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Some Habits

Catching up with some writing prompts from Booking Through Thursday.

Do you read books recommended by friends? Or do you prefer to find your own books to read.
I’m reading Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish recommended by a friend. A recent winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, it’s so realistic of a book that makes me skip a breath. An illegal immigrant from China meets ex-American warrior ravaged by three tours in Iraq. As to friends’ recommendation, I would make a note of them. I’ll check the books out to see if they are up my alley. Book bloggers’ recommendations have played a crucial role in my reading life.

Do you carry a book around with you? Inside the house? Whenever you go out? Always, everywhere, it’s practically glued to your fingers?
I’m glued to my book wherever I go. Ever seen people glued to their phones, wiping the screens with their fingers, frantically texting, playing Candy Crush? While they’re riveted at the phones, I’m reading. Books make the perfect time filler, whether I’m taking a break or waiting for someone.

In an ideal world, what kind of book cases would you have? Built-ins? Barrister ones with glass doors? The cheapest you could find so you could have lots of them?
I would like floor-to-ceiling bookshelves made of cherry wood. They don’t have to be glass-in. In my condo I have built-in shelf lining one wall and I love it too. I prefer the bookshelves to be uniform in appearance.

Hardcovers or paperbacks?
Hands down paperbacks. Ever shove a hardback under your armpit? Trade paperbacks are much more handy. They don’t take up as much space on the shelf and in my bag.

Weeding

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do you ever weed out unwanted books from your library? And if so, what do you do with them?
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Weeding in progress. I have to weed more often as the pile of unwanted books stagger more quickly than my acquisition pile does. The rule is I would nix any book of which I don’t have much impression. I line up paper shopping bags from the grocery and start putting books in. Don’t look back.

Kane and Abel, Encore

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

If you could change the ending of any book you’ve read, which would it be and how would you change it?

As per the review I posted yesterday, I would like to prolong the lives of the two titular characters in Kane and Abel, who have died with some regrets. The book spans over 60 years in the 20th century with many ups and downs, hinging on a vendetta held by the hotelier on the banker because of a loan refused by the bank during the crash of 1929, made worse by inaccurate assumptions and misunderstandings. The ending is a boot but I just wish the two old men would live longer. I learned that Jeffrey Archer actually rewrote the book for its 30th anniversary edition, which was the version I read, to make the plot tighter and with dangling carrot in every chapter.

Scary

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

I actually wrote a post about scary and creepy books that stay with me over the years. They are not ones with monsters and ghosts lurking on the pages but more atmospheric, full of creepy suggestion. Books that make my hair stand include The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, And Then Then Were None by Agatha Christie and most surprisingly, the one that never advertised horror, but surprise is in store at every turn of a chapter, Under the Skin by Michael Faber.

For the sake of contributing to this week’s BTT, I would add Stephen King’s The Shining. The evil is encroaching, and it could be that Danny’s shining has empowered it. The book does end with an explosive climax, pun intended, that sends me over the edge. It’s almost like fighting against unknown, unseen evil. The characters understand the hotel is evil; that it sought Danny, his power, and that it would do anything it could to get him. This book is a big spooker, atmospherically speaking, and haunts me tremendously.

For a Friend

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

If someone you know has just published a book, do you feel obliged to buy a copy? Even if it’s not the kind of book you’d normally read?

It really depends on the depth of the relationship. If I just “know” the person but hardly keep in touch, I would browse for it at the bookstore and see what it’s about. If it’s someone who keeps regular contact, most definitely I would purchase a copy to show my support, even if the book is out of my range of preference. But there’s always exception. I have met self-published authors on this blog for whom I meet and arrange reading event.

Obscure

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What’s your favorite genre that other people might not read? I mean, mysteries, romances, real-crime … these are all fairly widespread categories. But real readers don’t usually limit themselves to just the “big” genres … so what’s your favorite little-known type of book? Books on dogs? Knitting books? Stories about the space race? Mathematical theory?

I like to read aviation books, especially anything pertaining to commercial jetliners. When I was a little boy, noise of jetliners was part of daily life as jumbo planes descended into the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport at a precarious angle. I was always fascinated by planes and the very first time flying was love at first sight. I was obsessed with everything air-travel. Now that I travel extensively for work and leisure, airports and airplanes become a second home. I read up on airport passenger terminal design, aircraft configuration, engines, and aerodynamics. A bit of a morbid fetish is the television program ACI: Air Crash Investigation, documentaries and re-enactment of crashes based on true stories.

Shakespeare

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Okay, show of hands … who has read Shakespeare OUTSIDE of school required reading? Do you watch the plays? How about movies? Do you love him? Think he’s overrated?

