A to Z Book Survey

I’m procrastinating about working on a post about books that have shaped my life, but I recently came across this A to Z book survey at Planet Millie, so I thought I would share it first to help get me thinking about the books that I love.  If you decide to do the survey, please let me know and share a link to your site.  And please feel free as well to share your thoughts on any of these books!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Ursula K. Le Guin, who has been my favourite author for many years.  She’s most well known for her fantasy and science fiction novels, but her work – in my opinion, at least – really goes beyond any genre classifications.  I’ve read all of her novels, most of her short stories, and I’m now working on her poetry, non-fiction, and children’s books.

Best sequel everThe Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.  This was the first of the McKinley’s books that I read, and I think it’s far better than the book that it’s a sequel to, The Blue Sword.  All of McKinley’s books are excellent, quality fantasy, but this is still one of my favourites.

Currently reading:  Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild by Ellen Meloy, a non-fiction book about desert bighorn sheep in the American Southwest.  I started this one in the middle of October, but I’m not too far into it yet, as I’ve been more into fiction than non-fiction lately.

Drink of choice while reading: I usually don’t eat or drink anything while I’m reading anymore.  Probably a cup of herbal tea if anything.

E-reader or physical book: Definitely a physical book.  I’ve never read an e-book and I have no interest in them.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school: I can’t really answer this one since I’ve never been on a date in my life and I’ve never felt that way about any characters!  If I change it to just “Favourite characters”, then I would say Jonathan Strange from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Katherine Talbert from The Privilege of the Sword, Susan Voight from Freedom & Necessity, and Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle.  Some of these characters would probably drive me crazy if I knew them in real life, but I love reading about them.

Glad you gave this book a chanceThe Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.  A friend recommended this one to me but I’d never heard of it before and I wasn’t sure if I would like it.  Then I saw it on sale for $5, so I bought it and now it’s one of my favourite novels.

Hidden gem bookThe Gone-Away World, again.  I don’t see this book mentioned much, but I love it.  It’s a science fiction, post-apocalyptic novel with an crazy plot twist near the end.  Harkaway has a zany and amazing writing style that I am totally in awe of.  And there’s ninjas.  I’d also say The Secret Country trilogy by Pamela Dean, which is another favourite that I rarely see mentioned.  It’s about 5 children who discover that the magical country they invented is real, perhaps even too real.  Dean’s writing is full of literary allusions, mainly to Shakespeare’s Macbeth in these books, and the ending is unexpected.  The other books in the trilogy are The Hidden Land and The Whim of the Dragon.

Important moment in your reading life:  Around grade seven, when the school librarian read to us a chapter from Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede.  Up until that point, I had mostly read books randomly, with no real purpose.  When I discovered that book, I became hooked on fantasy, and started actively searching out books I wanted, rather than just reading whatever I happened across.

Just finishedBlackout by Connie Willis.  I’ve been wanting to read something by Willis for ages, and I finally came across this one at used book sale.  It’s a well-done time travel set in World War II (particularly during the Blitz in London) so it feels more like historical fiction than science fiction.  I’m not usually interested in books set during World War II, but I really enjoyed this one.  It was also one of the most suspenseful books I have read in a while.  The only problem with it is that it’s only the first half of a longer novel; the second half is published in All Clear.  I need to get that one now!

Kinds of books you won’t read:  I have fairly diverse tastes, but probably sappy modern romance novels, and in non-fiction, anything that tries to scare me with conspiracy theories or we’re-all-going-to-die scenarios.

Longest book you’ve read:  I’ve read quite a few long books, but probably the longest would be Anathem by Neal Stephenson, not only for the sheer length of the book (1000+ pages) but also the weightiness of the ideas within it.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is also quite long.  And both books are among my favourites.

Major book hangover because of: What on earth is a book hangover?

Number of bookcases you own:  Not exactly sure, because some belong to me and some belong to the family generally, but my own books live within 5 separate bookcases, there’s a total of 8 bookcases in the library, and you can find 2 more small bookcases elsewhere in the house.

One book you have read multiple times:  I could name a lot of books here, but I’m going to say A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Preferred place to read: In my library, of course, on a comfy chair.  And in the summertime, outside on the deck or in our sun room.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I was going to go with an inspiring quote, but then I remembered this quote from Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, about a man trying to catch his hat:

There are very few moments in a man’s existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little charitable commiseration, as when he is pursuit of his own hat.  A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgement, are requisite in catching a hat.  A man must not be precipitate, or he runs over it; he must not rush into the opposite extreme, or he loses it altogether.  The best way is, to keep gently up with the object of pursuit, to be wary and cautious, to watch your opportunity well, get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive, seize it by the crown, and stick it firmly on your head: smiling pleasantly all the time, as if you thought it as good a joke as anybody else.

