Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting a Read on My Reading

I think Scott D. Parker was the first crime-fiction blogger I saw tackle this meme. Randy Johnson followed suit, and now here I am, explaining my own quirky reading habits. Anyone else who’d like to take up the challenge of answering the questions below is encouraged to add a link in the Comments section of this post. That way, we can all find and enjoy your responses.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? I never eat and read simultaneously. I might wind up soiling the book in my hand, which I wouldn’t hope to do. However, I do often drink coffee, soft drinks, or water while reading.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? Just thinking about writing in books gives me the shivers. I have a reputation for treating my books like kings. It’s said that a book looks better after I have read it than it did before. When I need to mark passages or bits of information for use in reviews, I do so with removable adhesive tabs.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? I have a thick stack of bookmarks, some collected from stores I’ve visited in other parts of the world, and those serve nicely to remind me where I last left off.

Laying the book flat open? No, I prefer to hold the book in my hands, and I never open it enough to crack the spine.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both? I read about half and half. The majority of novels I consume annually are drawn from the crime fiction/mystery/thriller category, and easily 80 percent of the non-fiction comes from either the history or politics stacks.

Hard copy or audiobooks? I’m of the opinion that it takes me much longer to listen to a book than it does to read one. So 99.9 percent of the books I enjoy every year come handsomely packaged between hard or soft covers. The only time I ever resort to audiobooks is when I’m driving long distances in my car. And then, I have to take into account the fact that my wife isn’t as much a fan of crime fiction as I am. So if she’s accompany me on my journey, I can’t listen to tales containing much violence.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? I don’t have too much trouble remembering where in the action I left things, so I can stop at any point within a chapter.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? Generally, words are comprehensible by their context. However, whenever I come across a term that’s unfamiliar but interesting, I will make a note of it so I can look it up later--and maybe employ it in my own writing sometime.

Are you the type of person who only reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one at a time? I am usually in the midst of enjoying five or six books. And I have different books for different uses. I generally have a vintage paperback (right now, one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Bertha Lam and Donald Cool novels) stuck away in my car, which I take with me as I walk around my local lake three or four times a week. I have other books that I read in bed, more that I read in the bathroom, and still others that I cart out with me to my favorite front porch chair. In theory, these should all be interchangeable, but they’re not really.

What are you currently reading? Crime fiction: Mark Coggins’ The Big Wake-up, Max Allan Collins’ Quarry in the Middle, Thomas B. Dewey’s Deadline (1966), Peter Lovesey’s Skeleton Hill, and of course that aforementioned Cool and Lam novel. Non-fiction: Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America and John Buntin’s L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Sole of America’s Most Seductive City.

What is the last book you bought? Homer & Langley, by E.L. Doctorow, a beautiful, character-rich tale based on the true and weird story of New York City’s reclusive, hoarding Collyer brothers. I also recently laid down real money for copies of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, by Greg Grandin, and A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption, and L.A.’s Scandalous Coming of Age, by Richard Rayner.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? I can, and do, read anytime, anywhere. However, my favorite reading spot is on my front porch, in one of the Adirondack chairs situated there. If I’m planted there long enough, my cat, Monkey, likes to come up and investigate my reading choices. I think he usually approves, though he prefers to be close-mouthed on the subject.

Do you prefer series books or standalone books? Probably two thirds of the novels I read come from series, but of course the non-fiction works are standalones.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? My tastes change, but right now the books I most often recommend are Doctorow’s Homer & Langley, Selden Edwards’ The Little Book, the Academy of Chicago’s reissued Charlie Chan novels, Philip Kerr’s If the Dead Rise Not (his latest Bernie Gunther adventure), and Ross Macdonald’s The Instant Enemy (one of his Lew Archer detective novels). Perennial favorites: Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) They’re shelved by category, and within those categories by author’s name. The largest section of my library is given over to crime fiction. But after that I have substantial collections of history, travel-related literature, general fiction, western fiction, and even science fiction. Of course, I am desperately in need of more bookshelf space. Maybe in my next house, I won’t need to pack any volumes away in boxes. At least until their number exceeds the expanded bookcase room ...

READ MORE:Reading Habits,” by James Reasoner (Rough Edges); “Reading Habits,” by Evan Lewis (Davy Crockett’s Almanack); “Reading Habits,” by Bob Napier (The Capt’n’s Blog); “Reading Habits,” by Max Allan Collins (F.O.M.A.C.).


Scott Parker said...

I seem to be in the stark minority with my habit of writing in books. Especially for non-fiction, I think of the book as a conversation with the author and me. I'll retort, agree, or make another point. For fiction, I just like to underline certain passages. It's like a time capsule when I read it again in the future.

kathy d. said...

I have written in paperback non-fiction that I own, never in library books--unless I find a misspelling or typo; then I do write a correction down, an obnoxious habit, I'm sure to other readers.

I used to dogear pages but am trying to use bookmarks. I never lay books down with totally open spines and I abhor and have never put a book on the floor--mine, another person's or the library's, not even when a teenager.

I hassle a neighbor who does this, even if books are neatly stacked. To me, it's like housing a friend on the floor--never. Books are sacred.

I finish reading anywhere in the book for the evening. I usually read one book at once, but occasionally two. I usually find one more interesting than the other, read that, then go back to the other one.

My father used to read five books at once. I recall once looking over his stack (he treated books very respectfully); he had a book of math puzzles, one about sailing, one about Japanese history, one about the Chinese language and one mystery.

He likes mysteries, got my sister and I reading them, but not violent ones, but those with clear puzzles and legal mysteries. We began with Perry Mason, then read Nero Wolfe and some Hercule Poirot.

Kathy D.

Alan Griffiths said...

I had great fun with this and my answers are posted at my blog Brit Grit -