This is my contribution to this week’s Booking Through Thursday challenge:
What was the last book you bought?
Technically I suppose I bought five books today (actually I earned store credit at a used book store for books I brought in; I did pay the sales tax on them, so currency was exchanged).
The five are
- Nevermore by William Hjortsberg
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- Coyote v. Acme by Ian Frazier
- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
- Bigfoot Dreams by Francine Prose
Name a book you have read MORE than once
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (3 times)
Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Thinking About Basic Beliefs: An Introduction to Philosophy by Howard Kahane. This was the main textbook of the required basic philosophy course I took my sophomore year at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University-San Marcos). This book, along with supplemental readings, including Mark Twain’s “Letters From the Earth,” challenged all my beliefs, especially about God. In second place — not that you asked — was whatever textbook we used in my freshman lit course, the one that introduced me to Hemingway via the short story “Hills Like White Elephants”.
How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews
Friends, usually other writers, recommend them. Or I read a review. And sometimes I browse shelves and become intrigued by a cover or a title: I peak inside, then read a few paragraphs or even pages, and then the writing usually alerts me that this is a book worth reading. Titles can be provoking. At times, if I really like a writer I will try to read everything that writer has written, obsessively hunting down his or her books. Also, if I read a writer’s journalism or short fiction in a newspaper or a magazine and that writing is engaging, I often look for books by that writer.
Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Umm … I love both forms, although because I want to return to journalism, and want to delve into various forms of creative nonfiction, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately. I love novels, though, and do plan to read more novels, especially in my goal to complete my 100-novels reading project that I started almost three years ago. Not that I will stop reading novels when I’m done.
What’s more important in a novel – beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Can I have my cake and eat it too? Ideally, I think they should go together, because beautifully-wrought paragraphs strung together without any sort of structural connection, no matter how flimsy or artfully subtle, are just nice paragraphs that go nowhere. It also depends on what I’m reading: If it’s a novel meant to largely entertain or read for escape, I still would rather read something with clear, decent sentences than something jumbled like The Godfather (I really don’t know how this book has managed to become such an iconic part of American culture).
Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
I love Iago in Othello, just this side of Satan in Paradise Lost. Of course, reading Iago is hard to do without thinking of Bob Hoskins’ performance in the BBC production of the play. Hoskins really caught that relish in being evil that Iago delights in.
Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
The Soul of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder, Write Free: Atrracting the Creative Life by Rebecca Lawton and Jordan Rosenfeld, The Practical Stylist by Sheridan Baker, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and a printed copy of the e-book How To Write A Great Query Letter by Noah Lukeman
What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, edited by Lee Gutkind. I finished the book Monday. See my review.
Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Interesting that you asked this question. I just set aside Bob Shacochis’ Swimming in the Volcano after getting only a chapter in. I can’t really pinpoint why I set this novel aside: I had planned to read it as part of my reading project (see above), but it seemed slow to get started, almost too dense, very unlike Shachosis’ journalism. Last year, I set aside William Gaddis’ The Recognitions about 100 pages in (the novel is about 1,000 pages), and that was my second attempt at reading the book. Before that, if memory serves, it was Typo by David Silverman, a strange memoir of a business gone sour (too many negative associations of an unruly and negative experience tied to that book). And before that, if memory serves, was Dow Mossman’s The Stones of Summer, for which I’m truly sad, because the film The Stone Reader makes a hero and perhaps object lesson of Mossman. I really wanted that novel to be good, because Mossman had my sympathy, but the novel sorely needs an editor.