Reading regret: I don’t think I have any of these.  I usually research books before I buy them, so that I have some idea of what they’re about and whether or not I’ll like them.  I rarely make any mistakes anymore when I buy books.

Series you started and need to finish (all books are out in series): Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, a trilogy of science fiction-y (actually closer to historical fiction) novels set in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries around the time of Isaac Newton.  I’ve read the first book, Quicksilver, but I still need to read the next two, The Confusion and The System of the World.  I think I’m caught up with most of the other series I read.  I actually tend to avoid series if I can, because it’s so much simpler to read a stand-alone book than it is to read the first in a series and then be left hanging because you don’t have the following book.

Three of your all-time favourite books:  This is a tough question.  Asking me to name a favourite book (or even three favourite books) is probably similar to asking a parent to name their favourite child.  There’s just something wrong about the question itself.  Let’s say A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and…..Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  Okay, that was painful, and now I can hear all the rest of my favourite books crying because I didn’t mention them.

Unapologetic fangirl for: As much as I dislike the term “fangirl”, I’ll have to say Sunshine by Robin McKinley and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.  And anything by Ursula K. Le Guin, of course.  And field guides.  I love field guides, especially old out-of-print ones.

Very excited for this release more than all the others: Susanna Clarke’s next novel.  Whatever it happens to be.

Worst bookish habit:  Sometimes I’ll buy books just because of one phrase I read in a review.  For example, a while back I was reading reviews of China Mieville’s Kraken and I came across the phrase “squid cults.”  How could I resist that?  That just sounded so awesome I knew I had to read the book.  And I did.  And I liked it.  So it all ended well.

X marks the spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th bookAn Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Your latest book purchase: Blackout by Connie Willis.  I’ve been trying to cut down on the number of books I buy so I’ve hardly bought any for months.  But this one was only a dollar at a used book sale, so that was okay.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): I don’t stay up at night reading books (I value my sleep too much for that!), but the last book that I really could not put down was probably Sunshine by Robin McKinley, even though I was reading it for the second time and so already knew what happened.  Though just about any novel can do this for me, if I really get involved with it.

I’m going to add on a final question here, Favourite books that didn’t get mentioned already: In fiction, almost anything by Ursula K. Le Guin, but especially Always Coming HomeThe DispossessedVoices, and MalafrenaSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson (crazy, over-the-top science fiction novel); The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper; Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy; and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, to name just a few titles.  And in non-fiction, The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, Ursula K. Le Guin’s version of the Tao Te ChingLetters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman, and the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth.  I told you it was hard for me to name just a few favourite books.

What are some of your favourite books?  Have you read any of the books I mentioned here?  I’d love to hear about your reading habits!

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5 Responses to A to Z Book Survey

  1. Finn says:

    I have [i]Quicksilver[/i], but I haven’t read it yet. Definitely moving it and [i]Black Out/All Clear[/i] up to the top of my list!

    I *really* need to read more Ursula K. LeGuin. Seriously.

    And a book hangover is: “when you’ve finished a book and you suddenly return to the real world, but the real world feels incomplete or surreal because you’re still living in the world of the book.” Or, “not being able to get yourself out of a book for days/weeks/whatever because it was that affecting.” Can be used to describe both good and bad books. I had pretty big hangovers from Palimpsest, House of Leaves, and the last Harry Potter, for example.

    • Finn says:

      Oh boo, my attempt at italics didn’t work. Oh well.

    • Heather says:

      Okay, that makes sense about a book hangover. I think I have those quite often :) Books such as Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, and The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner especially come to mind, books where there is a lot of complexity that I need to keep thinking about after I’ve finished reading to figure out all the details of what happened and what it all means and/or books where I fall in love with the characters and want the story to continue so I can keep reading about them and so I keep replaying my favourite scenes in my head and imagining what might happen next.

      And, yes, you do need to read more Ursula K. Le Guin!

  2. Millie says:

    I see someone else has explained a book hangover to you :) any good book should give you one!

    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was an odd book, but I quite enjoyed it. I’d forgotten how long it is though!

    • Heather says:

      I guess it was rather odd, but in a good way, I think. Many of my favourite books could probably be described that way :) And I like long books; they last longer!

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