A Book Lover’s Tag

 

Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror tagged all her followers (of which I am one!) in this exciting tag all about books! I don’t usually participate in tags (mostly because I am lazy and like to generate content the minute my fingers touch the keyboard with no prior thinking, planning or organising), but I could not pass this one up.

If you would like to take part, feel free to accept this tag!

 

Questions:

1. Do you have a specific place for reading?

I would usually say my go-to place is my bed, now that I don’t live at my family home anymore, where I would have to hunt all over the house for a quiet spot to read. My bed is comfortable and allows for any reading position, be in lying down, upside down or sitting up. I usually take a book with me wherever I go, two if I can squeeze them into my handbag, just ‘in case’.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Both! During my childhood years I was a serial dog-earer but since becoming an adult recently I discovered that dog-earing was a treacherous habit and must be nipped in the bud immediately. So I use old receipts and train tickets… anything I can find in my handbag, really!

3. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I do, it’s antisocial I’m told, but I do. My whole family does, which is why some of our more loved books are a little sticky.

4. Music or TV whilst reading.

Neither, I can’t really focus with personal background noise, although I don’t mind it if I am in a public space – it’s psychological, somehow. If it isn’t my music it doesn’t bother me.

5. One book at a time or several?

Oh, several. I am very motivated by mood. I take two books with me when I go out, one serious, heavy one and one lighthearted or ‘much-read’ one in case I can’t mentally handle the more serious one. An example of this contrast would be Vanity Fair and What Katy Did – one is severely depressing while the other is more up-beat and hopeful.

6. Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I love to read at home, although I have enjoyed many a book on the bus or train during my countless long commutes. Nothing, however, beats reading at home by the soft, warm light of a bedside lamp, whilst being wrapped snugly in a comfortable blanket. Nothing.

7. Read out loud or silently?

Silently! Reading out loud would slow me down! Having said that, my husband who is dyslexic and despises reading, does read out loud, and I feel for the poor fellow because it does make for clunky reading. Sometimes I read for him, but it gets tiring for sure! It takes a great deal of patience to read aloud to someone. I also find that the act of reading aloud distracts me from the content that I am reading! I don’t take it in, and have to read it again to absorb it.

8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I have a terrible habit of being impatient whilst reading and reading ahead – I never skip pages, of course, that would be an absolute disgrace. Sometimes I spoil books on myself by reading the end. I always tell myself off about it but still carry on doing it, my curiosity is too strong. Sometimes I do it while telling myself that I won’t read far enough to actually ruin anything but it is a poor self-convincing tool, because what else can I expect from reading ahead!? It is a rude habit and must be stopped immediately – I need somebody to slap me on the wrist every time I do!

9. Break the spine or keep it like new.

Well, I like to keep my books as pristine as possible, lined up in my bookshelf in height order (I did this so well as a child, but now my husband does it for me because he thinks I am too messy – it is very surreal), so I like to keep the spine like new but when you read a book so many times, the spine is bound to break at some point. I am wonderful at mending and patching broken spines and ripped covers – I had to do it so much as a child, coming from a big family of book lovers and book-rippers. When I was smaller, I liked to think of myself as Mo from Inkheart, mending books and fixing spines.

10. Do you write in books?

Yes, sometimes. I don’t like to tarnish another work with my ‘lowly’ opinions, but I love reading comments other people leave in books! I always thought that it took a very confident, self assured and intellectual kind of personality to write in a book. My father, a collector of books, writes little notes in them. I revere my father; I think he is vastly intelligent and wonderfully talented; his work is on par with none I have ever seen before, and his meticulous skill is one which I can only dream of achieving, so maybe that is why I am loathe to think I have thoughts worthy enough to grace the pages of a printed book!

