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BTT: Flapper?; My Favorite Reads: The Age of Innocence

btt2Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

I haven’t done a Booking Through Thursday question in a long time!  And the answer is no, I don’t.  I really, really hate spoilers.  I prefer to know pretty much nothing about a book going into it.  I used to read the flaps or back cover because I didn’t have an effective way of getting recommendations, but I am always irritated when I’m halfway through a book and the events on the back cover haven’t happened yet.  I prefer to go into a book knowing virtually nothing about its contents.  Maybe a general idea of what it’s about, where it’s set, that sort of thing, really as vague as possible.  I like to know that others thought it was good and worth a read, but really books work best when they’re left to unfold on their own.

I do occasionally read the flaps after I’ve finished, but I generally find that they’re getting more spoilery as time goes on.  Maybe that’s just because my hatred of  spoilers is growing, but this is why I write my own summaries.  I try to give as little away as possible, but I know other people would probably like to know what a book is about, so I do continue to include that first paragraph of summary.

MyFavoriteReads4

This is my first time participating in this meme, hosted by Alyce of At Home with Books.  Since it’s Edith Wharton’s turn on the Classics Circuit and I’ll be bringing you a review of one of her books, The Custom of the Country, later this month, I decided to feature my favorite, The Age of Innocence.

ageofinnocence

I adore this book.  I was frustrated in high school by a lack of new reads.  I liked mostly the same stuff as I do now, but there was a whole lot more romance and fantasy reading going on then, as I needed a lot of comfort with all the angst and drama that goes hand in hand with teenagerhood.  I think eventually I wanted something a little deeper.  I don’t remember how my teacher recommended Edith Wharton to me.  I read a lot of great books through her senior year; she gave us both fascinating modern literature and a great selection of classics, and I often wish I owned more of the books we read that year so I could give them a try as an older reader.  I know I started with Ethan Frome and loved that.  Then I moved on to this, and I really liked it on the first reading.  Eventually we had to choose a book to write a research paper on, and I decided to go with this one.

It was only digging through it and isolating its themes that I completely fell in love with it.  This happens to me a lot, because apparently whenever I pick a book apart and it holds up to my digging, it becomes a favorite.  I love the image of the restrained New York society and how Newland is inspired so deeply by Ellen Olenska to realize just how stifled he is, but struggles with the conflict between his passion and his duty.  Edith Wharton’s writing is beautiful and brings me deeply into this novel every time I read it.  And, this may constitute a spoiler so skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t read it, I love the ending, although I was devastated the first time.  I thought it was perfect for the story as a teenager and that view has remained the same.  It’s a gorgeous, tragic novel that simply astonishes me.  It’s a book that I want to start again every time I read it.

This is actually one of my top two of all time.  The other is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  This is why I should read more classics!

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BTT: Weeding

btt2When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore?  SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I have only just started with attempts to weed out my library.  On reflection, if I don’t think I’m going to reread it, I am not sure I want it any more.  I have so many books I want to read and so many that I want to read again.  Why keep the ones that aren’t calling to me?  I do have trouble giving up books that I paid for, though, especially full price.  If I got it from a used bookstore or charity shop and it was very cheap, I generally don’t mind turning around and giving it back if I didn’t like it.  I plan on doing more giveaways for this once I’m employed, especially with ARCs and review copies.  There is also the ever-important issue of space and the fact that I don’t have all my books with me ever.  They’re spread in two locations for now.  While I’d like to bring all my books together, it’s not going to happen for a good few years.  I’m sure that when it does I will have a lot to reconsider.

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BTT: Recent Fluff

btt2What’s the lightest, most “fluff” kind of book you’ve read recently?

While I was in the car on the way to Cornwall, I read What Happens in London by Julia Quinn and I think that has to be my answer. It was such a fun, light, fast read that it enabled me to ignore all the noise involved in traveling and enjoy myself. It even had me laughing a few times, which prompted curious looks from everyone in the car with me.

