Sunday, April 29

Q&A: books

Last week Rosie tagged me in a lovely Q&A all about books, and being the bookworm I am I couldn't resist taking part. This post feels very fitting on a wet and windy Sunday - the perfect conditions for losing yourself in a book. Warning: it's a long'un!

The rules:
1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you've tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you've taken part!

I tag Louise, Jessica, and anybody else who is reading this and is tempted to take part. Don't forget to let me know if you do complete it as I'm all for sharing the book love.  

I have lots of favourite book covers but I chose this one as it's the inspiration behind the name of this blog. This book is from a secondhand shop and is really old - it has a bookplate that reads 'Strictford Congregational SS - Awarded to Mary Hunter for Regular Punctual Attendance, December 29th 1914'. I love finding books that come with these little pieces of history - handwritten bookplates, personal messages, dedications (the best one found in an old Steinbeck - "To Pat, For all the words you thought I couldn't say, with love, The Twit"). A feature that could never be found on a Kindle...

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Claudine in Paris - Colette. It's about a seventeen year old girl starting a new life in Paris and her observations of the city. I've only just started it, but it's very readable so far...

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
The other weekend I did something I haven’t done in years and went to the library. I had a long browse along the shelves and emerged with a stack of books, just like I’d do on a Saturday morning aged ten. So the books on my pile to read next include:
Possession - AS Byatt
Heart Songs - Annie Proulx
A Gathering Light - Jennifer Donnelly

What 5 books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?
Dombey and Son – Charles Dickens
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?
Country Living, Vogue and the Observer Food Monthly – sums me up!

What’s the worst book you've ever read?
I remember when I was about twelve and was staying in a B&B on the west coast of Ireland. I’d exhausted my own book supply and had to go ferreting through the shelf of old books left by guests. I picked up a Mills and Boon novel, not really knowing what it was. And it was awful.

What book seems really popular but you actually hated?
The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards. I didn't hate it, just thought it wasn't very well written.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith, because it’s a book I’m completely and utterly in love with.

What are your 3 favourite poems?
All really common choices; I need to read more poetry!
The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock - TS Eliot
in Just-spring - ee cummings
Ode to a Nightingale - Keats

Where do you usually get your books?
One of my aunts is a writer and has contributed to much of my ‘library’ with secondhand novels she’s recommended and the stack of books I’d get every birthday.The rest come from charity shops or Amazon. I think the prices in most bookshops are absurd so I only buy a new book if it’s a favourite, a special edition, or a recipe book.

Where do you usually read your books?
In bed, just before I go to sleep. I also love lying in the garden in the summer sunshine with a novel and a glass of iced tea!

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?
Nothing particular - I just read a lot. On the sofa, in the bath, in bed, after school, over my bowl of Ready Brek in the mornings, over my dinner in the evenings, and sometimes curled in a duvet in the cupboard under the stairs (when I wanted some peace and quiet or was pretending to be Harry Potter)

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins, which Rosie is now reading! Apparently even Thackeray pulled an all-nighter because he couldn’t stop turning the pages, so I’m not alone.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?
I don’t think so, although there were some books I skim read for GCSE/A level because I didn’t like them.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
Yes – not novels but vintage books and illustrated childrens books I find inspiring.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Anything by Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton. I longed to be the sixth member of the Famous Five and roam sandy beaches drinking ginger beer all day... And when I was really young, there was a book called Each Peach Pear Plum which I think my parents could probably recite by heart, they read it to me so often. “Each peach pear plum, I spy Tom Thumb...”

What book changed your life?
I’ve read a lot books in my twenty years, but I don’t think a book has changed my life, not yet

What is your favourite passage from a book?
 O lord this question could be pondered over for hours! I love this passage from I Capture the Castle:

“He stood staring into the wood for a minute, then said: "What is it about the English countryside — why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?"

