55 Reading Questions

I saw Andrew Hook doing this, and then Jim McLeod, so I decided to play too.

1. Favourite childhood book?

First thing that came into my head, King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. The author lived just up the road from my village and my father used to buy all of his books, and at the local school one of the houses was named after Haggard and the teacher used to read us KSM every year. I was indoctrinated.

2. What are you reading right now?

Dadaoism: An Anthology edited by Justin Isis and Quentin S. Crisp and Sacrifice by Wrath James White.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?


4. Bad book habit?

Offhand I can’t think of one, or even imagine what such a thing might be.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?


6. Do you have an e-reader?

No, but it’s on the ‘to buy’ list once disposable income becomes an issue and all the other things I’d rather have are purchased. I prefer physical books, but there seems to be a certain inevitability about the whole e-reader thing, market forces and all that.

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

I prefer one at a time but usually end up reading several. I really don’t know how that happens.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?


9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?

Off the top of my head, The Dark Side of Heaven by Gord Rollo.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year?

Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Not sure I have a comfort zone as such, though I do go through phases. There was a time when I was an addict for modern literature and a time when I read nothing but Science Fiction, and nowadays the vast bulk of my reading is in the Horror genre, with a side order of Crime, which is just as well as I write reviews for a horror magazine, but I could get bored with it all at some point and embrace romance or the western.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

See above.

13. Can you read on the bus?


14. Favourite place to read?

Summer, sitting in the porch. Winter, sitting in front of the fire.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I’ll lend you books if I know you, but if they come back damaged, it won’t happen again.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?


17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?


18. Not even with text books?


19. What is your favourite language to read in?

English, as it’s the only one I speak.

20. What makes you love a book?

When I read a book and think to myself that ‘I can’t believe anyone wrote this’, rather thanI can’t believe anyone published this’. Books that play with form, but not as an end in itself.  Books that have ideas and use them to enrich rather than instead of the story, that add a human dimension. Books that make me think and feel.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

See above.

22. Favourite genre?

Horror, at the moment.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?


24. Favourite biography?

The Happiest Man Alive, Mary Dearborn’s biography of Henry Miller.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Only when I was learning how to use a computer, some of those For Dummies books and similar.

26. Favourite cookbook?

To Serve Man by Damon Knight.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year?

I Am a Magical Teenage Princess by Luke Geddes. In a time of increasing commoditisation it’s inspiring that a publisher like Chômu Press can come along and release crazy, offbeat stuff like this. Most of their books are inspirational in that sense.

28. Favourite reading snack?


29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Not hype as such, but self-publicising and the recent sock puppet revelations have left me entirely indifferent to the work of the writers involved, even though intellectually I appreciate that questionable behaviour and bad writing don’t go hand in hand. Emotionally though, I am now soured on those authors, and even if I did read them I couldn’t be sure how my appreciation would be affected by extraneous, non-literary considerations.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

84.79% of the time. I don’t read many book reviews, as I’m too easily influenced by what other people think.

31. How do you feel about giving bad or negative reviews?

I don’t like it, but accept it as something that goes with the territory. If everybody gets praised, then it seems to me that the exercise is worthless. Reviewers just become another cog in the PR machine. Or, as Voltaire observed in a somewhat different context, sometimes people have to be hung ‘pour encourager les autres’.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, what language would you choose?

French, then I’d know whether or not I’d made an ass of myself with the quote in the previous answer.

33. Most intimidating book you ever read?

I don’t know that I’d call it intimidating as such, but the one I began to dread picking up to continue was The White Goddess by Robert Graves, which I was reading for research. It has the most wonderful introduction and I was expecting something quite marvellous, but instead I got four hundred pages of mind numbing tedium. More controversially, I felt pretty much the same way about Pride and Prejudice.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. I love his fiction and non-fiction such as the philosophy-lite Existentialism and Humanism, but when I cracked this open I found page after page after page of ‘the-thing-in-itself’ and ‘the-thing-as-itself’ and decided that life was much too short. From memory I think he reaches the conclusion, after four hundred or so pages, that we take life too seriously.

35. Favourite poet?

Dana Gioia, though the only thing I’ve read by him is The Gods of Winter, but that was enough to get pole position. I really should seek out some more of his work.

36. How many books do you have checked out of the library at any given time?

About the only time I check books out from the library is if I’m researching stuff, in which case maybe three or four on the same subject.

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?

About half the time, though heavily browsed.

38. Favourite fictional character?

Allan Quatermain. Your first love will always hold a special place in your heart.

39. Favourite fictional villain?

Off the top of my head, Hannibal Lecter. Give it time though and I’ll come up with somebody else.

40. Books you’re most likely to bring on vacation?

Thrillers, mostly. People like Jonathan Kellerman and Robert Crais.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading?

I think there was one year when I didn’t read for a couple of months, maybe even for as long as three months. It could be one of those false memories though, as the odds of something like that happening seem remote. And, of course, the pre-reading years. Mustn’t forget those. I wasn’t a precocious baby.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish?

The Bible, though I’ve read most of it in bite size chunks over the years, perhaps even all of it, as I wasn’t keeping track.

43. What distracts you when you’re reading?

Anything and everything. I am not somebody who can read with the television on or music playing, though contrarily I have no problem shutting stuff out when I’m on the bus. Maybe reading is just a mechanism to avoid interacting with real people.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?

Off the top of my head, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

Striptease. Carl Hiassen’s book was brilliant. The film was awful.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in a bookstore at one time?

£35 on Edward Quinn’s book about the artist Max Ernst.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

About half the time, though usually very light skimming as a way to gauge how long it’s likely to take me to read.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?

Death. Other than that I’m a ‘I’ve started, so I’ll finish’ sort of guy.

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?

I would like to, but I don’t. There was a time when I had them all organised in alphabetical order by author name, but as my collection grew I realised that every time I bought a new Peter Ackroyd I was losing whole days moving everything around to fit the latest acquisition in. Now I lose whole days looking for the book I want to read.

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

I keep them. I have this vague plan that when I retire I’ll downsize and dismantle my collection over period of years, the last volume disappearing into the ether just as I draw my final breath.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

Not consciously. I just feel annoyed there isn’t time to read everything that comes my way.

52. Name a book that made you angry?

Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ. The guy with the German accent and big beard is so enraged that it gets under your skin, and you end up feeling that way too. Or any book with ridiculously small print. Some publishers need to remember that it’s about getting the best words on the page, and not the most.

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

I have no masochistic tendencies. I don’t read books that I don’t expect to like. At least I don’t now, when there’s so much to choose from, but in the past I might have done some ‘duty’ reviewing, though if so I can’t remember what those books were.

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

Pride and Prejudice. Or, perhaps a little bit more on message, Ancient Images, the first Ramsey Campbell that I read and which left me so disappointed it was years before I read another and found out that he actually could write a bit.

55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading?

Well I don’t feel guilty about reading anything really, but in the spirit of the question I’d plump for Richard Laymon. Utter tosh and borderline misogynistic on occasion, but for my sins I find the better ones curiously compelling, and it’s not something I’m going to apologise for even though I sometimes feel like I should.

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2 Responses to 55 Reading Questions

  1. Cate Gardner says:

    You and Ray are tempting me into procrastination with this delightful meme.

    Never allow me to borrow one of your books. I’m afraid I have book destroying abilities.

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