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Questionnaire of Reading Habits Part 1

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I’m halfway through Noble House (1370 pages, longer than War and Peace and Gone with the Wind) and barely engaged in Home by Marilynne Robinson (finally take up this book and the the author). There won’t be any book review until I’m through with either of the books. I found this questionnaire from a lit blog to fill the intermission between reviews.

1. How old were you when you learned how to read?
I don’t remember exactly when, but it must be before K1, since I already had a working knowledge of basic Chinese characters and the English alphabets when I started school. My parents taught me words on flash cards with pictures.

2. Were you a big reader growing up?
I was a bookworm compared to the other kids. I sought out books to read on my own after I finished my homework. The bookstore was a routine stop on Sunday after dim sum (bite-size small chow). Interesting that now I’m less of a well-rounded reader because I mostly read fiction and literature. I used to be a huge sucker of history, facts, and encyclopedic books as a kid.

3. Are there any books that left a big impression on you as a kid?
I cannot remember the name of the book that made such a huge impression on me. It was part atlas and part illustrations on the different fascinating landscapes of the world. It explained the formation of volcanoes and islands, the cause of earthquake and tsunami. Sort of an alternative armchair travel book. It opened my eyes to the world before I traveled in it.

4. Favourite genres? (Do you read mainly fiction or non-fiction? Do you have a soft spot for horror, sci-fi, or romance?)
Predominantly fiction (literature). I have a soft spot for literary fiction, which focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character, the plot may or may not be important. Literature teaches us how, out of the complex welter of impulses churning within us, we make the choices that define us and seal our fate. Imagine how we grasp, response to, and make sense of the complex internal mix of feelings an author imbue to his/her characters.

5. Top 5 favourite authors.
I’m sure the list of top favorites is a work in progress, as new authors are discovered consistently. At this moment, I’m digging W. Somerset Maugham, Sarah Waters, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin.

6. Top 5 favourite books.
My selections would reflect my definition of a classic: a novel that never finishes what it has to say. I would always re-read The Master and Margarita, East of Eden, The Name of the Rose, The Great Gatsby, and The Painted Veil.

7. Where do you prefer to read?
Ideally, the reading utopia is a quiet balcony overlooking the ocean, with some sunlight, and this place does exist in Kauai, Hawaii, when I go on vacation. But in reality, I’m very content with my usual reading spot at the coffee shop every morning. It’s a corner table bound by windows.

8. Do you like to eat or drink something while you read? If so, what are your foods and beverages of choice?
I read for about two hours over coffee in the morning. I try not to eat food that requires both hands when I read (weird, I know). Greasy fingers are the source of detrimental acid that would damage the pages. Pastries won’t do because crumbs would infiltrate the ridge between pages. Noodle soup can be a problem because lifting the noodle up with chopsticks can flicker wet spots onto the page.Get the point now?

9. What do you typically wear when you read? (I swear, I don’t mean this in a dirty way. My mind is a pure as the first snow of the year – before it gets contaminated by dog poo and engine exhaust, that is. ) Casual wear? Pyjamas? Jeans? Something more elaborate and stylish?
This really depends on the occasion. I even brought a book with me to a wedding in which I was the best man. So on that occasion, I was wearing a tuxedo. usually I’m in my work clothes (dark-colored jeans or khaki) and polo at the coffee shop before heading to work. I can also be found reading in sweat pants at home or swimsuits at the pool.

10. On average, how many books do you read a month?
The number fluctuates between 5 to 8, dependning on the length and the genre. Literary fiction takes longer to read and digest, not to mention the detailed notes I compile for each novel.

11. How do you get hold of the books? Do you buy them at a bookstore, visit an online store, borrow from a friend or family member, or do you use the library?
I buy over half of all my books based on recommendations from friends and bloggers who share common reading interest. I make all purchases at the bookstore, where I browse, shop with a list, and rummage and flip tirelessly. I like to look at a book and flip through it before bringing it home so online purchase is not an option. I am also very finical in buying, online purchase just doesn’t suit my caprice. I often pick several books and decide upon what I’m buying after browsing at the bookstore.

12 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing! I really should read The Master and Margarita. And I just might borrow this questionnaire…:)


    • I would like to suggest the translation by Professor Diane Burgin from Vintage Contemporary. I also need to re-read the book–it’s been an annual routine. 🙂

  2. Geez- It’s been over a year since I’ve had dim sum, way too long.

    I really think you would like Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes, which is a fine example of your response to genres. In a nutshell, it’s an alternate US history that follows the unlikely friendship of an Irish slave and his Islamic African master and then some. Barnes has an insightful, unique way of showing perspectives, going into cultural philosophies, and playing with the psyche. It’s one of my top-favourite books, one of the few I’ve read twice, and will read again and again- always coming away with something more. It’s a fantastic work of literary fiction that borders sci-fi only because it’s an alternate history.

    • I’m very picky with dim sum, even though there are a plethora of dim sum restaurants in San Francisco area. Some of the places don’t make their own, the order-in dim sums are kept frozen for a long time and at the first bite I know it’s not fresh. Forgive my ranting… 🙂

      Ah…I have never heard of Lion’s Blood but your description of it is very intriguing. I like the historical aspect of the novel–and that it’s literary fiction gets extra points. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Great meme. I rarely eat or drink when I’m reading. I find it easily detracts from the story because I’m constantly drinking or shovelling food into my mouth not to mention the problems of the mess you’ve mentioned. I also find it more difficult to read in clothes other than my pajamas or trackies. I can read in work clothes but not for long periods. I much prefer comfy ones.

    I might pinch this in the future!

    • I totally agree with you on munchies. I would inhale the whole bag of chips before I even finish reading a chapter. I just get carried away! Sometimes I would read when I’m having dinner alone at a neighborhood restaurant. that way I can take my time, especially having very spicy Thai food.

  4. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a food snob when it comes to quality and Japanese cuisine. If you ever end up in Montreal, there are a couple excellent places in China Town.

    Lion’s Blood and Steven are more known among the SF community. Again, I think you’d really like it. No problem.

    One of the things I appreciate and enjoy about reading your blog is our difference in tastes. But then occasionally books we both want to read or liked such as Fingersmith and Animal Farm come up. Have you read 1984?

    • I’m so excited that bloggers come to resolve the difference in reading taste. Since I started book blogging, I have been reading books that are out of my usual genres. My first Orwell read was 1984, back in high school. I have it on the re-read list.

      Japanese food (especially sushi and sashimi) is my favorite. There are so many not-so-authentic places around. I’m skeptical about the cheap sushi places because I am not sure where they get the fish from.

  5. Great meme. Maugham and Morrison are two of my favorites as well. And I love The Master and Margharita. have you read other books by Bulgakov? Like Heart of a Dog and The White Guard? Both are good. I’m also trying to read Home.

  6. I’ve always been a fan of expanding horizons. Besides, how else is one to find new reading material? Not that I need any at the moment.

    I recently read 1984 and thought it brilliant. Now I’d also like to read all of Orwell’s fiction & non-fiction. I read Animal Farm in school but want to re-read it.

    Westernization for popularity leads to less authenticity. Many times I’ve looked at a dish set before me and gone “Huh?” I always look at the fish behind the counter if I’m going for sushi. All this talk about food…Suppertime.

  7. […] Favorite Lit-Blog Things: June 17, 2010 “Questionnaire of Reading Habits: Part 1” – A Guy’s Moleskine […]

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