10 books that changed my life

(i’m a sucker for book memes, and this one’s a particularly good one.)

01.  jane eyre, charlotte brontë, for being the first book i truly, thoroughly loved.

02.  anna karenina, leo tolstoy, for introducing me to the awesomeness that is 19th century russian literature.

03.  atonement, ian mcewan, for getting me out of a bad reading slump and back into literature.

04.  never let me go, kazuo ishiguro, for … never letting me go.  (har.)  (okay, seriously, though, i read this book at least once a year, and it never ceases to get me right in the gut.)

05.  the unabridged journals, sylvia plath, for just getting me.

06.  man walks into a room, nicole krauss — or nicole krauss in general for being brilliant and thoughtful and amazing.

07.  please take care of mom, shin kyung-sook, for making me appreciate motherhood and womanhood in post-war korean culture, which is all very relevant to me because my grandmother, my mother, even i have emerged from it.

08.  nothing to envy, barbara demick, for humanizing north koreans.

09.  the corrections, jonathan franzen, for getting me started on contemporary fiction and an awareness of the industry as a whole, although, okay, maybe it’s more accurate to cite freedom here because it really was all the media frenzy around freedom that got me reading the corrections (i read freedom six months after i’d read the corrections).

10.  the english patient, michael ondaatje, for being so fucking exquisitely written in language that breaks my heart and gives me hope.

i wrote a manifesto for procrastinators because that is what i am.

Another reading meme to whittle away some time I ought not be whittling away so freely.  I forget where I got this from (as usual); apologies!

01.  What kind of reader are you?
A particular one who reads with a pencil with which to mark passages I like very lightly then goes back to copy down said passages into a notebook and erase the light pencil marks.  I’m also not a spine-bender, corner-folder, or book abuser or any sort — hell, I’ll tape book bindings to further their lifespan.

02.  How long do you give a book?
It gets a skim of three random pages to capture my interest.  If I’ve already picked it up and started to read it seriously?  Maybe a quarter, maybe half, maybe five pages.  Depends how indulgent and patient I’m feeling at the moment.

03.  Do you crack the spine?
Refer back to Q01.

04.  Books you don’t care for?
Chick lit, mystery, romance, science fiction …

05.  Why do you like reading?
Why do you like breathing?

06.  Hardcover or paperback?
Paperback — lighter and less nuisance of the dust jacket.

07.  Do people think your book buying is weird?
I return things compulsively (this doesn’t apply only to books).  People think that is weird.

08.  Do covers influence you?
Yes.  Covers are important, and [good] book designers fall in the ranks of people I respect because book designing is hard.  Of course, that said, if I really want to read a book, I won’t let a bad cover dissuade me, but, if I’m on the fence, it can (and has been) a deal-breaker between whether I fuck it and read it, wait for the next edition, or move onto the next book on my list.

09.  Read books or e-books?
Real books.

10.  Could you date someone who doesn’t read?
I’d like to say, No, but we all know that’s a lie.  And, yes, I do judge people according to what they do or don’t read.  What people read and how they treat their books speak volumes about them.

11.  Books you re-read the most?
You know, surprisingly (or not), I don’t reread very many books — or, at least, if it’s a re-read, it’s a re-read that comes a few years after the first read.

13.  Funniest book you’ve ever read?
Uhm …

14.  Does reading make you smarter?
Not if you’re reading Twilight.  But, serious answer, it depends on the reader and how one reads.  It’s like everything else in life; you take from it what you will, what you’re willing to put into it.

15.  When do you read?
Whenever I can.  I try to make a habit of reading while I’m eating, which worked out great when I was working but only sporadically since I’ve come back to university.  Regardless, I do generally read on my own time everyday, usually in the evenings as I’m too busy napping in the library between classes during the day …

you know those "30 days" memes that are going around? well, here's one for "30 days of books," except i've no patience to answer one a day.

01:  best book you read last year:
Ian McEwan, Enduring Love.

02:  a book you’ve read more than three times:
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.

03:  your favourite series:
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Scott Westerfield’s Uglies books, & L.M. Montgomery’s Emily novels.

04:  favourite book of your favourite series:
The Girl Who Played With Fire, Uglies, & Emily Climbs.

05:  a book that makes you happy:
John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley in Search of America.

06:  a book that makes you sad:
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go.

07:  most underrated book:
I can’t think of any.  I think there are many books that aren’t massively popular on a mainstream scale (and, in some ways, thank God for it), but I can’t think of anything I would consider underrated.

08:  most overrated book:
Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice.

09:  a book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving:
Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

10:  favourite classic book:
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenin.

11:  a book you hated:
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead.

12:  a book you used to love but don’t anymore:
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha [I loved this when I first read it in high school, and I picked it up some time during university thinking I’d revisit something from those awful years, read a few pages, and thought, What the hell was wrong with me in high school???]

13:  your favourite writer:
Leo Tolstoy.

14:  favourite book of your favourite writer:
Anna Karenin.

