A Book Meme

I had intended to do something serious tonight, following on from yesterday’s post and discussing why I would describe myself as a psychoanalytic literary critic, but frankly, having got us all through supper and with American Idol almost starting, I can’t squeeze it in. So I thought I’d do this meme that’s been going around. I saw it on Carl’s site in its Sci-Fi incarnation, but I’ve borrowed Danielle’s non sci-fi version, for obvious reasons.

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Paperbacks mostly because they are cheaper and easier to transport. I like hardbacks and think they are elegant objects but boo hoo, I’m a wimp and holding them for too long makes my wrists hurt. Trade paperbacks are just a way of getting more money out of the consumer.

Amazon or brick and mortar?

Both. Amazon not only give good discounts and free postage and packing, but they have all the esoteric books that I’m after these days. However, I do object to the huge shipping fees I have to pay to get books from France. All this being said, nothing really beats browsing in a bookstore. If the four minute warning ever goes off, I shall spend the time getting myself into a bookstore on the grounds that nothing unpleasant could ever happen to me in one.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

I think I’ll have to change this into Waterstones versus Borders, and the answer, naturally, is both. But I did used to work in Waterstones, buying fiction, and so it will always hold a special place in my heart. If Barnes & Noble would like to open a store in my city, I’d be delighted to pay them a visit.

Bookmark or dogear?

Oh dear, I’m afraid I do dogear – will you all forgive me? I do use bookmarks but there are often so many passages and quotations that I want to find again, and it’s hard enough to retrieve sufficient bookmarks from the domestic Bermuda Triangle as it is. Put them down for one second and poof! they’ve disappeared into thin air.

Alphabetize by author or alphebetize by title or random?

I used to have them all random because I liked the sense of a lucky dip. And then I kept buying doubles of books I already possessed. So now I’m alphabetised by author. In my college rooms my work books are arranged chronologically by author or literary movement. That really confuses the students.

Keep, throw away, or sell?

I’m sorry, throw away? Tear the limbs from my body, why don’t you? I’m very protective of my books and have been known to snarl if people approach them with evil intentions.

Keep dustjacket or toss it?

Oh keep it on. I’m shallow enough to actively enjoy the artwork on book covers. Those bare boards just don’t do it for me.

Read with dustjacket or remove it?

See above. I read with it on, even though it’s true that you do get tangled up in it sometimes. However, the side flaps are also very useful for marking your page when there is a sudden and inexplicable shortage of bookmarks.

Short story or novel?

Novels every time. I admire short stories, but they are one night stands, as opposed to love affairs.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?

I much prefer collections, which is causing me no small difficulty as I was commissioned a while back to put two anthologies of French fantasy fiction together. I don’t know how to begin, because I don’t have any desires toward anthologies myself. It’s the only work project I’ve ever been in denial about.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

Harry Potter. My son and I have read Lemony Snicket together but the endless series of disasters proved to be dull in the long run. Always knowing how something is going to turn out rather takes the shine off. And yet I’ve heard so many people whose opinion I respect loving this series. Perhaps we ought to try again.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

If only! I stop reading when my son says ‘It’s time for you to do my homework’/ ‘Mummy watch me do this…’/’I’m hungry and I think I’ll finish off that cake in the cupboard’, or when my husband says ‘I can’t find the butter in the fridge again’/Isn’t it time that child went to bed?’/’What time is supper going to be tonight?’

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Well, neither really, but if pushed, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, because it makes me think of Snoopy, typing on top of his kennel.

Buy or Borrow?

Buy mostly, but I borrow as well, although only really from family members and close friends. I’ve had too many books lost by students to engage in borrowing with an easy heart, in case I do the same thing myself.

New or used?

My heart is with new books, but I’m much happier than I ever used to be to read second hand. Just not books with unidentifiable stains on the covers.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?

I take any advice from any quarter, although like so many of my blogging friends, I’ve probably bought more books in the past year on bloggers reviews than anything else. Having a recommendation from someone whose reading habits you know, and whose opinion you trust, is like a twenty-four carat seal of quality.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

I have an incorrigibly tidy mind, and so I’m generally inclined towards the tidy ending. Loose ends can make me feel very, very frustrated. But then I can also feel cheated by a formulaic ‘happy ending’. I suppose I like to end up somewhere real and credible, with a handful of insight and something in my back pocket to ponder on later. And I don’t tend to think of myself as a picky reader, so it just goes to show how difficult endings are in literature.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?

Any and all of the above. The only thing I don’t do is read in bed at night. Funnily enough it wakes me up, and then I find myself lying in the darkness, thinking about the story and, by association, about a million and one random, diverse and irresolvable things. Now, by some strange paradox, lying down and reading just about anywhere during the day is a certain route to falling asleep. I would dearly love to turn this around.

Standalone or series?

Either. But I love crime fiction when it comes in series, and my son and I do appreciate children’s fiction in series. Sometimes you just can’t bear for those characters to walk out of your life.

Favorite series?

Oh, bring on the sleuthing grannies. I love Miss Marple, and Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver mysteries; they are the literary equivalent of slippers and a blanket over the knees. I also thought Andrew Taylor’s Lydmouth crime fiction series to be just wonderful, and I’m growing very fond of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. In children’s books, my son and I like Harry Potter, the Great Brain books by John Fitzgerald, and just lately Michael Carroll’s new superhero series and Ali Sparke’s series on The Shapeshifter, a boy who can turn into a fox. We’ve also loved every series written by the brilliant Anthony Horowitz.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

I could put a lot of French authors in here, but I’ll just say Louise Lambrichs for the French side. For English, Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado, a witty and wonderful evocation of a young American woman’s life in Paris. Bet loads of people will know this and it won’t be as unusual as I think!