Speaking of Cornwall, here are a couple shots of the ocean from the very edge, near Land’s End:

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BTT: Funny

btt2What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

This is an easy question. This month I just so happened to read Bonk by Mary Roach.  I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was, but I certainly giggled my way through the book.  I’m not sure why I didn’t realize that it would be funny, given its subject matter, but Mary Roach is a hilarious writer.  Probably the second funniest would be First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite.  It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny (books rarely are for me) but I was certainly amused.  In a different month, I would have had a much more challenging time answering this question, because I don’t normally read laugh-out-loud funny books.  Bonk is actually the funniest book I’ve read all year.  Sometimes they are amusing, but rarely that amusing.

What about you?  Do you read books that make you laugh?

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BTT: TBR

btt2Follow-up to last week’s question:

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

I’ve always kept all of my unread books together wherever I am.  I don’t know why; I just think they should be separate!  When I was younger and had a tiny TBR stack, I used to keep it on my bed next to my pillow since I didn’t have a nightstand.  That way I could just grab whatever was next.  I ran out pretty frequently in those days!  Then it migrated to next to my bed because it kept falling over.  And then it moved across the room and multiplied because I couldn’t get to my bed anymore!  Now I have a mountain range along the side of my room.  I don’t have space on the shelves for the books I read, either, so they go in stacks next to the bookshelves.  This is in my parents’ house.  I’m not sure how things are going to go when I move in with Keith later this year given that he has no bookshelves, but we’ll figure it out somehow.  Regardless, reads and unreads are always separated.  I like to see what I have to read at a glance!

Do you mix up your reads and unreads or do you separate them like me?

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BTT: Unreads

btt2An idea I got from The Toddled Dredge (via K for Kat). Here’s what she said:

“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

I just posted photos similar to these recently, but there’s no harm in putting them up again!  This is only a tiny fraction of my total TBRs.  Last I counted I had about 60 here.  In total I have listed on LT here 337 if you’d like to take a look and scold me about what I haven’t read and totally should (please do, those piles are intimidating!), but that doesn’t include all the books that have arrived at home since I left.  I’m sure I’m not alone with my TBR mountain range though!

Here are my shelves (including my DS, PSP, and a couple of PC games if any of my readers are gamers):

img_1387img_1389And my little TBR pile, which are supposedly the books I’m reading next.

img_1394I haven’t been doing so well with the little TBR pile.  At least it feels that way; I read 6 books that weren’t on it last week!  Now I’m just hoping to finish the two I’m reading before tomorrow night so I can take a couple off the top for my trip.  My reading at home will be all ARCs.  I’m not going home again for six months, but my parents are coming to visit me somewhere in between, so I’ll definitely be supplementing these 60 with books from my huge stacks there.

Do you have crazy unread piles too?

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BTT: Fantasy and Sci-Fi

btt2One of my favorite sci-fi authors (Sharon Lee) has declared June 23rd Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day.

As she puts it:

So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.

So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

Well, I suspect I will be working on my dissertation on the 23rd, but I love fantasy.  Perhaps I will do a post on how I became a fantasy reader.  I’m also discovering that I enjoy *some* science fiction, as long as it focuses on character more than technology/world-building, but that is all very new, so it’s not as easy to think about as my fantasy background is.

I read fantasy for many, many reasons.  The most prominent one is probably because I love to escape into a different world.  Fantasy worlds are often based in some fashion on medieval or early modern history, which immediately makes me feel partly at home and better able to cope with whichever other oddities are thrown in there.  It’s easier for me to imagine magic in a setting I’m already comfortable with.  I also find that because fantasy series are gigantic, I can become immersed in this world for a very long time.  I get very attached to the characters, who are often similarly well-drawn.  Obviously, epic fantasy is my favorite here.  I’m also coming to appreciate urban fantasy, but I don’t think it will ever come close to how I feel about fantasy epics.  There is little better in the world than sitting down with several gigantic brick-sized fantasy novels and reading straight through them for a few days.  It’s almost enough to make me wish I had wisdom teeth to take out again just so I could have those few days away from the world.  (Okay, the aftermath of surgery was really painful.  But at least I didn’t have anywhere to be!)

