I’ve gotten a really interesting invitation. Angela Savage, whose Jayne Keeney series I admire and highly recommend, has ‘tagged’ me to answer a few questions about my reading. It’s always dangerous to refuse a crime writer ;-), so here goes:
What are you reading right now?
I’m finishing up Mari Strachan’s debut The Earth Hums in B-Flat. This book was recommended to me by a number of people I trust, so I was keen to read it. I’m glad I did, too. It’s an innovative and evocative story of what happens when an unexpected death comes to a small Welsh village. It’s in some ways a very sad novel, but it also has moments of real joy in life. The story is told from the perspective of one of the villagers, twelve-year-old Gwenni Morgan. One of the many things that appeals to me about this book is Gwenni’s unusual, creative way of looking at life. Highly recommended, especially for those who aren’t looking for a ‘typical’ (if there is such a thing) police procedural, thriller or traditional detective story.
Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
Next up for me will probably be Aaron Elkins’ Loot. I’m a fan of his terrific Gideon Oliver series (try that series, folks, if you haven’t), and I’ve wanted to see what Loot, which is a standalone, was like. I’m excited to sample Elkins’ other writing.
Of course, right now I’m also in the process of reading the submissions for the charity crime story anthology I’m putting together, and enjoying them very much. So I’ll also be continuing to keep up with those. Yes, that was indeed a shameless plug. Sorry… 😉
What 5 books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
Ira Levin – A Kiss Before Dying
Mary Roberts Rinehart – The Circular Staircase
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – The Gulag Archipelago
Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway
Just to name a few….
What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?
I don’t have any magazines around. The truth is I don’t subscribe to magazines so unless I buy a copy of one or another for a particular reason, they aren’t around my home.
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. He was an alumnus of my university, so we were required to read his work. Perhaps that was part of what put me off, but I don’t think so entirely. It was a real chore to read that book and what makes it worse is that he did have some good things to say about environmental issues. Still… not recommended.
What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?
Please don’t get me started on ‘bestsellers’ and popular books. I’ve often found that the ones that seem to get the highest ratings (with a few exceptions) are the ones I like least. So I’m very particular about what I read, especially if it’s gotten a lot of hype.
What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
That’s the thing. Everyone’s got different tastes and is at a different point in life. So my recommendations vary depending on who’s asking.
What are your three favourite poems?
I’m Nobody, Who Are You? – Emily Dickinson
At the Theatre: To the Lady Behind Me – A.P. Herbert
Ballad of the Landlord – Langston Hughes
First Fig – Edna St. Vincent Millay
Yes – I put a fourth one in there. I hope I may be forgiven…
Where do you usually get your books?
I use my local libraries quite a lot. And of course, I go online to purchase e-books. I’m also a fan of Paperback Swap, especially for some harder-to-find books. I’m also lucky enough to have several bibliophile friends and we exchange books. Other than that, I wouldn’t say I have a usual pattern for getting books.
Where do you usually read your books?
My Kindle lets me read anywhere, of course, so whenever I’m waiting in an office or on public transportation, I read. At home my favourite spot for reading is the day bed/sofa in my home office.
When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?
I always used to have one or another book with me (besides textbooks) and would get to class as soon as I could so I could read before the teacher started. And sometimes after the teacher started…
What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
I can’t give title or author because the book’s not been published yet. I was recently honoured to be asked to beta-read a book for a friend and could not put it down. I can’t wait until the final version is published. You know who you are…
Have you ever ‘faked’ reading a book?
Only a few stories and books we were supposed to be reading in school. There were a few I just could not bring myself to actually read.
Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
No, not really. I’ve often picked up a book and flipped through it if the cover drew me in, but not bought one for that reason.
What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess was one of my absolute favourites. The portrait of life in Late Victorian England, the story of friendships, the whole thing was such a rich experience for me. First I had it read to me, and then when I was able to manage on my own, I read it myself – many times.
What book changed your life?
Agatha Christie’s Mrs. McGinty’s Dead. It was the first adult mystery I read, and it was the first time I ever imagined myself as a writer. I’ve gone back to it dozens of times as the years have passed and each time I find myself learning something new from it.
What is your favourite passage from a book?
Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone begins this way:
Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
What a powerful, haunting and evocative sentence – one line!! I want to be able to do that when I grow up…
Who are your top five favourite authors?
The thing is, I have a much longer list of favourite authors than five. So I’m no-so-artfully dodging this question.
What book has no one heard about but should read?
Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities. It’s a searing look at the way disparities in the US social and economic structure have played out in US schools and what the implications are for students. Another is Kozol’s Illiterate America, in which he shows what life is like for older children and adults who cannot read, and what possibilities there for making literacy available and feasible for them in a dignified way.
What 3 books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?
Any book written by Paddy Richardson
Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost
Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series
What are your favourite books by a first-time author?
Here are just a few; I’ve a lot more.
Kishwar Desai – Witness the Night
Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Adrian Hyland – Diamond Dove (AKA Moonlight Downs)
Catherine O’Flynn – What Was Lost (told you I was an ‘evangelist’ for this.)
Louise Penny – Still Life
Scott Turow – Presumed Innocent
What is your favourite classic book?
Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Oh, and also Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. And…and…and…
Other Notable Mentions?
Agatha Christie’s Crooked House (said to be the one she most enjoyed writing), or her Ten Little Indians (AKA And Then There Were None). There are a lot of other Christie novels I could mention, too. If you want other ideas, just email me (margotkinberg(at)gmail(dot)com)
Peter Temple’s Jack Irish novels
Katherine Howell’s Ella Marconi novels
Elly Griffiths’s Ruth Galloway novels
William Ryan’s Alexei Korolev novels
Thanks, Angela, for inviting me to answer these questions. Now, I’m supposed to ‘tag’ other people, but I don’t want to obligate anyone. So…… if you want to answer the questions (and I really hope you do!!!) then go ahead and just leave a comment here so that I can let people know about your post.