"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Reading Q&A

You probably already knew this about me, but I'm an avid reader. I've been watching a lot of book-tubers recently (People on Youtube who talk exclusively about books and reading. Yes, they're out there!) and many of them have made videos talking about their reading habits, pet peeves, memories, etc. For this post, I compiled a list of twenty questions about books and reading. Most of this stuff isn't new, but I wanted to answer it anyway. I will probably be doing another one of these devoted to writing in the future.


How many books do you read each month?
This varies a great deal depending on the month. During school, I would say my average is about two, and during the holidays it's probably closer to three or four. Last month I read 5(!) books, which is pretty impressive for me.

What are your reading goals for 2014?
On my Goodreads account my goal is 40 books in 2014. I chose it because it seemed more doable than 50 and more challenging than 30. Really, if I make it to 20 books there year I'll be happy, since last year I only read 16.

Of the books that are on your shelves right now, how many of them are YA? Adult? Non-fiction? Fantasy? Sci-Fi? Classics? Basically what's the genre breakdown like?
Total Number of Books: 45 (Note: These are my dorm room bookshelves, so they're only a small portion of my home library.)
Textbooks/Required Reading: 7
On loan from the library: 5
Classics: 8
Non-Fiction: 2
Contemporary: 9
Fantasy: 6
Poetry: 1
Short Stories: 2
Writing Books: 3
Letter Collections: 1
Historical Fiction: 1

Reading Habits/Preferences

What kind of books do you like to read?
I will read just about anything. My christmas wish list consisted of two non-fiction books, three fantasy (including one about superheroes), one historical fiction, one adult contemporary, and three YA novels.

As for what I look for in a book, I love lyrical prose, compelling, flawed characters, and plots that keep me guessing. A little bit of adventure is always a nice touch.

Do you write in your books? Dog-ear pages? Crack spines? 
To be honest I've always loved the idea of writing all over my books. My english teachers would always expound on the importance of annotating, but I could never do it. Not because I disliked marking in my books (although I think I feel somewhat differently now), but because I would get so caught up in the story that stopping to write down my thoughts felt like I was interrupting something. Plus, if I'd done that then my little freshman year thoughts would be written all over my copy of Slaughter-House Five, and I'm not sure I ever want to revisit them. I like the idea of marking lines that I like, though, and collecting my favorite quotes, so maybe I'll give it a try with some post-it notes.

I am still guilty of dog-earing pages occasionally, but I'm much more partial to book marks now, especially the magnetic ones that clip around the page. And as for cracking spines, this really doesn't bother me, but I'm not one of those people who does it deliberately, like "breaking in" a book.

How do you feel about lending out your books?
If we have talked about books before and I know you will take care of them, I have no problem lending books to people. I'm even not that picky about when I get them back, just so long as I do get them back.

How do you feel about books with illustrations, photographs, or other visual aids?
If they are done well, and really enhance the story, I love them!

What are your thoughts on book to movie adaptations?
I don't get too hung up on the accuracy of the plot in book-to-movie adaptations, as long as the film captures the feel of the book. The movie version of Chocolat is a perfect example. They change a few plot points but the atmosphere is similar, and there are the same magical undertones running throughout. If they start adding characters, though, I get annoyed.

What is one genre you wish you read more of?
Middle-grade. I feel like there are so many great books for kids out there, and I'm missing out because I've "grown out" of them.

Biggest bookish pet peeve?
This new trend in paperbacks where they make the cover shorter than the rest of the book. It just makes it look cheap and gimmicky and it really gets on my nerves! GAH!

Relationship to Reading

What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?
The first book I remember reading by myself was a beautiful picture book version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. My mom told me she would only buy it for me if I promised to read it by myself. That night I sat at the dining room table and read the whole thing aloud. It was slow-going, but I did it!

