I don’t usually do this, but I couldn’t resist.

I generally don’t participate in memes, but I had so much fun reading the answers on Fig and Thistle and Scobberlotch that I thought I would join in.

1. Favorite childhood book?
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

2. What are you reading right now?
The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble
Coronation by Paul Gallico
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

4. Bad book habit?
Buying too many.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nothing (see #4)

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No, and I never will. I love the look, feel, and smell of real books. I have said on more than one occasion that if they stopped publishing real books I would still have a universe of books that I could pass the time with until I died.

And speaking of e-readers: The other day on the Metro the woman sitting next to me (in her 60s or so) was reading from an e-reader. I looked over to see if I could see what she was reading. And there, right at the top of the “page” in type MUCH larger than anything in a real book I saw the following: “He had a huge cock.” I quickly look away lest one of us get embarrassed.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
I read more now. I remember more now since I am writing reviews of most every book I finish. And I read fewer bad books now. Mainly because I have found kindred spirits in the blogosphere that help me weed through the chaff.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Almost impossible to answer. For the most part naming a least favorite would reflect too poorly on what are pretty much all good books. But, I guess I would say the Penguin English Journeys series in general. I tried to read all 20 of them in April and the concentrated nature of the task it made them all seem rather tiresome.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Also very hard to answer. Stoner by John Williams and The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Fairly often, but I have a pretty broad comfort zone. Although I guess looking at my books read some might disagree. Themes that I almost universally hate are sports, magic, circuses, well, almost anything supernatural.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
I have a sub-section of my comfort zone I call the cozy zone. That would focus on genteel, British ladies drinking tea. The broader comfort zone includes all kinds of literary fiction that aren’t afraid to be mundane. I particularly like coming of age stories, independent women finding themselves, job-related stories,  and of course bookish characters/settings.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Subway, yes. Bus, sometimes. It makes me a bit motion sick.

14. Favorite place to read?
Haven’t found it yet. But generally in bed.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
As I fetishize books more and more as objects I am finding it harder to lend them out.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Only when it is a mass market edition that is falling apart.

18. Not even with text books?
Text books are different (and a long time ago).

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

20. What makes you love a book?
Such a difficult question. If I had to pick what one theme is most likely to make me love a book I would say characters who undergo a positive, radical (at least for them) transformation.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
In real life I don’t do much recommending. On my blog I tend to get enthusiastic about many books but try to give enough description to give my readers the chance to make up their own mind.

22. Favorite genre?
Literary fiction.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Definitely non-fiction. I almost never read it. I like my reading life quite a lot, so I don’t with this one too much.

24. Favorite biography?
A Girl From Yamhill a memoir by Beverly Cleary

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Do diet books count? The South Beach Diet. I used to work at Barnes and Noble years ago and every time someone came in with a list of self-help titles they were looking for I always wanted to walk them over to fiction. I think one learns much more about oneself and how to cope with life from fiction than from self-help.

26. Favorite cookbook?
I find that most cookbooks have only a handful of recipes I ever try. I may want to try more, but I seem to get stuck on just a handful. Like travel guides I never find the perfect one, because it doesn’t exist.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

28. Favorite reading snack?
As much as I love eating I tend to not do it while reading. Too messy.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson. I found it just okay.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Traditional professional critics? Almost never.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I have only ever accepted one ARC so I don’t feel beholden to any author or publisher. Sometimes I edit my true thoughts down a bit to not offend some of my favorite bloggers. Yes, peer pressure is alive and well at age 41. But frankly there are some wonderful bloggers out there with whom I don’t want to pick a fight. It doesn’t mean I don’t say what I think I just am less negative than I may want to be. On the other hand if I am not worried about that I would have no problem going after a book I thought was a piece of crap.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Anything by Faulkner or Joyce.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Anything Faulkner or Joyce.

35. Favorite Poet?
Without question, Walt Whitman.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Zero these days. When I used to be in library mode I would say about 7 to 10 at a time.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
About 30% of the time.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Tepper from Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Widow Barnaby in Widow Barnaby by Fanny Trollope

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
I choose editions that are cheap enough that I can leave them behind to make way for other things in the suitcase.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
I don’t understand the question.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The Divine Comedy by Dante. I found it kind of interesting, and I know there are larger lessons to be drawn from it, but the fantastical world created in it just kept reminding me of the hocus pocus aspects of organized religions that can turn the less rational among us into willing, believing, participants in a dogmatic, supernatural magic show.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Undone chores.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

A Room With a View (the 1985 Merchant-Ivory production, not the more recent travesty of an adaptation)

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The recent big screen version of Brideshead Revisited. I love the book too much to have it distilled down into anything less than greatness. (Greatness had, of course, already been realized for this book in the early 1980s television series.)

