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books q&a


Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback? The answer is yes. I like the heft and art of a good hardback. An interesting cover under the jacket and illustrated endpapers make me happy regardless of content. I like trade paperbacks for ease of reading and mm paperbacks for portability.

Barnes & Noble or Borders? I can’t tell the difference. They’re both nice places to browse.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark, although I sometimes lay an open paperback down to keep the place. I feel bad about it later, as if that helps.

Amazon or brick and mortar? I prefer to buy books at a store when I can. It’s easier to find and purchase a particular oop book online, but I usually can get it from an individual dealer even so. I love Amazon for browsing, though, especially when a book has been reviewed many times.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? Title within author for fiction but who am I kidding? They are all over the place.

Keep, throw away, or sell? I try not to throw away books. I donated thousands before I left Maryland, some of which I’m sure were pitched as soon as my back was turned. I try not to think about it. I like to keep books but I’m not sure why. I love to sell books and I do know why that is—I get to handle the book and then I get money for it. Two of my favorite things! For books too common to sell, I love paperbackswap.com.

Keep dust jacket or toss it? Keep it. Protect it!

Read with dust jacket or remove it? Remove for reading.

Short story or novel? Yeah, yeah, yeah, short stories and novels and essays and tracts and reports and articles, etc. Print it and I will read it.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Harry Potter, but I did enjoy a couple of Lemony Snicket books. Not enough to continue the series, although I thought they were fun.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? Tired or interrupted.

"It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"? Once upon a time

Buy or borrow? Another yes. I borrow a lot of books, especially now that I am not trying to buy books. Nonetheless I manage to buy books. My new house is around the corner from a big remainder store. I am still finding the used book stores.

New or used? Um, yes.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse? Those three, plus something that was mentioned in a book I’ve read, plus other works by authors I like. Probably more browsing than anything else, though.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger? I’ve checked back through the attributions but I can’t find who originated this list of questions—obviously they were asking about fiction. What sort of tidy ending would you expect otherwise? Maybe some cookbooks or a how-to something. Anyway, I have a high tolerance for clutter and ambiguity. I do not mind an untidy ending.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading? Any time is a good time to read. I feel like I am sneaking it in whenever I read. Nighttime reading seems the most legitimate, I suppose.

Stand-alone or series? Stand-alone

Favorite series? My favorite series are all YA. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (saw this on slightlymadmom’s list and that’s what made me glom on), Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, ooh: Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators! Also the Bertrand Brinley’s Mad Scientists.

Favorite children's book? Impossible to say. I am sure that I reread Black Beauty more than any other book when I was a kid, but I don’t think it’s my favorite now.

Favorite YA book? Another question with no one answer. Fahrenheit 451? When I was YA myself I remember two favorites were not YA but were certainly accessible: Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden, both of which I remember as fondly as I would a friend from way back. I think I will have another look at them.

Favorite books of all time? That one I can answer without thinking, which is probably bad. It’s just a question that’s been asked a few times before and I’ve decided my answer is T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.

What are you reading right now? Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels, Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World, Jerry Langton’s Rat: how the world’s most notorious rodent clawed its way to the top, Lynette Chiang’s The Handsomest Man in Cuba, and Joint Assn of Classical Teachers' The World of Athens.

What are you reading next? Whatever I feel like I want to read! Gosh! And John Sutherland’s How to Read a Novel.

Favorite book to recommend to an eleven-year-old? I’d want to know more than the age, of course. I remember taking Christopher to the library before he could read and I would be picking out GREAT books for us to read together but he would remain unimpressed. He’d check out his favorite book and we’d be in for another week of reading Mammals: the large ungulates. Sadly, I think I mispronounced “ungulate” every time. Anyway, that question is unanswerable.

Favorite book to reread? I don’t usually want to reread. There are so many books out there! So if I am rereading, it’s usually because I am reading to a kid, which is one of my favorite things to do. In that case, Where the Wild Things Are, The Elephant’s Child, Beverley Cleary’s Ramona books, or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are all at the top of the list.

Do you ever smell books? Sure! I know a grumpy (and very funny) bookseller who bitches about customers who walk in his shop, take a deep breath, and say “Ah! I love the smell of old books!” because he knows as soon as he hears that that they’ll hang around the store for a long time and never buy a single thing. The first time he told me this I felt bad because even if I’ve never said it aloud, I do love the smell of old books. Sometimes when I was feeling crappy I would walk into a bookstore and breathe and feel better right away, physically better. I’d think, “This can not be healthy,” but there you go.

Do you ever read Primary source documents? What a weird question. Yes. I like to read compiled correspondence even though it makes me feel very inadequate with regard to my own letter-writing. Some documents, like the abstract of title that follows the land our house sits on, seem like little treasures once unearthed. I had a job working at the National Archives Record Center one summer and I was unquestionably their most satisfied employee. We had to open the boxes (!) to see if they contained what the map claimed they contained. Army Times issues, the unclaimed personal effects of deceased Peace Corps volunteers, greeting cards send to congressmen, a box of cast-iron toy banks … it was so cool! But I digress. I read newspapers, posted notices, blogs, user manuals, prefaces, forewords and introductions, the grocery list left behind in a shopping cart, what-have-you. Primary source documents … what were they thinking?

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