Questions About Books and Reading

For this Saturday’s funzies, we’re answering some more questions! This set was nicked from shevinefeels.

1: What was the last book you read?

Veera: DEATHLESS by Catherynne M. Valente, and ALAS TAIKAVIRTAA by Eduard Uspensky – the latter hasn’t been translated to English as far as I know, but the title is along the lines of “Down the Magic River”. If you haven’t read Eduard Uspensky, you’re missing out. Try his Uncle Fyodor books!

Alex: Finished Lois McMaster Bujold’s THE VOR GAME last night!

2: Was it a good one?

Veera: DEATHLESS was definitely very good. And the Uspensky is brilliant.

Alex: TVG was amazing. All of Bujold’s books are amazing. *___* Bujold~~

3: What made it good?

Veera: The magic. The use of Russian fairy and folk tales was on point, and I liked the sort of tragic melancholy.

Alex: Miles Vorkosigan. He’s a snarky lil shit with a fast brain and a faster mouth, and I love him. I would read about Miles doing literally anything, because it would be entertaining as hell and he’d somehow end up in charge of everything by the end of the book. Another thing I love about Bujold and Miles, and I’m sure I’ll shriek about this at length one day in the far future when we get to an actual review, is this: Miles is disabled, Miles is really physically unattractive, Miles still gets all the ladies. That is AWESOME. He’s clever as shit and he’s a perfect respectful gentleman, and Bujold knows that makes him hot stuff. I will write a longer, more academic rant about how great this is this when the time comes.

4: Would you recommend it to other people?

Veera: Yes, yes I would. Especially if you want something a touch different, in terms of setting and themes.

Alex: YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN’T READ BUJOLD YET??? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? GET THEE TO A BOOKSTORE!

5: How often do you read?

Veera: Every day, save maybe a day here and there where I just want to watch TV.

Alex: Same. Epic Reading Projects don’t read themselves, yanno?

6: Do you like to read?

Veera: I don’t understand how this is even a question.

Alex: If the book is good. I don’t like reading when I’ve got to force my eyes across the lines and down the page.

7: What was the last bad book you read?

Veera: Hmm. I wasn’t big on the last book in the Selection series by Kiera Cass. It’s called THE ONE.

Alex: Gotta draw a line between “bad” and “book I didn’t really like”. That’s a very important line. But I’ll go ahead and throw David Brin’s STARTIDE RISING under the bus.

8: What made you dislike it?

Veera: It was just the same as the two first books. The same see-sawing drama and the actually delicious elements very poorly discussed when not completely ignored. I was just bored out of my mind and hated all the characters by this point. Utterly disinterested in the fourth book.

Alex: “Okay, sentient dolphins working together with humans on a spaceship, but haha, you know what would be hilarious? If one of the women is sexually harassed by her dolphin coworker, and has that happen so often that she dreads seeing him, and everyone else just stands around and laughs cause he’s just flirting, right? She shouldn’t take it so seriously! She’s such a bitch for not even giving him a chance. And then at the end of the book she’ll realize she should just give him a chance like he deserves.”  …… Yeaaaaaaaaah. So I’m picking this as my “bad book” not in the sense of “poor quality”, but in the sense of “wrong, offensive, and contributing to rape culture”.

9: Do you wish to be a writer?

Veera: Academically, yes.

Alex: Haaaaaaaaave you seen my Amazon page?

10: Has any book ever influenced you greatly?

Veera: I always find this a difficult question. Books shape my life a lot, but it’s often in the shape of striking friendships and stuff, you know? It’s hard to pin on one book.

Alex: Mhm, what Veera said. When I was younger, I’d do that thing where I’d read a book I particularly liked, and then I’d write in that voice for six months or so. Which isn’t a bad thing for baby writers. Baby writers, imitate your faves. It’ll help you refine your own voice!

11: Do you read fanfiction?

Veera: Not anymore, but I was voracious in the past.

Alex: So was I. I still read a fic or two in the Night Vale fandom every couple months, just for kicks.

12: Do you write fanfiction?

Veera: Not anymore. I think the last thing I wrote was in… 2011? I’ve got some snippets for Gentleman Bastard Sequence simmering, but they may never actually get typed.

