanished. I’m not big on insisting on historical accuracy, not really – this is a FILM after all – but that particular detail in The Perfect Storm film seemed actually unethical.
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
200, 300 bucks.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I have no set number of times. I am surrounded by books. I skim all the time.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Lack of interest. Bad writing. The feeling that the writer thinks I am some sort of moron.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. I am totally OCD. I have 4,000 books or something like that and I can find anything in literally less than one second.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep. I do periodic purging and donate books to a local second-hand bookstore.
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
I need to read more George Eliot. I just need to gear up for it. She is so so good. I wouldn’t say I am actively avoiding them, just need to be ready.
52. Name a book that made you angry.
Some Nicholas Sparks book I tried to read in Ireland and threw it across the room. Tuesdays With Morrie enraged me, and enrages me more with every passing day.
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
I’m not sure if I didn’t “expect to like” the Master & Commander series – that’s not the right word – it’s just that I was not prepared for the veritable FRENZY OF LOVE that overtook me after I read the first book. I still haven’t read the whole series, because I was derailed by 2009. I’ll get back to them. The love I have for that series knows no bounds and it took me totally by surprise, and I am so glad I read the ones I did.
54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
A Whistling Woman, by AS Byatt. She’s one of my favorite authors, and I read the other books in that series but for some reason I just couldn’t get into that one.
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
I have no guilt about anything I read. For me “guilty pleasure” is a term I frown upon. Pleasure is pleasure. I read what keeps my interest. I read trashy memoirs by B-movie actresses. I love true crime, anything having to do with forensic details. I’ve read Helter Skelter 4 times. I love erotica collections. I’ll read anything ever published about any American President. And then, just to switch it up, I’ll read Dostoevsky, because he’s my favorite. I think life is too short to feel “guilt” about what you like to read. I say, bring it on. The problem with a sentence like “It hurt excruciatingly” is that it is surrounded by a pretentious book that strives to be “important”. I have said before and I will say it again: Lana Turner’s autobiography is a great book, in all its silliness, because it is sincere, and also she is incapable of writing a boring or pretentious sentence. Open that book on any page and you will find some GEM. I feel guilt about a lot of things in my life, maybe too much, but my personal tastes? Never.
Got this via Piney Hollow.