This week’s Top Ten Tuesday gives me a chance to offload about the things that deter me from reading a particular book. Here in no particular order are some generalities about the items that make me not want to read a book. The more numerically inclined readers of this post will note that I didn’t make it to 10 – I found as I was preparing this list that I don’t have anywhere near that many ‘no-go’ areas.
1. The book features or even mentions zombies. The current mania among teenagers and young adults for the fictional undead leaves me cold.
2. It’s about a circus or magicians. I’m not keen on the idea of entertainment that involves wild animals and magic leaves me rather cold. I can’t say these features in a book would make it an absolute no-no but the book would have to tick many other boxes to persuade me to take an interest. Hence why I never read The Night Circus.
3. Man (Un)Appeal: In other words the cover depicts a guy stripped to his waist and showing off rippling muscles and a six-pack. I don’t even need to read the blurb to know this is absolutely the kind of book I hate. Have you seen these guys in the gym – they’re the ones who are always preening themselves in the mirror. Pity the girl or boy who falls for one of these peacocks.
4. Overtly religious themes: I appreciate these are important to some readers but they hold no interest for me.
5. Stickers on books are a pet peeve of mine. I’ll happily buy from the ‘3 for the price of 2’ or ‘buy one get the second half price’ table but I can do without the horrible promotional sticker advertising my thriftiness to all and sundry. I try to avoid them wherever possible but sometimes that’s the only edition available and then I’m left with the tough task of trying to remove the sticker. I don’t know what glue the printers use but it’s tenacious stuff – it comes off in tiny scraps, does serious damage to your nails and even then you’re left with a nasty residual sticky patch on the cover.
6. Gratuitous sadistic/masochistic violence: reading some kinds of crime thrillers invariably means you’re confronted with a certain degree of violence. If it’s essential for the plot or the theme I can tolerate a certain amount but it’s the books that deliberately set out to portray extreme violence that I never want to read (step forward Fifty Shades of Grey and its ilk)
7. Cliched romance. The covers of these kinds of book always give the game away. They typically use pastel shades on the cover and a soft focus image of a woman staring moodily into the distance or a girl/boy looking adoringly into each others eyes. Yuk…..
8. Bad writing: Of my 8 deterrent factors, this is the only one guaranteed to make me put the book down. I can tolerate a certain level of romance or violence; I will read about a religious belief as long as the author isn’t proselytizing and will even manage to read a book bearing one of the much-hated sticky labels. But bad writing is a factor I cannot tolerate. I usually skim a few pages of any book before I hand over my cash just to get a feeling for the style. Usually its the first page I look at and then something at random in the middle. If I find an abundance of cliches or unecessary adjectives, tired descriptions or deliberately ‘literary’ names for characters I’ll probably put it down again. Easier to do it a bricks and mortar shop than on line which is how I still make mistakes with some purchases.
If you are a reader then you are also a buyer of books. Probably many of them. But what kind of buyer are you? This tag on book buying has been doing the rounds for a while it seems but I only came across it recently via Robert at Book Mongrel. And so here are my secrets revealed…..
1. Where do you buy your books?
Everywhere 🙂 I don’t seem to have a lot of brand loyalty. If its a bricks and mortar shop then it will be Waterstones (there is no other option available because all the other booksellers closed down) where I like to browse what’s just been released. Or if I have a specific book in mind I might go to a small independent bookshop just a few miles from my home who have a good ordering service. When I was doing a lot of business travel I’d spend a lot of time in Barnes and Noble in the US which has a very civilised model of staying open until 10pm and has a coffee shop attached. A perfect way to relax at the end of the day. If its online purchasing then I’ll use AbeBooks, Book Depository or Amazon.
2. Do you ever pre-order books and if so do you do this in store or online?
First let me get something off my chest. I loathe this term pre-order which seems to be creeping in everywhere. It’s a nonsensical term. I can’t order before I order. Whats happened to the good old fashioned term ‘reserve’.
If this is a question about ordering books before they are published, then I can’t recall ever doing that.
3. On average, how many books do you buy a month?
Right now, none! I decided one of my goals for 2017 was to enjoy all the books I already own but have not read. My buying habits went out of control in the last two years and it’s time to exercise some restraint at least for the first six months of this year. So far I’ve done pretty well and haven’t bought anything – though it hasn’t stopped acquisitions totally because my sister donated three books to me in February and I’ve won a few in give aways. But it’s certainly more restrained than in previous years where I would buy probably about 4 a month. I know other readers buy far more than that but then I don’t read that quickly.