Alex: WHAT? I didn’t know that! You never told me!! VEERA. …Ahem. No, not anymore. I gave up during my first year in college — too busy! And these days I’m focusing more on my original work.

13: What’s your favorite book?

Veera: I refer you back to our A to Z Bookish Survey.

Alex: It’s right here~ 

14: What’s your least favorite book?

Veera: I disliked ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho. And THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN by John Fowles, that I disliked rather passionately. I can appreciate them, but do not like. (NB: I’m mentioning books I was prepared to like. Books I went into expecting not to like them are a different category altogether.)

Alex: Ummm… THE NEMESIS FROM TERRA. It’s comically bad. Like, B-movie awful. But I guess that doesn’t count cause it’s so bad I was laughing the whole way through it and unleashing my outrage on Twitter, so I kind of enjoyed that… I dunno, I don’t really remember my least favorites. Why spend the brainspace remembering things I hated? Can’t stand Asimov’s writing, as you know.

15: Do you prefer physical books or reading on a device (like a kindle)?

Veera: I prefer physical books. I like the feel of them.

Alex: I think I agree. But you can’t beat ebooks for convenience.

16: When did you learn to read?

Veera: Around 5 or 6, I believe, and in the fashion pretty much all Finnish kids learn: reading Donald Duck comics.

Alex: Age 4. I hated it. Dug in my heels, refused as hard as I could, but I was homeschooled.

17: What is your favorite book you had to read in school?

Veera: Probably THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER by Väinö Linna. It’s way better than I expected, and I really want to read it again! A seminal work of Finnish literature. I actually think there’s a new English translation out, or coming out! The earlier one is notoriously bad, but hopefully this new one is better.

Alex: WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith. It’s one of the only books I kept after college.

18: What is your favorite book series?

Veera: Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch. ‘Nuff said.

Alex: *points silently to Veera’s answer*

19: Who is your favorite author?

Veera: SO many. Scott Lynch. Jane Austen. Leo Tolstoy. Terry Pratchett. Ellen Kushner. Mary Balogh. List could go on forever, but I’m going to stop here.

Alex: Scott Lynch is my most favorite. Some of my other favorites include: Lois McMaster Bujold, Barry Hughart, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones…

20: What is your favorite genre?

Veera: Romance, fantasy. English and Russian classics.

Alex: Fantasy and scifi. Fantasy is my “husband” genre — it’s the one I go home to every night, I eat dinner across the table from it, I curl up next to it in bed, I fight with it because it spent all day watching TV instead of cleaning the kitchen, I hold its hand at our child’s oboe recital. Scifi is like this passionate affair in a remote cabin in the woods that I visit for a weekend once a year — I always forget how much fun scifi is. But I always go home to fantasy.

21: Who is your favorite character in a book series?

Veera: Only one again? Uggggh. Jean Tannen. So many feels about Jean. Also Remus Lupin.

Alex: Sabetha Belacoros. Jean Tannen. Miles Vorkosigan.

22: Has a book ever transported you somewhere else?

Veera: Every now and then. A good book certainly does that!

Alex: Regularly.

23: Which book do you wish had a sequel?

Veera: SHARP TEETH by Toby Barlow. There is some stuff in the end that I wish would go and be their own stories.

Alex: I dunno, all the books I’ve liked enough to want more of HAVE had sequels. XD And the ones that don’t have sequels wouldn’t profit from the addition — OH! Wait! GOOD OMENS!

24: Which book do you wish DIDN’T have a sequel?

Veera: I would have been fine with Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN being just one book.

Alex: Can’t think of one. 

25: How long does it take you to read a book?

Veera: This depends on a lot of things. Do I have school? Work? How busy is work? Have I been reading like crazy recently? Is the book one of those that makes you read a sentence seven times before you understand it? But I’d say I can pretty much guarantee to read at least 100 pages a day.

Alex: Depends on the length of the book. According to the Epic Reading Project, I finish a book every 1.45 days (that is, if I started a book on Monday, I’d finish it on Wednesday morning). This is SKEWED because there were a couple books towards the beginning of the project that took me AGES. If we ignore those outliers, then I finish a book every other day — but if it’s a short book, or if I really like it, I can do one every day. Veera thinks this is fucknuts crazy.

