Monday, January 5, 2009

Intriguing Book Meme

My bedside table, somewhat straightened
for this photo. Yes we will get to
the overflow in a moment.

Still under snow but hopefully it will be all melted by midweek, even though it is snowing at this moment, so I thought I might take a crack at this book meme.

I found it before Christmas at Cherie's, where she did it in a most interesting manner. Welshcakes also did this meme and frankly she is also a hard act to follow. But let's get down to it.

What was the last book you bought?

Bought online and now in hand, needless to say it is about Macs. Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual by David Pogue. Absolutely essential it is, as I switch from or is that to the darkside.

Name a book you have read more than once.

My most celebrated example of that is Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett. Probably my favourite novel, it is the first in a series of eight books, called the House of Niccolo, which Lady Dunnett published over a fifteen year period between 1986 and 2001. Each time a new one came out, before I read it, I reread all the preceding volumes, which meant I have read it at least 8 times. But in fact I have read it even more and I have even read it in Italian. Forgive the proselytizing but it is an amazing saga that I can recommend to those interested in history and travel in that period, for Niccolo ranges far and wide over much of the known world of the time:
Dorothy Dunnett's The House of Niccolò series are filled with bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyer's apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.
Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life?

Yes, a book that started me on an in depth look at evolution was one written by Robert Ardrey called African Genesis, published in 1961. A former playwright and screenwriter, in the late fifties he returned to his anthropology roots and as well as this book he wrote The Territorial Imperative and The Social Contract, all still on my bookshelves. It led me to explore the writings of Darwin and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and it certainly did change the way I saw life.

How do you choose a book, eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

Mostly by recommendation and reviews but by reading book blurbs too. I also follow certain authors and buy whatever they publish. I often buy online and the websites have lots of information to help you make a choice. But I love to visit bookstores and even if I do not buy all that interest me at that time, I write them down for later or perhaps to borrow from the library. It is also not unknown for me to buy a book after I have read the library copy.

The overflow of the bedside table, rather like lava.
Not all unread, but quite a few TBR.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

Probably fiction because I read for enjoyment but I do like it to learn something new from each and every book I read so I prefer it to be factual and well researched and not with obvious glaring errors. That said I seem to read a lot of non-fiction too.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

I think I have to say I like a good plot, but good writing is equally important. In fact if a book is badly written I will likely never finish it, no matter how intriguing the plot. Not an easy question to answer.

Most loved / memorable character

Well obviously I have to go with Nicholas from Niccolo Rising, above. From the very first page I found him intriguing and continued to do so for eight volumes.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

An Italian Dictionary, small, for quick lookups
La Regina della Casa, Sophie Kinsella -- in Italian and read in snatches to sharpen my Italian skills, yes lightweight I know.
The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold -- actually I have finished this one and I should move it along
People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks -- currently reading
The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge -- second hand, given to me by my psychiatrist friend as she thought I would enjoy it
Leap of Faith, Queen Noor
When we were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro -- I used to be a big fan but lost my taste for him with a couple of strange books he wrote. I will try again.
Several Bibles and the Book of Psalms on the lower shelf

Then the tide of books flows uphill and ends up in the bookcase.
One of twelve similar overflowing bookcases in my house,
content 95 per cent read.

What was the last book you read and when was it?

The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold. This has a very unusual plot but most intriguing and I would recommend it. I mean to say, Helen murders her mother in the first few pages and the story follows the next twenty-four hours of her life, interspersed with recollections of her childhood. I know that many critics found this novel disappointing in comparison to her earlier much vaunted The Lovely Bones but it drew me in quickly and kept me intrigued to the end.

Have you ever given up on a book half way through?

Many times, although not until the last ten years or so. At my age, life is too short to waste it on books I don't care about when there are so many interesting books out there to be read. Of course I always check out the end after giving up, but then I often check out the end before I read a book anyway.

I have to say this post took much longer than I anticipated, even though it was interspersed with loading CDs into the new computer. Feel free to take it up, if you are so inclined. I always enjoy reading what other people think about books and I am hoping for more recommendations.

After this was written, there was a delay in publication as we were struck by an eight hour power outage which I had been anticipating for weeks. We were supposed to have friends to dinner yesterday but luckily we had postponed (for the third time) due to the snow, as we would have been sitting by candlelight munching cheese and crackers or??? Will this snow ever go away?


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very interesting answers,jmb and thanks for the link. Sorry about the snow and the power cut.

jams o donnell said...

An interesting meme indeed. I might give it a go myself.

My heart sank as I saw snow on the roads this morning.. there were milimetres of the stuff!

Voyager said...

As if my bedside table was not already overflowing, you have given me even more titles to put on the "wanna read" list.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

I do love books and reading. I have read since I was a kid. I read a lot too.

Always interesting the take other people have on it.

What amazes me is that some people hardly read at all.

For me a life without books would be much the poorer for it.

Nunyaa said...

Would love to have a look at all your books, I am impressed!! I am still envious of all your snow, I have a victim picked out for my first snowball too lol . Much love JMB and a Happy New Year :)

Janice Thomson said...

Arrgh and more snow again - we must be nearing records don't you think?
Am a book lover too though right now I'm poking through a lot of art books...

Shades said...

The top of my chest of drawers is overflowing with books, as is the spare room...

Dr.John said...

I enjoyed your answers.
I might try this meme in the future.

Liz said...

Like you, it's only in recent years that I've taken to giving up on books on the same grounds.

CherryPie said...

Very interesting, thank you :-)

You have an ever bigger overflow of books than me!

jmb said...

Thanks Welshcakes, we all seem to do this meme in our different ways.

Interesting yes, do give it a go Jams.

Same with me Voyager, I added book titles from the other memes I read.

I find it amazing that some people never read a book too Miss Moggs.

Poor Nunyaa, with no snow. Be grateful.

Indeed Janice, I'm sure we have broken a record for something, snow-wise.

I thinkg bloggers must all be readers Shades.

I would like to see your answers Dr John.

I never used to do it Liz, but now I think life is too short, lets get onto the next book.

I am a hoarder Cherie, especially of books.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.