So there's this book survey . . . .

Everybody's doing it, doing it, doing it . . . . (it's a song!)

I saw this on a few blogs and so, not wanting to appear illiterate, I felt obliged to give it a go. It's taken ages because I keep getting sidetracked and having a quick look at the books I mention and scratching my head trying to remember things in particular. It's also the ideal decoy to cover my lack of W/G output, which isn't as low as you might think, but I need some input on some rule ideas and I haven't got them down on paper yet. There's also plenty of stuff painted up, but even I think they're a bit rough!

You'll notice that there's something up with the formatting of this (again!). I've no idea what's up, but there you go. Sorry.

Authors you've read the most:
I changed this question to 'authors' because I could give a tally with a bit of thought, but I'm far too lazy.
Probably Philip Pullman, but Neil Gaiman is pretty damn good (but can be patchy) and there's also Philip K. Dick and Umberto Eco. I've got a feeling Ben Aaronovitch is going to be high up there when he gets his arse in gear.

Best sequel ever:
'Gormenghast', the second volume in the Gormenghast trilogy. The awful Steerpike continues his rise to power which leads to an inevitable and climactic confrontation with Titus! This is poetry in prose. Wonderful books.
Currently reading:
'Becoming Johnny Vegas',
Michael Pennington

'The Renaissance at War', Thomas Arnold

'The Castle', Franz Kafka

'Through Fire and Water: HMS Ardent: The forgotten frigate of the Falklands', Mark Higgitt

Drink of choice while reading:

 I usually get told off for not drinking!

E-reader or physical book:
Like 'em both, but I'm still a book lover. E-books seem too ephemeral. I like the practicality of my Kindle (mobility, convenience etc.), but it'll never replace the real thing. Military books just don't seem best suited to the e-book format.

Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a bearded man wrote a fairy story about intergalactic wars between an evil empire and rebels. It generated six films, spin offs and a TV series along with limitless merchandising opportunities and vast wealth for its creator who, strangely, has never been able to afford a razor. 

Many sad buggers cling to the saga and forget that it's only pretend and is unlikely ever to make its way into the English canon. Still, I suppose it beats real life . . . . Princess Leia – there has only ever been one! I couldn't care less that she doesn't really qualify: argue with this:

Glad you gave this book a chance:
'If, on a Winter's Night, A Traveller', Italo Calvino. Came highly recommended by an old friend who's a bit of a literary wizz. Best desrcription:
“The narrative is about a reader trying to read a book called If on a winter's night a traveler. Every odd-numbered chapter is in the second person, and tells the reader what he is doing in preparation for reading the next chapter. The even-numbered chapters are all single chapters from whichever book the reader is trying to read.” (Wikipaedia) 

Hidden book gem:

 'I am Legend', Richard Matheson. I can do no more than quote the opening of the Wikipaedia entry: “Robert Neville is the apparent sole survivor of a pandemic whose symptoms resemble vampirism. It is implied that the pandemic was caused by a war, and that it was spread by dust storms in the cities and an explosion in the mosquito population. The narrative details Neville's daily life in Los Angeles as he attempts to comprehend, research, and possibly cure the disease, to which he is immune . . . .” Forget the films, they're crap: read the book!!!!!

Important moment in your book life: 

Reading 'To Spare the Conquered' by Stephanie Plowman sometime between about 1962–1963 so , say I was eight or nine years old. First 'proper' book I read fully without becoming bored to death, except for 'Vulpes an English Fox', 'Robin Hood' and 'Treasure island'. Not bad for a kid who was dyslexic (though not terminally so). They hadn't actually invented dyslexia then – or at least not in Salford – so I was just considered to be a bit thick.

Just finished:
Ben Bova's 'Mars' series – OK, but a bit predictable and formulaic. Stick with the chocolate bars.

'Fighting Them on the Beaches', (D-Day etc.) Nigel Cawthorne. Not brilliantly researched and contained a few technical slips, but OK for anyone wanting a first stab at the subject. Thankfully dead cheap for Kindle: there are plenty of better books out there if you wants to pay yer money.

Kind of book you won't read:
There's so much bilge out there. Crime stuff and unoriginal sci-fi/fantasy; the list is pretty long.
Good example would be George RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR Martin's current, overlong attempt to be the Tolkein of the 21st century. It could have been knocked together by most teenagers, but for the fact that the sex would have been more ably handled and the swearing would have been better. The TV series is easily more enjoyable because of the soft porn and because you don't have to make the physical effort to hold the book.
Longest book you've read:

Done 'War & Peace' plus Tolkein and Peake's respective magna opera.

Major book hangover because of:

Predictable plots and poor characters.

Number of bookcases you own:

Five, plus seven stacks of between eighteen and twenty four inches. When I've finally got round to doing up the house (after Henry's gone to school, I think) I'll attend to this.

One (lots of!) book(s) you've read multiple times:

Probably 'I am Legend', 'Lord of the Rings' set and the 'Gormenghast' trilogy.

Preferred place to read:

Haven't got one. Common locations include easy chair, bed, train carriage, waiting rooms.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels
from a book you've read:
“Sections in the bookstore:
- Books You Haven't Read
- Books You Needn't Read
- Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
- Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
- Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
- Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
- Books Too Expensive Now and You'll Wait 'Til They're Remaindered
- Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
- Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
- Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too
- Books You've Been Planning to Read for Ages
- Books You've Been Hunting for Years Without Success
- Books Dealing with Something You're Working on at the Moment
- Books You Want to Own So They'll Be Handy Just in Case
- Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
- Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
- Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
- Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time to Re-read
- Books You've Always Pretended to Have Read 

and Now It's Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”

Italo Calvino' 'If, on a Winter's Night, a Traveller'

Very true and probably the most appropriate quote for this questionnaire!

Reading regret:

So many books, so little time . . .

Series you started and need to finish:

None I can think of, but I can think of some I started and binned without regret.

Three of your all-time favourite books:

'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman', Laurence Sterne

'I Am Legend', Richard Matheson

'Borodino', Christopher Duffy


Unapologetic fanboy for:

Hmmmmm . . . Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Umberto Eco, Ben Aaronovitch – quite a few really.


Very excited for this release:

'Broken Homes', Ben Aaronovitch, but I'm too tight to buy the hardback. Actually, I've simply not got round to it yet, which is a damning statement for someone who claims to like his books so much!


Worst bookish habit:


X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:

  1. 'Frederick the Great; a Military Life', Christpoher Duffy
  2. 'The Complete Maus', Art Spiegel
  3. 'The Washing of the Spears', Donald R. Morris
  4. 'Cities in Flight', James Blish
  5. 'The Crusades through Arab Eyes', Amin Maalouf

I'll ignore the stacks . . . 

Your latest book purchase:

'The Franco-Prussian war 1870-7' (2 Vols), Quintin Barry

Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waay too late):

'Whispers Under Ground',
Ben Aaronovich – too tight to buy 'Broken Homes' yet.


  1. Lots of good stuff there - I will try to get hold of copy of the Calvino book.

    Not a fan of I am Legend though - each to their own!

    1. You won't regret reading the Calvino book. You might also like Tristram Shandy which is in a similar vein.

      Matheson? It's a bit of a Marmite book. It captured my imagination when I was a teenager and I think it just struck a chord. It's certainly no literary masterpiece, but I can't believe the hash Hollywood has consistently made of such a gift!

  2. If, On a Winter's Night is one of my wife's favorite books. She's been trying to get me to read it for 25 years!

    1. Oh give it a go Edwin, it's worth the challenge and enjoyable.


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