Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A-Z Book Survey

A number of my scribbly buddies have completed this survey, so here is my version.

Author(s) You’ve Read The Most Books From:
When I was a small boy I bought ‘The Camels are Coming’ in a second-hand shop, solely because the writer & I shared a name. It was a Biggles book by Capt. W E Johns. I then relentlessly hunted down and bought every Biggles book I could find. At one time I owned all but three or four of the almost one hundred in the series. By today’s standards they are almost unreadable.
My most read ‘proper’ writer (for those who acknowledge SF as proper writing) is probably Robert A Heinlein. 

Best Sequel Ever:
I hate waiting for sequels. I now often tend to wait until a series is finished to buy the first book. That way, if I really enjoy it, I can buy the remainder. This explains why I haven’t started the Song of Ice and Fire series!

Currently Reading:
Moonheart by Charles De Lint, A Wanted Man by Lee Child, The Flashing Type 2 (Flash Fiction Anthology), Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. I always have a number of books on the go at the same time. I keep them in different places & generally only read them there.

Drink of Choice While Reading:
Tea (without milk) during the day, lager in the evening.

E-reader or Physical Book?
I have a Kindle that travels with me for convenience. Much as I appreciate this aspect, there is something curiously uninvolving about the experience. I have found myself close to buying the same book twice on Kindle, something I never did with all the thousands of physical books I have bought and read. I have a theory that the e-reader engages less of your senses, and to a lower level that the pulped wood version does.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated at University:
Star from Heinlein’s Glory Road – (in your dreams, Johns!)

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
Purfume by Patrick Suskind. This was the selection of a library reading group I belonged to. My heart sank. I read it and, despite being a sometimes uncomfortable read, was (sort of) pleased that I persevered. 

Hidden Gem Book:
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. A series that is, I suppose YA fiction, (certainly the first book is), but it works with some of the old British myths and legends ina a way that made Moorcock famous. I find that the way the books grow up with the character very appealing. and I still return to it every now and then. The film (of one of the books only) was an execrable Americanised failure in a way that only Hollywood can manage.

Important Moment In Your Reading Life:
The Lord of the Rings, age 11.

Just Finished:
Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman. A interesting new fantasy, from a new British writer, with a firmly rooted British setting (in both realms).

Kind of Books You Won’t Read:
Hard core horror. I did the Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert thing as a teenager, but found many of the mainstream writing in this genre vaguely derivative and lacking either the thought provoking qualities of SF or the epic sweep of the fantasy that I read in the same period.

Longest Book You’ve Read:
Lord of the Rings I guess counts; even though I was lucky enough to own three wonderful hardback volumes published by Unwin that my Grandmother bought for me. To my lasting regret, I no longer have them when the wrong box went into a skip during a house move.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:
As an 11 year old with the aforementioned Lord of the Rings. Fortunately my Mother, also a voracious reader, understood completely and went easy on me the following day!

Number Of Bookcases You Own:
Six, but I also own an eight feet high, fifteen feet long built-in custom made bookcase the whole length of my hallway. This was commissioned (and paid for) by my wonderful wife as a wedding present! It also meant that the piles of books on every flat surface in the house disappeared – for a while!

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
I am a great re-reader. Among the volumes that I have returned to most often:- Lord of the Rings & The Hobbi., Ray Feist’s Riftwar and Serpentwar cycles. Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘Glory Road’, and various short story collections, notably ‘The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag’ and ‘Waldo & Magic Inc’. Robert Silverberg’s ‘Lord Valentine’s Castle’. Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’....OK, OK enough already!

Preferred Place To Read:
Anywhere except in bed.

Quote That Inspires You/Gives You All The Feels From A Book You’ve Read:
I prefer notable ‘people’ quotes to literary ones. Many of them remind me of various books – ‘The covers of this book are too far apart’. - Ambrose Bierce or There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them is not reading them.  - Joseph Brodsky

Reading Regret:
A very recent one. That I’ll never have enough time to read all the books I want to.

