book q & a – via my cup and chaucer

Ooh, a meme! I’m not really a meme person, but this one lets me ramble about books, which is one of my favourite things ever, and Tonile from My Cup and Chaucer was lovely enough to tag me. Really, how could I resist? Here we go…

Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

 I have many, many favourite books. Here’s the cover of just one of them:

9781444720747I’m obsessive about E M Forster – in particular, Howards End. This isn’t the cover of the copy I own – mine is the black Penguin Classics edition – but I’d like to own a pretty hardcover edition.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m re-reading Jessie Cole’s Darkness on the Edge of Town because I’m just about to write a review of it.

(Spoiler alert: it’s really, really good!)

revolutionary-roadDo you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

Next, I’ll be reading Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road – once again to review. Yes, I read it last year, same as Darkness on the Edge of Town, but then I forgot how to write book reviews. Hence all the frantic re-reading.

(I don’t want to say it out loud, just in case acknowledging it makes it go away…but I think I’m just beginning to get the hang of this review-writing thing again. I think.)

Revolutionary Road absolutely floored me when I read it for the first time. If you’ve read it, chances are, you’ll know what I mean. I hope Yates is a little kinder to me this time.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

Only five? There are so many…

Middlemarch – George Eliot

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

China Mieville – Embassytown, Kraken, Railsea…I adore Mieville but haven’t had the time to read anything he’s released since I started blogging

The Thousand and One Nights

Balzac. Any Balzac. I’ve only read one of his novellas, which I really enjoyed. More, please.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?

Actually…none. I don’t read many magazines.


What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

Twilight. I read it before it was a phenomenon, because someone, somewhere said that it was “the new Harry Potter“. It’s not. It’s really, really not.

Second place, perhaps controversially, goes to Raymond E. Feist’s Magician. Books like this give fantasy a bad name.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

Oh, just this little thing called Wolf Hall. It’s kind of obscure, you’ve probably never heard of it…

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?seahearts

Recently, I’ve been ranting about Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts to anyone who’ll listen. Could someone give this book a few more literary awards, please?

What are your three favourite poems?

Softest of tongues, my true one, all my own

Live by love/though the stars walk backward
(click through to the second page)

I’m/aware the days pass quicker than before/smell staler too

(See also: Plath, Hardy, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, Wilfred Owen…)

Where do you usually get your books?

Online, I’m a huge fan of Booktopia. When I feel like wandering through a bookshop, my three Sydney favourites are Gleebooks, in Glebe, Shearers in Leichhardt and Kinokuniya in the city.

Where do you usually read your books?

Trains. Buses. In stray beams of sunlight. Beneath trees. Wrapped up in a quilt my mum made me. Often with a cup of tea within reach.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

I read voraciously as a child. I always had at least one book with me, even when there was no chance I’d have time to read it. But it was there, just in case. I carried books like talismans.

My parents were really strict about lights out time, but I’d always find a way to switch my bedside light back on and keep reading into the night…

if_nobody_speaks_of_remarkable_thingsWhat’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. That book left me giddy with delight.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Yes, but not recently. I’m an awful liar, so the truth usually catches up with me.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

Not really. But if there’s a book I’m looking for and I have a choice between a pretty cover and an ugly cover, where I can afford it, I choose the prettier cover.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I read The Hobbit when I was seven or something and I was besotted with it. I was also a huge fan of Roald Dahl. Later, Louise Lawrence, Victor Kelleher, Gillian Rubenstein, Isobelle Carmody…I must have read Obernewtyn ten times. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I discovered Ursula LeGuin in my high school library. True love.

What book changed your life?

Every book I read changes my life a little bit…

What is your favourite passage from a book?

This is one of my favourite moments from Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Tess and her younger brother, Abraham, are driving a wagon together at night, looking at the stars:

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”


“All like ours?”

“I don’t know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.”

“Which do we live on–a splendid one or a blighted one?”

“A blighted one.”

“‘Tis very unlucky that we didn’t pitch on a sound one, when there were so many more of ’em!”


That’s Thomas Hardy for you, in a nutshell.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

Thomas Hardy, aged nineteen
Thomas Hardy, aged nineteen

Okay. I’ll name five. But keep in mind that I could – no, I will – change my mind about this list tomorrow/in five minutes’ time…

E M Forster

Thomas Hardy

Virginia Woolf

Edith Wharton

Graham Greene

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Growth of the Soil, by Knut Hamsun. It’s about farming. Trust me, read it.

