It’s quite fun to do a book tag occasionally and this one was inspired by Vicky over at Books, Biscuits & Tea (she has three of my favourite things covered there).
The first book in your collection and the last book you bought
The Enchanted Wood, by Enid Blyton, is one of a few books I have from my childhood; this one even has my name written in felt tip pen inside the front cover. The most recent book I bought is also a children’s book and I have no idea what it’s called – Moomins something or other (it’s in Finnish). I collect vintage Moomin books. Once you say that you ‘collect’ something, rather than simply liking it, that is when madness sets in. I paid a ridiculous amount for this book, by my usual frugal standards.
A cheap book and an expensive book
Most of my books are cheap. I am fortunate to live in a town with many charity shops where I constantly find bargains. Quite often I will pick up a book for 10 pence from Hall’s Bookshop on my way home from work. This may seem silly of them, but it’s not – I rarely get out of the door without buying something more expensive. The dearest book I’ve bought was probably this Grimms collection, but it is rather lovely and beautifully produced.
A book with a male protagonist and one with a female protagonist
I thought I would use this opportunity to plug some books and authors that are currently out of fashion, but still worth reading. I first read To Sir with Love as a teenager after falling in love with Sidney Poitier in the film version. The book is nothing like the saccharine movie, but an interesting reflection on an East End which no longer exists, told from the point of view of a black male school teacher. Being something of a Sixties fiend, I am also recommending a very unusual novel by Nell Dunn, author of Up the Junction and Poor Cow. Incurable is about a woman who is suffering from some sort of mental breakdown, possibly post-natal depression. I found it interesting because it dares to show a woman who is struggling with motherhood; something which seems to be taboo nowadays in this age of super mums and yummy mummies.
A book you read fast and one that took you a long time to read
The Grass Harp, by Truman Capote can probably be read in a weekend. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it, as I absolutely adore it. If you like outsiders and misfits, then you’ll most likely enjoy it too. A Girl is a Half formed Thing. I’ve tried many times, but can’t read it. However, I haven’t yet given up and taken it to the charity shop – is that slow enough?
A book with an ugly cover and one with a pretty one
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
A national book and an international book
I chose P G Wodehouse, as I guess Jeeves and Wooster are thought of by many non-British people as quintessentially ‘English’. However, Wodehouse lived for much of his life in France and the USA. So basically, I’m just messing with you. I can’t think of anyone more international than Murakami in my book collection – his strange writing has an otherworldly feel, which transcends national boundaries.
I’ve skipped thin and thick book, as it’s just silly.
A fiction book and a non-fiction book
My theme is the brain. Brainwashing in the case of George Orwell’s 1984 and neuroplasticity in Norman Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself. I nearly chose Christopher Hitchens’ memoir Hitch-22 as my non-fiction, due to his admiration of Orwell, but as the self-appointed ambassador for neuroscience, I chose this one instead. If you only ever read one book on neuroscience, then make it this one, because it is very positive and uplifting, as well as informative.
A too-romantic book and an action book (?!)
Erm, well, I choose Cold Mountain, because it’s both romantic and ‘active’ in that the male protagonist walks miles home from the Civil War battlefields, in the hope of being reunited with the woman he loves. It’s not “too” romantic, but just romantic enough, in my opinion.
A book that made you happy and one that made you sad
Books make me happy. Now I’m too old to cope with hangovers, books are my drug of choice. Anything Shackleton makes me happy and Shackleton’s Journey is a particularly pretty children’s book about the Endurance expedition. Love of Seven Dolls made me sad because it’s about a naive girl, who is involved in what would nowadays be termed a ‘toxic’ relationship, which reminded me of my own poor relationship choices. Sad, rather than despairing. If the category had been “depressed”, then I’d have chosen a work of non-fiction, probably written by a political prisoner.
That seems like a very long blog post. I hope it wasn’t too arduous to read.