Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Meme: On Books & Reading

1. Favourite childhood book?

I can remember the exact moment when I learned to read, at the age of six on a summer day. This very special book was a picture book about different kinds of jobs called Things People Do (Finnish translation titled Iloisten ihmisten saari), by Anne Civardi and Stephen Cartwright. I can still remember in glorious detail how my mother and big sister encouraged me to read aloud from the chapter about the baker, and how the jumbles of letters finally made sense! So obviously, such an important book deserves a mention among my childhood favourites.

Other notable ones would be Roald Dahl's Matilda and Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. I loved all of Dahl's books when I was a kid (I still do!) but I felt a very special connection with Matilda because I happened to come across that book at the time I was beginning to realize just how much I loved books, so I felt very close to the book-loving title character – who also happens to share my first name!

2. What are you reading right now?

I'm actively reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – the Finnish translation. But I've also got bookmarks on George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords and Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. They've been on hold now for quite a long time, waiting for their proper time to be finished.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

I just requested a big book about British kings and queens (I can't remember the name) which seems super interesting! I should be getting it tomorrow.

4. Bad book habit?

As you can see from my answer to the second question, I'm currently in the middle of several books at once. This is a very recent habit and one which I don't like at all! I really want to give my full attention to just one book at a time and I have absolutely no idea how I ended up in this situation!

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, Directing in the Theatre by Hugh Morrison, and a Spanish text book called Español Uno.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

I don't, and I'm not really interested in having one. I already spend enough of my time staring at various kinds of screens (when I'm blogging, for example) so when I want to enjoy a good book I want the real thing.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

As I mentioned before, I've always been a strictly one-book-at-a-time person... until recently.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

I think I'm more interested to try out different genres and authors nowadays, because I want fresh and interesting content for my blog.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?

Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux – as much as I love the stage musical, I couldn't wait to get rid of that book!

10. Favourite book you've read this year (so far)?

I've had the chance to read many great books recently! Perhaps the most favourite one would be Zadie Smith's White Teeth which was both thought-provoking and immensely entertaining.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I try to broaden my reading horizons regularly, but I wouldn't say I read out of my comfort zone that often.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

I read mostly well-known authors, most often not very modern ones (though I'm working on that too). I'm usually drawn to "big" stories – not necessarily big in terms of the number of pages, but rich in characters and a well-developed plot.

13. Can you read on the bus?

I always read on the bus if the ride is longer than half an hour. Now that I live quite in the middle of my home town I rarely have to take longer bus rides, but whenever I do it's absolutely necessary to have something to read.

14. Favourite place to read?

At home on the couch, and on any kind of transportation – trains, cars, airplanes, and, of course, buses.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I only lend books to people I know well and can trust to 1. return my books 2. also return them in perfect condition. However, to these people that have earned my trust in this matter I'm very eager to recommend my favourites on my bookshelf and give them the chance to read them as well.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

No. No. No. No. Just NO.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Just the thought of violating my books with a pencil makes me uncomfortable.

18. Not even with text books?

Alright, text books are different. I haven't quite been able to make notes on my text books, but I can definitely see that it could be very helpful. That is, if the text book is your own – I absolutely hate it when I have to borrow a book from the University library and someone else has underlined the whole book – having someone else's (often totally stupid and irrelevant) notes on a book that I'm supposed to be concentrating on is incredibly distracting! People, do you realize what's the point about library books? The fact that it's not your own – someone else will be reading it after you, complete with whatever idiotic notes and smiley faces you scribble on the margins!

19. What is your favourite language to read in?

English. I started reading in English when I was about 10 years old, and nowadays I rarely read in any other language.

20. What makes you love a book?

Well-developed characters, an engaging and unpredictable plot, interesting settings, and sophisticated use of language and narration techniques. That's about it.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

If I'm still mulling over a book for several days after finishing it, I will definitely badger all of my friends about it.

22. Favourite genres?

Historical fiction, fantasy (though I'm quite picky about this genre nowadays), children's books, good detective stories, plays, and, perhaps above all else, social satire.

23. Genres you rarely read (but wish you did)?

I think I should read more biographies/autobiographies – I bet there are some absolutely fascinating real-life stories to find. I'm also planning to get a little more into the horror genre, which I barely ever read.

24. Favourite biography?

I just told you this is one of my least-read genres... In fact, I can't think of a single biography right now. Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton is on my reading list though, and it probably qualifies as at least a partial biography because it's his account on the years he lived under the threat of the fatwa.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Do horse riding manuals and "how to train your dog" books count?