Favorite books read last year?

You may remember them: Richard Russo’s Straight Man, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, Sybille Bedford’s A Favourite of the Gods, A.N. Wilson’s A Jealous Ghost. To name a few.

Favorite books of all time?

Too hard! Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, anything by the incomparable Colette, ditto Hermann Hesse (on whom, now I think of it, I have never posted), Rilke’s Duino Elegies, and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Louise Lambrich’s A ton image, Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot, Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry, Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist, William Maxwell’s The Chateau, Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle, W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. But I could carry on if you wanted.

16 thoughts on “A Book Meme

  1. Love your answers. I’m so tempted to do this one, but I’m trying to cut down on my meming (despite protests from others), so maybe will stash it away for a rainy day. However, many of my answers would resemble yours, so maybe I can just say “For a close approximation, see Litlove.”

  2. Smiles. Good stuff here. Love the comparison between novels and short stories; however, I admittedly have no problem with one-night stands.

    I am with you on Proust, at least what I’ve read so far. And I am hoarding the Dud Avocado (great title) for my Neglected Authors month of reading.

    And I have a Maisie Dobbs book that has been collecting dust on my night table. When, oh, when will I ever get to it?

  3. Those are great answers! I *loved* I Capture the Castle too. I am always looking for a book *like* it, but I suppose I should just reread it. I wish she had written more. I have the Dud Avocado–one of my Amazon-UK finds, though I have not yet read it. I would love to be a buyer for a big bookstore–dream job for me! 🙂 I work in the ordering and receiving department in my library (though I also do other stuff)–only I order what they tell me (only the professional librarians get to have budgets and buy for the collection–still I could whip our english section into shape given half a chance!!!).

  4. Lovely answers, Litlove. I’m also storing this one away for a rainy day as I seem to be the meme queen right now. I agree with you – and love the metaphor – on the difference between short stories and novels, but if I must read short stories then a collection by one author is preferable. I am also quite cruel to my own books (dogear, underline) but try hard to be respectful to ones I have borrowed.

  5. I have to second you on a couple items: number one, dog-earing! I don’t dog-ear my nicest books, but on cheap paperbacks and if I don’t have a bookmark or slip of paper handy. Frankly I think it gives older books a very well-loved look.

    And I also loved The Razor’s Edge and The Accidental Tourist. I’ll have to check out the other ones you mentioned.

  6. Emily – I have to say I saved this one up for a little while. I always like to think there’s a meme lurking that I can do on a low-brain day! Would love to see your answers if you ever feel like it. LK -I hope you enjoy The Dud Avocado. I really liked the style of the writing. And Maisie Dobbs is great, and good for when you need something comforting. Danielle, I’ll bet you could whip that English department into shape! The book shop was wonderful, because you ordered it, and if it didn’t sell you returned it, so there was always a safety net. Christmas was particularly fun. But occasionally we had to hide stuff under the counter so that proper customers couldn’t buy it…. Charlotte – I agree with you that you can do what you like to your own books, so long as you are gentle with other people’s. However, I don’t like breaking the spine of any book (although I will write in them). Glitterless gold – I think they DO look loved that way. And it’s very nice to find another fan of Tyler and Somerset Maugham. They are both authors I could read day after day until I ran out of novels by them.

  7. What fun! I love that you call short stories a one-night stand and that you snarl at people who approach your books with evil intent 🙂 I have never heard of Elaine Dundy or Loiuse Lambrichs. Some of your all time favorites are on my TBR list and have been ignored for newer and shinier books. I’m going to go put stars next to them now so I will pay more attention next time the urge to go book shopping strikes.

  8. I liked Accidental Tourist so much I went out and bought the rest of Tyler’s books, trying to find the oldest publications I could. I read them slowly, and only reluctantly bought the more recent printings when I couldn’t find an old one. And of course sometimes after buying a recent pub I’d find an old paperback from the 60s and 70s, with original cover art.

    Glad to find another Tyler fan!

  9. I enjoyed reading your answers! Trade paperbacks probably are simply ways to get more money from consumers, but I do like their bigger margins and sometimes bigger font. I haven’t heard of your “books nobody has heard of” so I really must check them out!

  10. I never dog ear I like bookmarks but they don’t last long because I suck on them! So I cut b’day and Xmas cards into strips 🙂
    Alias Grace is one of my favourite books

  11. Litlove, I do also object to high shipping fees from Amazon.uk to France! I suggest we may figure out a way to ship each other books accross the Channel, what do you think?

  12. Stefanie – I do think you would like the Dundy. It’s such fun. And I’d love to know what you think of some of my favourites. Ombudsben – I think she’s just wonderful. I haven’t read her latest though – waiting for it to come out in paperback over here. Dorothy – I hadn’t thought of bigger margins. That’s true! And sometimes the tiny type of the classics annoys me after a while, so bigger print is often a very good thing. Janice – what a brilliant idea to use old cards this way. I always keep them because they’re so attractive and never know what to do with them. Pauline – this strikes me as an excellent idea! I wish I’d read this before I started looking for Manon Lescaut on amazon.fr today!! Email me if I can be of any help for English books you need.

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