I don’t usually do non-review posts these days, but this one caught my eye and hooked me in. Plus it’s been a bank holiday weekend for us here in the UK, so I’ve had some time. This is an A-to-Z of book blogging questions that I nicked from Avery over at Red Rocket Panda, and was originally created by the Perpetual Page Turner way back in 2013. Let’s go!
Author you’ve read the most books by
I glanced at my bookshelves for this one and it hit me square between the eyes: it’s Terry Pratchett, of course. I haven’t read every Discworld book by any means, but I have read almost every one up to the 26th story, Thief of Time, and then bits and pieces thereafter. I’m holding off on the last few deliberately, especially given that I know the very last one, The Shepherd’s Crown, is a Witches story, and Granny Weatherwax is my favourite Discworld character. I’m thoroughly anticipating that finishing it will somewhat destroy me.
Best sequel ever
‘Ever’ is a strong word, but I’m going to throw my hat in for The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. The Northern Lights stole my entire heart as a teenager, and then The Subtle Knife threw me for a loop by introducing a brand new character, multiple other dimensions, and some really fucking high stakes.
At the time of writing, I’m currently deep in the middle of A Memory of Empire by Arkady Martine, and absolutely loving it so far. I’m so anxious for Mahit Dzmare!
Drink of choice whilst reading
Depends on the situation! If I’m at work or at home, usually you’ll find me drinking tea while I read. If I’m on public transport, it might be coffee from my takeaway cup or water. If it’s nighttime? Wine.
E-reader or physical book
Possibly an unpopular opinion here, but: e-reader. It’s small, it’s light, it has adjustable text sizing, it holds an improbable number of books inside it.
Fictional character you would probably have dated in school
The fictional character I would have dated in school—or, at the very least, wanted to date, as I was even more of a shy nerd than I am now—would be Susan Sto Helit, of Discworld. Her steadfastness, her stubbornness, her almighty sass—and she was rocking the black streak in white hair waaaay before The Wicked and the Divine’s Lucifer, who is also more than welcome to step off the page and sweep me off my feet.
Glad you gave this book a chance
This is an odd one, but bear with me: it’s Beloved by Toni Morrison. Beloved was on my vague list of books that I needed to read at some point, but hadn’t got around to. I ended up choosing it a couple of years ago as my pick for a book club I was part of at the time, specifically because the picks up until mine had been overwhelmingly white and male. I stupidly didn’t anticipate what a difficult journey the book was going to be. It’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have stuck with it if I hadn’t needed to read it for my book club. But it was so very worth it, so I’m glad I did.
Hard to say what qualifies as ‘hidden’ in the internet age, but nonetheless I’m going to lob in my favourite romance author as a candidate here: KJ Charles.
KJ Charles writes mostly historical queer romances, with a whole rich vein of fantasy running through her catalogue. Her ‘A Charm of Magpies’ and ‘Green Men’ series (and connected stories) both feature magic systems that wind satisfyingly around and through the real historical worlds they take place in.
If you like multiple, well-written queer characters and alternate, fantasy histories, and you haven’t read any KJ Charles yet, go treat yourself!
Important moment in your reading life
One moment springs to mind, so early and so fixed in my memory it must be formative. I was very small, five or six or seven, and I was sitting on my gran’s bed, trying to find a book to read from those stacked around her headboard. My gran was getting me to read blurbs and title pages aloud, to test my reading, I think. I distinctly remember reading the word ‘illustrated’ aloud, and how surprised and pleased my gran was.
That flash of pride at being a good reader would echo in English lessons down the years, mutating to crop up in history, philosophy, and theology, steering me into writing and into my eventual undergrad degree. My takeaway was: I’m good at words.
And here I am, about a quarter of a century later, still good at words.
The last book I finished before my current read was Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. Review forthcoming!
Kinds of books you won’t read
I refuse to read the sort of ‘classics’ that are straight-up boring or bigoted, because life is too bloody short. I also generally don’t read straight thrillers, because to me they’re just a big ‘ehh’ as a genre, but that’s not to knock them—they’re just not my cup of tea.
Longest book you’ve read
All right, so I’m not counting omnibuses like ‘The Craft Sequence’, which I finished earlier this year and which took me about two months. After a rifle through Goodreads, I believe it’s got to be the absolute kinky queer classic Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which I must have read at least ten years ago or more, and ever since I’ve been meaning to read the sequels.
I should get on with that.
Major book hangover
I know I’ve had a few in my life, but my most memorable—even after all these years—is my melancholia after finishing The Return of the King for the first time.
I was absolutely lost. I longed to return to Middle Earth again, so much so that I devoured The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s other background writings, I learnt Quenya (a form of elvish), I wrote self-insert fanfiction and I roleplayed on forums.
