Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Everyone Loves a List!

1. Favorite childhood book?
Does childhood include my time in high school? If so, the book I found most enjoyable back then was Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. If I have to go back further than that, I would probably say those "choose your own ending" books, I can't remember specific titles.

2. What are you reading right now?
The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate by James Rosen.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I haven't been into a library (aside from Election Day) since I was in college. I buy most of my books on Amazon, or at local bookstores. I am trying to build a library; and I want my kids to grow up surrounded by books and, more importantly, to have the curiousity to find out what is in them.

4. Bad book habit?
I am obnoxious about taking care of my books, which might be considered a bad habit.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
As stated above, not a thing.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
I'm sorry, a what? There is something timeless and essential about holding a book in your hands, feeling it's weight, the finality of turning each page. I am anti-gadget, and anti e-reader, for sure.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I am constitutionally unable to read more than one book at a time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
I cannot say that they have.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
It is early yet, so I will go back to last year. The least favorite book I read last year was probably Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. I can't stand when so-called historians tackle a subject with an academic air, and yet bring their unadulterated bias to the party. Perlstein blamed Nixon for every problem of the last 60 or so years, and I find that kind of hubris silly and amatuerish. (You can read more about my thoughts on The Nixon Dilemma in the post by that name below).

10. Favorite book you've read this year?
Again going back to 2010 one more time, I will give those honors to Conrad Black's Richard Nixon: A Life. It is everything Perlstein's book isn't, although at a thousand pages it is a bit of a bear. Honorable mentions go to Douglas Brinkley's The Wilderness Warrior, and On the Run: An Angler's Journey Down the Striper Coast by David Dibenedetto.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Essentially never, my backlog of books inside my comfort zone is so extensive that I will probably never get out.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
US political history with a particular focus on the nation's founding and the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon; please don't mistake this for thinking I read partisan drivel, which these days seems to be a dime a dozen. I won't touch it, I don't have time for someone else's invective.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I ride a bus from the Eastern Shore to Washington most days of the week. If I couldn't read on the bus, I am not sure I could get much reading done.

14. Favorite place to read?
In our living room, with a fire blazing in the woodstove.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
It is a strict no-lending policy. And in turn, I don't borrow books from others. Two of my favorite books of all time, The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (in first edition hardback, mind you) have not been seen in years since they were "borrowed."

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
When I was writing my masters thesis I did, but I don't make a habit of it. And if I do dog-ear the pages, it is a small fold, not half the page.

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

18. Not even with text books?
That would require reading the text books in the first place, now wouldn't it?

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
The only language I know how to read in, Engrish.

20. What makes you love a book?
A unique perspective on a familiar topic that uncovers new information and presents the story in a refreshing way. I also like when a book covers something thoroughly, and comes across as well-researched and detail-oriented. In history often times the smallest things can make the largest impact. A good book will do the research on the small things, not just on the big things that have already been covered a million ways.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I don't often run up to someone, even someone I know, and tell them what I think they ought to be reading. Mainly because I don't want them to do that to me, and also because I I realize that most of what I read does not have broad general appeal. But if I know something about you, and think something might appeal to you based on your interests, I'll recommend something I thought was good.

22. Favorite genre?
Strictly non-fiction US history

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
This is a diffcult question, becasue generally if I like something, I'll read it. I wish I had more time to read classic American literature, guys like Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut.

24. Favorite biography?
Oh boy. I read, and have read, a lot of biographies, including some great ones like Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton and Edmund Morris' The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Those two rise to the top of a long list.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
To parahrase a master, George Carlin: Why do I need to read a book on self-help, written by someone else? That's not self-help, that's just help. What the hell is self help, anyway? If you did it yourself, you didn't need help.

26. Favorite cookbook?
I usually get my recipies from the food network website; can't say I make a point of buying cookbooks.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Probably Brinkley's The Wilderness Warrior. A lot of those folks who were conservation leaders in the early 20th century were inventing the movement by themselves, and they laid a great foundation for future conservation successes.

28. Favorite reading snack?

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I am trying to think of the last time I read a book that was hyped in any way, and am drawing a blank.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I will look at the most recent reader reviews on Amazon before I make a purchase, but that is about the extent of my effort to see what others think. Some of those readers have halfway intelligent things to say, most of them don''s kind of like life like that.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Generally speaking I don't write reviews, because I just assume that most people don't (and shouldn't) care much what I think; but yet here I am writing this blog post.

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

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, a thousand page tome about Korea during the Kim Dynasty (Kim Il-Sung, and his son, Kim Jong-Il). It was long, the font was small, the names were tough, and like Communist logic, it was hard to follow. But I got through it.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I have two massive biographies on my bookshelf, one about Winston Churchill and the other FDR. "Intimidated" probably isn't the right word, but procastination might be.

35. Favorite Poet?
Thomas Lynch. Check out Still Life in Milford. You don't hear much about good American poets these days, but Lynch is one of them.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Zero. Not a fan of libraries.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
I believe we've worn the library line of questioning out.

38. Favorite fictional character?
I read very little fiction, but I do like the Connecticut Yankee of Mark Twain.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Again, not much fiction in my repertoire, but Captain Ahab has to be up there, right?

40. Books you're most likely to bring on vacation?
Vacation is where I will do my lightest reading, because the book has to travel well (i.e. be light enough to throw in a small bag or backpack. I will generally read books about travel, social histories (think Mark Kurlansky's Salt) and other things of that nature. This is when most of my Bill Bryson gets read. Bryson is just a fanastic writer, with a great sense of humor.

41. The longest you’ve gone without reading.
A few hours is usually about as long as I go without at least reading a page or two.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
A book would have to be pretty awful for me not to finish it, because that would leave me with a gnawing feeling forever, every time I saw it on my shelf I would get pissed. Although I once got a manuscript from an aspriring writer, and it was dreadful. This might be why I don't read fiction. Pulling off good fiction is tough, and so much of it is bad.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
I start to think about what I just read, and I wander off in to space...

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
Not a novel, but without question, not even close...All the President's Men. By Woodward and Bernstein, of course.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Not sure I have one, we don't see many movies.

46. The most money you’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I will frequently spend $50 at Amazon.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Skimming seems pointless. I have no expectation of flipping to a random page, and finding some passage so profound that I must buy the book. I read the publisher's summary on Amazon, and go from there.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Death? I don't know, if I don't think I can finish a book, I don't start it.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Not really.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
You can't build a library to be proud of if you go giving your books away, can you?

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
The aforementioned Churchill and FDR biographies.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
What on earth? If I don't think I will like a book, why would I start it?

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Hmm, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. Those fellas make me laugh.

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