55 Reading Questions

As memes go, this one is self-explanatory, but I read a lot so it’s fun too:

1) Favourite childhood book?

I suppose this depends on where you draw the line of childhood, but the book that comes to mind is Dean Koontz’s Lightning. It’s the book that I credit with getting me to read for pleasure. I was 13 at the time, and reading was generally something I was forced to do for school, not something I did for fun. But my brother gave me this book once when I was bored and I couldn’t put it down. I’d never had an experience like that before, and from that point on, I read as much as I could. If teen years don’t count as childhood, another thing that came to mind is Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books, but it’s been a solid 20-25 years since I’ve even seen those things, and I remember very little about them except a character named Taran and the black riders that seem so similar to the Nazgul from LotR…

2) What are you reading right now?

I just finished Fahrenheit 451, part of an effort to familiarize myself with Bradbury’s work (this originated back during the NPR SF/F list days when I acknowledged my shame of not having read any Bradbury – it’s just a not-so-happy coincidence that I read this book in the wake of Bradbury’s passing). I just started reading a collection of short stories by Sharma Shields called Favorite Monster, which, despite having only read a few of the stories, might be the weirdest thing I’ve read all year.

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

Sadly, I haven’t been to the library in many years. I’m not even sure where the closest library is…

4) Bad book habit?

I’m not really sure I have any, save perhaps not reading enough

5) What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Again, no library usage here.

6) Do you have an e-reader?

Yes, a Kindle Touch that I’ve used more than expected. In fact, Fahrenheit 451 was the first paper book I’ve read in several months… Though it was sorta appropriate given the subject matter, it was really just because the physical book was cheaper than the Kindle version (I get that instituting ebooks at a big publishing house is non-trivial, but stuff like this is so non-intuitive and frustrating).

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

For the most part, I’m reading one book at a time. I primarily read fiction, but will often have a non-fiction book started as well, and will switch back and forth as my mood dictates or given certain situations (this might be too much information, but I almost always have a book in the bathroom, often a book about homebrewing or beer). In general, though, I will get into one of the two books and burn through to the end.

8) Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

I started this blog about 12 years ago at this point, and my reading habits have changed several times in that interval. I will say that I do tend to blog more about what I read these days, that being a good way of arranging my interests in parallel.

9) Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?

A two-way tie between Foreigner, by C. J. Cherryh (my thoughts) and Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher. In both cases, I will probably revisit other works by the author, but I don’t have anything planned in the short term…

10) Favourite book you’ve read this year?

Another two-way tie (but the books are deeply intertwined and part of the same series) between Memory and A Civil Campaign, both by Lois McMaster Bujold. Check out my thoughts on both, along with some other books in the series.

11) How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Occasionally. A lot of non-fiction is generally outside my comfort zone, and I’ve been vying away from my normal comfort zone more this year than last year…

12) What is your reading comfort zone?

Science fiction and pop-science non-fiction. Maybe horror and fantasy would also fit, though I don’t read a lot of either…

13) Can you read on the bus?

I’m sure I can, but buses around here are generally to be avoided.

14) Favourite place to read?

If it’s nice outside, I like to sit on my deck and read, but the grand majority of my reading is done in my living room, on my couch.

15) What is your policy on book lending?

I’m generally pretty open to lending, though it doesn’t seem to come up much.

16) Do you ever dog-ear books?

I’m sure this is blasphemy to some folks, but yes, I’m a compulsive dog-earer, especially for non-fiction. However, I’m finding that one of the big advantages of an ereader is the ability to easily highlight passages (and even save some notes about why I’m highlighting the passage).

17) Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Very rarely did I do this with physical books, though perhaps I did for a few things in college, but I do so more often now that I read ebooks.

18) Not even with text books?

I don’t have much occasion to read text books these days, but like I said, when I was in college, I probably did a little of this (but not a ton).

19) What is your favourite language to read in?

