Sunday, March 21, 2004

Yet Another Book Post

I've seen this meme a couple of places now and figured, hey, what the heck.

(Hmm, is it just me, or do I seem to be writing about books a lot more often now that I've pretty much entirely quit watching TV (except for the DVDs)?)

1. I'm currently reading: Pole to Pole with Michael Palin.

2. Next I'll read: Good question. I've got book 2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on its way from Amazon. If it gets here before I finish Pole to Pole, I might read that next. Otherwise, probably the next Lemony Snicket book. Uh, I think that'd be The Austere Academy.

3. The best book I read in the past year was: Hang on while I consult my Big List O' Books... Hmm. There are a couple of contenders, but without expending too much thought on the matter, I think I'm going to have to go with The Complete Maus, which I read just a few weeks ago. Oh, talk about books that make you ache (and, yes, because they're supposed to).

4. The book I'm most looking forward to reading is: Dunno. I've got probably about a hundred books on the Pile about which I've recently thought, "Ooh, man, I really need to get to that one soon!"

5. My favourite author is: Every time I'm asked this question, I give the same response: I really can't pick one, but if you're going to force me to give an answer, I'll say Terry Pratchett, because his book are unquestionably buy-on-sight for me.

6. My favourite book from childhood is: Oh, there were so many of them! Of course, I suppose the answer to the question depends on whether you mean my favorite book when I was a child, or the book I read as a child that's still my favorite. The former seems easier to answer, but it's still impossible to pick just one. There were the Oz books, the Narnia books, Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, anything by E. Nesbit or William Sleator... Oh, hell, if I have to name one, I guess it's gotta be A Wrinkle in Time. I read that one over and over and over.

7. My favourite book from when I was a teenager is: Man, that one's even harder, and I think I'll have to take a pass. Well, OK, maybe I'll say Lord of the Rings, just to say something. I read that when I was 17, I think.

8. The first western I read was: I'm not sure I've ever read an actual genre Western. I'm quite fond of Mike Resnik's "inner frontier" books, which are pretty much unabashed Westerns in space, but that's not quite the same thing. Oh, wait, I know. I remember one of the very first Choose-Your-Own Adventure books I ever read was a Western. Deadwood, or something like that. Man, I was addicted to those things as a kid...

9. The first romance I read was: Again, I don't know that I've ever read anything that was specifically labeled as a "romance." I've read lots of books that had romances in them, and a few in which it was a major element of the story, but genre romance? Not so much. Well, maybe I read one or two teenage romances when I was just barely into my own teens. I know I read a lot of Judy Blume; maybe some of those qualified.

10. The first mystery I read was: Don't know, but I remember reading several Ellen Raskin books, which were mysteries of an offbeat sort. Oh, and a lot of Encyclopedia Brown books before that. (Geez, how is it I'm supposed to remember the first instance I read of this or that when I started reading at an earlier age than I can remember?!)

11. The first coming-of-age story I read was: I dunno. Maybe one of those Judy Blume books.

12. The first "ethnic" writer I read was: OK, see, here's the other problem with all these "'first book of type x' questions." It wasn't until I was, oh, ten or eleven or so that I ever even starting thinking about books in terms of genres, and by that point I'd probably already read hundreds of books. I just didn't classify what I was reading as "mystery" or "western" or "coming of age story," and I certainly didn't have any conception of what an "ethnic writer" might be. But, let's see... Do the "Uncle Remus" stories count? I remember reading those fairly young.

13. The first science-fiction/fantasy book I read was: The usual objections to the question apply here in spades, because I think I was reading science fiction and fantasy as soon as I could make out words on paper. I seem to remember answering this question here before, though, and mentioning a book called The Boy from Outer Space, which was about, uh, a boy from outer space, on whose planet fun consisted of sitting quietly and thinking and watching grass grow. The Earth boy had to teach him about how Earth kids have fun playing baseball and stuff. Me, I remember wistfully wishing I could go to the spaceboy's planet, because I was a serious little kid who loved sitting and thinking about things and hated being told I should go out and play, particularly things like baseball. On the fantasy front, I have vivid early memories of a book called The Adventures of Calico Cotton, about a girl who flies to a holiday-themed fantasy realm on the tail of a kite. My parents bought it for me at a garage sale, and I have a vague memory of them talking among themselves about how it seemed like too advanced a book for me, but that someone (a doctor? a counselor?) had told them they should encourage me to read at as high a level as I could. It was a little advanced for me, maybe, but I read it over and over and loved it, so, whoever you are, Mr./Ms. Advice-Giving-Person, thank you!

14. I wish I spent more time reading: Yes.

15. The book I think was the greatest waste of my time to read was: Battlefield Earth. Wasn't I just ranting about that recently?

16. The person who most encouraged me to read was: The answer to #13 aside, I don't know that anybody specifically encouraged me to read. Hell, I never needed any encouragement! But my family, at least on my mother's side, were all readers and liked to trade copies of the latest bestsellers back and forth (and, for that matter, still do). My mother could often be found buried in a book, there were always books in the house, and I remember her taking me for trips to the public library when I was still young enough for picture books. So it was definitely a reading-friendly environment. Mostly, though, I think the biggest encouragement she gave me was reading to me as a child. A lot, apparently.

17. The book I'm embarrassed to admit I liked is: Oh, possibly Interview with the Vampire. The prose is incredibly purple, and objectively, I just really don't think it's a very good book, but I enjoyed the heck out of it, anyway. The sequels, however, are another matter. I had to suppress a strong urge to hurl Queen of the Damned against a wall.

18. I think people could be encouraged to read through: Personally, I do think reading to kids is the best way to get them into reading. Other than that... Well, I can tell you what I think the wrong way to encourage kids to read is, and that's the way that it's done in the public schools: assign them "classic" books that don't hold any personal interest for them, quiz them to make sure they've read 'em, and then lecture 'em for hours on the hidden symbology or whatever. Surefire way to take all the pleasure out of the experience and make reading seem like work, or even punishment, rather than fun.

19. My current favourite genre is: Well, I've always been a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, since long before I knew what science fiction and fantasy even were, and that's certainly never going to change. I also read a lot of non-fiction, although I have noticed the kinds of non-fiction (or at least, the proportions) changing as I get older. These days, I'm reading fewer science popularizations and more travel books. I have no idea what significance that might have.

20. The one book that I'd recommend to almost anyone is: I don't know that there's one book that's suitable for everyone. I mean, people's tastes vary a lot. But I'm tempted to say Alan Moore's Watchmen. People who think they don't like comic books ought to read it, because it's almost guaranteed to change their minds. People who do think they like comic books, of course, have probably already read it.

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