Wednesday, 26 November 2014

My Life in Books: Series Five: Day Three

Aarti blogs at Book Lust.

JoAnn blogs at Lakeside Musing.



Qu. 1.) Did you grow up in a book-loving household, and did your parents read to you? Pick a favourite book from your childhood, and tell me about it.

Aarti: My sister and I both read a lot growing up (my brother less so), so I would say that we did grow up in a book-loving household, though I don't remember my parents reading to us very much. My dad would tell us bedtime stories, but they were never book-based. They just came out of his head and he usually focused on science or Indian history. I have a very vivid recollection of him telling us how gravity was discovered.

I don't think I had a favorite book when I was very young, but as I got a little older, I fell completely in love with Anne of Green Gables. I loved how smart she was, and how she questioned everything, and I always wanted to go and visit Prince Edward Island (alas, I never did). She was such a hero to me.

JoAnn: Books have always been part of my life. I can remember both parents reading to me as a child and, as the oldest of six siblings, I have fond memories of reading to my younger brothers and sisters. Scholastic book order days were always the best. I’d run home from school with the new books I’d ordered and hide in my room for the rest of they day. My favorite book from childhood is probably Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. There was something about Harriet and her notebook that struck a chord with me... and lead to a life-long fondness of stationery supplies.


Qu. 2.) What was one of the first 'grown-up' books that you really enjoyed? What was going on in your life at this point?

Aarti: I think I most remember books that I read in my freshman year English class in high school. We read To Kill a Mockingbird and All Quiet on the Western Front. They were both so brilliant. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it, but at that time, the 1960s felt so far in the past and quaint to me. I recently reread the book and realized just how revolutionary it must have been when it was published. And I don't think any book has brought war so vividly to life for me as All Quiet on the Western Front. I think that's when I started to understand nuances in history - that there isn't necessarily a "good" side or a "bad" side, but so many perspectives and motivations.

I don't think anything very special was going on in my life at that point - just that I was in my early teens, beginning to understand that adulthood isn't all that simple!

JoAnn: I was in high school when I finally figured out that books had a lot to say about life and how you might choose to live it. Ethan Allen Hawley's moral crisis in The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck's final novel, turned me into a Steinbeck devotee and cemented my love of classic literature.


Qu. 3.) Pick a favourite book that you read in your 20s or early 30s - especially if it's one which helped set you off in a certain direction in life.


Aarti: I read Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolo series in my early 20s. A lot of the Latin language poetry and historical events went right over my head, but I LOVED those books (especially the House of Niccolo). I was also active in what is the now-defunct Yahoo Groups, so had so many people all around the world to talk about the books with, which was so wonderful and definitely a precursor to book blogging for me. I have always
loved historical fiction, and Dunnett's complex plots and twists and turns and massive casts of characters made me realize just how IMMERSED writers can become in a world. And just how passionate fans can be, too. It was really nice to see.

JoAnn: I didn’t read as much in my 20’s and early 30’s…mostly professional journals, then children’s books to my three daughters. When I did read, it was often sprawling family sagas. Favorites from this period include Steinbeck's East of Eden, novels by James Michener and Maeve Binchy, Beach Music by Pat Conroy, And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer, and The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.


Qu. 4.) What's one of your favourite books that you've found in the last year or two? How did you come to blogging and how has blogging changed your reading habits?

Aarti: Oh, gosh, that is tough to answer! I will answer the second question first. As I mentioned above, I was active on a lot of the forums and Yahoo Groups related to books when I was in college and my early 20s. From there, it was a fairly natural progression to blogging.

I don't really know how blogging has changed my reading habits as I started blogging quite young - in my early 20s. I suspect that my reading habits would change as I got older, anyway. But I do think my reading tastes have expanded considerably since I started blogging. I would say that the most powerful impact that blogging has had on me personally has been my quest to read more diversely.

As to my favorite book over the past year or two - probably Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have a massive literary crush on Adichie. Not only because she's so smart and articulate, but because she's so good at bringing up important points in a humorous and non-confrontational way that really makes you think. She's the best. And Americanah's unapologetic love story, the commentary on racism in the UK and the US, the sexism that women face - it's all wrapped up in a truly engaging and witty writing style that I loved.

JoAnn: Favorite books from the past year or so include Stoner by John Williams, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and, most recently, Florence Gordon by Brian Morton – all beautifully written character-driven novels.

Before blogging, I owned a classics reading group on Yahoo and followed a few book blogs...an innovative concept back then. I wanted to participate in the conversation and started Lakeside Musing in 2008.

Since then, I’ve discovered many wonderful books and authors. enjoy virtual friendships with other book bloggers, own infinitely more books, and my love of reading has grown even more. My approach to the “what to read next” question has changed dramatically, too. Before blogging I would often wander around the bookstore or library waiting for something to strike my fancy. Now the sheer number of choices can sometimes leave me paralyzed with indecision.


Qu. 5.) Finally - a guilty pleasure, or a favourite that might surprise people!

