Book Questionnaire Full of Shame, Loathing and Lying

I can’t remember where I initially found this questionnaire, but in re-doing my Categories I found the questions saved in Drafts. I had obviously seen them somewhere, and wanted to answer them eventually. Thought I’d bring it out now. Haven’t done a Book Questionnaire in a long time.

Worst Books Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back

Love that “five hours”. Is it possible to read War and Peace in five hours? Middlemarch? Magic Mountain? Never mind. For me, it’s a toss-up between The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I didn’t even last 5 hours with The Notebook. I nearly threw it into the fire in Galway, out of contempt, and then left it behind in a drawer at the youth hostel with a note saying, “Read at your own risk.” It made me that mad. And even the thought of Mitch Albom makes me angry. Not too many books (or movies) put me into a rage, but Tuesdays with Morrie did.

Books I Have Lied About Reading

I once told someone I had read Das Kapital when I hadn’t. I am still not sure why. There was an argument going on about capitalism. We were in college, needless to say. I said some bullshit statement like, “Well! Das Kapital says that blah blah blah … so that CLEARLY shows that blah blah blah…” I knew the gist of the damn thing but I sure hadn’t read it.

Books I Have Lied About Liking

Women Who Run with the Wolves. It just seemed easier to agree, rather than get into it. Grease the wheels of life, baby. Be nice. The book meant a LOT to a lot of my friends, and who am I to rain on their parade.

Book-to-Movie Adaptations Where, Frankly, the Movie Was Better

Ordinary People. Good book. But the film adaptation is superb (especially when you know the book).

Books I Used to Love, of Which I Am Now Ashamed

I’m not ashamed of much. Maybe The Bridge Across Forever, but then, I’m not really ashamed of that. I grew out of it, that’s all.

Best Book Titles of All Time

Of all time? Well. I can think of some favorites.

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Atonement, by Ian McEwan (especially considering what it means in that book)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
That They May Face the Rising Sun, by John McGahern (that was the title it was published with in Ireland and elsewhere. It is certainly one of my favorite titles of all time. When it was published in the States, it was inexplicably given the boring nothing title By the Lake. By the Lake? So basically the publisher is saying, “We don’t want anyone to read this book” with a title like that. I read it keeping that FIRST emotional title in mind.)

And finally, perhaps the winner, all things considered:

Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth, by Lana Turner

Books That I Expected to Be Dirtier

All of D.H. Lawrence.

My Real Guilty-Pleasure Reads, and Not the Decoys I Talk About Openly

I don’t know, Story of O?

I’m not ashamed of much when it comes to reading. And while I submit to the current usage of the term ‘guilty pleasure’ and use it myself, it doesn’t really fit. For example, in terms of films, I OPENLY enjoy G.I. Jane and will defend it to those who scorn it. I honestly don’t think I have a “guilty” pleasure, come to think of it. Pleasure is pleasure.

Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read

Well, I started War and Peace last year, before I stopped being able to read fiction, and it was amazing. A page-turner, too, which surprised me. I was blowing right through it. But then I had to stop, because my brain kinda stopped for a couple of months. I must finish it.

Books I Refused to Read for a Long Time Because too Many (or the Wrong) People Recommended Them

The Shipping News comes to mind. Everyone, even strangers on the sidewalk it seemed like told me I had. to. read. the. book. It was personal. My parents even sent it to me specifically, with a begging letter, “You must read this!”. I refused out of principle. Because I’m stubborn. Once I read it, I realized: Oh. THAT’S why everyone told me I had to read it. It is now one of my favorite books of all time.

Books I Read Only After Seeing the Movie

I read Persepolis after seeing the movie, but that wasn’t by design. I didn’t have anything against Persepolis, and I actually owned it already. Iran is one of my fascinations, especially that particular generation, I just hadn’t gotten around to it. The movie jumpstarted me into gear. Loved the book. Read it last year.

Oh, and I devoured Oliver Twist at age 10 one summer, because I had seen the musical Oliver! and never ever wanted the experience to end.

Books I Most Often Try to Persuade Other People to Read

I don’t really do that anymore. Probably Ryszard Kapuściński stuff. If people ask, I tell them how much I love him, that he’s definitely in my Top 5 favorite nonfiction authors. So here I go again. Start with The Soccer War, and then take it from there.

Authors I Wish Had Written More Books Already

Speaking of which, Ryszard Kapuściński.

Lorrie Moore.
Nancy Lemann.
Katherine Dunn
Caleb Carr. What the hell happened, Caleb?

Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts

I am coming up blank on this one. Is this for mysteries or crime novels, something genre-specific, or more plot-driven? I mean, I could go off on Nicholas Sparks’s “plot points”, but when there are so many other issues with his books, that seems superfluous. And I’ve only read one. Or, half of one. That was enough.

Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron

I suppose Captain Ahab is the real “lead” of Moby Dick, and while I didn’t want to beat him senselessly with a tire iron, I did enjoy the company of the secondary characters better, Queequeg and Pip and etc.

A lot of Charles Dickens’s books have boring leads with fascinating vibrant secondary characters. Like the two main romantic leads in Tale of Two Cities are drippy stereotypes, truth be told, and the same with the young lovers in Bleak House, but the secondary characters? Sidney Carton et al? You can’t get much better.

Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On

I did not read The Country Wife in college when I was supposed to, because I was far too busy making out with my boyfriend and going roller skating in Providence. I was supposed to do a costume design for an imaginary production, and I read the Cliff Notes, and did some brilliant sketches. Got an A. But when asked to elaborate on one of my drawings, I said, thoughtlessly, “That’s for the wedding scene.” (Some of the details may be lost, it was a long time ago.) My professor looked puzzled and said, “Wedding scene?” Busted. My head turned beet red and I murmured, “That’s what …. I …. got out of it …” As though something like a wedding could be up for interpretation. Not one of my finer moments. Mitchell and I still laugh about it, and “That’s what …. I …. got out of it” is a common statement among my group of friends when we feel unsure.

Books I Lied About Reading/Liking Solely to Look Smart/Pretentious

Does Das Kapital count? I was 19, give me a break. Also love the conflation of “smart” and “pretentious” which represents everything I can’t stand about the Idiocracy of today. Ah yes, to show you are smart means you are “pretentious”. Of course! Now. I never lie about reading something to make myself seem smart slash pretentious. I’m too busy watching Blue Crush and reading Finnegans Wake. Meaning: doing whatever the hell I want to do.

Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished, or Worst. Ending. Ever.

I am not sure I understand the question. Atonement and Geek Love destroyed me at their respective ends, but I don’t think this is what the question means. I can’t really go along with the question format, but I will say that I was let down by the ending of Underworld, by Don DeLillo. The book has one of the most spectacular openings in recent history, 50 pages or so of breathtaking writing and philosophy, all of America distilled and poured into prose, and I was left with a feeling of “Is that all there is?” at the end, which is quite a thing because the book is 800 plus pages long.

Books I Read after Oprah Recommended Them

I don’t really do that. I am very picky about who I take recommendations from.

Books I Will Never Read Precisely Because Oprah Recommends Them

Nope, I don’t do that either. She’s chosen some great books.

Literary Characters I’ve Developed Crushes On

Claude Collier from Lives of the Saints

Cal from East of Eden

John from The Pigman

Sydney Carton from Tale of Two Cities

Yossarian from Catch-22

Nelson Denoon from Mating

Huckleberry Finn

Books I Only Read to Impress Other People

I don’t do that. Life’s too short.

Best Books Not to Read from Start to Finish, or Best Bathroom Books

David Thomson’s The New Biographical Dictionary of Film: Expanded and Updated.

Books I Shouldn’t Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby

There is a lot of shame in this questionnaire. I am concerned. Are people out there really so ashamed of the books they like/don’t like/were moved by?

I cried like a baby at the end of Geek Love and Atonement and I am not ashamed about that. If I had cried like a baby reading Twilight, I wouldn’t be ashamed of that. If something moves you, be happy that your heart is not dead, even if it flutters only at a stupid Hallmark commercial. Seriously, life is short. You should not be ashamed of your emotions.

Books I Only Read for the Title

I was intrigued by the title of We Need to Talk About Kevin. I found the title chilling. I knew nothing about the book, hadn’t read any reviews. But I saw it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, and suddenly felt like I needed to know what “they” needed to “talk about” in regards to Kevin. And now I know. Would it be better if I hadn’t known? Harrowing book.

Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read

Possession. I re-read that book all the time.

I love to re-read Paul Zindel’s books. I’ve been reading them since I was 13 years old. They still work. Favorites? The Pigman and Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball!.

Books People Keep Recommending That, Frankly, Sucked Ass

I am so sorry to keep mentioning this, but the questionnaire appears to demand it: I read Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook on a recommendation from a friend, who loved it, and I will never take a recommendation from him again. I also didn’t tell him how I felt about it – because why do that?

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked

In high school, we had to read Tale of Two Cities and The Great Gatsby, among other things, and I really clicked with those two books, at age 15. I devoured them. I was always a big reader, far beyond my years, but I am convinced that my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Crothers, was responsible for me rising up to the challenges of the classics. We all called Mr. Crothers “Crud”. TO HIS FACE. And we meant it FONDLY. And he ALLOWED it. “Hey, Crud, is there gonna be a quiz on this tomorrow?” “Probably not till Friday.” “Thanks, Crud!” Ah, those were the days. Mr. Crothers is responsible for so much in my life. Broadening my reading, teaching me how to write a theme paper (I got straight As in college because of him, even with the whole Country Wife debacle), and saying, “Okay, so let’s TALK about this”, as he opened up a section The Great Gatsby. I still remember some of the deep discussions we had in Mr. Crother’s class. Great, great teacher. Thanks, Crud!

