Powellhurst Book Survey

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Friday, September 16, 2005
Here are my answers to a book survey that Martina over at Powellhurst put up.

1. What are you reading now?
I just started The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey

2. What is the last book that you bought?
Funeral Music by Morag Joss. I haven't bought many new books lately (due to excellent library, cheapness, and not enough shelves) but this one looked good (cello player in Bath keeps tripping over bodies, as far as I can tell) and I had a vintage B&N gift card that needed to be used.

3. What are your favorite books?
I think this is a hard question, but I'll give it a shot - I was going to be a smartass and say 'ones with words in them' but I read a fantastic graphic novel last year called Blood Song that had NO WORDS AT ALL. So, there goes that. I like lots of books. This is like making someone pick their favorite child. I would say novels with compelling characters in interesting situations. (hee! I feel like I'm dodging questions like John Roberts in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee)

4. Who are your favorite authors?
Hmmm. Another hard one! I keep feeling like if I answer the question I am somehow slighting another book that I love, but have forgotten about in a fit of temporary insanity. So I will cop out. Some of my favorite authors include... Kelly Link, Michael Chabon, Elizabeth Peters, Jane Austen, Lindsey Davis, Haruki Murakami, Dodie Smith (although I've only read one - it is excellent), Neil Gaiman, Reginald Hill, Martha Grimes (for melrose plant and the hotel paradise books), Nancy Lemann, Meg Cabot in her many guises, Jennifer Crusie, and for the pretentiousness factor: Homer & Herodotus. The Odyssey kicks ass (road trip novel!), and Herodotus was the ancient world's version of The National Enquirer and E!

5. Which genres are your favorites?
This is so nebulous! a lot of my favorites fall under the general heading of "fiction", but I guess this is looking for more specific.. mystery, romance, YA, "fiction", short stories, fantasy (only some - I'm not big on epic Tolkien rip offs, and actually haven't gotten through the Tolkien trilogy all the way), comics (which is more of a format than a genre, but there you go), poetry (although I feel I have really limited exposure). Basically, I like anything with a weird little twist, but not one that I can see coming from a thousand miles away, unless I don't care if I see it coming.

6. What books did you think you would hate but loved?
Hmmmm. I can't really think of any that fall into that category - but I have something similar. A friend recommended the Jack Finney books to me - I am picky in a book-slutty kind of way and if people don't know what kinds of things I like to read it can lead to some awkward recommendations. (Nicholas Sparks needn't wait for any of my dollars to land in his bank account, for example). Anyway - these were recommended by my friend Garri, and I was initially dubious but I LOVED THEM! I could barely breathe while I was reading them. I will always be thankful that they crossed my path.

7. What book or books did you think you would love, but ended up not liking? _ I wouldn't say dislike is quite the right word, but I really love the whole idea and world of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, but the execution falls a little flat for me. I want them to be better (for me) than they are. And speaking of Fforde's - Katie Fforde wrote a couple of really fun romances (yet they were shelved with straight fiction), but then her heroines got really dopey, drippy and helpless and I wanted to kick them all in the head, so I stopped reading her.

8. What kind of books do you dislike most?
self-help. (in the How To Quit Being So Stupid category - books on helping you figure out how to fix the dryer or build a better sandcastle or write a better novel are fine by me). I really hate the titles of the "X for Dummies" books but I've got to say the one for Excel saved my bacon. Hmmm. They should call them "X for the Curious Yet Uninformed." I think it's catchy! I haven't read a lot in certain areas, but it may just be that I have yet to meet the right book yet, rather than straight-out dislike.

9. Do you mostly read contemporary work, older works or both?
I like to read around, but I would say for the past year I have mostly been reading contemporary fiction. There are some definite eras I plan to visit soon.