15:  favourite male character:
You know, I don’t know.  I think one would be Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

16:  favourite female character:
I don’t know this, either; one might be Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

17:  favourite a quote from your a favourite book:
[Because “favourite quote” is an impossibility; I collect quotes like some people collect stamps.]

"I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind."
-  Catherine in Wuthering Heights

18:  a book that disappointed you:
Here are two:  Sheila Kohler, Cracks, and Marcus Zuzak, The Book Thief.

19:  favourite book turned into a movie:
[Thus far,] Ian McEwan, Atonement.

20:  favourite romance book:
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca.
[… did I just label this a “romance book?”]

21:  favourite book from your childhood:
[Honestly and not in an attempt to sound priggish,] Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.

22:  favourite book you own:
This is a ridiculous question to ask a book lover.

23:  a book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t:
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore[, because, once I read it, I’m out of Murakami until 1Q84].

24:  a book you wish more people would’ve read:
You know what?  I don’t know.  A lot!

25:  a character who you can relate to the most:
Here’s a cheat of an answer:  Sylvia Plath.

26:  a book that changed your opinion about something:
… none?

27:  the most surprising plot twist or ending:
Ian McEwan, The Comfort of Strangers and Enduring Love.

28:  favourite title:
[Off the top of my head, without second thought,] Italo Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller and Invisible Cities.

29:  a book everyone hated but you liked:
I can think of plenty going the other way but not this particular way …

30:  your favourite book of all time:
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenin.

i've got my itunes on shuffle, & i'm thinking it's time for an itunes purge and this meme on reading habits.

[How would you define a meme other than as “a questionnaire used to spin away time”?]

01:  do you snack while reading?
It depends but not usually.  I like nibbling on something once in a while, and I do read while I’m eating lunch every day.

02:  what is your favourite drink while reading?
The usual suspects:  coffee, water, brown rice green tea.

03:  do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
For fiction, the latter — and vehemently at that.  I do very lightly pencil mark passages to copy down later, then go back and erase them after copying them into a notebook, and, if I have a book I love and want to mark up, I’ll get a second copy.  I’m shamelessly OCD about my books and won’t lend them out anymore because of it.

Nonfiction, however, is prone to clean highlighting.

04:  how do you keep your place?  bookmark?  dog-ears?  laying the book open flat?
Dog-ears and laying the book open flat are huge NO-NOs in my world.  I use anything as pseudo-bookmarks — receipts, note cards, clean napkins, price tags from clothing — and I like big Post-its.

05:  fiction, non-fiction, or both?
Both.  I generally say no to autobiographies and memoirs, though.

06:  do you tend to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
Can stop anywhere.

07:  are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
I got through The Fountainhead without any sort of violence on my part, so this answer is safely, “no.”

08:  if you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
No.  This is where a Post-it bookmark comes in handy.

09:  what are you currently reading?
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale; Koushun Takami, Battle Royale; Orlando Figes, Natasha’s Dance; Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

10:  what is the last book you bought?
Dave Eggers, The Wild Things (it was on sale for $3), and the Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers (on sale for $10), both courtesy of the McSweeney’s Store.

11:  do you have a favourite time/place to read?
In my car, during lunch hour, with the windows rolled down, and in bed before sleeping.

12:  do you prefer series books or stand-alones?

13:  is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Here are seven:  The Fall, Anna Karenin, Jane Eyre, Atonement, Never Let Me Go, Dracula, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.e

14:  how do you organise your books (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)?
Fiction:  by publisher then author’s last name.
Nonfiction:  by topic then book dimensions.

15:  background noise or silence?
Music — always music.

(Unfortunately, I don’t keep track of where I find these memes.  Every once in a while, I stumble upon a meme I’d like to fill out at one point and copy-paste it onto TextEdit and, of course, forget to note the source …)

the proust questionnaire

What is your most marked characteristic?

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Open-mindedness.  A lack of focus on her appearance.

What do you most value in your friends?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A lack of integrity.

What is your favourite occupation?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Studying for a living.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Choosing to live without choice.

In which country would you like to live?
An ideal, impossible one where freedoms are granted but not shamelessly exploited.  As for a non-conceptual country, this one will do for now.

Who are your favourite writers?
Tolstoy, Camus, Murakami, McEwan, & Bronte.

Who are your favourite poets?
T.S. Eliot.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Those who are damaged.

Who is your favourite heroine of fiction?
Those who are imperfect.

Who are your favorite composers?
Mozart, Rachmaninov, & Chopin.

Who are your favorite painters?
Those who are non-abstract.

What are your favorite names?
Christopher, Zoe, and Cecilia.

What is it that you most dislike?
Synthetic sounds; indulgent unhappiness and malcontent.

Which talent would you most like to have?
The talent of crafting letters.

How would you like to die?
As fulfilled as human fulfilment comes.

What is your current state of mind?
Anxious but calm.

What is your motto?
in consillis nostris fatum nostrum est.