Found via Stephanie at Adventures of a Bibliophile, I thought I’d fill out this tag because, hey, I like the oppositional structure and that seems as good enough reason as any!
So, without any further ado (truly), onto the tag…
First book in your collection | Last book you bought
Considering I used to read a lot of Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, and Enid Blyton when I was a child (but what English kid didn’t?), it’s safe to assume it was probably one something from one of those authors. Some of the first books I specifically remember (and still own) include Bimbo and Topsy by Enid Blyton, Matilda by Roald Dahl, and Lucy’s Quarrel by Jennifer Northway.
Last book I bought was a pre-order of the much-anticipated The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater! I haven’t picked it up yet thought – partly because I want to re-read the first three books in the quartet and partly (mostly, if I’m being honest) because I don’t want the series to end.
A cheap book | An expensive book
You may or may not recall that a little while ago I posted what I called a Cumulative Book Haul, mostly to make myself accountable for how many books I had added to my already monstrous TBR pile! Most of those were bought from a charity superstore, proceeds of which help fund a local autism charity, so as well as them being dirt cheap (5 books for £2 I believe), they’re also somewhat morally/ethically beneficial – good news all around. The cheapest would be any pictured here which was my photo after the successful haul from that charity shop – for example Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee.
The most expensive books I’ve bought have been textbooks for university – no surprises there. English literature anthologies aren’t the cheapest of things to buy (£40+ a pop) and they also closely resemble a brick. They’re useful for using as doorstops, though. Aside from those kind of books, the most expensive single book I’ve ever bought would possibly be Crimson Peak: Art of Darkness. Produced to accompany the film’s release, it is a beautifully produced and lavish example of behind-the-scenes film books done well, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less given the stunning art direction the film had. So I didn’t so much mind paying £20 for it.
A book with a male protagonist | One with a female protagonist
I could try to be alternative and mention a book that has dual perspective male and female protagonists or else mention a book protagonist who is intersex (for example Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex) – and, look, I did just that. For the sake of being a good girl and following the tag questions as they are, though, I’ll play along.
A book with a male protagonist – honestly the first thing that springs to mind is the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. I mean, it’s pretty damn obvious from the title who the protagonist is, since it’s almost Dickensian in its clarity.
And whilst we’re on the subject of eponymous titles, for the female protagonist novel, I have to offer Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, one of my favourite books. Interestingly, the eponymous Rebecca isn’t the female protagonist of the novel (our protagonist’s name is never revealed) nor is she actually even alive at the start of the story. However, she continues to haunt the novel and its characters with her absent-present status – can you tell I did a whole project on that theme for university?
A book you read fast | One that took you long to read
Although it’s quite short anyway, I positively flew through e. lockhart’s We Were Liars, seemingly just like everyone else who has read it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had friends visiting me at university the day I happened to pick up this book I would have finished it in one-sitting no problem. It really is a compelling story and it’s difficult to put down once you’ve fallen into the languid rhythm of the prose style. Incidentally, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is exactly the same, so something definitely ought to be said about e. lockhart’s ability to write compelling stories.
When I think about books I struggled to get through, my mind instantly takes me back to my Victorian literature module and a particular book called Adam Bede by George Eliot – can you sense the traumatic memories behind my words? I don’t know if it is the book that actually took me the longest time to read, but it certainly felt like it. Maybe I’ll give it another chance when I don’t have to try to get through it ready for a lecture and seminar… but I doubt it.
Pretty cover | Ugly cover
As the wonderful Book Travelling Thursdays weekly meme has proved time and time again – there are some gorgeous editions of books whilst ugly editions of the same books also exist. But, whilst looking at my bookshelves, I realised two books of very different levels of prettiness sat by side so it seems appropriate to use those as my examples – the award for pretty cover goes to Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown and the award for ugly cover goes to a Wordsworth classics edition (as always) of Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. (It’s an extra shame when this beautiful edition of it exists!)
A national book | An international book
I don’t really know how to interpret this so I’m going to choose a very English book for the “national book”. Now, from this introduction you might think I’m about to choose Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens but no, no, I’m going to choose Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary. Why? Well, there’s something so very inexplicably English about Ms Jones, even if we did allow an American to play her in the film adaptation (which is still one of my favourite comedies, no shame), and it is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice after all so, yes, I think Bridget’s woes and worries about being a thirtysomething single Londoner fit the brief.
