Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Q&A: Books

Before I begin today's post, I do have to apologise to The Pampered Sparrow,who posted the below quiz on her favourite books and reading habits. The rules state that you must tag people to take up the challenge, but, well, she didn't tag me - no, I saw this and thought it was such a good idea, I'd join in, too, so I hope she doesn't mind! I enjoyed reading The Pampered Sparrow's answers, and I'm always interested to hear what other people are reading. So, here are the rules of the game, and my answers below:

1. Post these rules.
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover.
3. Answer the questions below.
4. Tag a few people to answer them, too.
5. Go to their blog/Twitter and tell them you've tagged them.
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you've taken part!

Part of a beautiful complete set of Jane Austen's books - a brilliant Christmas present from my parents.
What are you reading right now?
The Rose Garden, by Susanna Kearsley

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
I’ve got A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, by Barbara Tuchman lined up and waiting. It’s rare for a book classed as a narrative history to be praised by academic historians, but this book was recommended to me by a professor at university, and it’s been on my shelf ever since. Covering war, uprising, famine and plague, Tuchman makes easy and enjoyable reading of some heavy material.

What 5 books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?
Sepulchre, by Kate Mosse
The Uses and Abuses of History, by Margaret Macmillan
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins
Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?

, InStyle, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, National Geographic.

What’s the worst book you've ever read?
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien. See below for my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings, then multiply the dry and heavy feeling mentioned below by a hundred to imagine the soporific effect The Silmarillion had on me.

What book seems really popular but you actually hated?
The Lord of the Rings – technically a trilogy, but they are often lumped together in one volume, and I’m afraid that’s how I found the whole experience of reading it: lumpy. Now, The Hobbit, I love -Tolkien wrote it for his children, and it’s a magical story with everything I loved to read about as a child – dragons, dwarves, elves, giant spiders, wizards, spells, a creepy cave-dwelling creature, and lots of descriptions of fantastic meals.The Lord of the Rings, however, for me, is stilted and as dry and heavy as a month old cake. I once read that poor Tolkien got so fed up with writing the trilogy, that he took several years off before completing it. It was much the same when I read it, too. In the end I think it took me about a year to get through, and it felt like a really hard slog. Never again.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn. It’s the first in a series, set in the late Victorian period, and centred on the adventures of Lady Julia Grey. The first book opens with the grisly death of Lady Julia’s husband, and follows the investigation from start to finish. It’s pacey, twisted and dark, but with elegant comic touches. I’ve virtually vacuumed up all of her books so far, and it also helps that I know her to be a thoroughly lovely and gracious lady, too.

What are your 3 favourite poems?
Sonnet 116, by William Shakespeare – the most beautiful testament to enduring love.
If, by Rudyard Kipling – a favourite of my Dad’s, and hearing him recite this regularly (and loudly) has ingrained my appreciation of it!
Stanzas For Music, by Byron – hopelessly romantic, but with a lovely rhythm as you read it, too.

Where do you usually get your books?

Lots of places – online at Amazon and The Book Depository, out and about at Waterstones and WH Smith, and at the countless independent bookshops I wander into.

Where do you usually read your books?

Anywhere with a comfortable chair.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

If reading anything and everything at top speed can be classed as a habit, then yes!

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? 

This will make me sound very dull, but these days sleep usually wins any fight I have to stay awake when reading at night.
Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

No way. It leaves you wide open to looking like a complete fool if someone tries to start an in-depth discussion with you about it!

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

I know cover-art these days is meticulously thought out by marketing wizards, and I’m a sucker for an interesting cover, but of course, what appeals to my eye doesn’t necessarily appeal to someone else’s. There are some beautiful and eye-catching covers out there, and if I’m in a book shop and see something I like the look of, I’ll stop, pick it up and read the blurb on the back. Sometimes I even have a cheeky flick through the pages -but never break the spine. That’s an unforgiveable act on an un-purchased book, and a privilege expressly reserved for the owner – So, in summary after all that rambling, no, a cover alone will not persuade me to a book, but it’ll certainly hook me on the line.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I had too many to single out, but some have stayed with me into adulthood, I love them that much. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tom’s Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce, and all of Roald Dahl’s children’s books are still on my shelves today.

What book changed your life?

There haven’t been any single earth-shattering, dramatic changes in my life as a result of reading one certain book, but great words have the power to pass on knowledge, change a mood, and inspire thoughts (and sometimes actions), both large and small.

What is your favourite passage from a book?
If pressed to choose, it would be Captain Wentworth’s love-letter to Anne Eliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion,
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F. W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.” 

What are your top five favourite authors?
Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Tracy Chevalier, Deanna Raybourn, Philip Pullman.

What book has no one heard about but should read?
I’d never go so far as to say I’ve read a book that nobody else on the planet has (or appreciates), but Charlotte Bronte’s Vilette is a book largely overshadowed by Jane Eyre (another favourite), and yet just as good, I think. It doesn’t have the same intense drama or epic love story, but like its heroine, Lucy Snowe, its quietness is its best virtue. She travels to the fictional city of Vilette in Belgium, to teach at a girls’ school. It traces the story of Lucy’s experiences at the school, and the various characters she meets there. Deeply shy and self-contained, Lucy is also troubled – leading to many encounters and visions in Bronte’s gothic style. It’s a strange, unusual and bittersweet story.

What 3 books are you an “evangelist” for?
The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, (This is cheating slightly, but still) The ‘His Dark Materials’ Trilogy, by Philip Pullman, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier.
What are your favourite books by a first-time author?
Wall & Piece, by Banksy - Some people think Banksy is a street-artist, others think he’s a vandal. I fall into the first camp, and love flicking through this first compilation of Banksy’s graffiti-art – subversive, clever, funny and brilliant.
My Last Duchess, by Daisy Goodwin - The story of a wealthy American heiress during the 1890s, who marries an English aristocrat - the brilliantly named main character, Cora Cash, must contend with an overbearing mother, hostile in-laws, a beautiful but rickety mansion and a secretive husband if she is to make a success of her new life in England.

What is your favourite classic book?
It has to be Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

Five other notable mentions?
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, Green Darkness, by Anya Seton, Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson, Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and lastly, one none-fiction – Marie Antoinette: The Journey, by Antonia Fraser.
Lastly, I won't tag specific people to take part in this Q&A, but if you feel like sharing, please do - and please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Laura,
    What a great idea for a post. Normally, I would love to write about books I've read, but lately I've read almost nothing but non-fiction and I feel so disconnected from the world of books that I used to love. I am going to look up that book "Uses and Abuses of History" - sounds like it might be useful in doing historical research!
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Best wishes, Ingrid