The NYT ‘By the Book’ Tag

I was tagged the other week by Reg at She Latitude (my first tag, thank-you!). The New York Times ‘By the Book’ tag was created by Marie Berg on YouTube. Let’s get to know each other a little better.

What book is on your nightstand now?

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. I’m professionally enriching my reading with nonfiction, mostly memoir. Also, I couldn’t resist that title. The book recounts the exploits of Abdel Kader Haidara, who in his youth tracked down and salvaged tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts from across the Sahara. Then, when Al Qaeda militants seized control of Timbuktu, he organised a dangerous operation to get them out.

What was the last truly great book you’ve read?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I’d had my eye on this since its release, because I love her Temeraire books, and because it won ALL the prizes (well, a lot of them). But I’m glad I waited for this cover.
‘Uprooted’ is not a fairytale retelling, although it feels very like one. The world felt so inhabited and tangible, especially the encroaching threat of The Wood. I adored Agniezska, chosen by a magician to be his – nobody knows – for ten years in exchange for her valley’s safety. She was loyal and believable and developed beautifully. The plot was never predictable, and towards the end there was one of those extraordinary sequences where things go so relentlessly badly for everyone that it was IMPOSSIBLE for me to put the book down. I can be so critical with my reading, so it was a joy to read something that I could just immerse myself in.

If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

As a Harry Potter child, I think I’d have to pick JK Rowling. Although I’m sure I would be too thrilled to speak.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelf?

I have a moderately eclectic mix of titles on my shelves at the moment… the most unlikely is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I acquired it in the lead-up to the film release, to see what the fuss was about. Not my usual cup of tea, but it did grip me from beginning to end.

How do you organise your personal library?

Poorly! I try to keep my series together, and to group my genres, but I need to rearrange the whole thing. A daunting prospect, when I have more books than shelf space.

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet?

I’m not sure about always, but I have for a couple of years now intended to read Wonder by RJ Palacio.wonder

 Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you are supposed to like but didn’t?

I have to say Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I feel guilty about this, because I love London and fantasy and particularly London fantasies. I also liked Gaiman’s Doctor Who episodes, and he’s always struck me as someone whose books I OUGHT to enjoy. But I found ‘Neverwhere’ difficult to warm to: for me, the fantasy had an unsettling, grimy edge. It has, however, been a couple of years since I read it. Probably time to try again.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

While my preference has not been very noticeable on this blog thus far,  I really do love YA, particularly YA fantasy. I enjoy the (generally) swifter pace, and connect more with the characters. I’m also keen on historical fiction, especially that set in the Victorian era, and I find it hard to resist stories featuring twins.
I tend to stay clear of romances. I don’t mind a nuanced romantic subplot, but have little patience for love/lust/whatever as the primary driver of a story. If you know of any books that might change my mind, do let me know!

If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?

To Australia’s Prime Minister, I would recommend Karen Healey’s While We Run. I remember being riveted; besides being set in Australia, the book demonstrates YA’s ability to speak to big, current issues like climate change, and our Government’s treatment of refugees. If he declined that, I would sit him down/hit him with a copy of The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. That surely has the power to melt a politician’s heart.

What do you plan to read next?

I’m most of the way through the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. I’m now eying off Tongues of Serpents, in which Laurence and Temeraire are banished to Australia! If I’m dedicated, I could finish the series before Christmas, but this is HIGHLY unlikely.

2 thoughts on “The NYT ‘By the Book’ Tag

  1. Ahhh I love non-fiction too – such an underrated genre in this corner of the blogging world, haha. I hope you like The Bad-Ass Librarians! I haven’t read that one yet but I’ve heard good things about it.

    I also just reviewed Uprooted on my blog and really loved it! Haven’t read the Temeraire series, though. I’ll definitely be looking up While We Run.

    Thanks for doing the tag. 💖


    1. The Bad-Ass Librarians wasn’t quite what I expected: a lot on the history of Al Qaeda in North Africa, which is interesting, although I of course wanted more on the manuscripts!
      While We Run is actually a sequel, but I read it first and preferred it. Let me know (if you get to it) what you think 🙂


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