I’ve been having a little trouble finding the time to blog at the moment. A couple of packed weekends and all my evenings dedicated to watching I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (I’m not even ashamed, it’s my television highlight of the year) has left very little time for writing about books. Even though I’ve been pretty productively reading them. So to keep my little corner of the internet at least slightly active I thought I’d cobble together a response to a tag. 10 carefully stage photos, over 1000 words and several hours later and here it is.
I wasn’t actually tagged to do this post but I came across it on the wonderful My Little Book Blog and it seemed an interesting one. The point, as you probably worked out from the title, is pairs of books that are in some way opposites. And as I wasn’t technically tagged in the first place I won’t be tagging anyone either but please, have a go!
- The first book in your collection and the last book you bought
I have absolutely no idea what the first book I ever owned was. Probably something teddy bear themed. The first I have memories of are the Percy the Park Keeper books by Nick Butterworth which I used to read with my dad. My particular favourite was one which had a massive (although probably if I looked at it now it would be no bigger than A4) fold out map of a treehouse. The oldest book in my current collection is, I think, The Bed and Breakfast Star by Jacqueline Wilson.
The newest book in my collection is Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel which drew my attention for no particular reason in the shop but reading the blurb I remembered that I’d actually read a few reviews of this book and had wanted to read it. So into my basket it went.
- A cheap book and an expensive book
The cheapest book I have ever bought was 10p which even to me, an obsessive book bargain hunter, is ridiculous. Nothing in this day and age is ever 10p. You can’t even buy a Freddo for 10p anymore. Although I’m not sure I actually have any interest in reading Gulliver’s Travels.
The most expensive books on my shelves are my Folio Society editions of Jane Austen which were a present from my dad but he did let slip at some point that even second hand they were still pretty pricey.
- A book with a male protagonist and one with a female protagonist
Wow this is an open question! I’ll stick with two books I finished recently – The Reader and The White Princess, neither of which I have got round to reviewing yet. Both of these protagonists are rather ordinary but in completely different ways. Michael in The Reader was nothing unusual but in a completely realistic and enthralling way. Elizabeth of York, especially coming after all those other amazing, fierce and independent women Philippa Gregory had written about in The Cousins’ War Series – Margaret of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta of Luxembourg – was borderline boring.
- A book you read fast and a book that took you a long time
The Miniaturist was a present last Christmas and I had it finished in less than 48 hours. The ending I found a real let down but there is no denying the story is completely gripping. Something which cannot be said of A Tale of Two Cities. I haven’t been shy in saying how much I dislike Charles Dickens and this book was really the final straw. He just wanders off the plot so much. I think it took me a good few months to actually finish this book.
- A book with a pretty cover and one with an ugly cover
I really love my editions of The Lord of the Rings, especially as they’re one of JRR Tolkein’s original designs. This cover of Catch 22 however I detest. Perhaps the greatest book ever written and this is the best they could come up with? Wonky writing, a dodgy font and grey?! Must try harder.
- A national book and an international book
For a national book I have picked one set entirely in one tiny village in England, by the British institution that is JK Rowling. The Casual Vacancy had such expectations on its little shoulders and in my opinion it lived up to them.
And compared to that is not just an international book but an intergalactic book. Starting in the West Country of England and travelling to every corner of the galaxy in a spaceship powered by improbability, encountering all manner of craziness along the way, is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of my favourite books of all time.
- A thin book and a thick book
These are two books I actually read one after the other and marvelled at how they both fitted in just as much plot and character development but with a difference of 400 pages. Breakfast at Tiffany’s I loved before I even started it as I’d already seen the film but, as any self-respecting bookworm should, I liked the book even better. Holly Golightly felt less perfect but far more real in the original incarnation, although in my head she will always be a brunette. The Secret History is a trickier one as while I was reading it I was less than impressed, immediately afterwards I actively resented it for how much of my time it had taken but the more time that passes the more fondly I look back on it.
- A fiction book and a non-fiction book
I’m going to be super sneaky and pick a fiction and non-fiction by the same person. Plus, any excuse to talk about Caitlin Moran. How to be a Woman and How to Build a Girl have A LOT in common, even beyond the similar sounding names. They even include one of the exact same anecdotes. But technically How to be a Woman is non-fiction and How to Build a Girl fiction. Both are really funny, as is everything Caitlin Moran says, does or thinks (I obviously can’t prove this last one) but they should also be made essential reading for every girl in her late teens. The chapter in How to be a Woman which focusses on eating disorders was one of the most thoughtful and eye opening things I read all year whereas one of the final chapters in How to Build a Girl sums up in 500 words the whole process of growing up.
- A way too romantic book and an action packed book
You know what, I’m going to be a maverick and pick Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for both of these. The first time I read this book it actually annoyed me quite a lot. Harry moped after Cho Chang far too much and for far too long and the whole palaver in the Department of Mysteries just went on and on and on and on. I don’t feel anywhere near so strongly when I reread but it’s still my least favourite HP.
- A book that made you happy and one that made you sad
No book before or since has ever made me cry like A Solitary Blue, the third book in The Tillerman Series by Cynthia Voight and a vastly underrated series it is. It left me sobbing my heart out for at least two hours. Granted, I was going through a period of pretty aggressive depression but still, this was something else. The hateful character of Melody and the effect she has on Jeff’s life really hit me hard.
So a happier note to end on – the pure joy that is Anne of Green Gables. I read this book as a child but until I reread it earlier this year I never truly appreciated it. Anytime I need a pick me up this is without doubt one of the first books I will reach for and no matter what page it falls open on there will be some quote from Anne that is sure to bring a smile to my face.