Thursday 25 July 2013

15 Bookish Confessions

1.  My book-buying has all the qualities of a bona fide addictive behaviour.  If I haven't been book shopping for a while, I start to get twitchy and obsessive about what I might be missing in the charity shops and remainder stores.  I sometimes hide the fact that I've bought things (that time I wedged a copy of Naked Lunch down the back of my jeans so Mum wouldn't see it was a particular low point).  And once I start buying, I can't stop - by the end of a shopping trip I'll be dropping cash on as many books as I can carry!

2.  I hate how slow I am at reading these days.  Until a couple of years ago, I could sail through books, no matter where I was or what was happening around me.  While singing along to music.  While someone was watching telly.  Late into the night.  Whatever.  Now I get so easily distracted that this has become impossible, AND I often have to read a book under my breath in the right accent to make sure it all goes in.  Despite my best efforts to start to fix this, by reading inspiring bookish memoirs and how-to blog articles, and trying to read silently as much as possible, 2013 has been my slowest year of reading since... well, probably since I started reading.  It's so frustrating!

3.  I once tore a page out of a school library book on the 60s because there was a glossy picture I desperately wanted for a big collage I was making for my wall.  I still feel a bit sick about that.  What makes it worse?  I was in one of my weird manic obsessive phases.  The picture was... I can't believe I'm telling anybody this... the picture was of the frickin' Osmonds.  Because I'd picked up on the fact that my mum loved Donny as a teenager and got really obsessive about it.  *runs away and hides forever*

4.  When I visit someone's home, I can't help but zero in on their bookshelves.  If there are shelves in the hall, I WILL look en route to the bathroom.  While you put the kettle on, I WILL be perusing the bookshelves in your living room.  In your bedroom, my curiosity about what's on your bookcase will always need to be satisfied before my curiosity about your photos or pretty trinkets.  I can't help myself - other people's shelves just sing to me.  Which leads me to...

5.  While we've been house hunting recently, my feelings about a house and its owners have been influenced by their bookshelves.  My gut feeling about a place has correlated directly with the contents of the current owners' bookcases.  A good mix of books, and lots of stuff I've read or own or have wishlisted?  YES.  A couple of ramshackle shelves of condensed volumes and Danielle Steel novels?  NO.  Like, for me, part of the whole vibe of the place is set by books, even though those books wouldn't be there by the time we moved in.  Ridiculous, moi?

6.  I'm ridiculously bad at buying books that "I must read, now!" but then not reading them for five years.  This is particularly stupid when I've pre-ordered a book months ahead of its release date - I've got a bunch of those still sitting on my shelves.  Since I discovered Ariel's devastatingly truthful video about TBR books, I'm trying to remedy this by either not buying the books yet, or at the very least, by keeping my newest books near the top of Mount TBR so that I can read them while my enthusiasm is still strong!

7.  I match my bookmarks to the books I read.  I mean, not EVERY SINGLE time, but enough to make it a notable habit.  Cheerful chick lit novel?  Gerbera daisy bookmark!  Serious non-fiction?  Map and compass bookmark!  Funny non-fiction?  Tree frog bookmark!

8. As soon as you say the words, "I only read..." or "I never read..." we're not going to get on. People always seem to say this as a way of sneering at OTHER books and genres, but to me it just shows how closed-minded they are, and it gets on my nerves, big time. "I don't really read much fiction," fine. "I read mostly paranormal romance," fine. But as soon as you say "I ONLY read X genre" or I NEVER read Y genre", I don't like you. Deal with it.

9.  I'm really looking forward to being back on the OTHER side of the counter.  I've done my stint behind the desk, but I've got to be honest - all the fun's on the other side.  I like exploring a bookshop, I like discovering what's on their shelves, I like the new and shiny and the second-hand and well-loved...  Soon enough, when I visit a bookshop I'm going to be visiting without trade-weary eyes, and I'm going to treat the person behind that counter like frickin' ROYALTY.

10.  I find it really hard to visualise characters.  Quite often they'll either appear like a person in a dream - a kind of faceless shape in an appropriate outfit - or I'll automatically picture them as a particular famous person.  Most often it's an actor or actress, especially if I've seen them in something recently, and once I've settled on someone no amount of physical description will change that character in my mind.  If I know the book is being adapted for the screen, my mental cast is created for me!  A bunch of characters in the same book can be a mixture of actors and dream people.

11.  I have a love/hate relationship with dust jackets.  I love a beautiful dustjacket, particularly on those lovely smaller-format hardbacks.  These days publishers are putting so much work into creating gorgeous dustjackets, particularly for literary fiction, and they're usually much more striking than the paperback covers that follow.  That said, I CANNOT read a hardback book with the dustjacket on.  I have to take it off and stow it safely until I'm done reading.  The only exception is library books, because they're covered and usually already 'broken in', so they feel more like an organic part of the book and less like something to be ruined.

12.  I can never decide how I want to shelve my books.  By colour or size?  Should fiction be divided into genres THEN alphabetised?  Should non-fiction be alphabetised or just shelved by subject?  What kind of bookcases or shelving do I want?  Does it matter if the shelves start neatly but get messier?  Should they be casually messy from the start?  Should the books just be mixed up and stuck on a shelf, so that I have a complete mishmash of subjects, authors and genres to explore on each shelf?  Am I more likely to read 'outside the box' and pick up something random this way?  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I spend so much of my life sitting on the floor, surrounded by book piles, rearranging them...
13.  School/university texts and ARCs aside, I've only ever annotated two books.  One was An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, which I wrote in and underlined before I passed it on to my mum to read.  It was when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder; I was seeking validation, and she was trying to understand what was happening!  The other book was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which had such wonderful little moments in it that I couldn't NOT respond in the margins, even though I felt weird about it!  Both were annotated in pencil so I can change things next time I read them if I want to.

How I felt when I wrote my first margin note in Perks.  What a revelation!

14.  Sometimes when I'm reading something really exciting, the urge to know what's going to happen just gets too much.  If I'm reading the page on the left, I find my eyes flicking across to the page on the right, instinctively seeking answers.  Maybe this is a bad habit brought about by too much fast skimming of information online, who knows?  Occasionally I will flick forward a few pages or even towards the end of the novel.  Sometimes this is because I'm tempted to give up on the book and want to know whether to read on; sometimes it just stops me wondering long enough to enjoy the story without my mind racing too far ahead.  Either way, it never ruins anything for me!

15.  I love watching movies and TV shows that are based on books.  I will always try to read the book first, on principle - though I occasionally break this rule for epic novels and classics where it can be easier to have people and plots roughly in mind before you tackle the original.  I inevitably look for my favourite scenes and lines in an adaptation, but other than that I'm very easy-going about them.  I prefer to see book and movie as source material and interpretation, two different incarnations and experiences of the same vision, so it doesn't matter to me if things are chopped and changed and shifted around a bit.  You can't cram a 500-page novel into a 2-hour movie without making compromises.  If a movie sucks, it sucks - but it won't be because I've relentlessly compared it to the book.

Soooooo, those are my fifteen bookish confessions!  Some of them are more like bookish habits, but either way they offer some insight into my reading life, I think!