Describe your fondest memory of reading:
I have so many! Here are a few:
- In the 5th grade, my friend and I stumbled across The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale in our elementary school's library. We were enamored with the cover and the synopsis, and we discussed which of us would read it first (she won). The Goose Girl would become our favorite book, and it would be one of the building blocks of our friendship. We're both in college now and I still count her as one of my best friends in the whole world. Sometimes I wonder if things would be the same if we hadn't picked up that book.
-On sleepovers, another friend and I would take turns reading pages to each other from our respective books. I kind of wish we still did that.
-My parents read to me almost every night when I was younger, but one of my fondest memories is of my father reading To Kill a Mockingbird aloud. I was too young to fully understand it at the time, but when I finally read it for school I was glad I'd been introduced to it so early. It will always have a special place in my heart for that reason.


What is one book you wish everyone knew about?

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen. This book is about gangsters in the 1930's who find out they can't die. The supernatural element is countered by an incredibly detailed setting, and I feel like this book really captures the essence of the Great Depression. It's a richly told story with really fantastic characters, and it's one of my go-to recommendations. Read it. You won't be sorry.

What is your favorite Harry Potter book?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It's been a very long time since I read this series, but I think I can safely say this one's my favorite. A lot of people dislike it because of how angsty Harry is, and I see where they're coming from, but I just can't get over all the great characters in this book! Umbridge is positively loathsome, and then there's the members of the Order and of Dumbledore's Army, and it all culminates in the awesome conclusion in the Ministry of Magic. Yep, definitely my favorite.

What is your favorite book you had to read for school?

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector. I read this last semester for my Literature: The City class, and fell in love with it. It is told from the POV of a writer who is telling the story of a girl living in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and it becomes not only a portrait of the slums but an examination of writing itself. This book was unlike anything I've ever read before, and it really made me think differently about what fiction can do.

If you had to recommend a book to a self-proclaimed "non-reader," what would it be?

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This books has everything. Antique books. Technology. Young geniuses and ancient librarians. Secret societies. It spans from San Francisco to New York City to Google Headquarters. It's funny and profound and it has some really interesting things to say about the value of old things and the possibilities of new technology. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone who is on the fence about reading.

Out in the World

How do you mingle w/ other book lovers, both online and off?
I love attending any kind of book event, large or small. My favorite would probably have to be the Texas Book Festival, which takes place in Austin, Tx each fall. The authors this event attracts, plus the endless book tents (Be still my heart!) make me wish this event lasted for a week and not just a weekend.
Online, I read blogs (Like this one) and watch book channels on Youtube (Like this one).

What is the name of your favorite book store?
This question is a lot harder for me than I originally thought. I love all bookstores. I love Barnes & Noble, where I know I can always find the newest releases. I love Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, which is tiny but steeped in history. I love Book People in Austin, which is big enough to get lost in, and Prairie Lights in Iowa City which feels like a second home. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it would be Brazos Bookstore in my hometown of Houston, Tx. It's small, but has a great selection (including a budding YA section, which makes me happy). It's sophisticated, but not stuffy, and the staff is always friendly. Maybe it's because it's located in my hometown, but this bookstore will always feel like home to me.

What bookstore or library would you most like to visit?
Shakespeare and Company.  It is located in the heart of Paris, steeped in literary history, and actively promotes writers and writing. Who could ask for more?

Describe your ideal home library:
My ideal home library would also be my writing study. Three of the walls are floor to ceiling bookshelves, with rolling ladders, of course. The fourth wall is taken up by a large window, preferably overlooking the Irish countryside. Facing the window is a large wooden desk, upon which sits my computer and other writing supplies. In the back corner is a comfy second-hand arm chair and a floor lamp, where I can read late into the night. A telescope sits by the window, and because I live in the Irish countryside, I can actually use it to look at stars and planets without the glare of light pollution.

Well, there you have it. If you've gotten this far, I applaud you. If you'd like to answer these questions as well, feel free to steal and modify them as you wish. Happy reading!

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