English is pretty much the only language I can read. Unless someone is writing novels in javascript now… I feel like an unworthy nerd. I can’t even read stuff in Klingon or Dothraki!

20) What makes you love a book?

Interesting ideas, engaging characters, and good storytelling.

21) What will inspire you to recommend a book?

I find recommendations difficult. I rarely give unqualified recommendations, but if I really love a book, I will recommend it. If someone’s asking for recommendations, I do my best to tailor my recommendations to their needs and desires, rather than just what I like…

22) Favourite genre?

Science fiction.

23) Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?

I wish I had a better handle on crime novels. I love crime movies, but have rarely read crime books. It’s something I want to become better acquainted with. I’m reasonably familiar with horror literature, but I have not read much in the past few years, nor have I gone as deep as I have with something like SF.

24) Favourite biography?

I don’t read many, but Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War was fantastic and would probably be my favorite.

25) Have you ever read a self-help book?

I can’t say as though I have, unless you count stuff like Homebrewing books or pop-science books.

26) Favourite cookbook?

I have a couple cookbooks, but they’re fairly unremarkable, to the point where naming them my favorite seems like a waste. If homebrewing counts, then How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time by John J. Palmer is a great introductory text.

27) Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Not sure if I really get inspired as this question intends, but pop-science non-fiction always seems to get me fired up. So far this year, I’d say that Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson was probably the one that hit me the best…

28) Favorite reading snack?

Pretzels, but for the most part I’m not eating whist reading. I usually drink tea or water whilst reading though. On rare occasions, I’ll crack a sipping beer, like a barleywine or a bourbon-barrel aged stout or something (a good pairing in winter).

29) Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

I don’t really see much in the way of hype when it comes to books. Perhaps there are some classics that don’t quite live up to their reputation though. A lot of golden-age SF is written in a bit of a flat style, but often the ideas are still well represented, so I’m having trouble thinking of specific examples…

30) How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I can’t say as though I read a lot of critics, at least not in the way that I read a lot of film criticism. I suppose I tend to agree with most of what I read, or I can at least understand where someone’s coming from when their opinions don’t match mine.

31) How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I don’t relish giving bad/negative reviews in the way that some people in the internets do, but if I didn’t like a book, I’m going to say so.

32) If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?

An interesting question. The first thing that came to mind was Japanese, but I suppose Russian would be an interesting one too.

33) Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon.

34) Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

An interesting question. There are perhaps a few, but the one that springs immediately to mind is James Joyce’s Ulysses.

35) Favourite poet?

Not much of a poetry guy, but who doesn’t like Robert Frost? Or heck, Shakespeare…

36) How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

Again, no real library usage here.

37) How often have you returned books to the library unread?

Again, no real library usage here.

38) Favourite fictional character?

This was a tougher question than I thought, but the obvious answer for the past couple years is Miles Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s very long series of books mostly detailing his life and times. After thinking for a moment, I also thought of the Waterhouse and Shaftoe clans from Cryptonomicon, but that’s sorta cheating, as there are multiple characters and I love them all…

39) Favourite fictional villain?

And this is even harder than the last question. The first thing that came to mind was Sauron, but that’s a boring answer. Unfortunately, not that many other options are forthcoming. How about Grand Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars books? I suppose it’s a bit hokey to reference Star Wars books, but Thrawn was a genuinely well thought out villain and a worthy successor to Vader and the Emperor…

40) Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Something that is breezy and easy to read in busy places with lots of distractions like beaches or airports. I once tried to read Umberto Eco on a trip and it was… not quite as rewarding as it would have been if I read it at home in a more controlled environment. On the other hand, Bujold’s books were great companions last year, and I’m sure John Scalzi’s books would fit the bill as well…

41) The longest I’ve gone without reading.

I really don’t know how to measure this one. I presume we’re talking about books here and not newspapers, magazines, websites, etc… but even then, I’m not really sure how to go about quantifying this. There are certainly periods in my life where I didn’t read nearly as much as I do now, but I don’t really know the longest period of time I’ve gone between reading books. Let’s say a couple weeks?

