Monday, September 05, 2005

Books! Books! Books!

As I was putzing around on the net the other day, I ran across a book survey on someone's blog. Feeling as I do about books, it piqued my interest. It had some interesting questions, but was too short, so I started looking around for similar surveys and making up questions of my own in order to create my own Frankensurvey. I think all of my friends should take it, thereby providing me with inspirations for new reading material.

What are you reading now?
The Baudy Basket by Edward Marston and an anthology of gothic stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. I'm just about to start The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Also a book on the history of Halloween, but that is for research, so it doesn't really count.

What is the last book that you bought?
Silver Ravenwolf's Halloween

What are your favorite books?
This is a tough question. There are so many that I love, so I'm going to go with a few that I've found myself coming back to again and again over the years - Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, also Stardust. Presently I'm also very enamored with Wesley Stace's book, Misfortune.

Who are your favorite authors?
In no particular order (and definitely not an exhaustive list): Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Mann, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (esp. his poetry), Italo Calvino, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, A.S. Byatt, Rainer Maria Rilke. If you asked me tomorrow, I'm sure the list would include some others too.

Which genres are your favorites?
Ghost stories, mysteries, poetry, fiction, biography, historical fiction, satire

What books did you think you would hate but loved?
Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgement, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, Heinlein, the comic books that Carlton has loaned to me.

What kind of books do you dislike most?
Westerns, horror

Do you mostly read contemporary work, older works or both?
Both. All time periods have something to offer, why exclude any of them?

What are some of the funniest books you've ever read?
Voltaire's Candide, John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, Mark Acito's How I Paid for College, John Stewart's America, a book called Puttin' on the Ritz and its sequel Blue Heaven...I can't remember the author's name at the moment, but both had me laughing out loud a lot.

What are the most suspenseful books you've ever read?
Barbara Michaels' mysteries; The Turn of the Screw. I really like reading supernaturally tinged mysteries when I'm just looking for something fun.

Which books were so good that you read them in one sitting?
Anything by Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. The Da Vinci Code, which I hate to admit, because it was so trendy. The Baron in the Trees, the first time I read it. I think The Club Dumas as well.

Which books have impacted you most?
The biography of Charlotte Stieglitz, JM Coetzee's Foe, because of the time I spent writing on them. Also, The Hobbit and The Boxcar Children, because those books really cemented my love of reading as a kid.

Which books/authors do you consider the most overrated?
Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire

Which good, but little known book or author would you rescue from obscurity? Katinka. It's an impressionist novel written by Herman Bang. I don't think he's really known in the U.S.

How many books do you generally read at a time? One, possibly two if I am also reading a non-fiction book.

What ration of fiction to non-fiction do you read?
3 fiction to 1 non-fiction

When (if) you read non-fiction, what are your favorite subjects?
Politics, culture, music, women's studies, history, psychology, social sciences. I'm trying to get myself more interested in reading about science, becuase I'm not very well rounded, but it's a struggle.

Which book that you haven't gotten around to yet do you want to read?
Boccaccio's Decamarone; Dante's Inferno. Every time I hear them mentioned, I think "I really should read that."

What is your earliest memory involving books?
The library. I remember my mom taking me there on weekends to pick out books and also my Opa taking me when I was a little girl.

Later, when I was just starting to read on my own, I also remember that our school librarian would put together these packs on different subjects that we could check out specially. She'd put them in these big, cardboard suitcases with a plastic handle that we could reserve and go pick up when school got out for the day. I remember dragging home such boxes many times.

My other strong book memory is how excited I would get when they distributed those tissuey Scholastic book catalogues at school during reading time. By the time I got home, I always had half the catalogue circled and then we'd have to do a reckoning. For some reason, even though they encouraged my interest in reading, my parents didn't seem to think I needed ALL the books.

What were your favorite books as a child?
Fairy Tales (esp. The Snow Queen, which is still my favorite), The Boxcar Children series, Nancy Drew (but not The Hardy Boys - I only like the Hardy Boys television series), The Hobbit, and the Judy Blume Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing books, Where the Wild things Are.

Which children's books do you like now?
Nicely illustrated fairy tale volumes, like the ones that K.Y. Craft does with various authors. Also, the Harry Potter books and Lemony Snicket's books.

What frequently recommended book have you been unable to finish?
Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, which really frustrates me, because I find Eco fascinating.

If someone were to ask you for a book recommendation right now, what would it be?
Probably Misfortune or maybe James Reese's Book of Shadows, which was good, spooky fun. If they were looking for something light and funny, Marc Acito's How I Paid for College would be good.

