55 Reading Questions

I found this meme on Story in a Teacup; I may be coming to it a little belatedly, but I liked the questions, so I thought I’d respond. 55 questions; 55 answers – here goes…

1. Favourite childhood book? I cut my reading teeth, as it were, on Fighting Fantasy and Terry Pratchett books.

2. What are you reading right now? You Came Back by Christopher Coake.

3. What books do you have on request at the library? Nothing at present.

4. Bad book habit? Acquiring books faster than I can read them.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? Ghost Story by Toby Litt; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark; State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

6. Do you have an e-reader? No.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? My preference is one at a time, but in practice I’m often reading multiple books at once.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? I read more widely, and think more about the diversity of what I read.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)? It’s a close call between Drew Magary’s The End Specialist and Sheri S. Tepper’s The Waters Rising.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year? Diving Belles by Lucy Wood.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? I like regularly to try something that I wouldn’t normally read.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? The literary end of science fiction and fantasy is where I feel most at home as a reader.

13. Can you read on the bus? Not on the bus, generally, but I do read on the train.

14. Favourite place to read? I don’t know that I have one, but reading outside (when the weather’s good!) is fun.

15. What is your policy on book lending? I’m quite happy to lend my books out, as long as I know they’ll be looked after.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Good grief, no!

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? I’ve only ever done that as a student. When I’m reviewing, I use a piece of paper as a bookmark and make notes on that.

18. Not even with text books? I always tended to underline passages more than making notes in the margins.

19. What is your favourite language to read in? English is the only one I can read in!

20. What makes you love a book? Great writing, a sense of craft, an absorbing plot, fascinating characters, insightful observations…

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? If I love it – and especially if I know the recipient’s tastes.

22. Favourite genre? Science fiction and fantasy, in their various manifestations – but quality is more important than genre.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? It’s wider than a genre, but I don’t read as much non-fiction as I’d like.

24. Favourite biography? I don’t read many biographies, but The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a great book.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? Not really – I suppose the closest I’ve come to that would be something like Richard Wiseman’s The Luck Factor.

26. Favourite cookbook? I’d love to own a copy of The Fat Duck Cookbook.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? I’d say Touching the Void by Joe Simpson – an extraordinary story of survival.

28. Favorite reading snack? I don’t think I have one in particular.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. I wouldn’t say ‘ruined’ my experience, but I found Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus distinctly mediocre in comparison with the hype.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? I don’t know – I read reviews, but don’t really keep track of how my opinions compare with the consensus.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I don’t enjoy it, but it’s important to explore why books don’t work as well as why they do. However, unless it’s a review for somewhere else, I’m more likely to give up on a book I don’t like than to carry on and blog it.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose? Japanese – I’d love to explore Japanese literature in the original language.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? I can find classics intimidating, as I’m not used to reading them.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? Probably the Gormenghast books, which I bought in an omnibus edition at the time of the BBC adaptation, and have yet to read.

35. Favourite poet? I’ve never really been one for reading or appreciating poetry. I would probably say Roger McGough when I was growing up; or Robert Browning, whom I remember studying at school; and I would like to explore the work of George Mackay Brown, whom I discovered last year.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? It varies – usually no more than four.

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread? Sometimes.

38. Favourite fictional character? I don’t tend to think of books in that way (I have favourite books rather than favourite characters). I’d say perhaps Adrian Mole.

39. Favourite fictional villain? Lord Fear from Knightmare. (Hey, the question doesn’t specify that it has to be a villain from a book.)

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? Books that I’ve been meaning to get around to.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.  It can’t have been more than a few days.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish. Some from recent years that spring to mind are Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, and Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?  More than anything, it’s the television – or the temptation to check Twitter/email.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? The Prestige (I love both book and film).

45. Most disappointing film adaptation? Probably The Golden Compass.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? I’m not sure, but I doubt it would be more than £50.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? I’ll usually read the blurb and might glance at the first pages, but nothing more than that.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through? Generally, if I were going to abandon a book, I wouldn’t have given it that long. I’d stop reading a book halfway through if I were getting bored with it.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? I have too many to be able realistically to do that!

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I keep the books I like the most and that mean something special to me. Others, I’m quite happy to give away.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? There are a few long books on my shelves (Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves; Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost; Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, to name three) that I’ve put off because I think I don’t have enough time for them – even though, really, I’ve always had enough time, and always will.

52. Name a book that made you angry. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas annoyed me with its dry prose, flat characters, and poor attempts at satire.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? It wouldn’t be fair to say that I didn’t expect to like them; but Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal and Mike Thomas’s Pocket Notebook are two books I came to with no particular expectation and absolutely loved.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? Declare by Tim Powers. It had won the World Fantasy Award (which I’d found a good guide in the past); I enjoyed the two Powers books that I’d read previously; and it was on an otherwise-fine Clarke Award shortlist.  None of that stopped the novel from being a turgid chore of a read, overstuffed with exposition.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? I don’t think there is anything I go back to in particular when I want to relax. I’d probably pick up a magazine, something like We Love This Book.


  1. I like these questions! Might tackle them myself soon…

  2. An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are two of my all-time favourite reads, they are both wonderful! Please don’t put off reading them for too long! The Murakami in particular is actually fairly easy going despite its length. Great questions, I may have to borrow them.

  3. David Hebblethwaite

    30th June 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Lizzi, Marie, thanks for your comments – I’d definitely recommend having a go at answering these questions; it was great fun.

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