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I am not going to answer this one, but it was on my recent trip to Powell’s in Portland.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Ususally I just read a few lines here and there. I don’t think it would count as skimming.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
I do Nancy Pearl’s rule of 50, so I tend to put losers down at page 50. But sometimes they sneak through anyway. I have no trouble leaving a book behind if it starts to feel like my life is slipping by and I am stuck reading an odious book.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes, but I also like to reorganize and reorganize just for fun.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Not really because I only focus on the ones I am looking forward to reading.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Howard’s End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. In a crime of bait and switch, Hill’s interesting premise was undermined by the fact that she either ignored it or was unable to deliver the goods.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Brontes Went to Woolworths

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Anything by Nevil Shute or Elinor Lipman


27 thoughts on “I don’t usually do this, but I couldn’t resist.

  1. Ti August 19, 2010 / 5:41 pm

    I chuckled over the ereader comment. I'm sure people do look over my shoulder when I am using my Kindle, but my font size is very small. The more words on the page/screen, the better.


  2. ~Tessa~Scoffs August 19, 2010 / 6:10 pm

    loved your answers. I would concur nearly 100% except I get most of my reads from the library.


  3. Claire (The Captive Reader) August 19, 2010 / 6:17 pm

    What a fun meme! I love that cover for Harriet the Spy and your naming of A Girl From Yamhill as your favourite biography sent me to my shelves looking for my own rather battered and well-loved copy.


  4. AnswerGirl August 19, 2010 / 7:08 pm

    I always learn things from your posts, Tom — I had no idea Beverly Cleary had written an autobiography! And I second your choice of Harriet the Spy, although I might substitute A Little Princess on any given day.


  5. C.B. James August 19, 2010 / 7:12 pm

    Okay, you've convinced me. I'm going to do it, too.


  6. Inkslinger August 19, 2010 / 7:54 pm

    Fascinating answers . . . and it gives me more books to track down and read! (And I LOVED your answer to the self-help question).


  7. Elise August 19, 2010 / 8:38 pm

    The bit about the e-reader and the old lady is possibly one of the funniest things I've ever read!!


  8. Bellezza August 19, 2010 / 10:49 pm

    I remember how much I dearly loved Harriet The Spy when I was in fifth grade. I've read it since to my classes with mixed results; I think none of them like it as much as you and I.

    I have an ereader, but I agree with you: real books are by far the best. I'll only use it for travel.

    An off question…do you remember the painting you posted many months ago with the dinner table and books scattered all about on the floor underneath? I loved that painting, and I can't remember the name. If you do, could you leave it in a comment to me? Thanks ever so much.


  9. verity August 20, 2010 / 3:45 am

    Haha, that ereader comment made me laugh out loud. Might have to do that meme myself :)


  10. Darlene August 20, 2010 / 8:50 am

    What a delightful way to spend time this morning, thank you Thomas!

    I laughed at a few of your answers and sighed when you reminded me how much I loved A Room with a View. And I'm so glad to read you're finding it harder to lend books! Sometimes I think I'm turning into a crank because I won't lend my books but I've experienced first-hand what some people do to them and it's not pretty. Enjoy your weekend!


  11. madbibliophile August 20, 2010 / 9:00 am

    Great meme. I might pinch this too. I agree with The Brontes went to Woolworth. Had high expectations but I'm still unsure about it. Didn't have me raving as I had expected it to.


  12. JoAnn August 20, 2010 / 9:07 am

    What fun! I may succumb to this meme, too. Harriet the Spy was my favorite childhood book… there was even a time when I read it once a month.


  13. ArchitectDesign™ August 20, 2010 / 9:25 am

    Like you, I can never deface a book; it seems sacreligious. Loved seeing this insight into your life!


  14. Steph August 20, 2010 / 9:35 am

    Maybe that lady with the e-reader was reading about a farmer with a rather impressive rooster?

    Or not.

    Either way, I kind of think that maybe it's best she was reading on an e-reader rather than a paper copy… imagine what the art work would be like! (Also, apparently with the flux of e-readers, erotica is frequently at the top of the charts as people are less abashed about reading it when people can't tell!)


  15. Amanda August 20, 2010 / 10:38 am

    #6 — HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That reminds me about the time I worked at a bookshop and an older gentlemen purchased several “sexy” books. We were both blushing like mad at the checkout counter.

    #41 — I agree. I put that the longest I went without reading was 3 or 4 days and I was specifically thinking about when Hope was born. I didn't read during the 40 + hours of labor and delivery and subsequent sleeping.


  16. Thomas at My Porch August 20, 2010 / 12:16 pm

    Ti: I noticed that you pointed out that you keep your font size small, is that to cover up the fact that you are reading the same book as the lady on the train?

    Tessa: My goal is to buy fewer and go to the library more often. Especially now that I live in a new part of town and haven't even checked out my library branch yet.

