Friday, May 28, 2010

A Books and Reading Meme

Via Norm Geras, I present a meme about books and reading:

Do you snack while reading? >Mostly not. Should I?

What is your favourite drink while reading? > Coffee or something else caffeinated -- as I am a narcoleptic-American, I have to find ways to fend off sleep. You'd think the act of reading would keep me awake, but it is sadly not so, and while we're on it, this blog post does not pay you to think.

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? >It doesn't horrify me. I do it when it seems like a good idea, e.g., if I plan to quote the passage later.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat? > Always, always a bookmark, even if it has to be a miscellaneous scrap of paper or a fallen leaf. The dog-ear thing has never worked for me -- I end up with multiple dog-ears and a lot of sad-looking pages, or, depending on the kind of paper, I cannot find the dog-ear. I lay a hex upon all those who lay books open flat, that their fingernails shall turn a girlish shade of pink (applies to straight guys), that their ears shall remain forever shut to the sounds of Barbara Streisand (applies to gay men and middle-aged women), and for the rest, that they shall always experience a slight but persistent pee-ammonia smell. Void where prohibited. Hex not valid.

Fiction, non-fiction or both? > Mostly non-fiction, though I do try to locate and read fiction that brings the high-value heft. I read for insight, edification, knowledge, etc., and almost never for pleasure. (See favorite drink-while-reading answer above.)

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere? >I can stop anywhere, though I do try to make it all the way to the end of the current sentence. This works better for some books than for others.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you? >No; when I read something irritating, that's the chance to write another scintillating blog post. I do throw the book across the room if the cat irritates me, assuming the cat is across the room.

What are you currently reading? >I am in the middle of a few: Richard Dawkins's latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, which I've had lying bookmarked for weeks. I'm not sure I'm allowed to say this in this section of the internets, but this is not among his better books. Jerry Coyne's book on the same subject, Why Evolution Is True, was a livelier read, as or more convincing, less bogged down in arcana. I am also reading -- well, reading through -- a lovingly dog-eared copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage, which a sucker nice fellow traded me straight up for a copy of Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue, which was both entertaining and packed with errors.

I realize it makes me sound like some kind of pretentious tool -- welcome to my precious, precious blog! -- but I am never not reading my ancient, lovingly tattered copies of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, Montaigne's Essays, Emerson's Essays, Walden, Moby Dick, Paradise Lost, a Voltaire collection, miscellaneous Shakespeare plays, the Binet's Reader's Encyclopedia I received as a high school graduation gift, and a poetry anthology that had already had its entire cover except the spine worn away by the time my mom handed it off to me back in the 1450s. These books are more or less parts of my body by now -- a characterization that includes my fair-to-middling understanding of them, but excludes the idea that I should be buried with them since I hope to hand them all off to my son one day.

What is the last book you bought? >This simple question has a surprisingly complex answer, so settle in: the books I most recently purchased were a technical book for work (yawn) along with a couple of books for my son, one of which was The Old Man and the Sea. That answer is lame, so the answer I think it's going for -- the answer to "what is the last book you bought for your own free reading" -- is the collection of William Gay stories, I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down, but I actually bought that after I had read a library copy.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read? >While I commute on the train. It's not only convenient, but a book (or magazine) is part of the basic kit for minimizing interactions with scary street urchins.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones? >Stand-alones.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over? >Yep. I'm kind of a broken record.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away? >If I have even the slightest suspicion that the word is going to be used frequently in the text, always. Otherwise, it's a goal that I mostly achieve.

How do you organize your books (by genre, title, author's last name, etc.)? >Currently, the fiction is kept apart from the non-fiction and is organized roughly by author. The non-fiction is grouped by subject matter. Within subject matter, the books are lined up according to book size.

Background noise or silence? >Noise is fine, though if I am reading something especially difficult, the noise should be without any speaking or singing. I find people on the commuter train never tire of being shushed when I come across a difficult passage.

So ends the meme. I don't do the tag thing; if you like this meme and want to participate in it on your own blog or blog-like thingy, please consider this your invitation. And as always, feel free to comment on this post with any japes, slights, mockery, vitriol, nit-picking, or -- if you must -- agreement.

The image above is from the Flickr stream of babblingdweeb, found by use of Flickr's helpful advanced search, which permits narrowing search results to Creative Commons-licensed items.

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