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I only read Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet in high school, and I read under time’s constraint. I always thought Romeo & Juliet was very clichéd and I never cared for it. Hamlet was read as an exercise of in-depth character study in 11th grade. Taming of the Shrew was the first book I read outside of school—and it was years after high school that I picked it up.

The Taming of the Shrew has a powerful appeal for the Elizabethan audience at the time it opened because the struggle for mastery in a marriage remained a fact of existence and hot topics for writers. A true-to-life domestic scene opens the play and instantly grasps attention: Signor Baptista forbids all suitors to court his younger daughter Bianca until he finds a husband for the ill-tempered, difficult, and waspish elder daughter Katherina. It’s one of Shakespeare’s more rhetorical work.

I was concerned that A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be a reprise of Romeo & Juliet. Shakespeare nudges the story to a direction in which the style does not involve the audience too snuggly in the lovers’ emotions. The love entanglement engenders enough body and reference to larger concepts to be viewed as image of some universal human experience: one so true-to-life that it inevitably and in no time provokes sympathy.

Twelfth Night has a whimsical plot. It addresses a subtler and yet precarious issue in the situation of identical twins teetering on the risk of being mistaken. Identical twins are automatically ripped off their uniqueness, the unmistakable self. The broad appeal of Twelfth Night as a good-humored play is sharpened by its comedy of mistaken identity between the long-lost twins Sabastian and Viola. Although they are of different sexes, other characters in the play cannot distinguish them from one another when Viola disguises as a young man.

“School Discoveries”

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

We all had to read lots of different things in school—some of which we liked, some of which we didn’t. Are there any authors that you’ve grown to love because you were introduced to them in your English Lit class? Or—the contrary. Are there any you hate because you were forced to read them? Did you ever go back to try them again?

I remember those two gigantic, phone book-size literature textbooks for 9th and 10th grades, which were anthology collections to give us overview of the subject matter. Anyway these books, titled Adventures in Reading and Adventures in Literature gave me the foundation and invoked in me interests in exploring further. One of the timeless pieces was The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant, which epitomizes elements of irony in short stories. Edgar Allan Poe is another favorite authors that has stayed with me. A Separate Peace by John Knowles and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger are books that I re-read. The former is a story of innocence lost and the latter features a potty-mouth but kind-hearted Holden Caulfield. Honestly I’m surprised these two books don’t find favor with many readers.

In tenth grade I read The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, which I enjoyed but were far from my prized selections of John Steinbeck. East of Eden, perused on my own in college, has been an all-time favorite book. On the contrary, I didn’t enjoy Moby Dick and that was it for me as far as reading Herman Melville. I also found Thoreau very dry—all the harangue about civil disobedience. But I think the book is ever more relevant now in this society plagued by self-entitlement and rudeness. I also trudged through page after page of farming techniques and land allotment in War and Peace but enjoyed Anna Karenina later in life profusely. One author that is overrated in my book, even to this day, is Ernest Hemingway. I cannot say I enjoy any of his fiction, but A Moveable Feast always warrants re-reads.

Enmity

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Any books or authors you hate? Why? Is it the writing? The stories? The author’s personality? And—would you read their work anyway?

Hate is too strong of a word against any book or author. All I can say is there are certain kinds of books I will avoid, knowing they are not my cup of tea. After my woe with that horrible ending of Bel Canto I have avoided Ann Patchett. Instead of “hate” I learn to avoid certain authors knowing the books aren’t within my my reading taste. Haruki Murakami I would read but I don’t feel the urgency to read his new books. Over the years I have become very good at matching books to my taste when it comes to new/previously unread authors. Another type of books I avoid is fan-fiction.

Mystery

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do you read mystery novels? If so, why? Is it the mysteries themselves that appeal to you? The puzzle-solving? The murders? Or why don’t you read them? What about them doesn’t appeal?

Interspersed between more high-brow and serious books I would stick in a mystery or two to relieve the tension in my brain. Mystery is one genre gap that I should be able to fill. The “whodunit” of mystery genre certainly appeals me as a reader with its mounting anticipation and delayed pleasure. I’m not well-versed in this genre, but over the years have enjoyed Agatha Christie, Thomas H. Cook, Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle and Patricia Highsmith. One author I find difficule to classify is Daphne du Mariner, whose works border between mystery and historical fiction. Other “supermarket book” authors I’m somewhat skeptical to pick up. As to what doesn’t appeal about mystery, I can only say that it’s kind of like popular culture. Mystery is meant for quick pleasure and usually has little literary arts in it. Think “escapist” literature. Not all mystery novels have shallow, cardboard and stereotypical characters, but most are meant for quick reading that I probably won’t remember shortly after putting them down. That said, the mystery genre has a lot going for it. The investigation and storyline are what most attract readers to the genre. The point of mysteries is to examine the clues and solve the puzzle. For readers whose goal is to solve the mystery before the detective, the appeal is the intellectual challenge.