What three books are you an “evangelist” for?

I wish that were my job title – “literary evangelist”. I’m going to name three novels by Australian women writers…

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany

Animal People by Charlotte Wood

The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead

What are your favourite books by a first-time author?

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (but On Beauty is my personal favourite of her novels)

William Gibson’s Neuromancer – invented cyberspace; was written on a typewriter

Also, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

What is your favourite classic book?

What is a classic, anyway? Is it what Penguin tells us is a classic by putting a black cover on it? Many of my favourite books are what Penguin would call classics. Some aren’t, but I consider them classics regardless.

*dodges question*

Five other notable mentions?

If on a winter’s night a traveller by Italo Calvino

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Sons and Lovers – my favourite D H Lawrence novel

and Pale Fire – my favourite Nabokov novel

(Yes, I know that’s six. Shhhh!)


Thanks to Tonile for tagging me! Make sure you visit My Cup and Chaucer and take a look at her answers. Oh, and while you’re in a clicking kind of mood, go and have a jolly good gawk at The Book Salon’s lovely new website, too – that’s where this whole Q & A thing started.

In return, I’m tagging…

Louise from Stella Orbit

Stephanie from Read in a Single Sitting

Emily from The Incredible Rambling Elimy

…and finally, I’m tagging you. If you’re reading this and feel like writing about your favourite books, don’t wait around – I want to see your answers. Off you go!

Author: Michelle

Reader, writer, wannabe. Literary critic (with training wheels on). Blogging my way through the 20th century's classic novels in chronological order.

11 thoughts on “book q & a – via my cup and chaucer”

  1. I enjoyed your post Michelle, but I said a mental “oh no” at the worst books you ever read. You’ve picked two books that are in my bookshelf, all dog-eared, and that will be there forever. I loved Magician. I went through a real Faymond E Feist (and Janny Wurts) phase about 20 years ago and it lasts still through to today, altho I haven’t read any newer books of his. And I admit to loving Twilight (all the books).
    Thanks for sharing.
    Lily M.

    1. I loved Neuromancer. When I read it for the first time, I turned to the first page and started reading again.

      I’ve heard many, many good things about The Secret History.

      With a little luck, hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to talk again soon x

  2. What a great list, Michelle. Revolutionary Road was such an amazing book and on one level I really want to read it again, but on another, I fear it – I read it with such a sense of dread. I’d love to discuss it though so I thought of choosing it for book club.

    I thought the Secret History was enormously overrated, but many beg to differ.

    I’ve never read anything by Mieville, but really want to, especially after meeting him at PWF. (I had to sit next to him on a couch because there were no other seats left and I felt very awkward saying hi because he had such a megastar aura!)

    1. Woah. You sat on a couch next to China Mieville?! *swoon*

      The same person who recommended The Secret History to me ages ago really liked Wolf Hall, which left me kinda cold, so it could go either way.

      Revolutionary Road is the kind of book that would be great to discuss afterwards…even if it’s only because talking about something so traumatic would lessen the impact. It’s a terrifying book – especially when you know where it’s going, I imagine (I haven’t started re-reading it yet…I chickened out and read something else instead…)

      1. I never thought too much of him in photos but IRL he is quite dashing.

        Yes, I think you’re right about knowing where it’s going – I had seen the film so it was the same feeling. But the writing is absolutely amazing.

  3. Thank you for your blog! I was searching for that young picture of Thomas Hardy because it was his birthday yesterday. I was thinking about how much he has added to my life and I wanted to stare at him for a while!. When I googled for the pic, it led me here.
    Since we both love Hardy and E.M. Forster I am interested in reading so many of your recommends that I haven’t read yet…and it’s funny that right now I am slogging through Wolf Hall.
    My five all time favorite books are:
    1. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
    2. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
    3. Under the Greenwood Tree – Thomas Hardy
    4. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
    5. Persuasion – Jane Austen
    I am going to the library today to hunt down some of your faves! Happy reading!

    1. Thanks Rhonda! I love your taste in books. I’m yet to read Under the Greenwood Tree, but I’ve heard it’s amazing. Happy reading to you, too (and happy 174th birthday to Thomas Hardy for the other day!)

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