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Off the Top of My Head: Reading Meme

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This week’s Booking Through Thursday is a meme questionnaire: perfect for a lazy, dreamy, pillowy morning during vacation. 87 degrees out and humid in Oahu. The sun is just passing over my patch of the outdoor lounge where I have brunch on the Waikiki.

1. Favorite childhood book?
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss made the deepest impression in me.

2. What are you reading right now?
I just mentioned the books yesterday: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Learning to Lose by Michael Trueba. Both translated from Spanish. The latter is getting all my attention now. On the Kindle 3G+Wifi is An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None at the moment.

4. Bad book habit?
As some readers have reproached me before, I used to write in my books, making notes on the margin. I have since corrected that habit by keeping notes in post-it slips.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I returned all the library books so I don’t have to worry about deadlines while I’m on vacation.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Is this meme tailored for me since I seem to have all the answers. I posted about my brand new Kindle 3G + Wifi about three weeks ago. I finally drank the coolaid because this eReader has everything that I’ve ever wanted in a gadget: to read books and to get on the internet with wifi.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I usually have a few books around on the night-stand but I focus mainly on one book. Now that I’m on vacation, I want to have more choices in case I’m one too keen on one book.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Big time. While I still enjoy browsing the bookstores, I have come to rely on bloggers’ book recommendation, in addition to following my literary instincts. I have also read outside of my usual genre.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
For classic: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. For new book: The Palisades by Tom Schabarum. For translated literature: Learning to Lose by David Trueba.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Lately I have reading out of my comfort zone quite a bit, especially after I have taken up with Steig Larsson’s trilogy. Thrillers and mysteries become a new territory to explore when I need a break from literary fiction.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Literary fiction, literature, and classic.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I formed the habit of reading on school bus when I started first grade. Poring over materials that I had no time to study for incessant tests, quizzes, and dictations.

14. Favorite place to read?
I’m extremely fastidious with where I read. A perfect reading place has to be cozy, well-lighted, reasonably quiet, and serving coffee. I’ve been reading at the same place, a coffee shop, in the morning over 5 years.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I rarely loan out books except for the few special people with whom I share common literary interest. I worry too much that books returned to me in a worse condition. I don’t want to ruin a friendship over a book.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I rather write in my books than to dog-ear them.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Question 4 asks about my bad book habit. I used to write all over my books: on the margins, at the top, at the bottom. Underline key passages. Double-underline favorite quotes. I have graduated from marking my books by taking notes on post-it slips.

18. Not even with text books?
Condition of my textbooks is a perfect testimony of my academic achievement in college.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
I prefer to read in English although I can speak English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese. I’ve always read books in English language since I became an avid reader.

20. What makes you love a book?
A sustainable plot, believable and etched characters, a thoughtful and assertive writing style. Books that appeal to me the most are ones that are reflective of my life.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Same as Question 20.

22. Favorite genre?
Same as my reading comfort zone: Literary fiction, literature, and classic.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Mystery, thriller, non-fiction (history, philosophy).

24. Favorite biography?
I rarely read biography, but The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings tops my reading list this year.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Does Chicken Soups series count?

26. Favorite cookbook?
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics Cookbook by Ina Garten

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
The Palisades by Tom Schabarum

28. Favorite reading snack?
Those chocolate-coated nibbly things.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. I still don’t understand what’s so great about this book. It’s good but not great.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Since I started blogging I have hardly agreed with the critics. I avoid books that are all over critics’ radar.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I have no scruple giving negative reviews as long as I am justified to do so.

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

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses by James Joyce.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

35. Favorite Poet?
Walt Whitman.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Usually 2 or 3.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Maybe a third of the time. 1 out of 3 books.

38. Favorite fictional character?
The faithful and witty Chinese servant Lee in East of Eden.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
I’m drawing a blank here.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Usually mysteries, thrillers, and literature that is plot-driven.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
One day.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
People carrying on a conversation or talking on the phone.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Aren’t most of them dreadful?