10. What are some of the funniest books you've ever read?
Sarah Vowell - I like her dry, personal style; Sparkle Hayter's Robin Hudson mysteries - particularly the early ones; David Sedaris; The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Bill Bryson's travel books. I know there are more, but I can't think of them right now

11. What are the most suspenseful books you've ever read?
Oooh - I think Mary Stewart is not as recognized for suspense as she should be - she wrote some FANTASTIC romantic suspense. Seriously. Nine Coaches Waiting was the first of hers that I read. I was pretty young and couldn't stay awake long enough to finish reading it, but couldn't sleep because my heart was pounding. Barbara Michaels writes good suspense, or she did when she was still writing it - but strangely I think some of hers (post-feminist) come off as more dated than Mary Stewart who was writing back in the 50's. But I still love her. Hmmm. I know there are others.

11. Which books were so good that you read them in one sitting?
I don't know - lots. I don't know that it necessarily has to do with quality (for me) as with what mood I'm in when I sit down with it and how page turn-y it is. There are definitely some crappy page-turners out there, and good books that require effort.

12. Which books have impacted you most?
I suck at this quiz! I will just say some stuff and you just promise not to hold me to it if I think of something better, OK? - Johnny Tremain - I know a lot of people hate it, but I think it was one of the early books I read that got me thinking about history as a living thing instead of just dead words. Little Women - my Aunt Patty gave me a copy for our shared birthday after the 70's tv-movie came out. I loved that book and cried when Jo turned Laurie down. Girl Detective novels, the OZ books because my Dad used to let us read the copies that his grandmother had given him as a boy. Ivanhoe - which I initially chose to suck up to my favorite English teacher (Mrs. Hopkins) because everyone else in class was picking the shortest book they could find, but found myself totally immersed in the whole capital R Romance of it all. I don't think I could probably get through it today. The Lais of Marie de France - these blew me away and slot in with my love of off-kilter stories. the Anne of Green Gables stories. Looking back at that list I would say that I was fond of literary drama-queens. I can live with it. Ooh! Also Tom Holt's books about ancient Greece. They are hilarious and sad and just so good.

13. Which books/authors do you consider the most overrated?
Dr. Phil!!! hmmm. In my mind this sort of breaks down in to books that are highly rated by non-readers (I usually find these overrated, but I can't blame them because they have no basis for comparison - if it is the ONLY book you've read in 3 years and you kind of like it, it's almost the best book ever by definition), and books that are highly rated by readers (if there is a certain category of Book Club book that I just can't get into - but that's more of a taste issue I guess). I don't know - I am hopeless at this questionnaire.

14. Which good, but little known book or author would you rescue from obscurity? Dodie Smith - I know the movie to "I Capture the Castle" came out a couple of years ago and should have done the trick - but I think it is a really, REALLY fantastic book and not enough people have read it. She also wrote 101 Dalmations (which I have not read, so I have no opinion on that). ICtC really captures the essence of being a 15 -17 y.o. girl. Her protagonist has a very distinctive (and pleasing to me) voice. Just read it, people!

15. How many books do you generally read at a time?
Usually just one, unless I have a really scary or gory one (generally a graphic novel) that I read in the daylight otherwise I would NEVER SLEEP, EVER. (yes, I am that lame), or if one is horrifically boring and I haven't quite given up on it yet.

16. What ration of fiction to non-fiction do you read?
Hmmm. This year it has been almost exclusively fiction, but I do read some historical biographies, history, travel, memoir, reporting, etc. Just not this year, yet. Oh, damn - that's a lie. I read "What's the Matter with Kansas", but that's all so far. It depressed me.

17. When (if) you read non-fiction, what are your favorite subjects?
Music, history, film (my favorite book to check out of the library when I was about 12 was a giant book on Hollywood Fashions. it must have weighed a million pounds), art, travel, the human brain, anything that sheds light on people and how they operate. You know. Stuff. hand waves

18. Which book that you haven't gotten around to yet do you want to read?
There are so many!! Currently I am feeling the urge to read some Mark Twain (don't ask me why), and I have always wanted to read Trollope, but can never figure out where to start. I have some massive holes in my reading history. Ooh- I've also been wanting to read Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicles forever. I've read (and loved) others of his, but this one keeps eluding me. I see it in the store and don't buy it. Maybe I am waiting for just the right copy to fall into my lap. If that's the case, I'm pretty stupid and should just put it on hold at the library (as soon as the hold funciton is operating again, which isn't until the 22nd).

