Questions for a Reader

I was invited to copy these questions and answer them myself. By invited, I mean that fellow blogger John Guillen posted these questions and knew that others would do so after reading his answers. If you haven’t read his blog, you really should. He’s hilarious, and incredibly opinionated about all things books. But, he’s open to criticism, and his posts regularly blow up with comments from other bookish types like myself. The friendly dialogue between writers and readers is often the highlight of my mornings.

Anyway, my writing has been a bit thin, but my reading is alive and well. So, in an effort to keep writing, even if it’s just here, I’m going to answer some questions about my reading experiences.

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
I don’t have to look at my shelves, or ponder. This one I know in my heart. ‘Lucas’ by Kevin Brooks. I found the book when it was sparkling new on a shelf in Borders sometime around seventh grade.It went everywhere with me. After I’d read it a few times, others in my life borrowed it, adding their own smells and textures to the pages. My mother, my crowd of friends in the cafeteria. My best friend’s mom. One by one this book swapped hands until it came back home to me.
One summer, when I was in college, I was at Trevor’s house. A huge thunderstorm rolled in, pelting the neighborhood with a micro-burst  while my car windows were down. ‘Lucas’ was on the backseat. I got there in time to save my upholstery, and to keep the book from falling apart, but now it has a thick wrinkle of pages instead of the slick feel of publishing. At first I was distraught. I’m pretty sure I cried at the damage, but now it’s natural to me. Right as rain.

2. What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
My current read is ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s finally starting to pick up again, and I’m excited to see where it goes. My previous read was ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s the first book of the series I’m reading, and it was just lovely. Magical. I keep telling myself that the book I’ll read next is ‘The Waste Lands’ by Steven King. It’s waiting patiently in my box at work, begging me to pick up where I left off. But, ‘The Way of Kings’ is calling me to reread it, and ‘The Dragon Prince’ by Melanie Rawn is looking mighty tempting…

3. What book did everyone like and you hated?
Plenty of school books. ‘The Cay’, ‘Tangerine’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The popular ones aren’t really fair to use for this answer, because I haven’t read them. For instance, ’50 Shades of Grey’. Not reading it, ever. No matter who claims it’s amazing. Also, and I’m sorry John, but I just can’t bring myself to read ‘The Hunger Games’. I’ve read excerpts of chapters for writing classes, and was unimpressed. Now with all the hype, I just can’t be convinced to give it a shot.

4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
The Hunger Games’? That’s not even true, I don’t tell myself I’ll read it, I tell the foaming-at-the-mouth fans, so they’ll get off my back. Probably some book that’s been turned into a movie. Like ‘The Winter’s Tale’ or ‘Water for Elephants’. I want to read them, but they’re just so far outside of what I usually read, that making time for them just isn’t likely.

5. Which book are you saving for “retirement”?
I’m not really sure what to make of this question. Is this something people do? Also, I’m not even 25 yet. That’s a lot of years on the shelf to not actually read something. Also, why put “retirement” in quotes? Is it a code word I’m just not getting? Or perhaps a subtle stab at the likelihood of anyone retiring? What do you want from me, you stupid question?

6. Last page: read it first or wait till the end? 
This… this is a real life problem. You see, I never start with the last page. I’m not that crazy. But, if a book is really good, I do inevitably flip through the pages, hunting for some hint or indicator about what’s going to happen. And I inevitably ruin some aspect of the story for myself. Usually I discover a beloved character’s death or betrayal. Then I slam the book closed groaning and moaning, and Trevor looks over at me and says, “Ruin the book for yourself again?”