For international, I’m just going to choose a book which transverses nations – The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Hamid is a Pakistani author who was raised in Lahore and, later, America, and the tale that is told by the protagonist/narrator of his novel tells of a similar journey, as we see his narrator, after graduating with a top class BA from Princeton, embarking on a career in finance that takes him from Greece to the Philippines to Chile to New York to Pakistan. Framed as a dramatic monologue between narrator and unknown listener, the ambiguity in the nature of the conclusion of their conversation is something I still remember about this book to this day. An interesting take on nationhood, national identity, nationality, and international relations.
A thin book | A thick book
This Penguin Great Ideas edition of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia makes for quite a thin book. In fact, most of the titles in the Penguin Great Ideas series would be good for this question, and I wish I owned more of them because they are great snippets of history, philosophy, politics, explored through mostly essays or writings by the likes of Machiavelli, Seneca, Orwell, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Freud, the list could go on and on.
As for a thick book, again putting aside my very chunky literature anthologies, the clothbound editions of The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Misérables made a good showing for this question but I reckon Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace probably takes the biscuit at 1400 pages.
Fiction book | Non-fiction book
To make things interesting I decided to choose an author who has delved into the world of both fiction and non-fiction: Matt Haig. I have his novel The Humans on both my Kindle and in a rather lovely paperback (the bluey-green colour on its cover is my favourite colour) but despite this I still haven’t picked it up. What’s keeping me? I have no idea. Still, I have read Matt’s non-fiction/memoir offering, Reasons to Stay Alive, which is as emotional and beautiful and heart-breaking and uplifting as the title suggests it will be. Highly, highly recommended – if you take nothing else away from this fun tag post then please read Reasons to Stay Alive.
Very (way too) romantic book | Action book
One particular book jumped out at me immediately and that is The Selection by Kiera Cass. Anyone who knows the premise of this book will understand why but, for those who haven’t had that pleasure, The Selection series is the story of a girl called America Singer who is a talented musician (yep, singer, that’s the level of subtlety we’re working with), who is from a low social status (they have castes, not unlike The Hunger Games‘ districts which are in charge of different industries), and yet who also enters a competition to win the prince’s hand in marriage. You see, it’s a tradition that the Crown Prince (or Princess) holds a series of televised challenges called the Selection, in which girls from the kingdom compete to become his princess. Like Take Me Out or, I presume since I’m English and haven’t seen it, The Bachelor. For all I’m disdainful of this book, I ate up every bit of it. Way too smushy and romantic and far-fetched but if you’re in the mood for silly and slushy then, hey, try Kiera Cass’ books!
For action book I’m going to go ahead and say any Brandon Sanderson book, or at least that’s what I am extrapolating from what I’ve read of his work (The Mistborn trilogy and The Alloy of Law). Listen, I loved the magic system in the Mistborn world but, as I ploughed through the hundreds of pages of it, I couldn’t help but notice my eyes glazed over the action sequences after a while. Don’t get me wrong, the whole metallurgic shebang is very interesting and I love the magic but there’s only so many descriptions of action sequences involving dropping coins that I can read.
A book that made you happy | One that made you sad
Confession time: I grinned like a bloody idiot throughout the entirety of Anna and the French Kiss. It’s so dumb, it’s so fluffy, and not altogether well researched and Anna is kind of grating at times, and Etienne is the worst kind of stereotypical YA ‘British boy’ that (spoiler alert, and I hate to break up the dream here) doesn’t exist in real life in England, trust me. But god, I loved it, and any book that makes me do the stupid grin and squeeing noise is worthy of being mentioned despite its (many) faults.
As for a book that made me sad… Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness seems a relevant choice. Heartbreaking and uplifting and relateable and so damn wonderfully written, the collection is fiction and non-fiction and the titular essay is worth a read because if it doesn’t punch you in the gut then I don’t know what will. In fact, I’m going to stop writing about it now because I already feel that metaphorical lump in my throat forming as I keep thinking about this book.
So, let’s end on an uplifting note… I nominate you, yes, you – if you’re reading this and haven’t completed this tag and perhaps need a way to procrastinate for a little while, then might I suggest you fill out your own answers.