In one of their most recent episodes, Alice devised a series of questions about what sort of reader you are, and I decided I’d answer them too — thanks to Alice for sending them over to me! I answered them before Christmas and then appeared to promptly forget about posting this, but anyway, enjoy.
How many books have you read so far this year? How do you keep track?
It is currently the 22nd of December and I have read 258 books. This figure is massively inflated due to reading several 20 volume long romance manga earlier this year, but we’re still looking at around 170 full length novels, which I’m pretty pleased about. Quality matters most over quantity, of course, but I’ve managed to read some great things and avoid most stinkers.
One at a time or do you jump between books?
I currently have around 10 books on the go according to GoodReads, which is a lie really. There’s one memoir about Wales that’s been on there for over a year, and I gave up on American Gods mid-year because I felt so pressured to finish it before the Amazon show came out that it was sucking the joy from it.
Saying that, I do often have several non-fiction books on the go — right now I’m reading an essay at a time from Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis, Trans Britain by Christine Burke and All the Weight of Our Dreams by the Autism Women’s Network. This means I can appreciate each section of the books separately but also think about their place in a wider context. Or at least, that’s my excuse for having so many going.
I often have one or two fiction books on the go, as well as a poetry collection and a series of manga. My bedside table is a mess, unless I’ve cleaned it recently… like today.
Do you push through to the end no matter what, or do you give up on books?
I never used to give up on books, but I realised that life is too short. I’m lucky that I’m rarely sent anything I don’t like but I’ve had to DNF (did not finish) a few books in 2017 that I thought I was going to enjoy but just could not get into for a number of reasons.
I think also that timing is so, so important with books — a book that you can’t get into today might be perfect for you in six months time.
Where and when do you tend to read?
Everywhere and anytime. At home I tend to read on the couch or in bed, usually after breakfast and a play with Nerys, then for a bit in the afternoon and then all evening. I always read in the bath. I read on the tube sometimes too, but I’m often distracted by podcasts or music from 2005-2007 (the golden era).
What’s your ideal reading session set up?
Bed, with the dog on my feet, and a big cup of tea next to me. Occasionally, I’ll treat myself to a Tomy Moly sheet mask to go with it. Low lighting, with my Lumie lamp, Totoro light that Lilith bought me for secret Santa and a candle on the go. Very therapeutic.
Do you reread books? What’s your most reread book?
For years I swore I wouldn’t, and then I realised that’s ridiculous. I rewatch movies with a passion — literally, I might finish a film and put it back on again because I liked it so much. This might go on for… some time. Oh autism, you massive lol.
My most re-read book is either Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, which I’ve definitely read at least four times, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
How do you mark your place?
I used to be a page turner but so many people were disgusted I was a little bit shamed out of it, though with proofs I’m not so precious and will still do this. I like a good bookmark but I’m forever losing them. Receipts and train tickets, or even any old bit of paper, end up replacing them.
In fact, this reminds me that years ago I found a strip of photographs from a booth of two people in an Ali Smith book and I tried really hard to find the owners using the power of social media, but no luck. The two of them look so happy and besotted with each other that I kept them, and sometimes I use that.
Do you use an e-reader?
I have done in the past. I’m very glad they exist, as when I was in the Philippines with an enormous ear abscess and couldn’t dive for a week all I had was my trusty kindle and my hammock. Thanks to that I was able to read all of The Hunger Games, Brideshead Revisited, Little Women and a couple of other books, narrowly avoiding complete madness (it looks beautiful but I was literally trapped in my research station on the rocks for over a week).
Now, I don’t. I realised quickly that my ability to retain information from reading on Kindle and other screens is very limited. I’ve always been a print-it-out kind of person, and that extends to books too. It’s a pity because I could be such a minimalist, but as it stands I have to stick to physical books.
How do you decide what to read next?
This depends on a few things. I have quite a big list of books that I have for review noted in my bullet journal, alongside important dates I should ideally publish reviews by and promote on social media. I was all prepped earlier this year to stay on track but then I went and started an independent press with some friends so I’m very behind.
So I have my review TBR, and my recently purchased TBR, and also a drawer full of books I’ve picked up in charity shops. Sometimes I just go with my heart, even if I have a lot of other things to read, because at the end of the day you might not love something as much as you could if you read it at the wrong time, or push it (see my point about American Gods above, which I will return to).
Where do you buy books?
All over the place. Waterstones, independent bookshops (though admittedly not as much as I should), and direct from small presses such as 404 Ink, Dead Ink and Unbound. I’ve had to emergency Amazon a few things this year before hosting last minute events. Needs must, I suppose, but I try not to actually buy books from there even if I do use their website to create the most complex wishlist system.
Which book shop sections do you like to browse?
Children’s is always my go to floor, followed by fiction. If there’s a queer reads or BAME writing section, I will always gravitate to there — luckily in Waterstones Piccadilly they are right next to each other, separated by the independent presses; basically my favourite corner.
I like to hate-browse gender studies sections, and very occasionally hide transphobic or whorephobic writers behind books by great people like Sara Ahmed or Melissa Gira Grant. I’m an ex bookseller so I know exactly how annoying this is, but I can’t stop myself.
Do you judge a book by its cover?
Yes, of course. While a bad cover won’t prevent me from reading a book — I’m looking at you, Europa editions of Elena Ferrante — but a good cover will encourage me. I am a magpie, especially for beautiful clothbound editions in that scratchy material.
Do you own multiple editions of the same book?
I try not to. I might rebuy a copy, especially if I’ve been sent a proof and fallen in love with the book; I want to support the authors however I can after all, and proof copies are not made to last and provide the author with exactly zilch. Once I have a new copy, proof goes in the recycling bin or older edition goes to charity shop/someone who wants it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a tweet by Roxanne Gay. One of her books (I believe it is Nasty Women) has been recovered for a special edition and someone said they were going to rebuy it, and she asked instead that they spend their money on a debut author. Whenever I consider rebuying a book now, I try and consider this more.
Saying all this, if a series changes cover half way through, I will end up rebuying because non-matching covers makes me feel a little physically sick (again, thanks autism).
Do you lend your books to other people, and if so are you particular about their condition on return?
I literally lend my books to three people, and even then I can feel nervous about it. It’s not because of condition; I am terrible at losing track of who has my books and I get really, really upset if they go missing (which has happened many times). I only lend books if I’m not bothered about their condition upon return, because its hard to expect other people live up to your anal standards.
I never borrow books from people because I instantly forget they belong to someone else, and are immediately incorporated into my bookshelf. Admittedly, I worry that people who borrow books from me might be as irresponsible as I.
I would much prefer to buy someone a copy of a book rather than lend them my copy, and tend to keep an eye out in charity shops for books that people have asked to borrow so I can get them their own copy.
Do you write in your books?
Very, very rarely do I make a note, or scribble in a book of my own. I like dedications very much, especially when a friend has gifted you it. It makes a copy so much more special, and it always hurts my heart a little to find books in charity shops with dedications inside them.
That’s it! All my weird behaviours. What about you guys? Do you have any strange book habits? Tell me in the comments.