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Around 200 dollars.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Every time when I’m trying to decide what to read next. I spend a few minutes skimming through the first two chapters of what sit on the night-stand.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
A story that promises to happen but is not happening.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Alphabetically ordered by author’s last name.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I keep the ones I like and dispose of the others.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
I avoid the romance, chick-lit, sci-fi, and gay erotica. I used to say that I don’t care for bestsellers but after Stieg Larsson (which I do enjoy tremendously) it really depends on the book itself. Maybe I should at least skim through The Life of Pi and The Kite Runner at the bookstore.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. The hype has overkilled it.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.

17 Responses

  1. “Condition of my textbooks is a perfect testimony of my academic achievement in college.”
    Ha ha, fantastic. I like to go through my old uni books and remember the reading by going through my notes in the margins

    • I was a chemistry major in undergraduate. My organic chemistry textbook was written all over and was highlighted with all the colors available!

  2. Aww, Matt – don’t be intimidated by A Suitable Boy. It’s a great story and really moves quickly once you get into it!

    • I’m putting A Suitable Boy on my reading list. I’m waiting for the moment to savor this novel. 🙂

    • Ah, my introduction to Vikram Seth was _An Equal Music_. If you can’t make crack open _A Suitable Boy_, try that one!

      Also, the answer to post-it’s, dog-eared pages or margin writing is a notebook. I started reading with a notebook years ago. On the left page, I write the allusions or other craziness that I want to look up or delve in to; on the right page, I make notes specific to the book (impressions, style, rants, raves). It’s a bit beyond “book journaling” and has worked amazingly well. Last year, I added a clamshell box (from the art supply store) that has the notebook, pens, bookmarks, secondary titles being read.

      Yeah. Compulsive. My closets should be so organized…


  3. I don’t do it myself, but I don’t think that writing in margins or underlining in a book that belongs to you is a bad habit. Its your book after all. I do, however, feel like dog earing is needless desecration.

    We answered the poet question the same way.

    • The only bad thing about writing in a book is that it hurts the re-sale value. Like you, I don’t see any ethical issue revolving that, as long as I don’t write on library books. We actually share some common answers. 🙂

  4. I agree with #34…. that’s such a big volume, I’ve hesitated buying or even checking out a copy.

  5. I”m with you on East of Eden — that’s also one of my favorite books from this year. Lee was a great character, though I enjoyed Sam Hamilton just as much. I loved their conversations.
    I see you didn’t finish The God of Small Things — was it the writing style or the story that put you off?
    BTW, if you haven’t heard, they have fireworks over by the Hilton Hawaiian Village (on the ewa/west side of Waikiki) on Friday evenings. Hope you enjoy your stay on these islands!

    • I cannot engage into the story of The God of Small Things, which on numerous occasions have been recommended to me. I haven’t given up on it, I’ll give it a try in the future. Thanks to your tip, I ended up seeing the firework on my last night in Oahu.

  6. I have a very old tattered copy of Leaves of Grass. One of my cherished possessions.

    I read a lot of poetry. After all I write it too!

    You can check my poetry, clicking on my name!

    • Thanks Gautami. My high school English teacher turned me on to Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass, which I have treasured over the years. I haven’t read much poetry after school, but have rekindled that interest this year.

  7. #39. How about, see #52. Surely it’s hard to go past Grenouille is one of the best villains ever?
    #4. You let people talk you out of a wonderful habit (provided not in library books of course). I went from writing in books to a combination of post-it notes/scrap paper notes to writing in books again. I feel no guilt. Just embarrassment about what others might see if I lend!

    • Yes, I was thinking about Grenouille after I uploaded this post. He was the reason why Perfume has made me angry. I also didn’t understand the hype about the book. It’s disgusting.

  8. Oh, I understand the hype. He is so chillingly conceived and sustained. I thought the writing was amazing but the idea is truly awful.

  9. […] I definitely took this from a website I read. The guy’s site is awesome for people who love books (which I do). Anyway, I thought it would be an interesting […]

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