19. What is your earliest memory involving books?
I think any of my earliest memories involve books. My parents were very booky, we didn't have a lot of stuff, but we always had a lot of books. I also have strong memories of going to the library and checking things out and geeking out in the bookstore - but I still do those.

20. What were your favorite books as a child?
I kind of covered this in the influential area - but Trixie Belden was my lord and master for a number of years. I read other mysteries, but she was my favorite. I also loved the Oz books, the Andrew Lang colored Fairy Books, The Little House books, Spotted Boy and the Comanchees (which I recently found out was an Adventist book and almost certainly wouldn't hold up - but it did inspire me to build a teepee out of a garbage bag and some poles in the back yard at a tender age), Anne of Green Gables, Boy of Dahomey, Little Women.

21. Which children's books do you like now?
I like a LOT of YA books - I think there is some fantastic storytelling going on that a lot of people are missing out on because they are 'kids books.' (rec's for contemporary: Meg Cabot's 1-800-Where-R-U series, and also her Mediator series. Rec's for fantasty: Sorcery and Cecilia (regency with magic!!), A College of Magics) I also like fairy tale picture books, Harry Potter, and Lemony Snicket, although I think some of the hype has overcome the books in the latter two. Dear Hollywood - please wait to make the movies until the series is over. Thank you, A Fan

22. What frequently recommended book have you been unable to finish?
My issue is that I am unable to START if it is recommended too much. It just turns me right off and I have to wait until the hype/pressure has gone down or I spend the whole time going 'OH YEAH???' and being very defensive with every freaking word which is not a very smart way to read. Also, Charles Dickens. I can deal with the shorter stuff, but the long stuff gives me the thousand yard stare. maybe I should try again.

23. If someone were to ask you for a book recommendation right now, what would it be?
Ooh! It depends on who it is. I try to tailor my recommendations to the person asking. But some general rec's - Stranger things Happen by Kelly Link, (which is available for FREE download on her website), Sujata Massey's Rei Shimura mysteries (I love stuff set in contemporary Japan and England - two places that usually get the romantic 'historical' treatment but are, in fact, thriving modern cultures), The Ritz of the Bayou by Nancy Lemann (it is about a trial for corruption in N.O.), Wonder Boys (I love that book - the movie's even good), Zorro by Isabel Allende (Zorro! need I say more?), In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, the Ghost Ballad series by Deborah Grabien - I think you would really like these, Martina. There are ghosts, and english folk ballads and ... MURDER.

24.If you start a book do you have to finish it?
I used to, but now I have gotten to the point where if it just isn't working for me, I put it down and try something else. If I have great pangs of guilt I tell myself that it is 'just for now' and I can always go back to it later.

25. How do you find new authors?
Recommendations, browsing (at the library, bookstore - I just wander around and pick up whatever catches my eye), subscribing to the 'review a day' thing from Powell's (although there will be long periods where I don't read more than the title). I am hopeful that Wordstock will be a continuing source of finding cool books.
7 comments on "Powellhurst Book Survey"
  1. Well, you're in for a treat when you finally crack that binder: "Wind-Up Bird" is the best Murakami -- and that's saying a lot.

    Love the Foulweather foto.

  2. So much good information, I don't know where to begin. I think your headache must have hopped a Max train across town, because now I have one, which may make for some really asinine commentary. I guess we'll see! I'm going to comment by number:

    2. A cellist, huh? Sounds potentially interesting. You know, I briefly bad cello in middle school. How was it? (Or have you read it yet?)

    7. You know, I have decided that I the Thursday Next books are better in theory than in practice. I didn't hate the one I read, but it wasn't all that I expected either.

    11. I agree on Mary Stewart. I used to read her quite a bit back in the day. I know I've still got some old copies around. I should dig them out.

