My Reading Habits

Book Journal

I found a list of reading-related questions floating about the internet and took time to answer them, mostly because it gave me an excuse to blabber about books and reading. I think there were 50 questions to begin with, but I left out a few, and some of the remaining ones I combined or mangled otherwise. Here is what I scraped together…

Favourite childhood book?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I found the story to be thrillingly exciting and it was quite unlike anything that I had ever heard before. My father read the book to me when I was very young and could not read by myself yet, and when I caught on the secret of reading, a copy of The Hobbit became the first book my father gave me that was to be exclusively mine, my own, my precious… Ahem, do excuse me. Before that, all my books were more or less shared with my sisters, but this was the first book I could truly call my own. It was a beautiful beginning for obsessive book collecting that will surely last a lifetime.

What are you reading right now?

Book Two of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch.

What books do you have on request / checked out at the library?

None, at the moment. This is because I’m determined to read through all those ~290 books I own and haven’t read yet (or wish to read again) before turning to the library for something new to read.

Do you have an e-reader?

Nope. I have a smartphone, but I haven’t been using it to read books. I guess e-readers can be useful at times, but I am old-fashioned and prefer to read my books in book format.

Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

Lately I have been concentrating on one book at a time. In the past, though, I have been reading multiple books at once, switching between them depending on what mood I happened to be on. I liked this way of reading, but found that too often it resulted in some books remaining unfinished for ages, sometimes for so long I had to start reading them from the first page again because I had forgotten most of what I had already read.

Can you read on the bus?

No. I just get nauseous.

Favourite place to read?

At home, on a comfortable chair or a sofa.

What is your policy on book lending?

I very rarely lend books to anyone, as I fear they might return to me in a worse condition or not return at all. I might consider letting a trusted friend borrow a book of mine if the specific copy of a book is not that important to me, and possible damage to the book or the chance of not ever getting the copy back do not feel too overbearing at the moment.

What is your favourite language to read in?

Finnish and English. Which happen to be the only languages I speak, anyway.

Favourite genre?

I’m not certain I even have one. I’ve grown up reading a lot of fantasy, but I’ve always read books from very different genres besides just that. I guess it could be said that I’m a very omnivorous reader.

Genre you rarely read?

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that qualifies as chick lit. Paranormal romance isn’t interesting in my opinion, either. Come to think of it, I tend to avoid romance novels in general — the book must have some other qualifications besides just being a romance novel in order to appear interesting for me.

If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

ALL OF THEM.

What will inspire you to recommend a book?

Selfish reasons! When I’ve become very excited about a book, I want to be able to share opinions about it with someone. If no-one I know has read the book, I subtly try to convince them to read it, so I’ll have someone to discuss with. (Okay, I also try to recommend books to people that I hope would genuinely enjoy reading the books. I’m not yet so advanced in the Deeds of Evil as to recommend books to people thinking “Ha! I know you’ll hate this, but read it anyway!”)

Favourite Poet?

I love the poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Auditory distractions, be it music, speech or just general ruckus. I’m really bad at focusing on anything when there are noises on the background at the same time.

Do you like to keep your books organised?

OH YES. I love to organise things neatly, and books are one of my favourite things to organise. For the past few years, two different methods of organising have been in use among the books in our residence. Fiction used to be, until very recently, alphabetically organised (based on last name of the author), with all the possible genres and time periods mixed happily together. This was quite a functional way to organise the books, but it had a flaw — namely, it began to feel boring after a few years. So, I went and re-organised the whole thing.

Now there are four main groups in our fiction shelf: fantasy, children’s and young adult’s books, poetry/plays and a mysterious, ambiguous group of miscellaneous fiction that holds everything else that doesn’t fit into the other groups. All the other groups are still simply organised alphabetically as they were before, but among the mysterious “miscellaneous fiction” group things are a bit different: besides being organised alphabetically, the books are also organised by time period — books originally published in the 19th century and earlier are sorted separately. We shall see if this works out…

The non-fiction, which has a whole big bookshelf of its own, has been sorted by subjects, but most importantly by colour. This bookshelf is managed my wife, since I find the system a bit difficult, aesthetically pleasing as it may be.

Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

I keep the books that I liked, and the ones I didn’t I carry to some second-hand bookshop.

A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

Now, this might be a surprise for those who know what these books mean to me, but the answer that first came to my mind is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. When the first books of the series were translated into Finnish I heard about them a lot from various different sources. Everyone said they were brilliant. I heard many of the awful children who went to the same school with me call them that, too, and felt that if they liked the books, the books must be just as horrible as the kids themselves were. I really, really didn’t expect to like them. But when my father brought me a copy of the Finnish translation of the Chamber of Secrets, I thought I might read it anyway.

I was not prepared AT ALL. The story cast a spell on me like no other story had done for a long, long time. It feels difficult, for some reason, to put that experience into words. I was so blown away. Harry became the friend I needed, and Hogwarts became like a home.

And the magic seeped through into the real world, too. Suddenly, I had real friends with whom I spoke frequently on the internet, and we met each other often in real life as well. We spent nights queued in front of a bookshop for each new book, dressed up in costumes and causing puzzlement to the passing muggles. Suddenly, I had a place where I felt I belonged to.

Harry’s companionship helped me through some very dark times, and these books have had a huge influence on my life. I’m so glad I ignored my first impression of the series and decided to read them anyway.

A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. Someone who often shared my tastes recommended it to me, and I found the title intriguing. It turned out, however, that there is just something about Coelho’s books that I cannot stand. I found the main character annoying and unrelatable, and I think the Grand Wisdoms of Life the book generously spewed out were little else than self-evident platitudes. Oh for kitten puke’s sake! I don’t know why, but I did read another one of Coelho’s books (The Witch of Portobello) later on, when someone kept insisting it was really good, but my opinion did not change. After that, I’ve been determined to avoid these like a plague.

Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett. They are delightful, witty and often hiding surprisingly deep and serious themes underneath all those layers of clever humour. I don’t feel guilty at all for reading these over and over again. Also, it must be said: this series offers much better life advice than anything I’ve ever come across on Coelho’s works (limited as my experience on that field admittedly may be). Consider this, for example:

“It had taken many years under the tutelage of Granny Weatherwax for Magrat to learn that the common kitchen breadknife was better than the most ornate of magical knives. It could do all that the magical knife could do, plus you could also use it to cut bread.”

Terry Pratchett: Witches Abroad

There is great wisdom in that alone, I tell you.

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