    Claire: I need to read Yamhill again. And I noticed that she has a second memoir as well.

    AnswerGirl: I read it so long ago, and although I liked BC as a kid, I don't spend much time thinking of her these days. But I find most bios to be either too serious or too silly. But this one stuck in my mind as one that was a pleasure to read.

    CB: Good, I can't wait to see your answers.

    Inkslinger: That is the best thing about blogs is finding titles new to me.

    Elise: I did feel a bit like there might be a hidden camera somewhere to record my reaction.

    Bellezza: I tried reading it on my own in 4th grade and didn't like it. But in 6th grade when Ms. Mosman read it to us, I fell in love (with Harriet, not Ms. Mosman).

    Verity: I hope you do the meme, I would enjoy reading your answers.

    Darlene: Well we may indeed be turning into cranks as we become less and less inclined to lend books. But I am not sure we should feel bad about it.

    Madbibliophile: Exactly.

    JoAnn: I can understand your Harriet addiction. Was that recently or when you were a kid?

    Stefan: It is sacreligious. It really kills me when I see people doing it to library books.

    Steph: Your comment about the farmer has me laughing. I think you may be right. I don't know why anyone would want to be in public while they are reading erotica. (!)

    Amanda: I am disappointed you put your books down to give birth. Where is your commitment? Maybe with Atticus you can keep reading.


  17. Bellezza August 20, 2010 / 1:23 pm

    I think I'll try it as a read aloud, too; it's rather obscure for an eight year old on one's own. Thank you so much for getting back to me about the painting!


  18. Georgia Jones August 20, 2010 / 1:43 pm

    Have to tell you to this day, every time I lead a reader to Harriet the Spy, I think of you! You will always be tied to that book in my heart and mind.


  19. Amy August 20, 2010 / 1:44 pm

    I've been using the library more often as a cost-saving measure, but I often end up feeling negative about the library. I finally realized why: my library's actually great, but I use it for books I suspect I won't like, and quite often I'm right. Not nice of me to blame the library for that.


  20. Susan in TX August 20, 2010 / 2:05 pm

    Ah, I so agree about the ereader. NO interest here, zero, nada, none! This was a fun post to read! Many similarities, but I did like Susan Hill's HEIOTL. That said, you are right, she didn't exactly do what she set out to do, but I forgave her just for the “book talk.” :)


  21. Kim August 20, 2010 / 3:04 pm

    Love your answers. But where did you find copies of the English Journeys series? I picked up “Some Country Houses and Their Owners” at Oxford, almost bought a few more but decided I could get them stateside. Can't find them and Penguin won't let me order from its UK site. Thanks!


  22. Charlie August 20, 2010 / 9:37 pm

    Ok, I hope you don't think this is creepy, but I followed Sandy's link on FB to your Oregon pictures. She had such a fab time there I had to check them out. Your pictures are lovely, by the way. Then I continued clicking (down the rabbit hole of links so to speak) over to your blog. I have never before met anyone who tracks books like I do. I feel as though we are kindred spirits. :) I must this meme and post to my blog. It looks fun. I looked at e-readers, but I prefer the sensual pleasure of holding a book in my hands, smelling the pages, and using odd bits of found papers as bookmarks.


  23. mattviews August 20, 2010 / 11:43 pm

    I was reading from my eReader here but had to put it away because I was right by the pool! The gadget is good for travel, especially when I don't want to lug around a whole stack of books to Hong Kong.

    I see that we have literary fiction in common on comfort zone. Joyce is always intimidating, although I did finish Ulysses for a class in college. Between Joyce and Faulkner, I don't know which one is more challenging.

    Walt Whitman, yep.
    30$ chance I return books to library unread also.


  24. JoAnn August 21, 2010 / 7:41 am

    Thomas – My “Harriet phase” was in 5th grade, but I enjoyed it all over again when my daughters reached that age. I'm looking forward to sharing Harriet the Spy with my niece in a few years.


  25. Thomas at My Porch August 21, 2010 / 5:09 pm

    Georgia: That is sweet. I don't think I could bring myself to read a modern edition of it. The covers are all so hokey. Why do they think that kids won't respond to the old cover? Maybe kids today wouldn't?

    Amy: My only problem with libraries these days is that there are too many people just wanting to use the Internet. And here in DC lots of homeless folks.

    Susan: Have you read Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. She doesn't really talk about specific books, but as a book on books it is one of the best.

    Kim: I am glad you found what you were looking for at The Book Depository.

    Charlie: Welcome to My Porch. If you check out my blog roll you will find many others just like us!

    Matt: See if they made the e-reader waterproof, then I might consider it.

    JoAnn: Do your daughters like it as much as you do?


  26. JoAnn August 24, 2010 / 9:00 pm

    Thomas – All three girls liked Harriet, but none became obsessed like their mother :-)


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