Claim the Margin


4. Bad book habit?
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
18. Not even with text books?

I’m taking these questions in a swoop because they all have to do with each other: first of all, the 17 & 18 questions are clearly one question, and 4 clearly encompasses all of them. Now, the short version, here’s the thing: I do not have bad book habits. I may have said this in some form before, but here it is again: I love books more than most people, and by that I mean, not only do I love books more than most people love them, but I also love them more than I love most people.

The physical entity of the book gives me an electric charge that can’t quite be explained, not just to the uninitiated, but to anyone at all. I want to own just about every book I see in a Half Price Books, just because they are beautiful things. I like to sort, organize, rearrange, handle, look at my books almost more than I like to read them. I enjoy reading, I really do — I love characters most and stories second — but reading is all about finishing. I time how long I anticipate a chapter or book will take me. I don’t loiter over them. I don’t like to read them over the end of a month. But when I’m just visiting my books, there’s no time limit on that. I’ll rearrange them all day long. I take care of them. I am good to them. I do not treat them badly, and I don’t take kindly to other people treating them badly — carving them into sculptures or nailing them to the wall, or gutting them, drilling holes in them, ripping out the pages for use in craft projects — the whole thing strikes me as more macabre and gross than Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the one from the 70s). Ugh.

All that being said, let’s quit right now with this misconception that writing in a book is some form of maltreatment of a book.

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So Civil


28. Favorite reading snack?

I’ll be frank with you. No, Pete. I’ll be Pete today. Anyway, you already know, I take a certain amount of pride in doing things no one else does, in disliking things everybody likes, and preferring what most people don’t. To that end, I wrote this post, which still frankly embarrasses me a bit due to the discussion of reading on a toilet (that most hideous of all places to read).

But in that post, I emphasize how much I dislike that which most readers claim to love — reading in bed. I did not address reading and eating. I’ll do that now. Because, pace those who think the height of life’s joys is to read while eating, I just can’t do it.

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Cooky Time


26. Favorite cookbook?

Shocking truth time. I have never been interested in cooking, or enjoyed it when it came up time to do it. Okay, I don’t think I really shocked anyone with that. I like eating. I like the result of cooking very much. I have even enjoyed watching the odd cooking show (odder the better — ba dum chuh).

I mean, I certainly can cook. I don’t exactly understand how anyone couldn’t; you follow the instructions and produce what you’re supposed to produce. It’s not like drawing, where when you follow the instructions, you come out with a lumpy mutant cow when the directions swore you were doing a charming pastoral scene with a tree. There’s no innate talent required to measure six cups of flour and mix it with sugar and butter and leave the stuff in the oven for as long as it says at the temperature it says. At least I don’t think there is. Maybe it is possible that some person somewhere can follow every instruction to the letter and produces charred inedible globs as regularly as my sketches produce uneven creatures kindergarteners would be embarrassed to have drawn.

The point is mostly that I am capable of cooking but I find it at the best of times dull and at the worst of times, stressful. I do have 38 cookbooks on my Goodreads shelf dedicated to cookbooks, and about 700 recipes between 4 boards on Pinterest, but it’s the sort of thing I do of necessity and not for a sense of overflowing joy it gives me. Just as well, too, because my overriding philosophy of “like what no one else likes so people won’t steal it and you don’t have to wait in lines” (my niece and I got mushroom burgers at the RennFest because no one was in line for them; they were awesome but we were the only ones who wanted it) backfires when it comes to cooking things for groups. Whenever I produce a recipe at a family gathering or something, I have to literally force people to sample it, and the responses are overwhelmingly negative.

All of that prefatory material to make it clear that my favorite cookbook has nothing whatever to do with cooking.

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Nicholas II in 1898



24. Favorite biography?

So I am occasionally extremely predictable. Presumably, you understood what the answer to this question would entail the moment you saw it. Although I’ve consistently read as many nonfiction as fiction books per year for the last half decade or so, biography is a relatively new genre in my repertoire — of the 76 on my Goodreads shelf, I’ve read 31, and of those, 15 are biographies of Romanovs. Of those, 10 are biographies of the Romanov (i.e., Nicholas II), so you know exactly what my topic is about to be. Sorry-not-sorry.