Veera: Yes, yes I do. I don’t know how you do that. I can manage that maybe twice a year, if I either like the book lots or simply force myself to read it. And it has to be a day when I’m not feeling restless or distracted.

26: Do you like when books become movies?

Veera: Yes! It’s fascinating! I mean, a series is obviously better, but it’s interesting to see what kind of tricks screen writers and directors etc pull to fit the story into a short visual format, what they choose to foreground, and so on.

Alex: *purist grumbling into her coffee mug* Ahem. Yes, I prefer TV series, because there’s more space for sticking to what actually happened in the book. And sometimes, RARELY, a movie adaption is really good. I just watched the “Ender’s Game” movie a couple weeks back — it’s gorgeous.

27: Which book was ruined by its movie adaptation?

Veera: You can’t really ruin a book by movie adaptation. You can screw up the adaptation, but I’ve never been put off a book because of the movie. It’s not the book’s fault. But if you’re asking what movie adaptation slaughtered the original text, I’m really not a fan of 2005 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, 2012 GREAT EXPECTATIONS or the 2011 JANE EYRE.

Alex: I agree — it’s not the book’s fault. I don’t generally watch many movies, though, and I’m a huge fuckin’ purist, so I get huffy and offended every time a movie leaves out even one thing. Or adds something unnecessarily. For example, the Captain Shakespeare scenes in the STARDUST movie? What the hell was that? >:|

Veera: I like the Captain Shakespeare scenes in that movie! But I don’t get why they changed the ending. I like the book ending much better.

28: Which movie has done a book justice?

Veera: Hmm. AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1999) definitely does justice to Wilde’s play. Plays and short stories adapt much better than novels in any case. Another really good one is, of course, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005).

Alex: Oh, as I said above, I really liked the ENDER’S GAME adaption. The soundtrack, the shots of the practice battles in antigravity… Gorgeous, gorgeous.

29: Do you read newspapers?

Veera: When they’re available, yes. I don’t subscribe to any.

Alex: Nah.

30: Do you read magazines?

Veera: I flip through them in the bookstore but rarely buy them. I buy the occasional SFX or history magazine.

Alex: Only in waiting rooms. Although after I finish the Epic Reading Project, I’m going to do a short-story reading project, at which point I may subscribe to some SFF magazines.

31: Do you prefer newspapers or magazines?

Veera: Are they comparable? They’re very different media for different purposes.

Alex: Neither?

32: Do you read while in bed?

Veera: Yup!

Alex: In bed is where I do 99% of my reading.

33: Do you read while on the toilet?

Veera: Don’t let my grandmother know, but yes, if the book is very good.

Alex: Nope. Well… okay maybe once.

34: Do you read while in the car?

Veera: Some of the best reading time!

Alex: Yep!

35: Do you read while in the bath?

Veera: No. I’ll get the book wet and then I’ll be upset.

Alex: HELL NO ARE YOU CRAZY?

36: Are you a fast reader?

Veera: *glares at Alex* Well in comparison to SOME I’m not. But I’m not the slowest.

Alex: :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

37: Are you a slow reader?

Veera: I’d say I’m pretty average?

Alex: Only when I hate the book.

38: Where is your favorite place to read?

Veera: Currently at my desk, where I actually get reading done. Couch is also very nice, when the light is right!

Alex: In bed, as I said before! It is the most comfy, and there’s lots of pillows so I can arrange the perfect backrest, and I have a lamp for light and a desk for my drink…

39: Is it hard for you to concentrate while you read?

Veera: Sometimes? But generally not. Books tend to be more interesting than other stuff that goes on.

Alex: Only when I hate the book.

40: Do you need a room to be silent while you read?

Veera: Sometimes, but usually not. It changes a lot.

Alex: Not… totally silent. But I can’t read if the TV is on, or if the radio is on a talky station instead of a music station.

41: Who gave you your love of reading?

Veera: My family. Everyone reads, and it’s just been there all my life.

