Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Virus of the Mind

According to the Urban Dictionary, a meme is "a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable." Which sounds to me like perfect Wednesday afternoon fodder for the blog, no? I'm all about corrupting the young, after all...


Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:

Certainly not. I could get crumbs or smears all over my pretty books! If I really must eat, I'll put down my book before stuffing my face.

What is your favorite drink while reading?

Coffee or tea; instant with a dash of hazelnut syrup or Twining's Everyday with a sugar and a half. That said, I'm not averse to a nice glass of wine (usually rose) while reading, but only when I'm reading something that doesn't - how to put it politely... - something that doesn't require my full attention.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

No, certainly not. Just the idea of writing in a book gives me cold sweats! In fact, back in the day, when I came across books that I'd borrowed from the Uni library that had been annotated in pencil, I'd often rub out the markings. I'm that guy.

On the other hand, the better to remember choice quotes and key passages from books I've to review, I do use these funky Post-it Note marker flags fairly often. Sometimes I like to alternate the colours...


How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Not by bending a page or the book itself I don't. I do have a few purdy bookmarks kicking about which are lost as often as not, or else keeping my place in books I've abandoned in my heart but not yet in my head, so I tend to use the press releases that come with most of the books I've been reading lately to keep my place. If, God forbid, there's no press release, a stray takeaway menu or the like will suffice.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?

Mostly fiction - though I'm not at all averse to a good bit of non-fiction so long as the subject matter intrigues me. In fact, only a few weeks ago I was reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann, which you'll be hearing about very shortly. So there.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

I'll endeavour to finish entire sections of books before I call it a day, actually, but chapters or paragraph breaks will do in a pinch. Given when I tend to read, tiredness often comes over me all of a sudden, and whatever goals I might have set for myself fall by the wayside when the Sandman comes a-calling.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

You must already know what I'm going to say?

No, I would never consciously hurt a book, not by drawing on it, folding its pages or heaving it across the room in disgust. Books are like people: there are good ones and bad ones, and you wouldn't dream of scribbling gibberish on the margins of a person if they insulted you, would you?

Admittedly, I am occasionally guilty of unconsciously hurting a book. If something I'm reading is driving me crazy, I can be a little careless with its virgin spine. A crack here and a dint there. All utterly by accident, of course...

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

Not really, no. Generally, if a word is used properly you can understand the gist of it simply by studying its context. If I want to use it myself at a later date, I'll look it up. If it's not used properly, if it's just a fancy word for the sake of a fancy word, then no, I'm not going to dignify that sort of showiness with any more of my time or attention.

What are you currently reading?

Had a bit of a marathon yesterday with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet because I'd like to have a review up before it comes out tomorrow. Finished it at 2 in the AM, will get my thoughts on it down in pixels today, and when I'm done with that, I'm hoping to start the new Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

What is the last book you bought?

I found a gorgeous hardcover copy of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas in a used bookstore the other day and bought it for a song. Couldn't resist. I'll confess that I didn't love Cloud Atlas the first time I read it, back in the dark ages, but deep down I believed that I should, and the ravings of a certain Twitter chum have me hoping that sometime soon I'll have the time to give it another go. So.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

These days, it's a rare thing for me to be reading only one book. At the moment, for instance, I'm reading short stories from the forthcoming Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio collection, the second tome of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence, and as of a few hours from now - I hope - The Prince of Mist.

I didn't used to be this way. What with the blog and all, I feel my attention is being pulled in so many directions simultaneously that reading just one book is a poor use of my time. Reading slumps, I tend to find, are fewer and further between if there's always another book to go to when your primary read is driving you to distraction.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

Mostly on the living room sofa in the wee hours. It's not surprising, some nights, to find me hunched over one tome or another at 4AM. Burning the midnight oil means no distractions, and I've ever so easily distracted...

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?

Stand alone books, for sure. I've got my head in some many multi-volume narrative arcs at the moment that it's already going to be hard to keep track of what's what come the next part. Self-contained stories represent a welcome respite from that mental chess.

I'm certainly not going to ignore a book simply because it's part something of something, though. Given the prevalence of 'series books' in my genres of choice - something I'll surely moan about at length at a later date - let's be honest here: I could hardly afford to.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

Above all other authors, I tend to recommend China Mieville and Guy Gavriel Kay; respectively The Scar and Tigana. More people tend to put my advice into practice when I recommend something more mainstream, though, and I'm a decent judge of who would like what, I think. I those cases, it's Dan Simmons I point people towards; The Terror and Hyperion in particular.

How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)

Very, very carefully.

I have six bookcases of six shelves each, and the thousands of books those shelves contain are all ordered by their author's surnames, and then, if it comes to it, by publication date. The notions of genre and category piss me off righteously, and I enact my gleeful revenge upon such pointless pigeonholing by shelving genre fiction with literary fiction - my Ian McEwan sits between a few Ian McDonalds and China Mieville's backlist - and non-fiction right alongside my favoured made-up fare.

Let me tell you this, though. It's nice to have a lot of books. What's not nice, though, is when you get a new Joe Abercrombie, say, and have to reorder every other shelf in your library.

Speaking of which...


Pilfered from Speculative Horizons. Thanks James!


  1. Ah, this is quite fun. You pilfered it from Speculative Horizons, he pilfered it from me, and I pilfered it from Writtenwyrdd! The Internet strikes again!

  2. Hehe, never lend me a book! It'd give you nightmares thinking about what I might do to it.