Series You Started And Need To Finish:
See answer B

Three Of Your All-time Favorite Books:
Three? Only Three? Are you mad?
OK, OK  I’ll try. But I’ll only include ones that I haven’t mentioned yet
Roger Zelazny’s Amber Cycle (the original family) Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (for all the revisionist, post modern critiques of it). Any of Christopher Brookmyre’s Jack Parlabane or Angelique de Xavia novels – Oh all right - The Sacred Art of Stealing

Unapologetic Fanboy For:
Bob Shaw. A now sadly often overlooked British SF writer (1931-1996), who wrote some especially good short stories. Check out ‘A Little Night Flying’ and Hugo nominated ‘Light of other Days’ (and the related novel ‘Other Days, Other Eyes’. But most of his anthologies contain something good – ‘The Kingdom of O’Ryan’ in ‘A Better Mantrap’.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
My capacity to be excited about new books (or even old ones I’ve just found) knows no bounds!

Worst Bookish Habit:
Reading to the isolation of those around me!

X Marks The Spot: Start At The Top Left Of Your Shelf & Pick the 27th Book:
Ray Feist’s Magician

Your Latest Book Purchase:
Charles de Lint’s Moonheart

Zzzzz… Last Book That Kept You Up Way Too Late:
Most of them. So many books, so little....


  1. Waiting on sequels KILLS me. I ALWAYS forget all the important things and end up having to skim the first book for information. I prefer stand-alones. And I'm refusing to start Song of Ice & Fire as well! *high-five*

    So many great finds in this post. I'm a lover of fantasy, but I don't read enough of it. I'm definitely going to be adding a ton of these to my GoodReads list! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Ang
      Thanks for opening up the whole can of worms! I feel like I could do different one of these at least monthly! I keep remembering books that I wish I had included, but I am never sure that they should displace the current selections...

  2. Heinlein, I SO need to read more - I have only read two!

    And Perfume is one of the best books I have ever read too. I loved it. Gosh if I had thought of this during my A-Z it would have been my hidden gem.

    Funny, I read a ton of sci-fi in teenage and then moved into Horror, which is now my staple. But I still love SF too, although it misses the parts of the human psyche that I get from horror!

    Great list, made me think about all sorts of writers I love - like Fiest!

    1. Hi Miranda!
      Heinlein splits opinion. He is sometimes critiqued as a misogynist, but I feel that this is both an error and cultural revsionism. Heinlein often wrote strong female characters (Star in Glory Road, Mary in The Puppet Masters, the eponymous Friday) in a time and in a genre where that was practically unheard of. You can never judge anything - fiction included - out of their temporal context. It is in the same vein as those who wanted to have Churchill's cigar removed from his bronze statue in Parliament Square as it set a bad example of smoking to young people, or, in fiction, those who want to bowdlerise Twain to remove the 'stain of slavery' as I once saw it referred to, from his books. I think that it is a profound mistake to ignore or, even worse, to seek to edit someone merely because you don't like what they have to say.

  3. The Dark is Rising...I just went back and edited my list after you mentioned this! My teacher read Over Sea Under Stone to us when I was 11 and it was a defining moment once I discovered the rest of the sequence. (The movie should be buried, very deep...)
    Great list!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I still return to these stories. In conjunction with Alan Garner's books(Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Moon of Gomrath, Elidor and the wonderful Owl Service), Cooper drew me into the myths and legends of Britain in a different way from the relationship I had to Moorcock's re-working of similar tales.

  4. I like this survey. I think I'm gonna do this, too.

    1. Go for it Jessica! Post it when you're done - they've all been fascinating. Reading them is like the old maxim that you can tell a lot about someone by looking at their bookcase!

  5. I've not really read much SF but saying that a few of those mentioned I have and loved. Will have to hunt out Susan Cooper however, love me a little bit of YA :)

    1. Hi Laura. I'm not a huge fan of 'hard SF, all too often all tech & no story IMHO. The Susan Cooper is well worth the effort of searching out!