15 Things About Me and Books (Meme)

Clearly a must. Via lots of people at Metaxu.

1. I can’t remember not being able to read, though I wasn’t that early a starter, so this clearly says more about my memory than my reading skills. My maternal grandmother taught me to read the year before I started school (so I would’ve been 6 years old) using one of those children’s blackboards with a clock (to teach the child how to tell the time, presumably) up top. I can remember the blackboard quite clearly, but not the lessons.

2. One of my favourite picture books as a kid was a book called «Serafin og hans makeløse mesterverk» (Serafin and his incomparable masterpiece) with illustrations by Philipe Fix. A few years ago I was attending some Spanish classes with my parents and one of our assignments was to bring a picture of our ideal place for a holiday – I brought this book and opened it to the picture showing Serafin and his friend Plym in their library reading out loud, where all the characters from the various books have emerged and sit around listening to the story. My father’s comment was «That explains a lot.»

3. I’ve mentioned this before, but I reread books. Any book I really like I’ll reread, most more than once. I sometimes suspect this is mostly because my memory leaks like a sieve, and hence I need to reread in order to remember anything at all. However, I also reread books I know almost by heart, so that is not the full explanation.

4. The book I’ve read the most times is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Chronicles of Robin Hood. I’ve been through it more than 20 times, certainly, possibly a lot more, and I’m definitely not done with it yet. The copy I used to read is the Bokklubbens barn edition in Norwegian, it was one of the books I brought with me to the Gambia when we went there in 1986 and it also came with me to the UK when I moved there in 1997. I now also own the first edition in English and a later imprint of the same. Hence, when I read it now, I read the imprint. Close on Sutcliff’s heels come C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice, especially if you also count the times I’ve listened to the audiobook). If you count the number of pages, Patrick O’Brian probably wins – as I’ve read the entire Aubrey/Maturin series four times now.

5. I love not only the content of (good) books, but also the physical object. I buy books. Lots of them.

6. I like first editions, though I’m not entirely sure why.

7. Except for newly published books (where I try to get hold of a first issue), I prefer to buy books second hand. I like the way a book that’s already been read feels. Other people’s scribbles in the margins delight me more often than they annoy. Other people’s bookplates or dedications like «To Ann with love, Christmas 1982. Auntie Val» give me a thrill quite out of proportion to their factual interest or relevance to the book.

8. If a book is really good, I have a hard time trying to prevent myself buying more copies of the same book. At some point in Sense & Sensibility Edward says of Marianne (in the event that she should come into a fortune):

I know her greatness of soul, there would not be music enough in London to content her. And books! — Thomson, Cowper, Scott — she would buy them all over and over again; she would buy up every copy, I believe, to prevent their falling into unworthy hands

I think it sums up Marianne pretty well, but though I normally identify more with Elinor, it also to some extent sums up my feelings towards my favourite books. Though with me it’s not so much a question of preventing them falling into unworthy hands – though that comes into it, certainly – as a very unreasonable feeling that having more than one copy of a book will extend the pleasure somehow. Can you tell I like the cut scenes part of DVD extras the best?

9. I seem to have most of my knowledge of the world and of history from fiction. I hardly ever read newspapers or watch the news and I have only recently (as in: in the last few years) started reading non-fiction to any serious degree (apart from school-books, obviously, but I didn’t exactly read those conscientously from cover to cover). I don’t normally perceive this as a problem myself.

10. Partly due to 9. I get annoyed when writers of (historical) fiction think that there is no need to check the facts just because they happen to be writing fiction (a note in the foreword is fine, just let me know, somehow, that you happened to move a whole continent or postpone the French revolution by 50 years).

11. It worries me majorly when people pronounce with bravado that they don’t read books. In fact, it worries me more than most other statements people pronounce with bravado except those that involve hurting or killing other beings (i.e. I’d be somewhat more worried if someone came in with a gun and said – with bravado or without – «I’m going to kill you all»).

12. The burning of books – even just as a «special effect» or illustration on film or tv – makes me feel physically ill.

13. I find some books more interesting in their idea than in their actual storyline. For example, I have yet to finish Franz Kafka’s The Trial (I’ve read the first half twice), despite having it as a set text for two different exams, but I’ve had many wonderful discussions about it nevertheless.

14. My parents used to read to me every night when I was a kid, my father especially. Sometimes he would be so caught up in the story that he forgot to read out loud and I’d have to prod him. After I learnt to read myself, however, I’d just continue where he left off. After a while, I also found that I could get to the end of the page quicker (tempting, if the story was an exciting one) by shutting out his voice and reading to myself instead. I think the point when he decided there was no longer any point in reading to me was when I’d done precicely that and asked him to turn the page so I could continue when he was still only half-way through.

15. The first book I can remember paying for with my own money was a selection of stories from the arabian nights. It was on sale and cost all of 20 kr (appr. USD 2.50 at today’s exchange rate), I think. It seemed like a lot of money at the time, though.