42) Name a book that you could/would not finish.

It’s pretty rare that I don’t finish a book, but I never did finish David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. It’s something I may go back to, but I got pretty well fed up with the book while reading it. I got almost halfway through it though, which is actually a lot of time and effort to throw away, but I was getting annoyed by the lack of any real point to what I was reading. Oh sure, lots of themes and interesting stuff, but it felt like reading a SNL show filled with disconnected skits, and even when they connected, it wasn’t quite enough to make up for all the stuff about drugs and stuff that I didn’t particularly care about.

43) What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

I was going to say the internet, but really that’s my fault, so the real answer to this question is me. I let myself get distracted sometimes, but that’s usually indicative of the fact that I’m not enjoying what I’m reading.

44) Favourite film adaptation of a novel?

That’s a tough one, as there aren’t a lot of situations in which I’ve both read the novel and seen the movie. The Lord of the Rings movies are certainly a candidate, as they managed something I wasn’t sure was possible… Fight Club is a pretty great adaptation. I do love The Shining, despite the fact that it is so very different than the book. I think that’s what really makes it work though, as I will often get bored by the book or movie if I’ve already read/seen the other version of the story.

45) Most disappointing film adaptation?

Another difficult one as there are so many bad adaptations. How the Grinch Stole Christmas comes to mind. David Lunch’s Dune is more of an interesting failure than a disappointing one. I definitely want to call out Starship Troopers, as it’s one of the least faithful adaptations ever put to film. Regardless of what you may think of Heinlein’s right-wing novel (it’s not one of my favorites), the film completely changes the direction while keeping the basic structure in place. It’s a movie that has inexplicably enjoyed a sorta cult following since it bombed at the box office, and I will admit there is something compelling about the film, but in a bad way. Like watching a trainwreck.

46) The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

I can’t say as though I’ve really kept track. I don’t tend to buy a lot of books at once though, so I’m guessing it’s pretty low. Then again, there’s definitely been a holiday season or two when I’ve bought a lot of books as presents, probably going as high as $100…

47) How often do you skim a book before reading it?

It’s pretty rare, though I do like to see how much reading is left before the end of the chapter/section I’m currently reading. This is one thing that does annoy about ereaders, as it’s very difficult to do that sort of thing.

48) What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?

So the inverse of what I love is a good place to start: Dumb ideas, bad characters that I can’t engage with, bad storytelling or plotting. As I mentioned before, it’s pretty rare that I stop reading a book though. I can only think of a couple books I’ve not finished in the past few years.

49) Do you like to keep your books organized?

I have a loose system, but nothing particularly special. I know there are lots of folks who obsess over their bookshelves, but it’s not something I’ve ever really worried about.

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

I generally keep books, but I wouldn’t have a problem parting with a lot of them. I’m a bit of a packrat though, so I tend to keep stuff.

51) Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter has been on my shelf for a while now. I’m sure it’s something I’d enjoy, but it’s a really long book – 1000+ pages of very dense, complex prose – and I feel like it would kill the momentum I’ve built up this year in reading…

52) Name a book that made you angry.

I tend to avoid books I think will make me angry, but some non-fiction will make me angry, especially politics or detailing tragic situations in the real world, etc…

53) A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

Another tough question, as I don’t read a lot of books I don’t expect to like. I generally go into a book hoping to like it… That being said, I think I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness

54) A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

The aforementioned Foreigner, by C. J. Cherryh was the most recent and egregious example of this…

55) Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

I can’t say as though I’ve ever really felt guilty of reading something, though perhaps my recent reading of a couple of Christopher Farnsworth’s trashy Vampire spy novels kinda fit.

Well, there you have it. It was a long one, but fun. Feel free to berate me for my answers in the comments and have a happy Independence Day!