Friday, October 25, 2013

A to Z Blogger Book Survey

The Legatus' college library

Thanks to The Laughing Ferret and the Too Much Free Time blogs for their posts on favourite books as they mean I can do a blog post whilst stranded in Denmark.  I've tried to illustrate the various books with the covers of the ones I had.

Author you've read the most books from: (not sure about the grammar of this one!)

Somewhat to my surprise this is a narrow win for Clive Cussler over Bernard Cornwell by one book. Cussler's books today are largely not written by him, however, so I will award it to Cornwell.  I went out and bought Sharpe's Rifles in 1992 after watching the first TV adaption. 

Best sequel ever:

I don't know about ever, but I enjoyed Tom Harper's novel Knights of the Cross, which focussed on the siege of Antioch during the Crusades much more than the smaller scale original The Mosaic of Shadows.

Currently reading:

City of Sin by Catherine Arnold.  The story of London as a hot bed (literally) of fornication, prostitution and sex scandals show that the last 150 years of supposed "Victorian values" have been far from the norm for a city where many of the best brothels were owned by the church and in the mid-1850s there were 80,000 prostitutes working in central London. 

Drink of choice whilst reading:

Probably a nice Bordeaux, although only an expensive one if the book has a leather binding.  Someone gave me a couple of bottles of Gruaud Larose 2009 recently but they need a few years and an expensively bound book to go with them.

E-reader or physical book:

Well nothing beats a physical book and you can't use an e-reader in the bath but I have been surprised by how much I have used my Kindle since I bought it for a long trip to South America earlier in the year. I wouldn't take a physical book abroad any more.

Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:

At school I was into sporty girls, including an athlete from a nearby girls school who I have mentioned before.  So it would probably have been Golden Girl in the 1980 Olympics-set novel by Peter Lear.  Especially as perkily personified on the cover by Page 3 girl Diane West, who also featured on some of those James Bond book covers with girls draped over  a giant pistol.

Has to be the one with the Chris Foss cover

Glad you gave this book a chance:

Triplanetary by EE Smith.  I read this at school and initially thought it was going to be an AE van Vogt style really alien novel but, of course, it then turned into rollicking space opera with massive spaceships, including of course, the model for the Death Star, square jawed heroes and curvy women. The initial "alien sections", it turns out, were added fourteen years after the original serial publication of 1934, hence the difference in tone.  Never could get over an evil mastermind called Roger, though.

Hidden book gem:

I enjoyed Invasion: They're Coming! an account of D-Day by Paul Carell so much that I actually bought their rather dog-eared copy from the mobile library when I was at junior school.  This was the first book about World War 2 I had read and, probably, the first military history book I read. 

Important moment in your book life:

Reading my first science fiction book, Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, when I was ten years old.  Up until that point nearly all my reading had been non-fiction. It literally opened my mind up to another world.  I didn't ready anything but science fiction for nearly ten years.

Just finished:

False God of Rome by Robert Fabbri.  I have been enjoying these novels about the rise of Vespasian which contain good military action, fairly accurate history and a well characterised Vespasian who is evolving convincingly over the three books I have read so far.

Kind of book you won't read:

Anything that smacks of literature; old or new. I had enough of that at English A level.   I know people who read every Booker Prize nominee every year. I am not interested in challenging books; I read to relax. I don't like crime novels (on the whole) and I also don't read many novels with a contemporary setting (apart from a few techno thrillers).  I very rarely read, oddly, science fiction any more.  My real issue with novel style is that I don't like first person narrative very much, for some reason.  

Longest book you've read:

It could quite possibly be Dhalgren by Samuel R Delany which was around 800 pages but felt much, much longer.

Major book hangover because of disappointing endings: 

Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield is an otherwise enjoyable novel of female gladiators somewhat spoiled by a very rushed ending.  We forgive him, however, for including one of the best lesbian sex scenes ever.

Number of bookcases you own:

A tricky one this. I have three actual bookcases in my study plus one wall which is entirely bookshelves.  Also 20 crates of books in the loft.

One book you've read multiple times:

I must have read Clive Cussler's Raise the Titanic at least four times.  It's still his best novel.

Preferred place to read:

I do most of my reading on planes or trains but I prefer to read in the bath, ideally, in a nice hotel with a glass of wine or a local beer.  I have only dropped a novel in the bath once, when I dozed off after a long flight.  After an unsuccessful attempt to dry it with the hotel hairdryer I was lucky that I was in Singapore and could go out to a book shop and replace it immediately.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:

"All the feels"? I've always liked the first line of David lodge's Changing Places which I read after watching the TV adaption of his Small World.  "High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour."  It encapsulates both the style and the subject of the book in a single sentence.

Reading regret:

That I can't be bothered to read more highbrow novels like all my friends do.  Especially, S, who reads novels in foreign languages.  Occasionally one of my friends gives me something "I should try" and they all go straight off to the charity shop.  I was recently given The Wilderness which is about a man with Alzheimer's "because your mother has it".  Off to Oxfam with that one straight away.  I do not want to read anything depressing or downbeat, thank you very much.  I am not an intellectual.

Series you started and need to finish:

I really want to finish Jean M Auel's Earth's Children's series begun in The Clan of the Cave Bear but you need to have a lot of time to tackle one of her 800 page, literally mammoth, epics.

Three of your all-time favourite books:

Three?  Good grief! None of them would be novels.  Taking a Desert Island Discs approach then it would be (at least today) Roger Dean's Views, Peter Young's The War Game and The Playmate Book.  I like pictures more than words, on the whole.

Unapologetic fanboy for:

Hmm, tricky one this.  Are there any authors where I buy their latest book in hardback as soon as it comes out?  I used to do that for Cussler and Cornwell but not now. Currently it is the Robert Fabbri Vespasian series I suppose.

Very excited for this release:

Simon Scarrow's The Blood Crows comes out today so I will pick that up in the next few days. 

Worst bookish habit:

The fact that I start lots of books and read half of them and then start another one.  This often had something to do with my travelling.  I didn't want to take a half read book away with me so I took an unread one.  I often leave them for years and then have to go back and start them again.  I must have about twelve like this at present.  Actually, the Kindle is helping to prevent this now.

X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book: 

Not sure which bookshelf to pick but if I take my biggest actual bookcase then the 27th (wouldn't the 25th have been more appropriate?) would be the photographic book Fine Lines by John Swannell, which was a present from a girlfriend in the early eighties.

Your latest book purchase:

I'll only count real books not ebooks so that would be Inside HBO's Game of Thrones which I picked up for £4 in Sainsbury's at the weekend. A beautifully produced effort, this.

Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waaay too late:)

I don't read late at home as I tend to watch TV at night so it would have been when I was away.  Looking at my Kindle it looks like Anthony Conway's origins of Word War 1 set thriller The Black Hand which I remember being desperate to finish after midnight despite having to get up at 5.00am to catch a flight.

So a very interesting exercise this which just confirms that I am defiantly low brow in my reading.  I shudder to think what my sister's answers would be. I would probably have never heard of the authors let alone the books.


  1. A new Scarrow - excellent! What a good idea for a post as well - I must try my best to make this idea "go viral"... :o)

  2. Part of my wedding present from my father was a case of Gruaud Larose 1999 (or is it 96 - I can never remember). I have 6 bottles left - still going strong and, as you say, very nice indeed. Sainsbury's sell the house's second wine - still about £30 a bottle, I believe.


  3. Ah yes, the Sarget, I think. Used to drink that back in the eighties...

  4. "Fine Lines by John Swannell, which was a present from a girlfriend in the early eighties."

    Crikey, what a GF!