11. What books are you reading now? 

Currently I am reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, a book which I discovered whilst listening to Jenni Murray’s ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’. I don’t have much time for reading anymore, unfortunately, so it is taking me quite a while to get through it, usually on my lunch break. It has ensnared my curiosity, that’s for sure! I am also reading  Perfume Island by fellow blogger Curtis Bausse – I am halfway through it and thoroughly enjoying it. Curtis has a writing style which is reminiscent, to me, of that of William Golding – he has the marvellous ability to use few words to create crisp images and emotion even though the reader has never experienced these feelings themselves.

12. What is your childhood favourite book?

I really can’t choose, there were so many, and all dependant on my mood at the time! I will go by the most read book in my childhood.. or three books.. it was the Anne of Green Gables series, book 1 through to 3. I can still recite entire passages from Anne’s life, and her experiences and thoughts influenced much of my hopes, dreams, aspirations, language, preferences and thoughts even today. What sticks with me the most is her enchanting combination of the beauty in nature with a magical fairyland. She made it all so real – a tree wasn’t a tree but the home of a beautiful dryad, a lake wasn’t a lake but a bowl of glittering diamonds – and Paul Irving’s famous thought, ‘Do you know what I think about the new moon, teacher? I think it is a little golden boat full of dreams. And I think the violets are little snips of the sky that fell down when the angels cut out holes for the stars to shine through. And the buttercups are made out of old sunshine; and I think the sweet peas will be butterflies when they go to heaven.’

Living in the desert like I did, I was starving for this kind of beauty. How can words create images of lands so real, yet so intangible? It’s a stunning phenomenon.

13. What is your all-time favorite book?

I really, really cannot say. I love so many. So, so many. They are like my precious children, and to favour one over the other is to maim a heart or slight a soul. High up on the list are the Anne series, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, all books by the wonderful James Herriot, Alcott, the What Katy Dids, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre et cetera. Don’t well-loved books make you feel like you have been given a literary hug?

 

What’s your favourite book? And why do you love it?

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Amy and Isabelle

I bought this book as an afterthought, selected out of a range of pickings offered to me on Amazon after I’d purchased a book already. It stood out because of its simple, no-nonsense title; I wanted to know more.

The New York Times Book Review daubed it “one of those rare, invigorating books that take an apparently familiar world and peer into it with ruthless intimacy, revealing a strange and startling place”.

Set in a baking town in the middle of an intensely hot summer, the vivid imagery of a rotting green river snaking through the heart of the town makes for a stunning metaphor of the rotting sickness underlying the relationship between mother and daughter. Not that its long-term, of course. The story explores the complicated relationship between a girl on the cusp of adulthood, and a mother who has made many sacrifices in order to lead, at least in her own mind, a ‘respectable’ life.

At the heart of this story is a tale of two minds, formed and influenced by unfortunate circumstances. It speaks of loneliness, desperation for human contact, and highlights the way your own mind can form a barrier between you and your basic human desire to be social. In a way this novel spoke to me directly, because I related on a very personal level with the loneliness felt by Isabelle, the construction of social events in her mind. I was terribly lonely when I moved to a different city, leaving all my friends behind. Gradually we lost contact, and I found it immensely difficult to make new friends. It got to a point so severe that I did something incredibly stupid – for want of human contact. It’s sad and pathetic, but so real. Elizabeth Stout painted this in such a raw, open way. It was quite tough subject matter to navigate through.

Despite loneliness being the driving force behind the main characters’ actions, there were many more complex themes driving the plot forward. Amy’s burgeoning sexuality, Isabelle’s anxious, overprotective and even jealous tendencies towards her daughter, feelings of inadequacy, lack of communication and even Amy feeling a little embarrassed of her mother, were just some aspects explored by Stout, and which made for often uncomfortable reading.

I didn’t particularly enjoy reading this book. It was difficult, at times revolting. Despite this, I couldn’t put it down. The narrative was compelling; with Strout interweaving the minds of the two protagonists, combining two very separate outlooks on the same world (which I suppose is the reality of our lives, viewing the world through a million different perspectives), and setting them amidst vivid descriptions of the town, the slow, almost zombie-like townsfolk who, as it happened, had very real, very raw lives of their own.

