1. Favourite childhood book?
My first truly beloved book was a Little Golden Book called The Color Kittens. I lost my childhood copy so bought another when I was in my twenties and I still have it.
Then Enid Blyton EVERYTHING but especially the Faraway Tree books, the Naughtiest Girl in the School books and the Famous Five books, of which I read all but two.
2. What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading:
Remember When? Scientific American e-book on memory
11.22.63 by Stephen King
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None. I go to the library but rarely borrow books these days.
4. Bad book habit?
Buying more than I read. I finally managed to stop buying paper books that stack up next to my bed, but am now doing the same with e-books. So many on my Kindle I still haven’t started, or started but haven’t got back to. Somehow it’s easy to get distracted from Kindle books and forget you have them.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nothing. See the answer to question 3.
6. Do you have an e-reader?
I have a Kindle and love it; I can read on the Kindle, or on my Kindle app on my phone. Brilliant.
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I always have 2 books on the go, though when I get into a really good book I can’t put it down and the second one gets left.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Yes, though I’m not sure if it’s blogging or Twitter that’s had the most impact. I read a lot online now, especially Slate, Rolling Stone and links via Twitter, plus blogs. Book reading has definitely gone down as a result.
9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far?)
Hmm. Probably have to say I haven’t been able to get into Gone Girl, though I will give it another shot.
10. Favourite book you've read this year?
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Not often – there’s little enough time to read as it is. I have no patience anymore to read things that don’t interest me.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
These days mostly non-fiction: pop science on stuff like economics, weather, probability, psychology, etc. I also love to re-read favourite fiction.
13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes, though it gives me motion sickness. Trains are better for reading.
14. Favourite place to read?
15. What is your policy on book lending?
I’ll admit I don’t like doing it much, if it’s a favourite book. These days with most on the Kindle I can’t and that’s frustrating when you just want to shove a great book at someone and say “Read this!”
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Yes, and write notes in margins or underline good bits.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Ah, I skipped ahead on the questions. Yes.
18. Not even with text books?
Did I stutter? YES. ESPECIALLY in text books.
19. What is your favourite language to read in?
Wow, what a question. Pretentious, moi? I have in the past been fairly fluent in French and Spanish, but I didn't enjoy the few times I tried to read novels or poems in those languages. Reading is a whole other level of fluency. I seldom believe people who say they read novels in other languages. I have read one short novel in Greek and it was dire, but no more difficult to read than a magazine.
So, yeah – definitely English!
20. What makes you love a book?
Good story or narrative, good pace, believable characters and a good way with language helps. But not too stylised or inventive – that can annoy me. Oh, and with a very small number of noble exceptions (Moby Dick, A Suitable Boy), it should NOT be a tome. A short book is a good book.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I will steal The Plastic Mancunian’s answer for this one: I will recommend a book if I am disappointed that I have finished it.
Or, if it stays in my head and I continue to obsess over it after I’ve finished it.
22. Favourite genre?
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
There is no genre I don’t read "but wish I did". I rarely read romance or historical fiction.
24. Favourite biography?
Recollections of a Bleeding Heart by Don Watson, or Eleni by Nicholas Gage.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yes, a couple. Most of them just annoy me but a couple have had a big impact on me. Awakening Intuition by Mona Lisa Schwartz, although she’s probably a dangerous crackpot, impressed me at the time (some years ago). I’ve since realised I no longer believe some of it but still. More recently, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman was transformative for me.
26. Favourite cookbook?
My favourite cookbook is probably Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen. If you ignore the annoyingly perfect happy family pictures throughout, it’s got great recipes and is a nice read.
27. Most inspirational book you've read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Probably Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. Yeah introverts!
28. Favourite reading snack?
I don’t snack in bed!
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Same as The Plastic Mancunian: I succumbed to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I thought it was average and I thought the answers to the codes were ridiculously silly and simple – I was expecting something smarter.
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
About half the time. Or in the case of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography, 100% of the time.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Bad reviews are part of what authors can expect for publishing a book. The only thing I don’t like is when reviewers are snobby or closed-minded about an author and don’t review their books fairly. For example, The Dead Zone by Stephen King and Shutter Island by Denis Lehane are very good books different from the author's usual genre, but probably not appreciated by most reviewers because of who wrote them.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
Russian, just to be super impressive. No, Mandarin!
33. Most intimidating book you've ever read?
Not sure about that. Maybe Jane Eyre when I was in high school, because it seemed impenetrable to me at the start, though I really liked it by the time I had finished it.
34. Most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin?
It’s not that I’m nervous, but for some reason I keep not starting Shantaram. I don’t know why because I started it years ago and liked it but never got going on it. I keep wanting to try again but I just never do.