He sounded faintly sad. Perhaps he finds beauty saddening — I do myself sometimes. Once when I was quite little I asked father why this was and he explained that it was due to our knowledge of beauty's evanescence, which reminds us that we ourselves shall die. Then he said I was probably too young to understand him; but I understood perfectly.”

What are your top five favourite authors?
Nigel Slater – not strictly an author but his food writing is amazing
John Steinbeck
Roald Dahl
F Scott Fitzgerald
Laurie Lee

What book has no one heard about but should read?
Emotionally Weird - Kate Atkinson. It's often found shunted to the back of charity shop shelves but is an unusual and brilliant book. It's like nothing I've ever read and there is something so nostalgic about her descriptions of university life in 1970s Dundee, and a summer on a remote wind-battered Scottish island.

What 3 books are you an “evangelist” for?
I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
The Summer Book - Tove Jansson
Granpa - John Burningham
(the most beautifully-illustrated, heart-warming, touching and saddest childrens book there ever was)

What are your favourite books by a first-time author?
The Outsiders – SE Hinton

What is your favourite classic book?
Most of the books mentioned in this post are probably seen as classics. Also love Oliver Twist - Dickens, Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte and The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald.

5 other notable mentions?
Toast - Nigel Slater (an amazing mix of autobiography and food writing)
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons (just brilliant)
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien (a wonderful, funny coming of age story set in 1950s Ireland)
Le Petit Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery (who doesn't love this book)
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (a perfect spring story for all fans of the outdoors)

I'll always be a big reader. I nearly went to university to study English, until I realised I didn't want to study books - I wanted to read and enjoy them. It's one of the nicest pleasures in life to curl up with a book and a cup of coffee; you can forget about your own life and worries for a couple of hours, or maybe discover that somebody has described perfectly your own feelings and experiences, or just enjoy the ability to visit other places and other times.

I'll end with a quote from one of my favourite plays/films, The History Boys:

"The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out and taken yours."
And, very importantly, as John Waters said, "If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't f*** them."


  1. Oh, I so loved reading this! What to comment on first eh? Each Peach Pear Plum was one of the Janet and Allan Ahlberg books I mentioned in my post, I remember it so well too! Made me smile remembering that as I hadn't done until then. I bought I Capture The Castle on the recommendation of another friend absolutely yonks ago but haven't read it yet, definitely going to have to give it a try now, I really enjoy that quote from it, it's very poignant. And I also adore that quote from The History Boys, I remember it well, it's such a good one and so true. Thankyou for sharing these! Oh, and I love the inscription you found in the Steinbeck book, really made me smile!

  2. I love I captured the Castle, and The Secret Garden is also amazing! I have a lot of wonderful sounding books to add to my to read list now, especially Emotionally Weird as I tend to really enjoy Kate Atkinson books. I answered the questions too, mine can be found here:

  3. The cover on Curiosity Kate is absolutely beautiful! And I really love the sound of the book that you're reading at the moment. Might try and pick up a copy myself!

  4. This is such a wonderful idea! I love seeing posts on books and things, especially so in depth. I'm very tempted to do this! I can definitely recommend The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I don't know whether it's as brilliant as its cult following makes out, but definitely enjoyable. The cover on that book is so beautiful! I quite often buy books for their covers, though I don't buy books as often now I'm studying English at university (like you almost did!) because I'm reading the prerequisites. I'm definitely going to try and get some more soon, after reading this. Great post x

  5. Hi I found your blog and just had to do this Q&A. Great stuff!

  6. Hi Kate - just got round to posting my Q&A. Looking at your answers we definitely have some overlap!

  7. Oh I love your taste in books. (Just found your blog via twitter.) I now feel like rereading 'I Capture the Castle'! Last time I read it was when I was about 11/12 and I was in the middle of my new years resolution to 'read 100 books in a year' (I somehow managed to do it as well). I just loved how it started with her writing in the kitchen sink.

    ('Dombey and Son' is wonderful, by the way. You should read it!)