Alex: Same. Particularly my dad. He used to order a whole box of fantasy books from Amazon and then the two of us would fight over who got to read them first.

42: What book is next on your list to read?

Veera: TOOTH AND CLAW by Jo Walton, although I’m trying to decide whether I should read Anthony Trollope’s FRAMLEY PARSONAGE first…

Alex: ONLY BEGOTTEN DAUGHTER by James K Morrow, winner of the 1991 World Fantasy award. 

43: When did you start to read chapter books?

Veera: Around 8 or 9? I read loads and loads of horse books, and around that time the first Harry Potter came out in Finnish. Or at least that’s as far back as I can remember for sure.

Alex: Age 6, I think. Once I was competent at reading, I got really snobbish and elitist really fast. We’d go to the bookstore or the library and I refused to get books that were narrower than the length of my thumb knuckle, or which had more pictures than words.

44: Who is your favorite children’s book author?

Veera: Eduard Uspensky! Just hilarious! I’ve been revisiting them lately and I can’t believe how good they still are! Uncle Fyodor, Topple and the Crocodile, Little Warranty Men… So good.

Alex: Diana Wynne Jones — that’s YA, actually, does that count?

45: Which author would you like to interview the most?

Veera: I’d really like to interview some romance authors, but from what I’ve seen the sort of interview expected isn’t exactly what I’d like to ask about. Also I imagine interviewing Oscar Wilde would be a fantastic battle of semantics, which would be great!

Alex: Dickens. “Do you think being paid by the word turned out to be too much of a temptation? Answer in six words or less, or I swear to god I’ll shove this notepad down your throat.”

46: Which author do you think you’d be friends with?

Veera: It’s so hard to say. I either click with people or don’t, and that can’t be predicted.

Alex: When I get a time machine, one of my top five things to do is high five Oscar Wilde. What a snarky bitch. Love him.

47: What book have you reread the most?

Veera: Harry Potters, the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, GOOD OMENS, SHARP TEETH.

Alex: I don’t often reread books. GOOD OMENS, maybe?

48: Which books do you consider “classics”?

Veera: This is such a hard question. It depends on so many things and is so subjective. For me, classics are the books that get referred to often, that carry key ideas or, in the case of CLASSIC classics, the stuff that has stayed in print. Having said that, I’m forever mourning the fact that some Victorian bestsellers are really hard to get these days, even though they were wildly popular in their day.

Alex: Books that changed the literary landscape in some way. LORD OF THE RINGS, for example, was in some ways quite revolutionary. It popularized second-world fantasy; it completely changed what we think of when we think of elves… Tolkien’s elves are the Norse variety, did you know? They’re Ljósálfar. Before him, in the English speaking world, we thought of elves like Santa’s elves — small impish little fae folk. LOTR changed everything.

49: Which books do you think should be taught in every school?

Veera: I think there should be variety there – and the kids should be allowed some choice, at least sometimes. In my high school, we got lists of books with certain themes, and as long as we stuck to the theme assigned we could choose. I found that more motivating than being told to read something. Anyway, I do think schools should teach not necessarily certain books, but rather how to read them. You can easily choose a well-known, curriculum book – in Finland it would probably be THE SEVEN BROTHERS by Aleksis Kivi – and then show the kids what it does, what things mean.
I have lots of thoughts on teaching literature but they’re not very organized. And it’s such a big topic. And I’m not really answering the question, partly because it’s too big – not every country and every educational system can be just assigned the same books. It’s not going to work. I shall have to rattle about this sometime.

Alex: I think we should make a strong effort to include more diverse books in our curriculum — books FROM diverse authors as well as depicting diverse subjects. I’d like to see more contemporary books as well, particularly genre literature. I’ve known kids who told me they hated books because “all books are boring” — what teacher has failed you, child? Who forgot to hand you a book that was exciting? Tell me where they are so I can kick them in the shins for you.

50: Which books should be banned from all schools?

Veera: Ban no books. Children are capable of processing hard things, and what they can’t understand or process they will either gloss over or ask about, and then you can have an important conversation. Just ban no books.

Alex: Fuck this question, to be quite honest. 

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