A series of questions developed by the folks over at The Millions, designed to encourage deep and interesting conversations about books. However, be warned, these questions might make you fall in love with the reader.
Here, I endeavor to answer all the question as well as I possibly can. While reading the answers, please don’t fall in love with me.
1. What was your favorite book as a child?
I always had a hard time choosing a favourite book when I was younger, they took up space in my brain and on my floor, demanding to be my favourite. I just liked to read, and as we didn’t have a TV there wasn’t much else to do. I do remember loving the Little House on the Prairie series and Narnia. They made me want to live in the olden days. Then I got my period and never wished for the olden days again. Tampons trump all nostalgic inclinations.
2. What’s the last really good book you read?
Every book I finish reading is a good one. I don’t bother finishing if I’m not interested. So, the one I finished last night was The Penultimate Peril. But by the time I finish this quiz, it’ll be something different
3. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
Fiction. For the escape.
4. Do you finish every book that you start? If you don’t, how do you decide when to stop reading?
No. I’m a book slut. There are too many other good books I’d rather be reading. I never decide, it just happens – like a burnt out love affair.
5. List your 10 favorite books in four minutes or less. Write it down because you’ll revisit it at the end.
I realize this is more than ten. But alas, never expect just ten from a vicarious reader.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lover’s Dictionary – David Levithan
How to be Both – Ali Smith
The Narnia Series – C.S. Lewis
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugeinides
The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
Looking for Alaska – John Green
Women in Clothes – Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton
A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket
6. Do you reread books? Which ones?
Yes. I love rereading. I pick up more and figure out all the secrets. All my favorites I reread. If I don’t reread it, it wasn’t very good.
7. Do you read poetry? Why or why not?
Yes. Sometimes I like it, and I will remember a line for days after. Other times I read poetry because I think I should. It’s a lot harder to read than prose.
8. Do you remember the first “grown-up” book you read?
I don’t remember, but I do remember being in a weird limbo stage, when I was too young for kids books, and adult books confused me. Maybe it was Girl with a Pearl Earring.
9. Are there any authors whose work you have read completely?
I sometimes think I have, then come across an article or a short story they write, and realize I’ll never catch up.
10. How often do you read books that are more than 100 years old?
Not often: I suffer from “The Classics Guilt.”
11. Is there a type (or types) of book you never read?
12. How do you choose what to read?
Once I turn the last page, read the final line, and close the book I will wallow for a few days, moping around because I miss the old book. I will usually begin three or so and discard them after a few chapter before I find something I actually commit to.
13. What’s more important to you: the way a book is written, or what the book is about?
One who writes in a way that manages to make the mundane magical is better than one who makes the magical mundane.
14. What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with?
I do not fancy dining with dead writers, so I would invite Donna Tartt to dinner. But I doubt she would come.
15. If you could hang out with a literary character for the day, who would it be?
16. If you could be a literary character, who would it be?
Luna Lovegood. Or Hermione Granger. All of my favourite characters have horrible lives and a lot of them die.
17. Have you ever written a fan letter to an author?
Yes. I wrote once to J.K. Rowling, and received an owl post in return. I also wrote the Queen a birthday letter, insisted on calling her Elizabeth and drawing her a pink castle. I was never one for formalities.
18. Is there any book that, if I professed to love it, you would be turned off? Is there any book that would impress you in particular?
Probably something rubbish like 50 Shades. That would make me suspicious. I also find it hard to take people seriously if they say they like Girl Online or Dickens.
19. Is there a book you feel embarrassed about liking?
There are some who try to shame me for reading children’s books. I just smile quietly and think about how empty their lives must be.
20. Are there books you feel proud of liking or having finished?
The Luminaries was hard, confusing and rough. I thought if I finished and liked it my cultural capital would increase. I was right. At the end of 2013, you were a new kind of special if you had read it. Especially if it was before she won the Booker. But I actually did like it. Methinks it’s time for a reread.
21. Have you ever lied about having read a book?
Yes. All the time in high school. I liked reading, but in my own time. I always finished them eventually. And made sure I was clued up on everything that happened. It took me years before I actually read the middle section of Jane Eyre – St John is just so boring.
22. Do you keep track of the books you read?
My overflowing bedside table and floor is a good indicator of my recent reads. So is my commonplace book and goodreads.
23. How do you form opinions about what you read?
They just arrive in my head.
24. What authors do you think are overrated? Underrated?
Sometimes I feel like classics are only classics because they are old and what people ‘should’ read to be considered a well-read intellectual.
25. Do you ever read self-help books?
Rarely. But sometimes. I did more when I was an angsty teen.
26. What’s a book that shocked you?
We Were Liars. And The Magicians shocked me with how terrible it was.
27. If you could force every person you know to read one book, what would it be?
The Secret History. But at the same time I wish they wouldn’t because they will never know or understand how I feel about it. They think they will, but they won’t.
28. What book would you recommend to me in particular?
Depends on who is asking.
29. What books/authors have you been meaning to read for years? Why haven’t you read them yet?
The rest of Jane Austen’s books. Zadie Smith. Alain de Botton. There’s always another more exciting and engaging book luring me away.
30. What kind of book do you consider “a guilty pleasure?”
Children’s series rereads: Potter, Narnia, Unfortunate Events, His Dark Materials. But I never feel guilty reading them. They are my comfort books.
31. Has a book ever changed your mind about something?
Reading Chaucer in my first year of University nearly turned me away from Literature forever. Fuck you Chaucer.
32. If you were terminally ill, what book or books would you read?
Not The Fault in our Stars. Probably Harry Potter. And the Bible. But only the nice parts.
33. Do you have any passages of poetry or prose committed to memory? Can you recite something to me?
I wish I could recite more and be badass like Donna Tartt. I’m working on Prufrock. And I can do the witches spell from Macbeth if I’m in a good mood.
34. If you could change anything about the way you read, what would it be?
More. With care. And with more notes in the margins.
35. Was there any time in your life when you felt as if a book guided you in a profound way?
I feel like all the books that I ever read guide me. Even if I don’t know how. They change my thoughts, my actions, my words.
36. Return to the list you made at the beginning. What titles, if any, would you change after our conversation?
I wish I could add more.
Image by Molly Dektar.