Something else I love about fantasy is its ability to comment on societies and play with assumptions which might not be politically correct in, say, literary fiction, because if it’s not our world, it’s not as offensive.  Not all fantasy does this, but one recent example I can think of is Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy.  She likes to torture characters anyway, but this series definitely explores the effect that a person’s appearance can have on his reputation and entire life, fair or unfair, and different perspectives on this appearance from different societies.  It made me stop and think.  The series is HARD to read and not as spectacular as her other ones, but it’s nice to point out when people tell me that fantasy is all just fluff reading.

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BTT: Niche

btt2There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

Well, first there is my academic niche.  I feel at times that I have read practically everything history on the second half of fifteenth century England, at least up until Richard III’s death.  I once heard my supervisor recommending books to someone else about this and I’d read all of them.  I mean, I guess and hope that will be my job eventually, but it is still a little overwhelming!  I’m sure there are plenty of books and articles out there that I haven’t considered, but they’re more likely to be pop history or too old to have much relevance (i.e., the historians who made stuff up, and my supervisor is currently investigating one of these guys for me right now).

The only niche books that I read for fun are probably crochet books.  I’ve gone a little off crocheting, probably because all of a sudden everyone wanted me to crochet something for them and I rebelled, so I haven’t read anything lately.  I also really enjoy cookbooks, especially cupcake cookbooks.  I adore cupcakes.  I think they’re the perfect dessert, little bite-size portions of delicious cake and frosting, no worries about cutting slices or anything.  I have a fantastic cookbook that uses cake mix with some additions to make really cool designer cupcakes.  I brought some to a friend’s party once and at least three people asked me how they were made.  My kids are going to have the best cupcakes to bring to school, I’m telling you.

What’s your niche?

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Booking Through Thursday: Sticky

btt2“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

  1. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  2. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  3. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  5. Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
  6. Daughter of the Forest, Juliet Marillier
  7. Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey
  8. The Hero and the Crown, Robin McKinley
  9. Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
  10. The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman
  11. A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
  12. Ship of Magic, Robin Hobb
  13. Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn
  14. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  15. Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev

Well, that wasn’t as hard as I expected.  I have a lot of favorite books.  If it’s the first in a series, you can probably figure out that I love the rest of the series too.  These are all books that astonished me, captivated me, that I fell absolutely in love with and wanted to start over again right that second.  I know they will always stay with me because I will always have a copy and when I want a comforting reread, I will choose one of these books.

This list has also shown me that an absurd number of my favorite books are fantasy and I really should just deal with the fact that they are chunksters and read them anyway.  I haven’t fallen in love with a book in a long time and I’m totally ready to do so.  It’s May and it hasn’t happened that special way yet.

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BTT: A Second First Time?

btt2What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?

 

This is actually a bit of a tough question. I love re-reading so I don’t mind if I know what happens in a book. I have a bad memory anyway, so I forget little details and sometimes big ones if it’s been a few years. I would say, probably, that I’d like to read one of my ultimate favorites again for the first time, Jane Eyre or The Age of Innocence, just because I’ve read them so many times I don’t remember what it was like the first time I read them.

I think I’d also like to start over with two big fantasy series that I love. The first would be George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Ideally this is because he’s ruthless with his characters and I’d like to forget who dies, who lives, and who comes back from dead, so I can be surprised again. I’d also probably wait several years until he’d finished. I’ve forgotten enough of the story that I’m going to have to reread all 4 chunksters in preparation for each new books. While I love them, it’s going to be time consuming and my TBR pile will not thank me.  

The second fantasy series I’d choose would be the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey.  I love this series to little tiny bits.  It’s one of the few fantasy series I have made time to reread.  It was very interesting to see what caught me the second time through as opposed to the first and I was glad that I knew what to expect from the third book, but I would love to experience them without preconceptions once again.  I remembered quite a bit once I’d started reading.  I’m glad that I have Naamah’s Kiss waiting so that I can happily experience a new story in the world I love so much, though!

What book would you like to read for the first time again?

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