This book was brilliantly written, the exposition foreshadowed almost poetically, and the emergence into truth almost like a blossoming of understanding, which I felt fitted in marvellously with the subject-matter. The novel ‘came of age’ beautifully, in a way which is wistfully reminiscent of much of our growth and understanding. This novel is about learning to love, learning to let go, and learning to ‘live’.

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In Which I Talk About Books

Good morning, fair maidens and noble gentlemen.

I went to a car boot sale on the Sunday morning past. I have never been to a car boot sale before, this is my first time. I must say I was rather excited. I was just thinking of all the books stored in people’s attics that they have no use for anymore (GOODNESS knows why!).

It was scheduled to rain, but people had their spreads out in rows; long aisles of cars and the unwanted clutter of pasts and long bygones spread out in front of them, while heavy clouds gathered above.

“It’s going to rain”, the sellers said to each other over steaming cups of tea, as buyers milled around their piles of junk, “Awf’lly gloomeh today”, their Leicester accents sticking out a mile.

But oh, there were some remarkable people there. People with boxes of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. I don’t know why they would want to sell off such beauties, but I was glad for it.

Here are the titles I deemed fit to buy:

  1. First and foremost, What Katy Did Next, by Susan Coolidge. I have read this book, and I own it too, butI don’t own THIS beautiful old red hardback! The publication date isn’t specified at all, but it’s certainly around 1940-1950, and has the old, slightly musty, most delicious bookish smell that is only reserved for really old books. At the cost of 25p. That is a quarter of a pound, which is 38 cents in American dollars. How’s that, eh?
  2. Next I found, amid tremendous heart palpitations and small breathless squeals of excitement, Little Men by L.M. Alcott. It is the third book to follow Little Women and I have been looking for a beautiful old copy for YEARS, and to finally have it, at the grand price of 20 pence, is to be in pure bliss. Inscribed on the inside cover in large, sprawling handwriting is this: Joyce Pallenden, 15 Estcourt Rd, South Norwood, CHRISTMAS 1948. How endearing. How alluring. Somebody got this for Christmas in London two years after the end of the second world war. What was her life like? How old was she? Is she still alive, even?
  3. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I haven’t read this book yet, but I am anxious to sink my teeth into it because I have watched the film (yes, I know, NEVER watch the film before reading the book..) and I found the story so fascinating and haunting.
  4. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, Jenny Colgan. I love baking. The author mentioned that she was inspired by The Great British Bakeoff, and I ADORE the Bakeoff, so I reckoned that, at the price of 20p, this was the book for me.
  5. My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You, by Louisa Young. Saw this last year when I was meandering about in Dublin, and I have wanted it since. 25p. What a bargain.
  6. The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey. 50p. Guys, the man who sold it to me said nice things about my growing pile of books, and offered to give me a bag to hold them all. He even commented on my choice of books, saying how his daughter loves What Katy Did. Then his wife spoke up and told me that the book I was looking at was a wonderful read, and how she thoroughly enjoyed it, and they seemed like such a bookish little family so of course I couldn’t resist. Okay? OKAY? Completely justified.
  7. Last, but not least, The Dubliners, by James Joyce. 50p. A Penguin Classic edition. I couldn’t believe my luck! “Look!” I exclaimed to my sister in law, who had been all this time patiently following me around on my book frenzy, “I need this for my course, and they told me I had to spend £7.99 on it!”. She didn’t exhibit any interest, apart from a raise of the eyebrows and an exaggerated ‘wooowwww’, followed by a smile. “Go for it then”, she said. So I did. “Good luck with your course”, the lady selling it to me said, ever so kindly, handing me my change. How sweet was that?

So those are my books, and this was my haul. I hope you enjoyed it. I might feel inclined to post a review or two here after I have devoured my precious finds. I do so love finding well-loved childhood classics to keep at home, don’t you?

H