Thursday, 24 July 2008
A reading meme
Susan at You Can Never Have Too Many Books tagged me for this meme, and today seems a good day to do it – I've been housecleaning most of the day and I need a bit of time sitting down before I start doing anything else. Eldest son coming home this evening for a couple of days – well, not home, he has a home of his own in Edinburgh, and I try not to say "coming home" to him because it seems a bit presumptuous! I'm looking forward to his arrival, and am going to bake this afternoon.
Do you remember how you developed a love for reading? Not really, I can barely remember not being able to. I know I read fluently quite early, but perhaps the love was instilled by all the people who read to me. My theatrical parents were infrequent visitors to my grandparents' house, where I lived until I was six, but they brought books when they did visit, and my aunt – five years older than me – was already a bookworm.
What are some books you read as a child? Beatrix Potter. My father brought me wonderful records of three of the stories, with delightful songs; listening to them became a ritual. I loved Mrs Tiggy Winkle and, best of all, the Tailor of Gloucester. Winnie the Pooh, which was comfort reading. I remember reading it to my little brother and crying with laughter at Tiggers Can't Climb Trees. Someone came to see what evil deeds we were perpetrating to cause such hilarity, and found us sitting in my bed with tears streaming down our cheeks. Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh was a founder member one of my precious Puffin collection.
What is your favourite genre? Crime writing of the cosier type; I'm not so keen on the very gritty stuff that tends to prevail these days, and I prefer British or European writers, on the whole. The other favourite is fantasy, particularly in the Young Adult bracket, which is often original and creative
Do you have a favourite novel? I find this an impossible question. On the bookshelf next to me bed is a row of precious books, but it changes from time to time, not least as I find new candidates. Most re-read novels include Emma and Pride and Prejudice, The Rosemary Tree and The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle and The New Moon with the Old, but Noel Streatfeild's Saplings may well become a member of the group. Sitting rather oddly alongside these mainly comfort reads would be Excession by Iain M. Banks and anything by William Gibson.
Where do you usually read? For maximum pleasure and comfort, on my bed with a dog. But the real answer is anywhere and everywhere, since I rarely leave home without at least one book and, if I'm going away overnight, the minimum is two. This is because these days I am fussy about what I try to cram into my brain – I don't want to read the cereal packet, I don't like newspapers and magazines and I know the railway timetable backwards after 15 years of constant travel.
When do you usually read? Whenever I'm not doing anything else. Always when I go to bed, often during the night because I don't sleep well and, if I'm working at home, for 20 minutes after lunch.
Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
Oh yes! But generally not more than two novels at once, then there will be some non-fiction, a cookery book or two, something on the countryside, a short-story collection and the latest issue of Slightly Foxed, the "real reader's quarterly", on which I am now completely hooked.
Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction? Yes, I dip into it rather than reading straight through, so it generally takes me longer. I'll also return to earlier sections to check facts or to think through an argument. Occasionally I will be so absorbed that I'll blast right through something, especially memoirs, biographies and so on, but I'll often round off my reading for the day with a bit of the current novel.
Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library? My sons and I occasionally share books and I do borrow from the library, but not as often as I used to because the local one is dire. When I worked in Edinburgh I used the library there for books and music, and do miss the choice. And this is going to sound rather pathetic, but my friends are all far-flung, so borrowing isn't really an option!
Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them? As far as I'm concerned, books are for keeping. I've said here before, I think, that I bitterly regretted having parted with a couple of boxes of books when we moved house, thinking that I would be able to borrow them from the library, only to find that libraries don't believe in books any more. I do swap a few on Bookmooch, though, in order to clear a bit of space on the shelves.
If you have children, what are some of the favourite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child? One of my pleasures is that my grown-up children now recommend books they think I'll enjoy. But yes, of course I read books that I'd enjoyed to them, and was delighted when my elder son told me recently that he remembered Mary Plain (Gwynedd Rae) with so much affection that he'd bought himself a copy. The best children's books are timeless and those Puffins held up well.
What are you reading now? On the bedside table are: Miss Bunting by Angela Thirkell, Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels and Christie's Miss Marple stories are the fiction line-up; A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, which I need to get back to; The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson, an amazing cookbook which I want to post about; two books which I am reviewing for work; Slightly Foxed 18 and the first of SF's beautiful pocket editions, Blue Remembered Hills by Rosemary Sutcliffe.
Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list? Just a pile, which comprises more books than I dare count. Also a notebook, in which I list recommendations from fellow bloggers, which isn't quite a TBR list, more of a "look out for these" list.
What’s next? Next time I'm in London I am planning a trip to the Persephone bookshop with a pile of book tokens clutched in my hot little hand, so I shall be checking everyone's recommendations on their blogs and thumbing through the catalogue to give me with a list of possibles, but I'll also allow plenty of time for a really satisfying browse. I'd like a visit to my favourite secondhand bookshop soon, too – Barter Books at Alnwick.
What books would you like to reread? Anything I've really enjoyed. I love to re-read, for me it's the sign of a good book. You'll laugh, but when I'm really loving a book I'll get two-thirds of the way through, then go back to the start, to make it last. And occasionally I'll finish something and start again at once. I don't always list the regular re-reads on my monthly booklists, so I'm not sure what the proportion is, but I should think one in five is a re-read. By the way, I read fast.
Who are your favourite authors? William Mayne, Garth Nix, Elizabeth Goudge, John Courtenay Grimwood, Dodie Smith, William Gibson, Angela Thirkell, Michael Innes, Margery Allingham...
Now, I must go and make a marmalade loaf or there will be nothing to eat when the sons get hungry! I'm not going to tag anyone else but if you haven't done it and would like to, please go ahead. And please tell me if you do, I love reading the answers.