Books My Teacher Made Me read That Made Me Question the Value of My Education

Back in high school, I suffered through The Scarlet Letter and Billy Budd, but what the hell did I know. I was a teenager. I’ve since re-read them both. The Scarlet Letter is incredible and Billy Budd …. It still felt like a chore, and I found the “bad guy” so much more interesting and Billy Budd a bit insufferable (I know it’s an allegory. Don’t mean it makes it good reading) – and the one thing that really surprised me about my re-reading of it: The book is as homoerotic as an advertisement for Abercrombie and Fitch. It is almost as homoerotic as Picture of Dorian Gray.

Books That Made Me Want to Have Sex with at Least One Character

I probably would have sex with Bud White in L.A. Confidential

And God help me if I ever met Sydney Carton in person. The man would not know what hit him.

Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book

Halfway through and I am now realizing this questionnaire is made for Tweens.

The situation described used to happen to me all the time in high school with one of my best friends. It would infuriate me.

Books I Read Because the Author Looked Hot

Definitely for tweens.

Judging from Sebastian Junger’s author photos, he obviously HOPES I will pick up the book because he looks “hot”. His photos are embarrassing, as he smolders and squints with his tight black T-shirt and a mountain range in the background. Perfect Storm was great, Sebastian. Chillax.

Books I’ve Read Aloud

I read aloud a lot. It relaxes me. I read Shakespeare’s sonnets out loud sometimes. Possession is a good one to read out loud. So is Mating, great first-person narrative.

Books I Love Even Though the Last Twenty Pages Made No Damn Sense

Dear Tween, I am sure the last twenty pages DID make “damn sense”, you just need to concentrate a bit harder.

Books I Have Written a Prequel/Sequel to in My Own Head

I have definitely imagined what happened to John and Lorraine post-Pigman and post-Pigman’s Legacy. Those two characters live on in my mind. Oh, and Harriet the Spy. I would KILL to know who Harriet turned into as an adult.

Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny

Due to my financial challenges right now, I am not buying books, which has been a problem in the past. I have so many unread books on my shelves, so I am now reducing the possibility that I will “see something shiny” and only reading books I already own. It’s been fun. Again, with the War and Peace refrain. I also need to finish up the Master & Commander series. I only got up to Desolation Island, and have many more to go. I love every word of those books. I’ve just been fiction-challenged, in 2009 especially, as my paltry Books Read List attests.

Books I Will Go to the Mattresses for, Even Though I Hate the Writer

I’ll go to the mattress for a lot of things when it comes to writing. I’ll go to the mattress against censorship, against anti-intellectual generalizations (that usually incorporate the word “latte”, as in “only the latte-swilling hoi polloi on the Eastern seaboard would like this book”), against generalizations in general, against criticisms of the kinds of books you SHOULD read, or you SHOULDN’T read, the kinds of books that SHOULD be written or SHOULDN’T be read. There is a difference between “I don’t like this book” and “Books like this suck” or “Nobody should read this book since I find it offensive” and I will go to the mat to defend a writer writing whatever the hell he/she wants to write. I may not read it, it may not be my cup of tea, I don’t care, I’m sticking up for them.

Books You Must Read Because You Must Mock

I don’t do that. Waste of time.

Worst How-To Books Ever

I can’t answer that on the grounds that I will incriminate myself

Books That Were on the ‘To Be Read’ List the Longest

War and Peace is still on that “To Be Read” list. It’s been there for years. And I was doing so well!

Books I Hated Having to Read in School, But Love Now

Moby Dick and Tess of the D’Urbervilles immediately come to mind. I re-read them as an adult, and frankly couldn’t believe they were the same books. Unbelievable achievements. Hated them both when I was a suffering Tween.

Books Whose References Have Worked Their Way into My Household Lexicon

Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann has definitely influenced how I talk. I say stuff like “fiery pantheon” in casual conversation.

Books I’ve Read Because I Liked Their Cover Design/Font

Hopeful Monsters by Nicholas Mosley. I picked up that book expressly because I loved the cover. This is so scary because it has become such an important book to me over the years, it has informed a lot of my life, and I go back to it again and again and again. My copy is literally falling apart. It’s hard to find the book, and even if you do find it now, it’s not with the cover that once called to me. The cover that called to me was simple: there are two bands of slanted orange on the top and on the bottom, and in the middle is a stark black and white closeup of a statue’s face, with the bald white eyes, and the ancient Greek features, and there was something about it that made me stop, glance at it, pick it up, read the back cover, flip through it … and then buy it then and there. Thank you, dear book designer at Vintage. I’ve seen the new design and it is bland, I would never have picked up the book based on the new cover, and it’s one of those books where I can’t imagine who I would be if I hadn’t read it.

