I'm probably not the only one who savors the Sunday book section of the New York Times! One of my favorite parts is the "By the Book" questionnaire where they question authors on some of their reading habits and preferences.
The quiz varies a little week to week, based on the author. I thought I'd take one or two and share my answers!
What books are on your nightstand?
I don't have books on my nightstand but I do have a big pile in the living room that has spread over to the shelves on the desk next to it. It's a huge mess! The pile just got taller when my favorite bookstore announced it was closing, followed by some book gifts for Christmas! Probably the next few on my list are "Lilac Girls,"The Blue Bistro" by Elin Hildenbrand (thanks, Katie, for the recommendation -- and actually, just finished that one!), Philip Starkey's "Six Wives of Henry VIII," Louise Penny's "Glass Houses" and another few of the "Maigret" books by Georges Simenon. I'm a new fan.
What are you reading right now?
I don't usually read more than one book at a time but this year I am rereading one of my favorites, Vivian Swift's "When Wanderers Cease to Roam," month by month as she goes through her year. So, that's a chapter at a time. In between chapters I just finished Freeman Wills Crofts "Inspector French and the Box Office Murders."He's an author from the 1930s and this is from a series of vintage British mysteries from that period.
What is the last great book you read?
"Broken for You" by Stephanie Kallos. It combined all my trigger points -- art, grief, family, death and the Holocaust.
What do you read for solace? For escape? For sheer pleasure?
Since I'm not working, pretty much everything is for solace, escape or pleasure! I'm very big on the mysteries -- especially if they take place in England (although that's far from a requirement). They're both pleasurable and escapism for me. I've gone back to Anne Lamott's "Help, Thanks, Wow" more than once when things have been dicey in my life. And I love reading books with or about art and travel. England and Paris are my two go-to places for both fiction and non-fiction or travel books.
What are your favorite books on a favorite subject?
Which favorite?! Paris? England? WWII? For fiction, I loved Edward Rutherfurd's "Paris" and "London" (and "Sarum.") Also Kristin Hannah's "The Nightingale" and Doer's "All the Light We Cannot See." My favorite book set in Paris last year was "The Red Notebook." (Thanks, Lynne!) I'm big on Brit biography and love anything about the Mitfords, the Royals or Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" novels.
Cooking? I love cookbooks. This shelf shows a few -- my favorites (not in this photo) are Julia's, Ina Garten books, King Arthur Baking Book, Nigella Lawson's "Feast," and "America's Test Kitchen" books.
Mysteries? Anything by Jacqueline Winspear, Louise Penny, Susan Elia McNeal, Christopher Fowler, Cara Black or Deborah Crombie.
What are your favorite genres and which don't you particularly like?
You know I enjoy mystery (not the gory kind so much but a little more procedural than the cozy mysteries). I like biography and history -- especially of the Royals and European history and as I mentioned before books where art plays a role. I also love cooking memoirs and about anything Julia Child-related. I really appreciate good non-fiction on a variety of topics.
I'm not huge on contemporary thrillers ("Gone Girl"-type for example) although I've read some good ones. If someone gives them to me, I'll read them but I probably won't buy. Keep sci-fi and fantasy as far away from me as you can!
What book did you think was overrated or just didn't like?
I have two. Both popular. Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch." The writing was lovely but it became so redundant. That's a book I think I would have enjoyed if they knocked out about 250 pages. The other (don't hate me) was Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth." In fact, that might be the first book where I got 500 pages through it and said "Life is too short for books you really hate." Both of those went back to resale and I got a good price for "Goldfinch," so all was not lost.
How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? Morning or Night? Where do you like to read?
Definitely paper. I like the page, the smell, the size, the ink. Mostly I read at night except in the summer when I'm up north and then I might find myself on the porch with a good book day or night. When I'm home I read in the corner of my sofa or in a comfy chair in the family room. Rarely in bed except at the lake. Up north, I have a favorite chair and of course there's the porch and the beach!
What's the best book you ever received as a gift?
I go back to it again and again -- "When Wanderers Cease to Roam" by Vivian Swift. She inspired my whole second passion for learning watercolor and I love her painting lessons on her blog. But the other favorite is Stephen Sondheim's "Finishing the Hat" -- the first in his two compendiums of lyrics and commentary from every show he's done.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
I read anything and everything. "Little Women," of course -- I was nine. And the "Trixie Belden" mysteries ("Nancy Drew," too) got me started on a lifelong love of mystery reading. I also loved Marguerite Henry's "Misty of Chincoteague" series because of their beautiful illustrations and "Stuart Little" and "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White, partly because of Garth Williams' illustrations. When I was in junior high I read Anne Frank's "Diary" (and have re-read it more than once), "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Gone with the Wind" and they all have stayed with me.
You're organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Agatha Christie, Bill Moyers and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Can I have four? I'd invite Louise Penny, too. And if Julia wanted to help out in the kitchen, I wouldn't mind!
Who would you like to write your life story?
If you feel like playing along, join me!
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