So Nicholas II is my homeboy. So what about  that?

So Nicholas II is my homeboy. So what about that?

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Mystery Science Theater 3000

Redux the Genre Question


22. Favorite genre?
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

I know the point in asking these questions back to back is to get someone to define the boundaries of their comfort zone and then immediately define an area in which they feel obligation, interest, or a degree of ease in branching out in. And genre does seem to be a bit of a ghost hanging around and haunting me, because the fact of the matter is I never had any interest in genre whatsoever. I’ll detail that in a moment.

If you want the kind of answer the question is leading, then I point you to this post. Because, yes, I want to read more westerns, and it’s a pleasantly categorical answer. But the accurate and truthful answer to both questions — is science fiction.

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Some library books from 2011

Books a la Library


3. What books do you have on request at the library?
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

And since the last post was talking about what I’ve read this year, it makes sense to me to switch over to my current library status.

My library status hinges on my reading status, which is kind of a tautology, I guess. But I have proven quite convincingly that I only want to read when I am happy, and I only need books from the library when I am reading, therefore the number of books I have out from the library at any given time is going to hinge entirely on my current state of joie de vivre.

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A Customer’s Perspective

I really like reading customer service complaint stories. Anyone I know should be able to tell you this, and my internet search history would probably betray an hour and a half a day on  I love reading these stories, cite them in everyday conversation, and just in general enjoy the feeling of shocked scandal at some of the stuff people have to put up with from entitled jerks.

But there’s another version of the “customer service horror story,” and that’s where certain members of the customer service or retail industry — whom I take to be young, given the trendy sorts of sites I see these lists on, and their presence on Twitter — sit around and whine about working for a living. Unlike places like NotAlwaysRight, where the customer actually has to do something horrifying (for example), the offending customers featured on these lists or Twitter accounts do obnoxious things like order macaroni and cheese at Panera Bread, ask for the featured special, or, I don’t know, walk in the building. I don’t know the exact Twitter handles, but they show up on Buzzfeed as “How to be the worst customer at Panera Bread,” “How to be the worst customer at Subway,” and “Reasons your barista hates you.”

And for a person like me, already awkward and uncomfortable when I have to make a request of anyone even when they’re being paid to handle my requests, these lists — as out of bounds as they sometimes get — make me self conscious to the point where I would rather just go home than deal with the judgmental attitude of the 19 year old behind the counter who might have an inexplicable grudge against whatever I want to order.

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My dream cast for "the coffee books"

Coffeehouse Crap


9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)

I hadn’t anticipated splitting this into two posts, but I guess it still works. To review — I am pleased to update my status on books I’ve read this year because I’m only 20 away from the end of my challenge to read 78 books this year. I’ve read 58 –

  • 2 one-star,
  • 3 two-star,
  • 17 three-star,
  • 43 fiction (including short stories/collections of short stories)
  • 15 nonfiction,
  • and 14 repeats.

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When A Book Takes Hostages


10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

This is a good time to ask that question, since there are only about 14 weeks left in the year and I’m about 20 books from the end of my challenge to read 78 books this year. I’ve read 58 –

  • 6 five-star,
  • 30 four-star,
  • 43 fiction (including short stories/collections of short stories)
  • 15 nonfiction,
  • and 14 repeats.

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Pardon the Egg Salad Stains


35. Favorite poet?

Oh, I have such an answer to this. You see, I am very fond of poetry. I even like to write it and have the audacity to think I’ve written a couple of very fine ones. And I love poetry from all over the place, modern and Elizabethan and ancient; American and English and in translation; I’m really very catholic in my tastes and odds are, if it’s in verse, it’s already halfway to staking out territory in my heart. It’s the words, you see, I am all about words, and poetry is nothing but words. But out of all the poets, the prose poems and haikus and sonnets and all the other little bits of versification, there is one I love. There’s one I’ve sought to buy every book, one I’ve read over and over, especially when I’m wanting comfort — as I’ve emphasized repeatedly, reading books when I’m depressed is a chore, but reading poetry is like sinking into a pool of refreshing water and washing off every care and stress I’ve ever had.

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