    23. Oooh the Deborah Grabien books sound good! I will have to check the library. I've almost made my way through all of the Edward Marston Elizabethan theater books, so I will need to be moving on soon.

    25. I am on a couple of Powell's lists too. I find that I probably delete the e-mail without reading them about 75% of the time. On the other hand, I've gotten some good recommendations there too. There was one not too long ago for a suspense novel called "Book of Shadows" that I ended up reading almost in one sitting.

    Well, I'll have to come back to some of your other points later. The headache is winning for the moment. Probably a good thing, otherwise I might end up crashing your blog with a mondo long post! :-)

  3. mernitman- thanks for the info on the Murakami. Half of me says I should wait until I deserve such a treat, the other half says I could get hit by a meteorite at any moment so I should probably just read it now. I'll bet it even has meteorite deflecting properties, so for my own safety I should get a copy asap. Yeah! (I am a master of dubious rationalizations).

    martina - I am so sorry about the headache! They are the worst. I will come back to the non-headache stuff this afternoon - I have to go figure out how to design a mailing label and a postage stamp by 2pm. I am not sure how I feel about the fact that the USPS will now apparently let any fool design a postage stamp.

  4. #13 - Good call on Dr. Phil! I can't stand him (as I have indicated in my "Do I hate him because of his association with Oprah or because he is Dr. Phil?" query. I totally get what you mean, though. I think it is part of my disdain for Oprah and her book club, if I'm going to be honest.

  5. Martina! I never knew you played the cello!! I love the cello. Girl, you have got a dozen instruments up your sleeve and can sing on top of it (not just the enthusiastic bellowing that you are kind enough to do with Bec and me on roadtrips so we don't feel bad). I think you should join or form a band!! Portland has over 600 bands - one of them needs you!
    But back to the cello book - I haven't read it yet, but I'll let you know when I finish it. I really DO think you would like the Grabien mysteries. I liked the second one better than the first (but the first was good too so you should read it) and the third one comes out in October (I think). Anyway - I really do think you would like them. I have CDs with some of the music discussed so I could help you out there if you don't have and want to hear the songs in question. There is a cat named Butterball in the first one (but no worries- he does NOT solve crimes), who reminds me of a yellow Busby. (and the library does have them).
    My issue with Dr. Phil is this - I do not want an angry fat man telling me how to be happy and lose weight. I know a lot of people love his approach, but I am not one of them. Actually, I pretty much don't like anyone telling me how to feel - I really get mad in very manipulative movies and stuff too.

  6. Hey man -

    I actually don't really play cello, I've just played it before. The same with bass. When I was in middle school they tested me out on cello and bass (I really wanted to do cello), but apparently I sucked too hard at learning it fast, because my music teacher switched me to viola instead. I probably could still play that, though, if I picked one up. So, for the official record it's violin, viola, organ, piano and a very tiny bit of guitar (mostly just 3 chord strumming) that I can/or could at one time play. Some day I'll do my Ross Geller impression and play you a song on the crappy keyboard I have in lieu of a piano. I've actually been practicing some Bach and Mozart lately in an attempt to relearn some of what I have forgotten/justify my recent urge to buy a piano when I get my car all paid off. Lately I find myself having an urge to do some of the more creative/musical things I used to want to do when I was younger.

    Anyway, the Grabien mysteries sound awesome. I will have to check some out as soon as I've settled my debt with the Multomah County Library (damned overdue fines!)

    As for your Dr. Phil commentary, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you crack my ass up! (Tee hee ass crack...that was a total accident. I rival Beavis and Butthead in linguistic genius).

  7. Give in to the urge!! Creative urges should be succumbed to, urges to kick people in the head should be suppressed. (I tell myself this a lot) I am so excited for you! I can play NO musical instruments and have NO musical ability, so I will live vicariously through you. See - you'll be doing me a big favor. You don't want me to mope around despondent and inconsolable at the state of my vicarious life, do you? DO YOU?
    I look forward to the Ross Gellar concert! What kind of piano are you thinking of getting?


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