Every night I’d look out of my window at the stars and wish I could have been born in Middle Earth instead of here, now, in this sad, industrialised, magic-less modern UK.
Number of bookcases you own
Three, all in my living room.
Two are tall and slim, and I bought them from a second-hand furniture sale when I first moved into my last place.
One is short and wider, and my gran always said my grandad built it himself. It used to live in the hall when I was little, and the telephone was perched on top. Now it lives with me.
One book you’ve reread lots
The Wild Road by Gabriel King. This is a major blast from my past—I first read this novel when I was about 14 or 15, and it absolutely blew my tiny little teenage mind. It’s a story about cats and England and history and magic. The edition that sits on my bookshelf is worn around the corners, cracked in the spine, and severely yellowed. I adore it still.
Preferred place to read
This is somewhat like my drink of choice—situational. I’ll read whenever, wherever. But my ideal reading sitch? In a park, on a sunny day, on the grass in the shade of some big, old trees. That might just be heaven.
Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read
For this did they lie there, the martyrs of March, in their cold Brotherhood Grave on Mars Field; for this thousands and tens of thousands had died in the prisons, in Siberian mines. It had not come as they had expected it would come, nor as the intelligentzia desired it; but it had come—rough, strong, impatient of formulas, contemptuous of sentimentalism; real…
– John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World
There’s so much writing in Reed’s account of the Russian revolution of 1917 that I want to inscribe on the walls of my heart, but this one will have to stand for all. Reed’s firsthand account of a revolution inspires my own conceptualisation of civil unrest, as well as giving me hope for fresh uprisings of the oppressed and marginalised today and in the future. (This was published in 1919 so is well out of copyright—you can download it for free from the Marxists Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg.)
I’m struggling to come up with a regret about reading in particular, so I’ll go with a story connected to reading.
I was volunteering at Cheltenham Literature Festival a few years back, as I tend to do, and after my shift I wandered into the Waterstones book selling tent and was browsing the featured books. I found a book I liked the look of—it was a hardback edition of Mary Beard’s Confronting the Classics, which was just out that year. I snagged a staff member to ask how much it was, and they told me it was £25.
“Twenty-five quid?” I repeated, all incredulous disappointment. (I was then, as now, pretty much skint. I couldn’t justify a £25 book.)
At which point a well-spoken woman’s voice came from directly behind me: “Well, buy a cheaper book then.”
I spun around to see, sweeping grandly past me without another glance, Mary Beard herself.
Reader, I wanted to launch myself into the sun.
Once I’d put myself back together again, what I actually did was buy the damn book and queue for half an hour to get it signed by La Beard herself, just to have an opportunity to apologise. She then spelled my name wrong inside the cover and got all apologetic back, from which I took some small solace.
The whole awkward event has a place of honour in my gallery of painfully cringe-inducing memories to this day.
Series you started and need to finish (all books are out)
Yoon-Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series! I’ve finished the first two and Revenant Gun is sitting on my e-reader, just waiting for me to open it. I can’t wait!
Three all-time favourite books
Now this is the really tricky question. I’m telling you now: this is not an exhaustive list of my three favourite books. It’s three of my favourite books, picked almost at random from my shelves and plopped down here.
- The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- October by China Miéville
Unapologetic fangirl for
I’ve been stanning for China Miéville for years, mate. Ever since I picked up Looking For Jake and Other Stories in a charity shop over a decade ago, I’ve been hooked. His twisty, visceral prose, his unpredictable fantasy, his forthright, intelligent communism… I’m here for all of it.
Very excited for this release more than all the others
I am thoroughly verklempt for This Is How You Lose the Time War, out in July, by Amal El-Mohtar, whose writing I absolutely adore, and Max Gladstone, whose Craft series I’ve really enjoyed.
Worst bookish habit
It might just be that I fold over the corners of pages to mark my place when I’m reading a paper book—even if it’s not my own (gasp, shock, horror).
X marks the spot: start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book
I started on my leftmost bookshelf for this one, so the 27th book is: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.
Your latest purchase
The other day I took a bag of books to the charity bookshop in my town, and left with just one new book (let’s hear it for restraint)—a beautiful hardback edition of The Last London by Iain Sinclair. It’s nonfiction, a sort-of memoir of walking through London, just on the cusp of the old city’s eclipse under new development driven by big capital. It’s terrifically sad, so I don’t envision me racing through it just yet.
Zzz-snatcher book (last book that kept you up way late)
This one’s got to be The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley. Normally I’m pretty disciplined about putting a book down by at least midnight, because I know how hellish mornings are for me when I haven’t had enough sleep—but I just desperately needed to know what happened to Dietz on their next jump!
That was fun! It’s nice to have something to write that’s not Super Serious Book Reviews. I should do this more often.
If you’re reading this and you’ve got a book blog you want to steal this for, please go ahead! Let me know what your A-to-Zs are.