Aarti: I think most people who know my reading habits know that Georgette Heyer is my guilty pleasure. I had access to almost all of her books in college, and I ate them all up. I still go to her when I am in a reading rut. Granted, now the racism and classism are a bit more jarring and harder to ignore, but she still makes me smile and laugh out loud and believe in happily ever after. Also, she makes me want to visit every single country home in England :-)

JoAnn: This is a hard one! I suppose my guilty pleasure is literary beach reads. I don't read any romance and very little of what might be classified as women's fiction, but I do love a good family story set near a body of water. If it involves an old summer home and coastal New England, all the better.

Recent favorites include A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams, The Vacationers by Emma Straub, The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine, and Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.

And... I've told you the other person's choices, anonymously. What do you think these choices say about their reader?

JoAnn on Aarti's choices: A fabulous list of books! This is someone whose blog I should be reading, if I am not already doing so. I admire the variety and diversity of interests reflected in these choices. From a childhood favorite of my own, a WWI classic novel, and a sprawling saga to current literary fiction and the fun and comfort of Georgette Heyer, I feel this fellow book lover and I could chat for hours. The only question is whether to brew a pot of coffee or get out the teakettle.


Aarti on JoAnn's choices: Wow, this is difficult as I haven't read any of the books besides Harriet the Spy (which was SO good, but perhaps not indicative of a person's reading habits and personality in the present day!). I shall base this off GoodReads book summaries and my hazy knowledge of the books/authors :-)

Stoner has popped up a lot on blogosphere over the past few years, and most everyone has very positive things to say about it, so I would guess that the blogger keeps a pulse on book blogosphere and gets many recommendations from the people s/he follows and trusts. (Even if, like me, it takes him/her a long while to get around to reading those books.)

All of the books chosen seem to focus on relationships - family relationships in particular - and decision points that have impact not only on the protagonist's life, but also the lives of others. I think this blogger cares a lot about people and is deeply interested in stories that focus on how our actions impact the people in our lives.

34 comments:

  1. More lovely posts! Interesting to pick up on what was said about reading in High School. I think it was in my Grammar School that a lot of my tastes were formed (I still love George Orwell!) and we're such impressionable readers in our teens.

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    1. My most vivid elementary school memory is of my 4th grade teacher reading Charlotte's Web aloud to our class and I attribute my love of classics to an American Novel elective I took in high school... a good teacher makes all the difference!

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  2. More lovely books to add to my wish list. I'm very taken with the sound of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I'm glad to see Georgette Heyer getting another mention!

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    1. Two days in a row with Heyer! :-) And Americanah is so, so good!

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    2. I agree - Americanah sounds excellent!

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  3. Fun post. I like both these bloggers and read all their posts.

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    1. This is such a great series! So glad I got a chance to participate.

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  4. I follow both of their excellent blogs, which have added many, many books to my reading stacks. I'm glad to see Dorothy Dunnett on Aarti's list, along with Georgette Heyer, even if she prefers Niccolo to Lymond ;)

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    1. How can you not prefer a man who was described as looking something like an animated tree trunk to one who is lithe and beautiful? ;-)

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    2. There's also the "part hunting-cat, part bear" description, which is much more appealing :)

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    3. I definitely need to read Dunnett!

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  5. What a great conversation! I've added some new books to my TBR list. While I follow JoAnn's blog, I'm glad to learn about Aarti's blog. Thanks!

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    1. I'm glad to learn about yours, too!

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    2. Stay tuned, Monica... this series runs all week!

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  6. Great post with two bloggers I have followed for ages.

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    1. It's so fun to find old friends on new blogs :-)

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  7. I'm very glad that more than one of your interviewees name Georgette Heyer as their guilty pleasure. I feel vindicated!

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    1. I don't really feel very guilty about reading her. She's the best! There's nothing wrong with reading something fun.

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  8. How fun to see how reading tastes are formed! I am clearly missing out by not ever having read Heyer.

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    1. Anbolyn - I definitely need to read more Heyer,, too!

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  9. Now these two would definitely get along in real life. I loved that mention of the importance of the Scholastic books - we had that scheme at my primary school and many a good book came into the house from there. I'd totally forgotten about that.

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    1. Vicki - My daughters all loved Scholastic book order days and fairs at their school, too. So many happy memories!

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  10. Great choices :) It takes me back

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  11. So impressed that you both *remember* so much of what you read! Before blogging, I remember nothing! (Actually, I still remember nothing, but at least now, I can look it up on my blog and see what I read and thought!)

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    1. Jill - Although I remember the standouts, I really wish I'd kept a reading log back then... it would be a lot of fun to look through now!

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  12. Wow - so many of my favorites mentioned on here! Beach Music is one of my all-time favorites and Pat Conroy is probably my favorite author. I also loved The Interestings and am giving Florence Gordon a second try soon.

    A Hundred Summers is my favorite beach read - it just has everything that I look for in a beach read!

    Great concept and interesting post - thanks for sharing!

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    1. Sarah - We are definitely drawn to many of the same books! :-)

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  13. I really enjoyed reading your answers to the questions--how your reading lives were similar in some ways and very different in others.

    I definitely remember the days Scholatic books were delivered--better than Xmas!

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    1. JaneGS - A few tattered favorites can still be found my shelves!

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  14. great post by two excellent bloggers!

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  15. Glad to see two of bloggers here that I've been enjoying for several years!

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