26. Favourite cookbook?

Ahem, I don't really cook that much and on the rare occasion that I do, the recipe is usually from online or a really trusty old goodie that I know and love. There is a really big, beautiful cook book in my parents' shelf called Rakkaudesta ruokaan (= For the love of food) which I sometimes like to leaf through simply because all the things in it look gorgeous – the recipes, on the other hand, sound so dauntingly complicated I don't think they would ever work in a home kitchen.

27. Most inspirational book you've read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes, which I recently blogged about, was a tremendously uplifting reading experience!

28. Favourite reading snack?

I usually have a cup of tea when I'm reading. Then again, if I give myself permission to nibble on something... my favourite alternative would be cheese puffs. I love those things way too much.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

I made a whole blog post about much-adored books that disappointed me, but probably the best example of this would be Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. I had heard nothing but praise and why haven't you read it alreadys about this book, then I read it and felt utterly, completely deflated.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I very rarely agree with critics. It's not always the "I loved it but the critics put it down" situation, or even vice versa – usually, even if I share a critic's overall impression of a book, I like and dislike completely opposite things than what they point out.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Blogging about things I intensely dislike is actually quite a lot of fun. On the other hand, I always try not to go the "This book just sucks, end of story" route, and I won't put anyone else down for liking something I don't.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?

I do most of my reading in English, which counts as a foreign language for me. I've also read a little in French and Swedish. I'm currently learning Spanish and would love to be able to read properly in that language one day – Federico García Lorca's plays and Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez would be first on my Spanish reading list!

33. The most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin?

To be completely honest, I don't really get it how a book can be intimidating. If I'm interested in a book, I'll read it – simple as that.

34. Favourite poet?

John Keats. Ode to a Nightingale does such funny things to my brain every time I read it, it's like an enchantment.

35. Favourite fictional character?

Of course nobody is seriously expecting me to pick just one, so let's make a list of the great characters that first come to mind: Matilda from the Dahl book that I mentioned earlier, Bilbo Baggins, Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Nancy from Oliver Twist, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Jean Valjean, Éponine...

36. Favourite fictional villain?

The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia and Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. I'm actually quite surprised to find that these two are the first ones to spring up in my mind!

37. Books I'm most likely to bring on holiday?

Like I mentioned earlier, I like to read on all kinds of vehicles. Therefore, I need something that will last both the airplane/bus/train/car rides there and back, and during the actual holiday. I'm laughably paranoid about this, so when I make the important (almost ritualistic) decision on what shall be my holiday read, it's always something chunky (The Lord of the Rings and Nicholas Nickleby are about the good holiday size in my opinion) and something I haven't started yet. People think I'm really weird, hauling my biggest books around when everyone else packs something light and practical.

38. The longest I've gone without reading

I'm always in the middle of a book. As soon as I finish one, I pick the next. As far as I can tell, it's been like this ever since I learned to read properly and really took up the habit of books. I honestly can't remember going without a book for more than 12 hours.

39. Name a book that you would/could not finish

I tried and failed to read Émile Zola's Nana this summer. I admit, part of the problem might have been that reading in French is a lot more challenging than reading in English or Finnish, but mostly, I think I just got bored with the characters and the very slow plot.

40. What distracts you easily when you're reading?

Any kind of noise, especially conversation. I'm just really bad at blocking out background noise. I've also found out that it's especially hard to read anything in English or French if someone is speaking Finnish nearby.

41. Favourite film adaptation of a novel

I've seen lots of good film adaptations, but the first ones to come to mind are the Les Misérables musical film and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

42. Most disappointing film adaptation

This might seem bizarre, seeing as I just listed the LOTR films as my favourite adaptations, but I felt really, really sad about Desolation of Smaug. Sure, it looked great and most of the actors did a superb job (Martin Freeman, Lee Pace and Richard Armitage at least deserve to be mentioned) but I got incredibly frustrated with all the subplots and felt that all the best moments in the book where Bilbo saves everyone by just being quietly clever were converted into huge, messy action scenes that dragged on for way too long!

43. The most money I've ever spent in a bookstore at one time

I have a rubbish memory for numbers and I'm way too over-enthusiastic at the event of buying new books so I can't possibly remember anything as irrelevant as this.

44. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

If there are illustrations in the book, I often like to give them a peek before reading. Otherwise I don't, because I share River Song's attitude about spoilers.

45. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

If it bores the living daylights out of me.

46. Do you like to keep your books organized?

I like the idea of keeping my books organized by author and genre, but I have never managed to make it a reality. I always end up stowing my books wherever convenient, making my bookcase a sort of lovely mess.

47. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you've read them?