4. Do you use your local library?
Absolutely. I’ve been a library member since early childhood – it was my lifeline in my teens because my parents couldn’t afford to keep up with my voracious reading habits. Going to the library meant I could explore unknown territories of genres and authors without feeling I was wasting money if I didn’t enjoy them. What makes me angry is the way the public library service in the UK is being viewed with hundreds of branches closing as a result of cost cutting measures. Ok some of them are being run by the community but this in no way is a substitute for a professional service. I fought for two years to keep the library in my village but despite taking court action it’s now run by volunteers and has to be funded by the community.
5. If so – how many books can you/do you borrow at a time?
I think the limit for my library is about 5 books at any one time. I tend not to get too many out in one go because I know I’ll never read them before the loan period is up. Many times I will borrow something just to boost the statistics for the number of books issued – but keep that to yourself, I don’t want the local authority bureaucrats knowing I am trying to manipulate their data (!).
6. What is your opinion on library books?
They’re a valuable resource that is sadly undervalued. My one complaint is that the stock seems to be too skewed to popular fiction (way too many minor celebrity memoirs). Not easy though to get anything that is not mainstream (especially if it is in translation). When the Booker Prize longlist came out a few years ago I went off to the library that day and out of 13 titles on the list I could find only 3 either in stock or on order.
7. How do you feel about charity shop/second hand books?
I love them. Just wish there were more of them within easy reach that stocked the books I want. There is a branch of the British Heart Foundation in the nearest town to me where I’ve been lucky with a few of the Booker Prize winners like The Famished Road (so glad I didn’t spend much on that since it was dire and I could not finish it) and an Iris Murdoch. Oxfam has a dedicated book shop that I drop in whenever I’m in Cardiff shopping though I think their prices are a bit on the high side. For a few years I thought that was the only option since all the other second hand shops I knew of closed down. But last year I discovered one that has a wonderful selection of the original Virago green editions. Paradise is only a few miles away!
8. Do you keep your read and TBR pile together/on the same book shelf or not?
They’re separate otherwise the bookshelves would be in an even greater mess than they are currently
9. Do you plan to read all the books that you own?
That’s the idea certainly and I’m gradually reducing the number that are still to be read. My only problem area is with my non fiction books. I buy them fully intending to read them but often never get around to it….
10. What do you do with books that you own and that you feel you’ll never read/felt you didn’t enjoy?
I either donate them to a charity shop or to the library. Or I take to a cafe which is a bookcrossing zone in Cardiff.
11. Have you ever donated books?
Regularly. Either my own copies or – for a few years – via the World Book Night scheme
12. Have you ever been on a book buying ban?
I tried this a few times in the past but it never worked. This year I’ve been far more successful and have lasted almost 4 months without purchasing anything. I put this down to three things: 1. I retired end of last year so haven’t had to do long business trips where I invariably stock up on reading material before I leave home 2. Because I’ve been recovering from two rounds of surgery this year I haven’t been out and about in shopping areas as much as in the past and 3. Being careful when I open emails from publishers announcing some new titles. Instead of ordering them on auto pilot as I did in the past, I now just add them to my wishlist in Goodreads.
13. Do you feel that you buy too many books?
Tough question to answer – what is too many? I like to have a choice for sure so will always have more books in the house than I can read in a year. But yes my buying habits did get a bit out of control in the last two years and I found I was picking them up without much thought as to why I wanted to read that particular title.
Hope you enjoyed this – I’d love to see your answers to these questions.
The problem with social media and the web which make information instantly and widely available, is that it puts too much temptation in my way of books I want to get my hands on.
The announcement of the National Book Awards in the US came with an enticing additional piece of information about an honour that is for authors under the age of 35. Of the six honourees, two immediately caught my attention
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi is originally from Ghana but has lived much of her live in Alabama. On her first trip to her homeland to research material for a novel about a mother-daughter relationship she found inspiration for a very different novel, – one that traces the legacy of slavery over eight generations. Homegong is her debut novel – for which she gained a seven-figure advance, a sum most new authors can only dream of achieving. I seem to enjoy African authors or those who have left the country but retain an affiliation with the mother land so this has gone on my wishlist. Read more about Gyasi in this Time article.