35. Favourite poet?
Easy: Dorothy Porter.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
8-10 children’s books.
37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread?
About half the time.
38. Favourite fictional character?
If I was still a kid I’d probably say George from the Famous Five books, or Trixie Belden. I also liked Hermoine from the Harry Potter books. For grown-up characters, maybe Yossarian from Catch-22.
39. Favourite fictional villain?
I can’t think of a favourite. I Googled some ‘top 30 villains of literature’ kind of lists but am still stumped for a “favourite”. I always felt sympathy for Madame Bovary. Or maybe Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights?
40. Books you're most likely to bring on vacation?
I’ll load something new on the Kindle, and bring a couple of things I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t got to.
41. The longest you've gone without reading.
Maybe half a day??
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The last two Twilight books. Just awful. (You know, I actually thought the first one was not bad, and the second one was very good. They are for teens, of course they are angsty and over-dramatic).
43. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
Once again, I agree with The Plastic Mancunian here: Music. Music and reading do not go together.
44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men was great on film. And I think The Talented Mr Ripley was better than the book.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
I reckon the second Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film with Johnny Depp was a weird waste of time.
46. The most money I've ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Back when I was earning good money and was less responsible, probably $150.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I always read the first page before I buy it, and occasionally might check out a few more pages, but it’s hard to do that without ruining the story.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Starting a better book.
49. Do you like to keep your books organised?
Not overly, but I organise them a bit by genre on my Kindle; the paper ones are mostly just stacked by similar size on the bookshelf.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you've read them?
I keep the ones I loved, I give away everything else.
51. Are there any books you've been avoiding?
I have a book I bought years ago called Orphans of the Empire, which is the story of orphan children sent to Australia from England in the first half of the twentieth century. I feel guilty I still haven’t read it – and I want to read it – but I just know it’s going to be so damn unbearable.
And The Hunger Games. I bought it last year and want to read it, but am scared it will be traumatic!
52. Name a book that made you angry.
The First Stone, by Helen Garner. I was the same age as the young women she was complaining about, and although she is a beautiful writer, she just showed with this book that she had no understanding of either young feminists or sexual harassment.
53. A book you didn't expect to like but did?
One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson. Just a crime paperback that was sitting in the lobby of the guesthouse we stayed in on holiday last year, but I really enjoyed it.
54. A book that you expected to like but didn't?
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. He’s a great writer but I just found this book awful and the plot unbelievable.
55. Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
I loved all the Harry Potter books; any of the slimmer volumes by Stephen King; Bill Bryson.
My favourite book of all time is Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods. I read it whenever I want some comfort-reading, and it is often on my bedside table.
BONUS SECTION: My favourite books
Here in no particular order other than how they popped into my head, are my favourite books:
Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Margaret Wise Brown, The Color Kittens
A.A. Milne, Now We Are Six
Enid Blyton, Five on Kirrin Island Again
Theo LeSieg, I Wish That I Had Duck Feet; Come Over to My House
T Ernesto Bethancourt, Doris Fein Super Spy; Doris Fein Quartz Boyar
R.K. Narayan, The Man-Eater of Malgudi
Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
Graham Greene, The Honorary Consul
Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast; Doctor Slaughter
E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News; Bad Dirt
Cormac McCarthy, All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love In the Time of Cholera
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Pierre Boulle, The Bridge on the River Kwai
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All
Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
Colm Toibin, Brooklyn
Ian McEwan, The Innocent
Kimberly Kafka, True North
Thea Astley, Reaching Tin River
Mary Stewart, Wildfire at Midnight; My Brother Michael
George Orwell, Animal Farm
Denis Lehane, Shutter Island
Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong; Charlotte Grey
John Le Carre, The Little Drummer Girl; The Tailor of Panama
Andre Dubois III, House of Sand and Fog
Meg Cabot, Size Doesn’t Matter
Stephen King, The Dead Zone
Anais Nin, A Spy in the House of Love
D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Patrick Suskind, Perfume
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
The Arabian Nights Tales
Theucydides, The Pelopponesian War
Homer, The Odyssey
Dorothy Porter, Akhenaten
Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
Joy Adamson, Born Free
James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small
Robert Drew, The Shark Net
Gillian Bouras, A Foreign Wife
Hunter S Thomson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
Frank Abagnale, Catch Me If You Can
Nicholas Gage, Eleni; Greek Fire
Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s Ark
Alison Weir, The Life of Elizabeth I
Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, Freakonomics
Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism
Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats
Malcolm Gladwell, Blink
Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct
Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman
Ian Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, & Henry Lincoln, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm
Stephen King, On Writing
Lynne Kelly, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal
Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Susan Sontag, Illness As Metaphor
R Lacey, The Year 1000