I try to make good use of the library so I don't have to buy every book I read. However, if a book holds any kind of special value to me, I will buy it and keep it forever.

48. A book you didn't expect to like but did

Every Finn has to read Väinö Linna's The Unknown Soldier at some point of their basic education, and I've usually found these compulsory reads of Finnish "classics" more or less terrible. However, I was genuinely surprised at how intense The Unknown Soldier was, and really admired Linna's depiction of the soldier boys who serve as the main characters.

49. A book that you expected to like but didn't

See my answer to question 29, and the blog post that I mentioned in it.

50. Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading

No matter how hard I think about this, I can't really think of anything that would suit the description. I don't really do "light reading", to be honest. When I pick up a book, I'm looking forward to something at least mildly intellectual and thought-provoking.

I picked up this meme on Hannah's blog and had a lot of fun doing it! It's been a long time since I've properly assessed my reading habits, and it was quite refreshing to do that now! Anyone who comes across is most welcome to pass on the meme. There really isn't a better, more rewarding hobby in the world than reading books, is there?


  1. - First of all I loved reading your answers! We think the same on a lot of things.

    - Ooh, I so hope that you'll enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! I'll be starting A Storm of Swords soon and I'm really looking forward to it! :) I just want to read Gone Girl and re-read Macbeth before I do.

    - You'll have to let me know which British Kings and Queens you like best!

    - The only horror book that I've read is Stephen King's Misery. The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favourite films and since it's based on one of King's novellas I thought I'd give one of his books a try. I wouldn't describe that book as a favourite but it's pretty chilling. The premise of the book is one that I could very easily see happening in this day and age!

    - One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book that I really want to read. I actually tried reading it when I was a teenager but I don't think I was ready for it. I had no idea what the magical realism genre was and I got confused by all of the fantastical stuff that kept happening.

    - Yes, horse riding manuals and "how to train your dog" books count.

    - You've picked lots of great fictional characters there!

    - The Les Miserables musical and the LOTR movies are probably my two *absolute* favourite adaptations so I completely agree with your picks :)

    - I'm really sorry to be annoying but I can't help but feel the need to defend The Desolation of Smaug or at the very least explain why I enjoy it so much. I *can* see where you're coming from though. Considering that the films are still called 'The Hobbit' they aren't as focused on Bilbo as the book is. They have more of an ensemble feel. But the thing is I genuinely LOVE how characters like Thranduil and the Bard were given more depth in the film and I still think that Bilbo's badass, heroic moments are there. He still saves them from the spiders, he's still the one who gets them out of the Mirkwood prison, he's still the one who gets them through the door. And I happened to really enjoy the action scenes but if you didn't enjoy them then what can I say? They didn't work for you. So, yeah, I love that film and now I'll shut up about it. The worst adaptation that I've ever seen is Dario Argento's POTO. In that version the Phantom has a completely different backstory. He was brought up underneath the opera house by rats with psychic powers. I swear I'm not making that up!

    - Have you ever read The Kalevala, Manette? I've been thinking of reading that one and since you're Finnish I thought you might be quite pleased about that :)

    - Georgette Heyer's books are genuinely great light reads. Are they particularly intellectual or thought-provoking? No. But they're still extremely well-written, they're full of period detail, and they're often hilarious. Venetia is my favourite of hers so far. It has a lightness of touch and is extremely funny but the love-story is genuinely quite emotional and moving in places. And the audiobook is narrated by Richard Armitage which is a massive bonus!

    1. Kalevala is quite an integral part of the Finnish basic curriculum, so I (like most Finns) know all the important characters and what happens to them. However, reading the actual, entire Kalevala in its poetic, archaic form takes a great deal of time and dedication – it's kind of like Shakespeare to English speakers, the language barely resembles "our" Finnish for the most part. So no, I haven't read the actual Kalevala. But I would definitely recommend to any Tolkien enthusiast that they find out some things about Kalevala's most important characters and plot points, because it's quite easy (and fun) to draw comparisons between Kalevala and some of Tolkien's creations! It's of course (relatively) common knowledge that Tolkien read Kalevala, and I can think of at least two characters that were possibly inspired by Finnish legends: Tom Bombadil resembles Väinämöinen, the main protagonist of Kalevala, and also Tapio, the king of the woods (who also happens to have a beautiful, blonde-haired wife). The story of Túrin – one of my favourites – has some quite striking similarities with Kalevala's Kullervo, who is also plagued by bad luck. I have never taken a look at an English translation of Kalevala so I can't say how hard a read that would be, but if you do take the challenge I'll wish you good luck with it! There certainly are some very interesting stories there.