So, now that I've shared some of my thoughts and suggestions, maybe you'd like to share some of yours.

ADDENDUM - JENQUESTIONS

a) what book did you think you would love but didn't (to go along with the hate/love question)
Hmmm...The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is The Name of the Rose. It's a difficult one for me to not love, because I really do like Umberto Eco and keep hoping that I just picked it up at the wrong time. It's been a few years, so maybe I will try again.

The other book that springs to mind is Interview with the Vampire. At the time it was recommended to me, I was doing a lot of research on vampirism and folklore. Because I was pretty enmeshed in the subject at the time, I had high hopes for enjoying the book, but really didn't at all. The whole thing struck me as a bunch of unoriginal blah blah blah kill someone suck some blood blah blah blah kill someone suck some blood etc.

b) do you have to finish a book if you start
It is difficult for me to not finish once I've begun reading something. I used to be a lot more strict about this than I am now, but, unless they are just unbearably awful, as a general rule, I still finish most things that I start.. A lot of it dpends on the type of book it is. It's easier, for example, for me to put down a boring non-fiction book than it is a classic..

c) how do you find new authors
Good question. I think most of my new finds come to me in the following ways: 1) browsing bookstores/libraries/people's bookshelves (probably my favorite); 2) recommendations from friends; 3) bibliographies; 4) interviews, articles in literary journals, book reviews, etc. Basically, books can pretty much come from any source except for Oprah's Book Club. I have an irrational and unnatural hatred for Oprah's Book Club to go along with my extreme dislike for Oprah herself. I know, she's basically good in theory (at least that's what people tell me, but there's something about the woman that just bugs me. That causes me to wonder, do I hate Dr. Phil by association? Or is he loathesome on his own merits? I think probably on his own, but this is a topic best saved for a survey on unnatural aggression and not books.

19 comments:

Jen said...

Oooh - good questions. It will take me a while, but I will work on it!

Martina said...

It's ok, take your time. It tooks me a couple months to get around to finishing it myself. It was kinda fun, though. It reminded me of a lot of things I'd like to reread. I can't wait to see yours. You should bug MQ until she posts hers too!

Martina said...

It's ok, take your time. It tooks me a couple months to get around to finishing it myself. It was kinda fun, though. It reminded me of a lot of things I'd like to reread. I can't wait to see yours. You should bug MQ until she posts hers too!

monquee said...

What are you reading right now?

- Julia Quinn It's in His Kiss
I just started it, but her last one that I read was good.
-Also a Terry Pratchett Discworld Book - Moving Pictures

What is the last book that you bought?

- Does at Goodwill count? Because that is the Julia Quinn. Non goodwill... I am not sure, I have been using the Library a lot lately.

What are your favorite books?
-Jive question! I have lots of favorites, for different things. One that pops in my head (because I have moved everything in my bookcase) is To Kill a Mocking Bird. Others...Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Princess Diaries, hmmm, I am sure there are others.

Who are your favorite Authors?
-Twice as Jive! - Deborah Grabien, Meg Cabot, Jasper Fforde, Christopher Moore, Bill Bryson, Tom Holt meh, there are others, but that will do for now. Oh Yeah also Jonathan Lethem

Which genres are your favorites?
-The good ones - Duh! (no order here) romance, mystery, history, sci-fi, fantasy

What books did you think you would hate but loved?
-Hard one for me to answer. I try not to decide to hate anything before it has given me good reason. That said I don't usually pursue things I think I will hate. Off the cuff I have nothing for this one.

What kind of books do you dislike most?
-poorly written ones. That is really the thing that gets me. I can and do read books in all different genres, all different levels of sophistication and the thing that pisses me off more than anything is when it is poorly written. It has to be a pretty compelling story for me to get beyond that. Actually reading back over this even more than poorly written is one that is poorly EDITED. Typos and things like that. I just finished one that had a girl eating a sandwich. At the begining of the paragraph it was a chicken sandwich, by the end of the paragraph it was a Tuna sandwich. GAH!!!

Do you mostly read contemporary work, older works or both?
-Both, but a lot of contemporary work. (does that mean contemporary publishing or setting?)

What are some of the funniest books you've ever read?
Tom Stoppard - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Holt - Who's Afraid of Beowulf, Thorne Smith - Nightlife of the Gods

Which books were so good that you read them in one sitting?
-this is my preferred method of reading, so lots.