Books Which, When It Comes Right Down to It, I Would Have No Problem Burning

When it “comes right down to it”, I would never burn a book. There are plenty of people I despise on this earth, but I would not burn their books. I boycott publications who publish certain people, that’s how I deal with it. I boycott magazines and online publications who publish the people I hate. And for me this is some sacrifice because a lot of them are good magazines, and I like the rest of the writers. But I don’t BURN the magazines who publish these people. I just refuse to support them, with clicks, page views, or my hard-earned money. It may be meaningless in the long run, but my conscience is clear. However burning a book, or even fantasizing about it, goes against everything I believe in. Say whatever you want to say. Let’s fight it out in the market square.

Books Which I Read Only for the Sex Scenes

Sex scenes are usually pretty silly in books. One of my favorite annual Literary Awards is the award given for Bad Sex Writing. However, there’s a Ken Follett novel, and I am not even remembering which one right now, but there’s a sex scene in it that stands alone in the fiery pantheon as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve read a lot of sex scenes. They come up, if you’ve read a lot. And that Ken Follett one is the best I’ve ever read. I own the book, and will never read it in its entirety again, probably, but I do sometimes take out that sex scene and have a look at it. But, in general, hearing a description of sex is a turnoff. I like authors who suggest it, merely. Get the feeling of it, rather than the nuts-and-bolts of who did what to whom and how. Yawn. The Ken Follett scene I mention consists only of dialogue between the two characters in the sack. There is not one descriptive term, not one narrative paragraph. It is only what they say to each other, in the dark. It’s hot.

Books I Pretend to Like So People Won’t Think I’m a Snob, or Books I Pretend to Like So I Won’t Hurt Your Feelings

Dear Tween:

It is not healthy to be so worried about what other people think of you. You can certainly like something your friend doesn’t like. That doesn’t make you a snob. And you have to stop this whole pretending thing. It’s not good for you. I never pretended to like The Notebook to make my friend feel better. I also didn’t scorn him and taunt, “You LIKED that?” I would never do that. I was polite. I thanked him for the recommendation and left it at that.

An interesting side-note to this, Tween: There is such a thing as projected snobbery, and you need to be on the lookout for it, and realize that it usually comes out of insecurity. Because the person doesn’t like what you like, or doesn’t understand why you like what you like, the person projects a snobby attitude onto you, when the snobbery is really coming from them. Feeling “left out” is a powerful motivator, and people lash out. But it’s a projection. Do what you want to do. I read what I read because my tastes lead me that way. So, Tween, stop your worrying. Like what you want to like.

Best of Luck,

Miss Sheila

Books with Covers So Embarrassing You Can’t Read Them in Public

An embarrassing cover, huh? Well, I suppose some of my erotic art/cartoon books would qualify. I wouldn’t be reading those in public. But more than that, I would be embarrassed to read a book on the subway with a title such as “I Am An Old Maid And Sad About It, What Do I Do?”, for example. I probably wouldn’t whip out a copy of “Orgasm For Dummies” on the subway. I would wait until I got home to finish the final chapter of “Starting A Pagan Drum Circle In Your Own Backyard”. Some things you just don’t want other people to know.

Books You Are Sorry You Didn’t Read Decades Ago

I just read The End of the Affair in the last couple of years, and am truly sorry that I hadn’t read it when I should have read it, as a good Catholic, back when I was in college. Graham Greene was this big blank in my education, which I am rectifying now. It is such a powerful important book, and I would have loved it just as much at 22 as I did last year.

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39 Responses to Book Questionnaire Full of Shame, Loathing and Lying

  1. Emily says:

    Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth

    I always loved that title, if only because it was her autobiography. Who refers to themselves as a “legend” in their own lifetime and what kind of autobiography is actually truthful? But I adore it and Lana anyway.

  2. sheila says:

    Ha!! I know! That is the best part!!!! “The Legend.” So serious.

    It’s an awesome awesome book. The true meaning of camp, because she means every damn word. “I was so upset about my life, as I put on my mink stole …” “He slapped me across the face, and, by the way, that night I was wearing a clinging peach-colored gown …” It’s a brilliant book.

  3. Steven_O says:

    This is a great survey! I might just copy the questions and take it myself. I especially like your advice for the angsty tweens…

  4. sheila says:

    Steven O – hahaha Halfway through, I realized that all of these questions came from a place of wanting to fit in and being nervous about what people will think of you. I’m a grown woman, I’m gonna angst about the fact that I read YA fiction by Paul Zindel in public? I wouldn’t give it a second thought. Come on, Tweens, it’s okay!!

  5. Tommy says:

    This meme was taking forever, and I have to be up early. I think I got 300 questions in before I tucked it away to finish a rainy day.

    I’m actually reading Kapuściński’s Rasputin Files, which was on my mountain of books I’ve bought but never read. Likely I bought it from some Amazon seller because of something you wrote, however many moons ago. Digging it.