Transoceanic Lights by S. Li is also calling to me. He was born in Guangzhou, China in 1984 and moved to the US in 1989. According to the publisher it tells of three families who immigrate to the US from post-Mao China. The unnamed narrator’s overbearing mother is plagued with regret as financial burdens and lack of trust begin to rend apart her marriage. Her only solace lies in the distant promise of better lives for her children. Yet her son spends his days longing for the comfort and familiarity of his homeland, while his two cousins, one precocious and the other rambunctious, seem to assimilate effortlessly. Transoceanic Lights explores familial love and discord, the strains of displacement, and the elusive nature of the American Dream.
Moving closer to home I came across The Earth Hums in B Flat, the debut novel by Welsh author Mari Strachan. I’m trying to do my bit to support Welsh authors so this of course is a title I want to keep on the radar. It’s apparently about the coming of age of a girl in in a small Welsh town in the 1950s where a shocking death occurs. The appeal really for me is that the life of the town is seen via this girl’s eyes.
And finally, a book I learned of via The Book Satchel: A Tale of Love ad Darkness, an autobiographical tale by Israeli author Amos Oz. It’s been hugely popular worldwide with translations into 28 languages. The book documents much of Oz’s early life, told in a non-linear fashion, weaving his story with the tales of his family’s Eastern European roots. This is a culture and a part of the world on which my knowledge is woefully lacking so i’m hoping this book will help remedy this.
These are all now on my wishlist for Santa (dare not buy anything myself). What have you all found to wish for this week?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks for ten books I’ve recently added to my TBR list. This is going to be a doddle given my recent rash of book purchases. I decided to make it slightly harder by trying my hand at a video showing all the titles. Click the arrow to play.
Let’s start with two books I bought just last week…
- The Vegetarian: This novel by the South Korean author Han Kang is, according to The Guardian “an extraordinary story about dark dreams, simmering tensions, and chilling violence” which is not my usual reading fare but like the protagonist I gave up eating meat more than 20 years ago.
- Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto. I’ve been dipping my toe into the waters of Japanese literature with the aid of Meredith’s recommendations. This novella is about relationships between two cousins in a small Japanese seaside town.
- And now two books that are on the required reading list for my children’s literature course: Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – a fantasy novel based on time travel to the past that was first published in 1958. It’s now become a film.
- Mortal Engines by Philipe Reeve. I’m really not sure how I will react to this when I get to reading int since it’s set in a futuristic, steampunk version of London, which has been transformed into a giant machine that is trying to survive in a world that is running out of resources. I’m told it falls into a genre called steampunk that Wikipedia tells me is a “subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.” Oh boy, science fiction is going to challenge me….
- The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. Surely I’m the last person on the planet to read this novel about a murder that affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Sounds dark but it’s actually a comedy. It won the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction earlier this year
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It was her final novel, published three years before her death. It’s a gothic mystery that I bought thinking it would be appropriate to read on Halloween but when it came to the day I was still ploughing my way through Little Women.
- The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh. I read and enjoyed most of Ghosh’s epic saga The Glass Palace so thought I would give this a go when I saw it come through as a cut price e-version. It’s set in the Bay of Bengal where a young marine biologist finds himself caught up in political undercurrents. Unlikely I will get to actually read this any time soon – I have Sea of Poppies to read first.
- The Blue Room by Hanne Ørstavik. My little collection of Peirene Press titles is growing slowly. This one is by a Norwegian author and is about a mother-daughter relationship. Before you start getting handkerchiefs ready this is a novel which features a very creepy mother. The narrator wakes one morning to find that she has been locked into her bedroom by her mother. Her crime: she has a new boyfriend who has invited her to go with him to America for six weeks, and to meet him at the airport bus stop that morning. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
- Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. This won he 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was one of the first novels I learned about through other bloggers. I found a clean copy in a bargain bin in one of those pound shops (my American readers would call them dollar stores). I need to brush up on my knowledge of Greek heroes before even opening this since I’m sure to get lost.
- My final title is one that I acquired through the generosity of a Goodreads contact who happened to have a spare copy of the Booker shortlisted title The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Not only was he willing to give this away he took it to an event the night before the Booker award was announced, and got it signed by Beatty ( he did a lovely personalised message ).The next evening Beatty learned he had won the prize. So now I have my only signed copy of a Booker winner!
That’s my list. Of course I have added many more to my wishlist…. What have you all found to buy recently?
I’ve been taking advantage of the Autumn sunshine with a mini break in Wiltshire (I refuse to pander to marketing folks who want to brand such trips as staycations). I persuaded Mr BookerTalk that a visit to Bookbarn International (which claims to be one of the largest used book sellers in the UK) wouldn’t mean too much of a detour on our path to the renowned cathedral city of Salisbury. Actually I had no clue where this bookish heaven was located other than somewhere vaguely south of Bristol. But good old sat nav got us there easily enough and I prepared myself for a good couple of hours of mooching and buying.
