This, too, started as a BookLikes meme.
1. What book is on your nightstand now?
C.S. Lewis: Signature Classics (Mere Christianity / The Screwtape Letters / The Great Divorce / The Problem of Pain / Miracles / A Grief Observed / The Abolition of Man) — the book that I currently dip in in between my other reads.
2. What was the last truly great book that you read?
At the time of first creating this post: Dennis Lehane: Gone, Baby, Gone. No. 4 of the Kenzie & Gennaro series, and boy had he reached his full stride by that point. No book in the series is bad (in fact, even the very first one, A Drink Before the War, is amazingly good for a first novel and deserved every award that it won), but Gone, Baby, Gone absolutely knocked me off my socks.
3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?
William Shakespeare (obviously, if you know anything about me at all). I think I’d just want to hang out with him and shoot the breeze, though. I have a feeling he’d be part annoyed, part supremely amused with all the cult surrounding him and his works these days, and the last thing I’d want to do would be to feed into that. Once we’d hung out together for a while, I suspect the conversation would shift towards literature and the theatre quite naturally anyway, and I’d be happy to then take it wherever would seem most natural.
4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Hmm. Again, depending how well you know me, possibly the first volumes of Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles. I’m absolutely disgusted with the way she’s been behaving towards anyone who doesn’t bow down before her in abject admiration in recent years, but I did actually like her early Lestat novels and also, in particular, Cry to Heaven. I just think she’s a clear case of success having completely screwed up a writer’s mind. In terms of her books, the Vampire Chronicles jumped the shark for me once and for all with Memnoch, the Devil. I haven’t touched any of her books since then, and I sure as hell won’t anymore now that she’s turned full-fledged bully.
5. How do you organize your personal library?
By genre and country of origin / language, and within those categories, essentially alphabetically; also including, however, a few subcategory shelves for authors or series that I particularly treasure.
6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrased never to have read?
With a TBR consisting of almost 3,000 books, are you kidding me? There are plenty of books I’d still love to read — and plenty, too, that I’ve always wanted to get around to but just haven’t yet. And no, I’m not embarrassed about a single one of them, either …
7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
Disappointing and overrated: Philippa Gregory: The Other Boleyn Girl. It was the first book by Gregory that I read, and given my interest in everything Tudor, and in Anne Boleyn in particular, it should have been a dead-on match. Instead, I’ve found it badly researched, clichéd, sensationalist, and just plain sickening. I’ve steered clear of Gregory’s writing ever since.
DNF: My last major DNFs were (not as individual books, but as series), A Song of Ice and Fire (annoingly wordy, derivative world-building, clichéd, loads of characters too stupid to live, and just generally seriously underwhelming), Fifty Shades of Grey (awful writing and sick beyond belief) and Twilight (equally awfully written and, again, there’s something truly sick to telling teenage / YA readers that it’s not merely OK but even desirable to have to fear the guy you love).
8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?
I’m drawn to the literary classics (novels, plays, poetry, you name it), historical fiction and nonfiction (including biographies and memoirs), any- and everything international, mysteries and crime fiction, adventure stories (again, both fiction and nonfiction), art, archeology, nature, cooking, music, and politics.
I read very little horror, absolutely no slasher stories and, at the other end of the spectrum, also virtually no chick-lit and romance novels (or indeed anything arguably qualifying as cute and fluffy).
9. If you could require the president to read one particular book, what would it be?
The book that’ll probably be found lying next to me when I die will be William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, though as a matter of principle, I’m an advocate of people’s reading as widely and variedly as possible — hominem unius libri timeo and all that.
However, what with the turn world politics have been taking in the recent couple of months, I have a growing feeling that our precious world is in danger of going to hell in a handbasket really fast, so right about now, the books that I’d like to shove in just about all our dear leaders’ respective faces are George Orwell‘s 1984, Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451, a hefty dose of books about Stalin, Hitler, and the “Third Reich” (both fiction and nonfiction) — as well as a copy of the Qu’ran.
10. What do you plan to read next?
My answer at the time of first creating this post:
Hmmm. I just whipped through the first couple of books in Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie & Gennaro series in (for me) practically no time at all, but I think I’ll leave the last one for later, take a small break from Lehane’s writing (great though it is), go for a change of pace and start Salman Rushdie‘s Joseph Anton. Kind of also feels also like the right book to start on the day when Germany’s Austrian neighbors look all poised to elect yet another right-wing, nationalist and populist head of state … however hard I personally may be praying that this isn’t actually going to happen. (ETA: They didn’t, so my prayers came true. Thank God!!)