Which books have impacted you most?
The Way of Chuang Tzu - Translated by Thomas Merton, The poetry of John Donne, The Connie Blair Series Books by Betsy Allen, Bunny Modern by David Bowman

Which books/authors do you consider to be most overrated?
-I have a hard time with this too. Back to the whole I try not to read stuff I don't/won't like so some stuff that I like I am sure is overrated and the other stuff I haven't read, so I am not really in a position to say. (although yours is really good. I have not read that one, but I did read a couple of others in the series and they were NOT all that).

Which good, but little know book or author would you rescue from obscurity?
David Bowman - Bunny Modern (amazon.com sales rank #1,168,533 in books)

How many books do you generally read at a time?
-1 or 2, many more than that and I will not go back to finish something

What ratio of fiction to non-fiction do you read?
So I really was not sure so I looked on my book blog for this year 34 books 0 non-fiction so 34 to none

When (if) you read non-fiction, what are your favorite subjects?
-history, fashion and the best of all THE HISTORY OF FASHION

Which book that you haven't gotten around to yet do you want to read?
-Undaunted Courage (I am watching a Lewis and Clark show right now, so that comes to mind)

What is your earliest memory involving books?
-hard to say. There have always been books and I don't tend to think that way. One of my best way back memories with books is when my dad would read out loud to all of us. I always liked that, partly because they were not just childrens books, but books that were appropriate for children.

What were your favorite books as a child?
- Connie Blair, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Just for You by Mercer Mayer

Which children's book do you like now?
Connie Blair (they really hold up!), Princess Diaries, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon by Isabel Allende, His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

What frequently recommended book have you been unable to finish?
-That one book, by that guy, with the Time Travel... Jen knows which one, it has not been a matter of not finishing though, rather a matter of never wanting to start.

If someone were to ask you for a book recommendation right now, what would it be?
-The Golden Dragon by Isabel Allende

This was a LONG Questionnaire!!!!

Jen said...

Woot! You are a rock star to get this back online.

Martina said...

I'm working on it. My links and archive area seem to have disappeared now and my visible posts only go back to July 15th & that cuts off mid-post, but at least there's something here now and the whole thing is there in the preview mode. I think I have figured out that the blogger is doing something wonky to the template. It got a little better when I changed templates after I noticed ealier that parts of code were missing on the old one.

Martina said...
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Martina said...

Hey mans -

Thanks for posting your book answers MQ. Here are some comments:

1) Yes, Goodwill counts.

2) I don't think favorite bookS/authorS is jive. Asking a person to pick one is TOTALLY jive. What is even MORE jive is expecting that the list would remain static. How can a person like books and seriously say there was just one perfect work that is better than all others? That would make a good neurotic author tale - the guy who goes mad trying to write the perfect story.

3) I meant contemporary writers/works by "contemporary".

4)Wow. You've never read something you were dubious about? I have plenty of times. Some of it's because of the literary studies in grad school thing. You have to read (or at least pretend to have read or read articles about) a lot of shit you might not normally want to. The rest is because my literary backbone is constructed completely of jello. I have this weird fear of offending by people by just fessing up and saying I'm just not interested when they recommend a book - especially if they feel compelled to loan it to me. Then I feel like I have to read it, because they might try to ferret out what I thought about it.

4) I don't think I've ever read Isabel Allende. What did you like about The Golden Dragon? What kind of stuff does she write?

5) Of course the questionnaire is long. I am incapable of writing anything short and to the point. :-)

Jen said...

#4 - Oh, man! You've got to come up with your own perfect phrase for "I don't want to read the Nicholas Sparks book you have just recommended to me, because it might end our friendship forever." OK - maybe that one is a little specific... hee. But there are too many things you WANT to read to be bullied by someone with taste that doesn't mesh. On the other hand, sometimes you come across a gem you would have never found if not for a recommendation. I think I usually *try* to read something (except for Nicholas Sparks), and if I just can't get into it I say "I just couldn't get into it." Sometimes it is a timing issue for me - what doesn't work right now might work in a year or even a month - so I'll say that too. It saves a lot of agita.
And I should stress that some book recommenders I trust more than others, especially if they have pointed me right at least once before.

Jen said...

OK! I finally did it - I put it up here, with a link back to this entry. It was loooong and I didn't want to risk crashing your blog by adding it in the comments! If you want me to, I will, though. (I added 3 questions, I hope that's OK - I added a) what book did you think you would love but didn't (to go along with the hate/love question) b) do you have to finish a book if you start, and c) how do you find new authors)

Martina said...

Yay! I will go read it and comment there and will answer the three questions you added to my post here.