What a disappointing experience. I’d sifted through my TBR and found a good armful of non fiction books I no longer wanted and thought I could sell. Their website promises this service but when I asked, the response was that I could donate but they don’t buy.
Further disappointment came once among the shelves. Filming for something or other was in progress so a good quarter of the place was shut off. The crew wasn’t actually using all the space for the film but if you’ve been around production teams you know they like to spread themselves and their equipment just about everywhere. And of course the area they had commandeered included the shelves I wanted. So it was fine if you wanted fiction by authors whose names were in the first half of the alphabet. But of no use for me in my quest for Zola or for any Virago Modern Classics which were also shelved in the restricted area.
The layout of the place wasn’t all that helpful either. The printed sheet detailing which shelf numbers contained which collections didn’t match the chalkboard descriptions on the end of each aisle. So looking for classics I found myself in ‘wine and cookery’. After much huffing and puffing I learned that they have recently reorganised the place but hadn’t got around to changing the blackboards. Not very impressed……
Did I buy? Yes but not anything I was desperate to get. I think I bought on the basis that everything was ridiculously cheap (£1 a book no matter how big and fat) and I’d got that far so I may as well buy something. I ended up with this collection.
Tony Morrison’s Beloved I’ve been meaning to read for some years. Cousin Bette is considered to be Balzac’s last great work with its themes of vice and virtue and the influence of money. Tigers in Red Weather got a lot of visibility when it was published two years ago – not sure if I will read it or just pass straight to my niece. I haven’t read a lot of Rose Tremain’s work so this pristine copy of The Road Home, a story of an immigrant from Eastern Europe, caught my attention. It was selected for World Book Night in 2013.
And finally, a book that I suspect most readers of this blog will not have heard of previously. Off to Philadelphia in the Morning by Jack Jones. Jones, the son of a Welsh coal miner, was a trade union official and politician as well as a novelist and playwright in the mid 1940s and 1950s. The novel gives a fictional picture of the early career of the composer Joseph Parry (who came from Jones’ home town of Merthyr Tydfil) as they move from the poverty of south Wales to the hardship of industrial America. Parry gained a reputation through his composition of Myfanwy (a song you’ll still hear today) and the hymn tune Aberystwyth, upon which the National anthem of South Africa, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is said to be based. The book was an instant success – a highly successful TV film followed. I wish I’d bought this a week earlier and then I could have used it for the 1947 reading club run by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. Maybe they’ll let me sneak it in???
Second only to my love of buying books for myself, is my love of buying books to give as gifts to friends and family. The upcoming Christmas celebrations are a perfect opportunity to indulge in the latter (and of course to put in a few requests of my own…).
If I’ve done my sums correctly (arithmetic not being my strongest point) there are 20 books all waiting to be wrapped and handed over to new homes. It’s been great fun making choices. Some were easier than others.
My sister is an easy one to buy for – she loves historical fiction so on Christmas morning I hope she’ll be delighted to see C.J Sansom ‘s Winter in Madrid and Heresy, the first of four books by S.J Parris set in Elizabethan England. I always like to introduce her to a new author so this year it is John Banville with Ancient Lights.
My niece is currently at university studying English literature and history. She doesn’t read books so much as gobble them up which makes it hard to find authors she has never read. This year I went for writers outside the familiar territory of UK/USA and am introducing her to Mo Yan, the Nobel Literature prize winner from China and her novel Frog; Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Emile Zola (Therese Racquin). I’m hoping she’ll get the Zola bug as much as I did.
Other purchases include lots of non fiction for my husband (including A.A.Gill and Paul Theroux); some crime for my dad (Belinda Bauer) and a bit of a wild card for my mum with Sarah Walters’s Paying Guests but I think she’ll love Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn.
The hardest one of all has been my nephew. Just what do you get for a seventeen year old who does enjoy reading though doesn’t spend that much time on it. He’s outgrown the YA stuff, was luke warm on Hunger Games and the Stephanie Meyer vampire stuff and isn’t a great lover of science fantasy sagas. I’m going to try him with John Wyndham via The Day of the Trifids and The Midwitch Cuckoos. If anyone has some better ideas please let me know though for the next time…
So how about you all – do you like buying to give as much as I do? And if you do, how do you choose what to give?