7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside? 
I love reading the acknowledgements! And the dedication and author bio! These are snippets of the author, in a much purer voice. They are speaking to me directly in an effort to thank the bazillion people who helped them publish their book. Also, it’s a good place to find names of editors and agents, so I can start researching when it’s time for me to query such people.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
This question has me doubting my reading habits. There aren’t many characters I would actually want to be, they’ve all endured too much. But, probably someone from ‘The Stormlight Archive’, if only to experience that world.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
I have several. As I child I was a voracious reader, and many of my books were gifts, and so have inscriptions on the first pages. A copy of ‘The Black Stallion’ from my 3rd grade teacher. A hardback edition of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ from my grandmother. A copy of The complete ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. But my favorite is my copy of ‘The Complete Sherlock Holmes’. My dad found the tome at a yard sale, and wrote a lovely inscription. And though I’ve still never read it cover to cover, I cherish the book itself, and the message my father left for me.

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
I didn’t steal it, if that’s what you mean.
I mean, what are you fishing for here? Most of my books are bought from brick and mortar bookstores, preferably of the indie variety. There are several on my shelf that came from Estate Sales, and my Mother-in-Law’s work. She used to work for Bookbyte, they sell textbooks, but occasionally people send other books. Her boss would gather up the good ones and sell them for a buck, no matter what edition or print, and then match dollar for dollar spent and donate to a local food shelter. I definitely bolstered my collection, and didn’t see much of my tip money while she worked there. ‘The Dragon Prince’ would be one of those books.

This is where John paused, and wrote a separate post for the remaining 10 questions… but, Trevor’s still asleep, so I’m forging ahead.

11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
I don’t think so. I’ve bought copies of cherished books for friends and family. But I’ve never given away one of my own. I send children’s books home to my young siblings for their birthdays and Christmas. Last Christmas the littles got a copy of ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and it’s movie, and I gave my oldest brother, who was 8 at the time, the complete ‘Chronicles of Narnia’. The year before that it was ‘The Lorax’, the book and the movie. This year the littles will get ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and its film adaptation. And Matthew, I’m starting him on Harry Potter this year. One book at a time.

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
‘Lucas’. For a solid year it lived in my backpack. It’s traveled with me, my mom, and a bunch of my friends. I take it with me whenever I fly, and it’s even been to Paris and London.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
Kind of the opposite. I loved ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, and now it’s irritating. But, probably Shakespeare in general. I was impatient and unwilling to spend the time it takes to absorb and appreciate the language and word games he played. Now, I find him much more entertaining. Also, for the sake of honesty, I haven’t been out of high school for ten years yet…

14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
I find lots of things. Mostly odd bookmarks, like receipts, tissue paper, the like. But my favorite are notes. I used to hate the very thought of writing notes in the margins, but I do it now. I find definitions for words I don’t know, and jot them in, so that the next time I read it, I won’t have to look it up. Or, if I’m reading something critically, I make notes about the writing. But discovering other people’s notes is always the best!

15. Used or brand new?
This is interesting, because the other two answers I’ve seen to this question have both been ‘new’. I can’t fathom it. Unless it’s a book that’s just been released, I don’t tend to buy new. I buy new when there is no other option, as was the case in my hunt for ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’.But, I love used books. There’s so much magic in them. But, I’ve rambled about this before.

16. Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?
He took enough opiates for the masses… Sorry, that was rude, but I couldn’t pass it up. Just too funny. I love Stephen King. His short stories continuously blow me away, and his novels are wonderful as well. His style is gritty and visceral, and it leaves the hairs raised along your skin. Love him.

17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
No. I’ve seen movies come close, and be just as satisfying, but they are never better.

18. Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?
So many! But number one for me would be ‘Eragon’. It was such a bad, bad movie. And an even worse video game, if that’s possible.

19. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks being excluded from this question?
The short answer to this is, I’m always hungry. Whether or not that has anything to do with reading, I just can’t say.

20. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
Patrick Michael Finn. He was my Creative Writing department chair in College. We have completely different tastes and styles of writing, and reading, but he’s never steered me wrong. Some of the most impacting stories I’ve read because he recommended it, or required it for a class.
Also, anything Brandon Sanderson name drops in his blog/tours/ or lectures.

 

And there you have it. A morning well spent, writing about reading. Happy Monday, and Labor Day!

BZ

 

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