I was tagged to answer these questions by author of the wonderful blog The Orangutan Librarian. You should definitely go over there and check out her posts. Number one, she’s an orangutan, and number two, she has some great satirical pieces.
What book has been on your shelf the longest?
I was going to show a Bible picture book that I’ve had since I was 3, but it turns out it is not on my shelf any more as I have passed it on to a niece. So, here …
What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?
What book did everyone like, but you hated?
OK, this is the question that calls for courage.
There are several that everyone agrees are great, and they probably are, but I’m avoiding them.
The Hate U Give, The Help, and The Secret Life of Bees.
I even have two of these on my shelf, but I haven’t cracked them open.
Reason? I’m super easily guilted. I don’t want to read a book that is going to call me racist, because even though I know I’m not, I’m going to feel responsible for all the bad stuff that happens in the book. I will go around hanging my head just that little bit lower. Then I’ll be angry that I am being blamed for segregation or for a police shooting in a city I’ve never been to, and … well, you get the idea.
What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
The Brothers Karamazov. I’ve started it, and it was super good, and I know it has amazing writing and a ton of spiritual insight, but I’ve heard so much about it that I feel like I already know the ending.
What book are you saving for retirement?
At this rate, what I’m saving for retirement is probably my entire career as a novelist.
Last page: Read it first, or wait ‘til the end?
Wait, definitely. Unless you’ve read everything that came before, the last page won’t make much sense and, even if you can sort of figure out what is going on, it certainly won’t have the same impact.
That said, I have been known to skim ahead a page or two in a book, just to break the tension, when I sense that something really awful is about to happen.
Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?
Ok. I have lots of thoughts on acknowledgements.
In general, I like them. They are sweet. I love it when the author thanks their spouse for all the sacrifices they made. Also, the acknowledgements can be a way to find out the name of the author’s agent, which is helpful if you write similar kinds of books and want to query the agent.
But I’m not fond of acknowledgements that fill 1 – 2 pages and, seemingly, list every single person who had anything to do with bringing the book to print. First of all, I can’t pay attention to all those names and my eyes glaze over, and then I feel guilty because clearly all these people deserve to be thanked.
Secondly, these long acknowledgement sections can be discouraging to a fledgling author. If a dozen people are listed, and every one of them is thanked for their “invaluable edits and corrections,” and is a person “without whose work this book would never have come to be,” we get the impression that it’s impossible to write a book (at least, a decent book) without a team of at least a dozen at your back. Which means that our current WIP is probably trash, which makes us doubt ourself since we know it’s not.
Also, I once saw a long acknowledgment section by Nicholas Sparks that was nothing but a bunch of puns on the titles of his previous books, none of which I had read. I didn’t end up reading that one either.
Which book character would you switch places with?
Bertie Wooster. Who wouldn’t want to have Jeeves on hand?
Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (place, time, person)?
Yes, all of them.
(I once told a Medieval Lit professor that because of a certain past friendship I had “issues” around the entire corpus of Arthurian legends, and added, “I guess that makes me a real literature dork, right?”
And she said, “I don’t know, I think most people have issues like that with different works of literature.” I think she was right.)
Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.
A Meeting at Corvallis by S.M. Stirling. I read the first book in this series (Dies the Fire) by checking it out of the library. But I couldn’t find the second one in the library, though they had later books in the series. (What are you thinking, librarians?) So I was forced to go online and order copies of the missing books.
This shows the value of authors getting their books into libraries, by the way.
Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?
Only all the time. It’s called “forcing books on people.” It’s my social handicap (one of many). Apparently I communicate by giving, lending, and recommending books.
Which book has been with you the most places?
This is a tricky one. In my youth I was a world traveler, and I am one of those people who always have to have a book with them, so I have dragged many different books to some very remote places. But it’s never always the same one. I remember reading an Indonesian version of The Two Towers while on a canoe, and reading How Green Was My Valley (in English) sitting on an ironwood porch in the jungle. Little House probably wins, though, since I re-read that one on the ironwood porch as well.
Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?
No. I liked To Kill A Mockingbird when we read it in high school, and loved it even more later. I hated 1984 so much that I’ve never gone back to it.
Used or brand new?
Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?
I can’t remember. I have read one by another person in a similar genre, and reviewed it here.
Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?
The Great Gatsby (Leo DiCaprio version). The film made the characters sympathetic and the story poignant, which the book didn’t do for me.
Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?
I don’t need a book to make me hungry.
I am easily guilted (is a theme developing here?) by books that feature starvation.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Farmer Boy stars a 9-year-old boy who is always hungry and includes many detailed, sensuous descriptions of food. Man, that boy could put away the pies! Of course, he was nine years old and was out ploughing all day.
Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
Not sure this person exists. Even people I respect greatly have different thresholds than I do.
Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver was out of my comfort zone and I avoided it for several years because I got the impression that it demonized missionaries as evil colonialists who don’t bother to learn anything about the cultures they enter.
Eventually, when I’d made some culture crossing mistakes of my own and been through some difficult personal stuff, and I had accepted myself as a flawed person and life had calmed down a bit, I felt ready to read it.
It is brilliant.
I still think it demonizes missionaries to some extent, but it is such good literature that even the Baptist pastor villain is portrayed in a complex way. It does a great job of showing the huge learning curve faced by Westerners when entering a West African culture. It deals with white guilt, parenting guilt, and more. At least three of the characters made me go, “This is me!”
Also, the sections narrated by the pastor’s oldest daughter Rachel are hilarious because they’re filled with malapropisms.
Now it’s my turn to tag you.
Tag! You’re it. If you want to do this tag, go home and do it, and let me know. Or answer randomly selected questions from this tag in the comments.