Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Meme

I saw this meme over at Bookworm Blues.

What's the most books you've ever read over a vacation?

Seems I’ve got a tie. Last February, I had a bit under two weeks of downtime, the result of an illness just before vacation. During this time, I read Steven Erikson’s The Bonehunters, ST Joshi’s HP Lovecraft: A Life, five hundred pages of various Lovecraft stories (reread), R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before (reread), Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Stephen King’s Carrie, and China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. As you’ve no doubt realized, I did nothing else during this break. Nothing. Well, to be fair, I think I saw a movie, one day, though I can’t remember what it was…

If we’re talking about on an actual vacation – IE, not me sitting in my room and tearing through book after book – I got to seven books when I was in Hawaii for two weeks in August. That time I did more than simply read, but two unseemly long plane rides helped my page count just a tad. The books were: Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, Steven Erikson’s Dust of Dreams, Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels, Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, and Dan Simmon’s The Terror.

What's the best book you've ever read on vacation? What made it great?

Hmm, I don’t think I ever have really had the book I’ve been reading and the place I was at blend together. As to simply my favorite book that I read away from home, I’d probably chose China Miéville’s The Scar.

Do you consider reading at the dinner table to be rude and exclusive, or a nice way to dip in and out of the conversation?

I don’t read at the dinner table out of a mortal fear of getting something on a book. I just eat really quickly and then leave so I can go back to reading. As a result of me not being able to read, however, I find it highly rude when other people to do so – think of the books, for god’s sake! They never asked to be touched with your sticky fingers!

Do you prefer music on when you read, or other background noise, or a profound silence?

I can block pretty much anything out when I read, but I vastly prefer silence. There seems little point in putting on music when I’m about to block it out. This preference has only been broken once, and that was when I first heard Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone album, which is a slab of incredibly immersive, Lovecraft-inspired distortion and doom metal. I don’t think I could’ve prevented myself from reading The Colour out of Space as I listened if I’d tried.

Do you have a book-related pet peeve?

If you damage my book, I would like to never speak to you again. Unfortunately, as all the people who’ve done this were for the most part blood relatives, I don’t have much choice and will have to rely on loud, exasperated sighs whenever I, the book, and the offending individual are all in the room with one another.

What do you do with books you've purchased/were given but didn't enjoy?

I collect books, so, unless the book was bad to the point of actually painful, I’ll just keep it anyway.

Name three authors that have influenced or changed your reading selections.

Robert Jordan: I can’t say that Robert Jordan made me love reading, because he came too late in my reading career for that. I can say, though, that The Wheel of Time focused me as a reader and gave me my love of fantasy. Before the Wheel of Time, I don’t think I really had any defined tastes of my own and, as a result of never growing familiar enough with any one style, I don’t think I was a particularly discerning reader either.

H.P. Lovecraft (and Thomas Ligotti): Lovecraft fiction was a revelation to me, both on an aesthetic and a personal level. Reading the works of Lovecraft and, later, Thomas Ligotti is an almost religious experience because both of those authors have taken thoughts that I’ve had and articulated them so well that I could do nothing but nod and say yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. To be totally honest, the degree that I identify with a man who died broke and, by all objective measures, a failure is sort of worrysome.

(I want to point out that I do not agree with all, or even a majority of, Lovecraft’s views. His ideas of cosmicism is, in my opinion, brilliant in both its content and in the way that he expresses that view in his stories. Other aspects, like his racism, are things that I in no way condone or empathize with.)

George RR Martin: If I was to point at one book and say that is why I love reading, it would be George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Ever since reading it, the ultimate goal of my own writing has changed. If I can make a single person feel as I do every time I read those books, I’ll call my life a success even if I die in a gutter somewhere.

(If there was space here for a fourth…or, er, fifth…I’d go with Jeff VanderMeer)

All your books disappear mysteriously overnight, but insurance pays up for them - with which authors/particular books do you begin replacing them? Are there any that you would like to exempt from this hypothetical example as the copy itself is too precious to lose?

I'd replace my Martin, VanderMeer, Lovecraft, Ligotti, and Reynolds first. In part because those are some of the few books that manage to fit on my one bookcase, so I could at least pretend I have something, with those there. Though I'd miss the hundred or two books on my couch and floor.

My Brandon Sanderson books are all signed, and I’d prefer to not lose them. My A Song of Ice and Fire novels are beaten to hell and back (I’ve read them twice, my sister’s working on them as well) and, though I do plan to someday acquire a hardcover set, I would like to keep these volumes as a memento long after they’re wholly trashed. My volume of Lovecraft’s fiction, with little marks in the table of contents for each time I read a story (I’ve done The Colour out of Space and The Outsider a half dozen times each in the two years that I’ve had the volume) is something worth far more to me than the dollar ammount. Finally, my collection of Ligotti’s work – burgeoning as it is – is precious to me. Ligotti’s work is
rare and, though I suppose this fictional insurance company would provide me with equally nice copies, the satisfaction of slowly building up a set is a satisfaction all its own.

Is there an author whose book recommendations, even short blurb-acclaim on the cover, will persuade you to read it?

I can think of authors whose recommendation would certainly intrigue me, but I can’t think of a single author for whom I’d read any book, no matter how unappealing it looked to me. I’ll give anything with a recommendation from Martin, Gaiman, Rothfuss, or VanderMeer a closer look, though, and it’s not even a slight exaggeration to say that my classic horror reading is derived entirely from Lovecraft’s Supernatural in Literature.


  1. You have some delicious books listed here. I've never read a lot of the authors you've read. For example, Stephen King, Phillip K. Dick, Joe Hill, Jeff VanderMeer... just reading this bulked my "To Be Read" pile astronomically.

    As for keeping tattered books, I do the same thing. The MIsts of Avalon is a book I keep more because of it's a momento, like you mentioned above. The cover is tattered, I've written notes all over inside from some school project in high school.... I haven't re-read it in years. I have a feeling if I did I'd be far less thrilled about it than I remember being but it's the book that kind of started me into fantasy! I have to keep it! It's tattered and torn cover and etc is just proof of how important it was to me at one point.

    Funny how stuff like that is kind of like a badge of honor with certain books.

    As for getting hard covers of Malazan, I plan on doing that, too. I have the small paperbacks right now. I really want either the larger paperbacks or hard covers for that series.

  2. "To be totally honest, the degree that I identify with a man who died broke and, by all objective measures, a failure is sort of worrysome"

    Hehehe, for what it's worth, I believe in ya

  3. Awesome, Sarah, glad I gave you some more books to read. My list is sort of scary at the moment, but I guess that's got to be a good thing. I think the whole blogging thing has been the worst thing that's ever happened to my wallet. Every blog I go to (and yours certainly isn't an exception) I find myself wanting to buy three more hardbacks.