I saw this tag a long time ago and, finding myself with an inexplicable amount of free time, I decided to finally do it. If anyone knows who started the tag, please tell me so I can give them gratuitous praise and good vibes. Also, I have never read the New York Times, so I have no idea what the significance of these questions is. If anyone wants to enlighten me about that, feel free.
What book is on your bedside table right now?
I keep my TBR books on my bedside table, so there are currently about a million books on there, including Jonathan Bate’s biography of Ted Hughes, Natasha Farrant’s Lydia and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings is still there too, despite me having finished it last week. I am just too lazy to take it to my book room.
What was the last really great book you read?
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah was wonderful. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am, which comes out in September, is also excellent; sweeping and yet intimate, with characters you want to shake and hug in equal measure. I read a lot of books I think of as ‘good,’ but not that many which I would call ‘great.’ This makes me a bit sad.
If you could meet one author (living or dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d like to meet Shakespeare and obtain from him some kind of incontrovertible evidence that he really did write all his plays, just to shut up all those annoying people who think it was actually Francis Bacon or a cleaner or someone. As for living authors, I’d like to meet Chuck Palahniuk and ask him some psychologically probing questions to try to deduce whether he is as weird as his books. I’d love to meet Margaret Atwood but would probably be far too starstruck to ask anything.
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelf?
I’ve recently started reading graphic novels, which people I know seem to find quite strange. So you might see all three volumes (so far) of The Wicked and The Divine and think I had gone mad. You may also be surprised (and confused) to find that I have loads of books in Portuguese, given that I cannot actually speak Portuguese.
How do you organise your personal library?
Non-fiction, adult fiction, YA and children’s books all separated. The adult novels are alphabetised by author but everything else is a bit more random. I have a whole shelf for books about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes as well, but who doesn’t?
What book have you always meant to read but not got to yet?
I have spent this whole year saying I am going to read Middlemarch but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet; I think I read it as a teenager, but I may well be confusing it with The Mill on the Floss. I am a failure. I studied English literature at university, when I read a lot of the books I might otherwise now torment myself for not having read.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel like you should have liked but didn’t?
I read I Love Dick by Chris Krauss, assuming from all the feminism-related buzz on Twitter that I’d love it, but it just didn’t work for me. It didn’t fit with my own, personal ideas of feminism and I thought everything that happened in it was just extremely weird.
What kind of stories are you drawn to?
Anything involving dysfunctional families; anything set in US states that aren’t used in 99% of books (so, places that aren’t California or New York); anything to do with the Spanish Civil War. I have also developed a love of books set in space or Africa. If there was an African book about space, that would make my life complete.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
Although I don’t think it’s a perfect book, I would like the US president to read Sex Object by Jessica Valenti; for Obama and whoever comes after him (hopefully not Trump as I’m not sure if he can actually read and I don’t think there’s a colouring book version), it raises a lot of really important issues about how women are treated in society as well as the vile ways in which some people use social media. As I’m actually English, I’d like our PM, Theresa May, to read Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism as a reminder of some of the issues still being faced by women over here, as well as some topical dystopian novels to serve as a cautionary tale of policy gone bad; Orwell’s 1984 and Simon Mayo’s new YA novel, Blame, should do nicely.
What do you plan to read next?
I’m reading spooky stuff in September to prepare Halloween-themed October reviews, so I’ll be reading the YA short story anthology Slasher Boys and Monster Girls, a pile of Point Horror books and Joyce Carol Oates’ The Accursed.
If you feel like doing this too, consider yourself tagged!