Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

15 Things About Me and Books

I've enjoyed the "15 things about me and books" lists from other people, so here's mine:

1. When I start reading a book, I almost always look at how many pages are in it. (In the actual reading text -- if there are endnote pages, I don't count them.) I put a bookmark exactly in the middle. When I get there, I move it to 3/4 of the way through. If it's a long book, I will get to 7/8 and even 15/16. This is not "a good and logical thing to do," this is "a silly compulsion." I do it anyway.

2. I do not read the last page. I just look at the number. When I was little, I would read the last page first, just so I'd have something to hang onto. Then I read Bridge to Terebithia, and the last page didn't spoiler the spoiler, so I knew I had nothing to hang onto in the first place and should just give up and enjoy the ride if I could.

3. Other discarded habits include finishing every book I start. I used to. I don't now. I was chronically book-short as a kid, always in need of something else to read. Now I have a library list that's five closely-written pages, not to mention the stuff that isn't even on the library list. I will finish some things because they're on hand and not too bad, but if something isn't any good or I just can't get into it (and I do recognize these conditions as different), I generally won't force myself to read it. Some exceptions include things classified in my own head as research reading, either for facts or to stay up on the genres/categories I work in.

4. My grandpa and I used to go to B. Dalton's right after Christmas to spend any gift certificates or Christmas money together. We would look through the marked down hardbacks carefully, just in case, and then gather the candidates and then cull them slowly until they fit our respective budgets. Then we would get Orange Julius.

5. Grandpa also used to take me to the library when I was staying with them up here. The Hennepin County Library system was my idea of heaven. They had entire series all at the same library branch! They had funny little labels on the spines of the books to help you know whether you wanted to read them! They had carefully preserved some of my mom's favorites while still having the new stuff I'd seen in bookstores! They had scrunchy chairs right there in the children's and YA sections! I would fill my arms with books, and Grandpa would fill his, and then we'd go for coffee (him) and cocoa (me).

6. Grandpa is not at all the only serious reader in my immediate ancestry. He is, however, the only serious book-buyer. My parents are library people. I use the library, too, but I don't trust the library. It won't always have what I need, and if it does, it won't always keep it. This is not the fault of the library or the librarians. The library is one of the best social institutions in the world, but it is a social institution, and as such exists to benefit more people than my household. Sometimes this means selling off the very book I needed to read. Best to buy the books I will really truly need later.

7. My father read to me regularly, well after I was able to read to myself. (I started reading when I was 2.) Some things were Not Our Sort Of Thing. Heidi, for example: after he'd finished the Chronicles of Narnia and The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Hobbit, we tried Heidi and agreed, after two or three chapters, that this was Not It. (I then read Heidi on my own and liked it all right. It was just not a book for us together.) So we did The Lord of the Rings after that, and that kept us a good while. Daddy reading to me was a ritual and an event. Mom reading to me was just the way of nature when I was small. In some ways that makes me feel bad, but Mom seems all right with it.

Because of all this, guillotining people was a familiar concept from before kindergarten. I didn't imagine myself as the Scarlet Pimpernel, but plotting clever and daring escapes occupied more of my primary school hours than perhaps would have been ideal, and I thought of one of my classmates as Robespierre. Which took my grandma a bit aback when I confided it in her, if I recall.

8. Some people have talked about when they knew books were written by people like themselves. I think I always knew it. I was fond of rewriting endings or even middles from before I could actually write reliably. I had to, you see; the stupid authors kept getting them wrong. As an adult I have a much more firmly differentiated sense of the difference between not telling a story like I would, not telling a story I'd tell at all, and telling a story badly.

9. For awhile when I was nearly grown, late high school and several times in college, my godfathers would get me substantial Barnes and Noble gift certificates, $50 or $100. My mother would suggest that I could spread it out, spending a bit at a time, but that, to me, sounded insane: I could go spend $5-6 on a paperback any time I had the money. That wasn't special. Having $100 to spend on books all for myself, on the other hand, was glory beyond compare. I would sit on the store's carpet and compare merits and try to find balance: I had two volumes of high fantasy on the pile already, so some hard SF might make things feel a little better; the pile was all novels so far, so maybe a short story collection and some nonfiction? The gift was not just the books but the game that went with them, all the possibilities fitting together like a Tetris game.

10. Lately -- in the last five months -- I've gotten into the habit of having a work of fiction and a work of nonfiction I'm reading at any given time. I sometimes also have a periodical going. I'm not sure this will last in its current form, but it's been nice for awhile. The five month mark is not an accident, though: it's been since I've been feeling nasty.

11. I have eight books on my "to be read" pile right now, plus the two I'm in the middle of reading. This is fewer than I've had in years.

12. I am extremely suggestible when it comes to food in books. This works at least as often against me as it does for me: I didn't want to eat for a week after reading King Rat.

13. I have gotten over the idea that if They make a movie of a book I like, I must go see it no matter what. I don't want Them to make cruddy movies of books I like. No movie is better than a bad movie. Also I want Them to make original SF and fantasy movies. I have enjoyed some of the movie versions of books I love, but books and movies are different enough art forms that I wish people were doing interesting things with the movie form all by itself rather than trying to make it hold novels it's not meant to deal with. When scottjames asked me what I wanted Peter Jackson to make next, I said his own thing, and I stand by it.

14. Occasionally I manage to sit people down and make them tell me what to read -- any genre, any category, just what they think is good. This works particularly well with groups of two, because they remind each other of things and keep going instead of stalling out the way one person at a time will do. I did it with alecaustin and Zed, and again with wshaffer and Daniel. For some people this works better as expressing a willingness to borrow what they're willing to lend, and then they can think about it as things come up over a period of months or years. Even when the results of this are not absolutely optimal, they're always interesting.

15. #14 works because I am an amiable reader. I am not an uncritical reader, nor an infinitely tolerant reader (see #3), but I'm open to giving lots of different kinds of books a try and finding what's good in them if I can. Sometimes I will need a reason why this book is different from the rest of its category (Christian historical romances, for example) or the rest of its author's works, but mostly I'll just dive right in and see how it goes.
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