  6. sheila says:

    Tommy – I know, it’s so in-depth! It took me a while too. I look forward to your answers.

    Rasputin Files is great, but that’s not Kapuscinski – that’s Edvard Radzinsky, and he is another fave of mine! I love his book on Stalin, I think it’s just called Stalin. Don’t you just want to smack Rasputin upside the head?

    Kapuscinski was a Polish journalist and he wrote only 6 or 7 books. Soccer War, Shah of Shahs, The Emperor, Shadow of the Sun, Travels with Herodotus, Imperium and Another Day of Life. I think that’s it. Bummer. He died a couple years ago. A real loss.

  7. Tommy says:

    You are right. I am sleep deprived.

  8. sheila says:

    I totally understand, both names end with “ski”.

    I hope you get some sleep! I follow your bouts with insomnia on Twitter. :(

  9. Kate P says:

    YES to your comments about “The Notebook” and “Ordinary People.” I didn’t last five pages with the former (sold it on pronto) and the latter I got to see as the result of my Oscar movies project–then dug up the book in my (then) library.

    That was a great response to the “book burning” question, too.

  10. sheila says:

    She’s a good writer (Judith Guest). She wrote another book about a troubled youth, the title escapes me. But she’s a good solid novelist. But the adaptation, cinematic, creative, was amazing. The edits, additions, and subtractions, were all really intuitive. I don’t love the movie as much as I did when I was a kid – but to me, the adaptation is still fantastic, a superb example of how to work with the original material.

  11. Doc Horton says:

    Fun thing. I’ll pick one – Books I’ve Read Aloud. I read ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ aloud to the future mother of my child. It’s probably one of the more important reasons that I have a child.

  12. Kate P says:

    That’s it–I realized the movie was different, but it was a really well-done kind of different I couldn’t argue with. And the spot-on emotion of the story haunted me for weeks.

  13. sheila says:

    Two scenes that are not in the book, which were added to the screenplay, which I think are two of the best scenes in the film:

    — The taking of the family photo where the mother doesn’t want to stand next to the son. It’s almost unwatchable, how awkward it is
    — The scene where Conrad (Hutton) tries to talk about the dead brother and the dog, and the mother won’t listen, so he starts barking to get her attention.

    You would think two such specific scenes would be lifted from the book, but they aren’t there at all – and, in my opinion, they help NAIL the truly frightening qualities of that mother. Alvin Sargent wrote the screenplay, although I don’t know how much of this was invented by Redford. I certainly recognized the movie as the same story as the book, but those two scenes REALLY stand out.

    And in the book, Conrad and the girl (played by Elizabeth McGovern) have a sexual relatoinship. She’s much more sexually experienced in the book than she appears to be in the film, although she hints at bad stuff she’s done – but they totally changed the relationship in the movie to be far more awkward and pained and innocent. I don’t even think they kiss. It’s inconceivable that those two teenagers up on screen would be having sex. I think it was a nice adjustment for the film, kept the romance on the back burner, so the story could focus on the psychiatrist and the parents.

    Interesting compromises.

  14. Ken says:

    I’m (finally) reading War and Peace.

    Dunno about best book, but best title? I’m going with:

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

    Book that made me cry, whether I should admit it or no:

    Flowers for Algernon. It’s been 35 or so years since I read it, and I still can’t think about the last paragraphs without choking up.

    Books I re-read every other year or so:

    Lord of the Rings
    The Winds of War
    War and Remembrance

  15. Michael says:

    Sheila, I love/hate you. This post is awesome. I especially love the guilty pleasure comments. It is pleasure no matter what—don’t attach GUILT to it. Also the letter to the tween, really?! Where were you in my formative years? I really could have used that advice during my tween angst period.

    Have you ever read At Swim,Two Boys? by Jamie O’Neill? Takes place during the Easter Rising? One of my all time favs—

  16. sheila says:

    Michael – I was really talking to myself as a Tween, although even back then I didn’t have that much guilt about the things I was really into. There are plenty of REAL reasons to feel guilty – but liking Moby Dick (or hating Billy Budd) is NOT one of them!!!

    And no, I have not read At Swim Two Boys although a couple of my friends loved it. I would like to check it out as current Irish fiction is a passion of mine. “At Swim-Two-Birds” by Flann O’Brien is a hoot – J.D. Salinger MUST have read it.

  17. Catherine says:

    I was going to sub in my own answers, but decided against it because (a) like you, I have no concept of a ‘guilty pleasure’ in fiction as it pertains to my own reading, (b) I rarely finish books I don’t like, so I don’t have too many howlersto complain about, and (c) I don’t have twenty bajillion years free to fill that behemoth of a questionnaire out. I’ll pick a couple out, though.