Oh, and regarding #4 (above your last comment): You're right, though to put a positive spin on it, it's not unheard of for me to balk at reading something, then find that I actually like it after giving it a chance. I would, for example, never have laid hands on The Sandman or some of the comic books Carlton leant me, if it hadn't been for book guilt

Jen said...

Yay! I am honored that the Jenquestions get to be purple. I have a question for you about your disliked genres - Horror? I mean, don't ghost stories and dracula (and early Sandman) and various spookies fall into that category? And if Italo Calvino isn't a cowboy name, I don't know what is! (hee hee! OK, I am kidding with that last one - but for real on the horror).

monquee said...

OK, I have been away for a while and can see that there has been MUCH discussion going on! Now to defend my comments!

1) YAY goodwill
2) Favorite books/authors - So hard for me to answer (thus JIVE) because it depends on what types of books and authors you are looking for. Authors I read without fail? Ones I really like, but never seem to get back to? Ones I recommend? There is some overlap, but not 100%. I do however stand by the ones selected previously, though that is by no means the definative list.
3) K, again I stand by what I said, since I was pretty sure that was what you meant
4) So here is the thing about reading things that I was dubious about. I don't take books that I HAD to read for school into account, because of the whole HAD to read them. There was no choice. I mean I chose NOT to read a lot of the assigned books and such, but that was mostly a laziness/time managment decision. Yeah, I have read lots of articles and texts on lots of things, but that does not really play into my current reading habits unless I happened upon something that really struck my fancy and then it just managed to work its way into my collection. Did I think I would like Beowulf, probably not, but I read it anyway and even thought about taking the classes to learn how to read it in the orignial because I liked it that much. Ultimately laziness won out, but really I have to recommend the VERSE translation over the PROSE translation. I am not quite that lazy.
4) I have only read the Golden Dragon, so I don't know much about her other books. I want to read them, the just have not made their way into my to read stack yet.
My Golden Dragon Review
5) me either

Martina said...

>>Horror? I mean, don't ghost stories and dracula (and early Sandman) and various spookies fall into that category?<<

Not necessarily, though you could easily argue that. I don't think that there really is a definitive distinction between Gothic, Suspense, Supernatural Mystery and Horror. The considerable overlap makes it difficult. Some people lump them all together, others don't. For me, their differences are kind of like porn - I know it when I see (read) it, but don't ask me to give you a definition.

I think the best definition I've ever seen for Horror described it as a mode rather than an identifiable genre. A ghost story, for example, is often a horror story, but it doesn't have to be. All horror stories, definitely do not contain ghosts or even necessarily elements of the supernatural. The best distinction I can make for you without getting too fussy would be that Horror in the sense of "modern", post-70's writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub et al hold little appeal for me. All I think when I read them is "ewww gross".

Victorian ghost stories or Gothic of the sort that has strong connections to/is seen as a precursor to Romanticism and the supernatural stories of that age do. Even though I'm picking different time periods here, it's not so much about time as feel, you understand. As tale candy, I totally enjoy 20th century "Gothic mysteries" like Victoria Holt/Mary Stewart/Phyllis Whitney sort. For me, it's like the difference between watching Friday the 13th or Freddy Kruger movies and something like the Deborah Kerr "Turn of the Screw" (excellent b&w movie, if you haven't seen it! I love the way the ghosts or crazy governess question is left open) or even something like "The Others". They all have ghosts in them, but the stories are told in completely different modes.

For me, what I think of as "Horror" lacks a certain subtlety. It makes me just want to cover my eyes as opposed to covering them, but peeking out from the gaps between my fingers so I can be scared just a little more.

jen said...

I kind of figured that was the kind of distinction you were making - but I'm still glad I asked since it wasn't clear and certainly not a disinction that is consistently made in libraries or bookstores. I totally get it though, I have lots of sub-categories that I recognize that aren't necessarily approved by that bastard Dewey. And besides - isn't it fun to explicate?

Martina said...
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Martina said...

You figured right and you're right about it not being a consistent distinction, but I like it. For a while, I thought it was just some random thing I made up (I like to do that), but I actually did manage to find a bit about it in one of my dusty, old literary dictionaries.

I really should reread some of my old stuff (not dictionaries, but books). When I was in grad school, I had a big interest in the fantastic in literature. I did my thesis on the whole constructions of femininity & telling of another's story thing, but was vaguely thinking about doing my disseration on suspense/spooky stories or some aspect of the fantastic in literature, so I have a fair share of books on the subject.

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