A-Z of Books

As shamelessly stolen from Thana Niveau.

 

AUTHOR YOU’VE READ THE MOST BOOKS BY- A quick glance at my bookshelf suggests this title goes to Stephen King, followed by China Mieville, Margaret Atwood and Tove Jansson all pretty much tied. I started reading Stephen King aged about 11 so it’s not really a surprise.

BEST SEQUEL EVER – ‘The Year of the Flood’, by Margaret Atwood. I know she doesn’t care a great deal for the ‘sci-fi’ label – more’s the pity – but I’m always impressed by how weirdly plausible Atwood’s corporate-slogan, hellishly commercialised vision of the future actually is, and how hilarious the book can be whilst simultaneously revealing this horrific vision.

CURRENTLY READING – ‘The Crashers’ by Magen Cubed – unwilling superheroes talk about their feelings and try to bring down a domestic terrorist. And I’ve just started ‘The Lie Tree’ by Francis Hardinge, which has been on my to-read list for a very long time.

DRINK OF CHOICE WHILE READING – Only a nice cup of tea will do.

E-READER OR PHYSICAL BOOK – There was a time when I would have decried e-books as a great evil and I want to go back in time and punch myself in the face for my snobbishness. E-books are an incredible gift to those of us living in small spaces, without easy access to a library, for people with mobility issues for whom bookshops are hard to navigate, those of us who can’t afford £7 a pop for a single paperback. I still love physical books best of all, but my Kindle has been an absolute godsend.

FICTIONAL CHARACTER YOU WOULD HAVE DATED IN HIGH SCHOOL – I had to think very hard about this as I was a very particular type of outcast weirdo introvert at secondary school. And, thinking about it, it would probably be Miriam Black from Chuck Wendig’s ‘Blackbirds’ series, because she’s as sharp and dour as I was. Only Miriam is a hundred times cooler.

GLAD YOU GAVE THIS BOOK A CHANCE – ‘Two Caravans’ by Marina Lewycka. A funny, touching and very clever story of a group of immigrants working and living on a farm in Kent. Not my usual read, but I really liked it.

HIDDEN GEM BOOK – ‘Dark Matter’ by Michelle Paver. Picked it up off the shelf for no better reason than I liked the cover. It’s gone on to be a firm favourite.

IMPORTANT MOMENT IN YOUR READING LIFE – Picking up a copy of James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ at my nan’s house, aged 10, and realising I liked reading scary stories.

JUST FINISHED – ‘The Loney’ by Andrew Michael Hurley. Another one I took a shamefully long time to read. Almost unbearably atmospheric, like a painting crafted with words – you can feel the sting of sea air and the oppressive drizzle. And ‘Bodies of Water’ by V.H. Leslie, which I described on Facebook as ‘genuinely chilling and evocative, surprisingly emotional, subtle but powerful in its commentary about womanhood.’ It’s very, very good.

KIND OF BOOKS YOU WON’T READ – There aren’t any specific types of book I ‘won’t’ read, although there are books I don’t seek out. So-called ‘chick lit’ (I loathe that title – it implies that stories by or about women are by default fluffy and insubstantial when, in reality, it’s a very specific subset of stories about/by women.) I don’t tend to read much hard sf or high fantasy. But honestly, I’ll give anything a try if someone I respect tells me to read something.

LONGEST BOOK YOU’VE READ – I’m not sure, but the unabridged edition of ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King has got to be up there.

MAJOR BOOK HANGOVER – I couldn’t stop thinking about Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ for months after I read it the first time, in my first year of university. The Tiger’s Bride and The Company Of Wolves in particular warranted re-read after re-read.

NUMBER OF BOOKCASES YOU OWN – I’ve just moved into a new house, so I currently only have one. There are piles of books all over the floor right now.

ONE BOOK YOU’VE READ MULTIPLE TIMES – ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams. I actually bought a new edition of this recently as my old copy has all but disintegrated. I never get tired of this book – the rich mythology, the clever linguistics and the soaring epic-ness of it all.

PREFERRED PLACE TO READ – I can read anywhere there’s a seat, and often standing. One of the nicest places I’ve ever had the chance to read was a bench by a canal in Bruges. June sunshine, the shade of the trees and the water trickling by.

QUOTE THAT INSPIRES YOU FROM A BOOK YOU’VE READ – From ‘Moominland Midwinter’, by Tove Jansson:

“There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.”

I knew, after finishing this book, that I wanted to write about the night animals.

 

READING REGRET – that out of sheer bloody-minded rebellion I refused to read any of the books my English teacher recommended until I reached university. Just the thought that I might have had a head-start on reading Angela Carter makes me want to shake 15-year-old me firmly by the shoulders.

SERIES YOU STARTED AND NEED TO FINISH – Actually, there aren’t any right now! I tend to devour series in one go. Unless you count the ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’ books, which is really down to GRRM and not me…

THREE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BOOKS –

‘Moominland Midwinter’ by Tove Jansson.  Yes, yes, it’s a book for kids, but it’s also not for kids at all. It’s a beautiful, sensitive, dark tale of loneliness, of not fitting in, of anxiety and fear and pushing through those things until you emerge, not quite the same as you were before, but a little braver.

(Edit: someone rightly pointed out that I had only put one of my favourite books here. Evidently I got far too excited about the Moomins!)

‘The End Of The Affair’ by Graham Greene. What’s interesting about this book is that I found neither the protagonist nor his lover especially likeable – much like Pinky in Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’, I found myself drawn to his story all the same.

‘The Scar’ by China Mieville. The sheer scale of his imagination is baffling and amazing; the Bas-Lag books are masterpieces in worldbuilding. This book is about a pirate city which sails the seas of Bas-Lag, cannibalising passing ships to expand itself. It’s also about the lust for power, the secrets people keep, and, fundamentally, about how little we can really ever know about anything at all.

UNAPOLOGETIC FANGIRL FOR – Resisting the urge to say ‘the Moomin books’, so instead I will say the comic book series More Than Meets The Eye, written by James Roberts. If you’d have told me two years ago that I would be heavily emotionally invested in, and actively foaming at the mouth for each installment of a Transformers comic, I would have laughed you out of the room. And yet, here I am…

VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS RELEASE – Justin Cronin’s ‘The City of Mirrors’ – the follow-up to ‘The Passage’ and ‘The Twelve’. (And actually, here’s a series I haven’t yet completed!)

WORST BOOKISH HABIT – Buying books for cheap and letting them pile up in the corner, unread because I have more books than time.

X MARKS THE SPOT: START ON THE TOP LEFT OF YOUR SHELF AND PICK THE 27TH BOOK – ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris

YOUR LATEST PURCHASE – I just bought ‘The Vegetarian’ by Han Kang on strong recommendation from a writer I respect very much

ZZZZ-SNATCHER BOOK (LAST BOOK THAT KEPT YOU UP WAY TOO LATE) – I started reading Berit Ellingsen’s collection at 11.30pm, intending to read just the one story before bed. I ended up devouring the entire thing, then going back to re-read stories that had struck me as especially good.