    Best Book Titles of All Time:

    ‘Mysteries of Pittsburgh’, Michael Chabon
    ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ ,Nancy Mitford
    ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, George Orwell. I love the rhythm of that title.
    ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’, Frank McGuinness
    ‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler’, E.L. Konigsburg
    ‘Notes from the Undergound’, Dostoevsky. Haven’t actually read this one yet, but that title!
    And one for kicks, ‘Lieutenant Nun’, which is this TERRIBLE book I once had to read for a history class . It’s the autobiography of a 16th century Spanish transvestite, which sounds awesome, but it’s the most boring, crappily-written, non-sensical piece of crap ever. It’s been living on the main bookshelves for about a year now and it’s become a family joke. Whenever anyone is looking for something to read, browsing the shelves, someone else is always like “Oh, well there’s always Lieutenant Nun…”.

    Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On:

    I didn’t “lie” per se, I just never finished the damned thing. ‘Tristam Shandy”. I didn’t have enough time left in the semester to read more than probably a tenth of it, but somehow my best exam results that semester was for the end-of-term kickass paper I wrote on it. It’s on my To Read Before Death list though, because I did love that 10% of it. Exhausting though.

    Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read:

    ‘Lolita’, for some reason. It always seems to be prominently placed on my shelves and I just can’t get enough of Nabokov’s prose. I see a new detail to marvel at whenever I pick it up. I’ve read Paul Auster’s ‘The New York Trilogy’ about twenty times at this stage. I still have all my old Discworld novels from when I went through a big Terry Pratchett phase around 12/13, and they’re always good to grab for when I’m stuck for something to read.

    Books I Shouldn’t Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby:

    I’m happy to admit it! I’m known as a big-time weeper when it comes to pop culture, but usually books have to work a little harder to make me cry. I’ll sob at any old piece of crap film, but a book has to be something special to make me cry. When it works, though, holy mother of God. I read “One Day” by David Nicholls earlier this year – wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book, btw – and something happens at the end that literally caused me to collapse into a blubbering, soggy heap. I was sitting in the living room, reading the last 30 pages, tears streaming down my face, moaning softly to myself, quivering. My sister comes into the room, saying “Hey, will you help me bring out the rubbish bin…uh, never mind, I can do it on my own…um…are you okay?” I’ve also wept copiously at ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, ‘Villete’ by my homegirl C-Bronte, ‘…Kavalier and Clay’ by Michael Chabon, a ton others. Sometimes I end up sobbing on public transport – always a winning combo. I remember finishing Frank McGuinness’s “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme” on the tram one morning about 8am, sandwiched in between all these commuter dudes with suits and briefcases, and the ending of the play is so -oh, God, I’m tearing up now just thinking about it – and I couldn’t stop the tidal wave of tears from just bursting forth. (Something similar happened a few weeks later, actually; same form of transport, same time of day, same commuters, just this time it was a certain passage of Zadie Smith’s ‘On Beauty’ and instead of tears, it was huge, terrifying snort-gulp-guffaws of laughter which I just could not keep inside.)

  18. Den says:

    Over used plot points? Searching for the parent that abandoned one, searching for the child one abandoned, searching for one’s real parent…etc.

  19. Phil P says:

    Is there really a book named Orgasm for Dummies? I can almost believe it. The one I’m waiting for is Rocket Science for Dummies.

    I hope you get to restart War and Peace. It’s the greatest book ever written (to me, anyway.)

  20. sheila says:

    Phil – hahaha There probably is! I was just thinking of a “how-to” book I wouldn’t want to read on the subway, so I made that up.

    War and Peace will DEFINITELY be re-started. I absolutely loved it. Wow, wow, wow.

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  22. ted says:

    Marvelous meme, I’ve got to post it too! Maybe I’ll just answer “what Sheila said” for about 90% of my answers. Missing you. More red wine soon?

  23. sheila says:

    Ted – I’m out of town next week, but after that definitely! How’s the Orson Welles coming? I’ve been so busy, almost done with my script, almost at the final draft, and I’m driving myself insane with procrastination. I should be taken out into the woods and shot.

  24. sheila says:

    Oh, and Ted – I’d love to hear your answers!!

    It’s awesome, everyone, to hear your own thoughts about this in-depth Tween Meme.

  25. Nicola says:

    Books I Have Lied About Reading
    Not so much a lie. But in high school for Afrikaans we did a book called Kringe in ‘n bos by Dalene Matthee which I just read in English (Circles in a Forest).

    Best Book Titles of All Time
    Definitely A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favourites. Also To Kill a Mockingbird, The Devil Wears Prada, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (I title I just repeat and repeat in my head).

    Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read
    Treasure Island. My dad bought me it when I was 11 and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve started reading it. And then something else comes along that I’d rather read and I get distracted. I feel guilty.

    Books I read only after seeing the movie:
    All that comes to mind is Sense & Sensibility. Maybe Emma.

    Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts
    Yeah I’m thinking Nicholas Sparks ‘plot’ points. Though to be fair I haven’t read any of his books. The movie adaptations send me into enough of a rage.

    Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On
    Back to Kringe in ‘n bos. Though I definitely did not get an A+ for Afrikaans.

    Books I Shouldn’t Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby
    I’m not ashamed and also I cannot remember the title. It’s a ballet book I read when I was 11/12 about a girl who somehow gets hit by a train. She doesn’t die but she can’t dance anymore. Made me sob.

    Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read
    I’ve read Little Women ALOT.

    Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked
    Shades by Marguerite Poland. I actually really loved all my set work books.

    Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book
    I don’t know but that happened to me in my Physiology class. I did research she sucked the infomation out her thumb and she got the better mark.

    Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny
    Oh I answered this already. Treasure Island.

    Books That Were on the ‘To Be Read’ List the Longest
    Treasure Island. Since I was 11! As soon as I’m finished the two books I’m reading now I’m going to start my umpteenth attempt I think. Maybe. At this point I think it’s just a mental block.

  26. Ken says:

    @Nicola, if you’ll permit me, it took me several tries to get through Treasure Island. I finally succeeded when I read it to my sons. I really enjoyed it when I finally RTWT, though.

    Ironically, same thing happened with Kidnapped, though I got through on the second try. I’ve got Master of Ballantrae on the Sony Reader, but it’ll be a while before I get to it — there’s this little matter of another 860 pages of War and Peace to attend to….

  27. sheila says:

    Cashel LOVED Treasure Island!

  28. Tracey says:

    Harriet the Spy grew up to be Nikke Finke.

  29. sheila says:

    Tracey – I don’t know, I prefer to think about all the options, rather than come up with just one.

    Maybe she’s an archaeologist. Or maybe she’s a war photographer. An investigative journalist? Maybe a movie producer. The possibilities are endless.

  30. nightfly says:

    Worst Books Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back
    Moo, by Jane Smiley. Blech.

    Books I Have Lied About Reading
    I don’t recall ever saying I had read something I hadn’t, but I do recall saying that I hadn’t read a book so I wouldn’t get trapped in a boring conversation about it. Instead I was trapped in a boring conversation about how I simply HAD to read the book. Served me right. Don’t even remember which book it was.

    Best Book Titles of All Time
    Most of my favorites are kids’ book titles: The Phantom Tollbooth, Where the Wild Things Are, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader.” The Hound of the Baskervilles is also a great title.

    Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read
    Not so much books for me, but poetry. I am shockingly deficient in the basics. Even though I know for a fact that some of this had to be covered during my school days, I can only really remember the Shakespeare and the prose works.

    Books I read only after seeing the movie:
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was probably the first one. For a while, my parents would also buy me the usually sub-par book adaptations of movies like E.T. and Gremlins.

    Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts
    I can’t think of one off the top of my head, so here’s a tangentially-related story: a running gag in “The Pirate Movie” was that all the pirates had a code of honor; they wouldn’t kill or harass orphans. Of course, every other scene, they would break out the cutlasses and close in on some hapless would-be victim who would wail in dramatic despair, “If only I had someone to protect me – but alas – I am… AN ORPHAN!” Upon which the entire gang would mutter in chorus, “Aw, shit,” and mope off.

    Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On
    Franz Fanon, African revolutionary, wrote a book whose title escapes me, that I barely skimmed and then wrote about… having only skimmed I couldn’t write a proper term paper, so I decided to be insufferably 18 and write a play in which the narrator scolded Fanon for wanting to overthrow his country and kill everyone. I am heartily ashamed of the whole thing now: basically I tsk-tsked Franz Fanon across space and time without having even read a thing he wrote. What an asshole. (Me.) I have no idea how I even scraped a passing grade.

    Books I Shouldn’t Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby
    Books usually don’t make me cry. Movies and music, though… the end of Monsters, Inc is making me cry right now just remembering it.

    Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read
    I go through the Sherlock Holmes a lot, and the Narnia books, and I’ve read Veeck as in Wreck about three times since I got it last year. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is in the permanent rotation.

    Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked
    My teachers almost never had to make me read; getting me to stop to write the report was another thing.

    Literary Characters I’ve Developed Crushes On
    Not so much crushes… but I am thoroughly convinced that they are real people, and someday we will meet all of them: Anne Shirley, the Macawbers, Holmes and Watson, Darcy and Bennet and all their kin, Portia, Shylock, Hester Prynne, Spencer and Hawk, the Pevensies, even Bartleby (though he would prefer not to).

    Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book
    I can’t answer. I don’t know who actually read things besides me. So instead I will share some of the best writing advice a teacher ever gave me: “NEVER explain your metaphors this way!” He was right. If people don’t get it on their own, I didn’t set it up properly, and I shouldn’t get my characters to take time out of their day to do my job for me.

    Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny
    I never do finish Crime and Punishment. I’ve read the first two-thirds four times. Then, hey, look, a Handyman Magazine! (As if I could ever pull off half the “weekend” projects in that thing – sure, I’ll build my own living room furniture! And the room to put them in! And rewire my refrigerator and re-upholster the cat! Now she’s calico AND stain-resistant!)

    My Real Guilty-Pleasure Reads, and Not the Decoys I Talk About Openly
    Like you, I have no little guilt – it stems back to when I gave my then-10 year old cousin a copy of the Hobbit for his birthday, and recommended the Lord of the Rings afterward, and someone in the family sniffed, “That’s not real literature.” Really? Because it has swords and elves and stuff? If it’s strong writing and you care about the characters, who cares how they make their living? I’d rather read about a blob of slime with a heart of gold, toughing it out in the mutant sewers, than a dozen cardboard archtypes shuffled about a boring stage so the author can affirm Things That Matter for all the fellow-thinkers.

    Books I Have Written a Prequel/Sequel to in My Own Head
    Heh. ALL OF THEM. Sooner or later I wind up wandering the pages in some way, even if it’s inconsequential. And if your book isn’t very good, I may shove aside one of your main characters and start improving it.

  31. beth says:

    OMG Nicholas Sparks, so, so, sooooooo bad. I think I flung that book away in disgust when he took what should’ve been a pivotal scene and described it…very un-descriptively…using lots of ellipses…UGH UGH UGH. Blech.

    Why didn’t you like Tuesdays? Or is that another whole post? Haven’t read it. My equivalent is Ten Things I Learned from Bill Porter. Probably nobody has heard of this book, but it was also made into a movie with William H. Macy. It is the most self-serving, pitying, disrespectful hunk of tripe where basically the author congratulates herself on all the ways she looks down on the book’s subject after forcing her way into his life. Including trying to push him to keep speaking engagements with her that would make HER money, despite physical problems that made keeping them truly difficult for him. Horrible.

    They also made a movie out of the damn Notebook, too. This is why I sometimes hate people.

    //I probably would have sex with Bud White in L.A. Confidential//

    I probably would have sex with Russell Crowe as Bud White in L.A. Confidential, the movie.

    This is my favorite answer of the whole thing: “Worst How-To Books Ever

    I can’t answer that on the grounds that I will incriminate myself.” LOL!! Such images spring to mind!

    Close runner-up: the “go to the mattress” answer. Yes. And the burning books one. Although perhaps “coming right down to it” is one of those I Shouldn’t Be Alive scenarios, where you have to burn a book to keep from dying of hypothermia or something. You know. It could happen.

    Meanwhile, fiery pantheon!! “Starting A Pagan Drum Circle In Your Own Backyard”!! My favorite Internet questionnaire post yet. :) Well done!

  32. beth says:

    Maybe I should just do this questionnaire my damn self on my own FB, but three other things I forgot to mention: Favorite book titles — The Sun Also Rises and The Sound and The Fury.

    The Green Mile made me cry and cry and cry. Like, UGLY sobbing crying. The book, not the movie. And I don’t know anyone who didn’t cry at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows.

    Another book / movie I HATED and flung away from me before I was finished: The Lovely Bones. Never saw the movie, heard it sucked. SHOCKA.

  33. beth says:

    Also under literary characters I’ve developed crushes on: RHETT BUTLER. Scarlett was an IDIOT.

  34. Dwight says:

    Thanks for the mention of Ryszard Kapuściński. I’m reading Travels with Herodotus (while I’m re-reading The Histories) and I really enjoy his writing. I was wondering whether or not to explore more of his work so I appreciate the ‘thumbs up’!

  35. Bill Holmes says:

    shee…I haven’t been here in a while but posts like this make me ashamed of myself for my truancy. Pure brilliance.

    For the record, as a hetero male I wouldn’t have sex with Bud White, but I can absolutely see the female POV. The book was first rate Ellroy magic, and the movie adaptaion was phenomenal – considering the editing I’d argue that the film was as good as the book it was drawn from.

    Still stunned that I know another person who reads books…sad as that sounds!

  36. Liam O'Malley says:

    for my own selfish reasons, do please finish War and Peace – then we can both watch the epic 1968 Sergie Bondarchuk film – check the youtube clips

    “that’s what I got out of it”


  37. sheila says:

    Liam – I promise to finish it!

  38. sheila says:

    Bill – I totally agree with you about the superb adaptation of Ellroy’s LA Confidential to the screen. You read the book and it’s hard to imagine how they would do it – there’s so much there, so many characters, so many different styles of writing giving it that collage effect – but they all just nailed it. From the second that opening began, with DeVito’s voiceover, I knew it: They had succeeded. You could just TELL.

    Welcome back! :)

  39. sheila says:

    Dwight – Oh, I’m excited to hear you are reading Kapuscinski! Is that the only one of his you have read?

    I think there are only 6 books in total – but they’re all just fantastic. I miss him. I miss looking forward to new books from him.

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