Weekly Geeks:Secret pasts and peculiar presents

Bernadette at Reactions to Reading asks these questions at Weekly Geeks :

A couple of incidents have prompted this week’s topic.

  1. I very much enjoyed the two Susan Hill novels that I’ve read and already have the next book in her series Simon Serrailler series on my audio book playlist. Then I discovered, via the author’s opinion column in a UK newspaper, that I don’t particularly like her personality (this piece is an example of what I found mean-spirited and inaccurate about her rants but there were other articles too). Suddenly her books did not seem so appealing any longer.
  2. Craig Sisterson’s excellent blog Crime Watch featured an article about historical mystery author Anne Perry who, as it happens, committed a particularly grim murder many years ago (at the ripe old age of 15). “Thank heavens I’m not a fan of hers” was my first thought.

So I have been pondering the issues of whether it is possible to separate an author’s non-writing life from the books they produce and thought I’d throw these questions over to you. Feel free to answer one or more of these and give examples if you have them.

Does an author’s politics matter to you? Do you have a favourite book or series written by someone you know to be your political opposite? Or have you stopped reading works by a particular author after discovering that their politics was radically different from your own?

What about their personality? Have you ever stopped reading an author’s work after seeing or hearing them talk because you didn’t like what you saw or heard?

And how about that secret past? How would you feel if you found out your favourite author was a murderer or some other kind of criminal? Are there some crimes that you would be OK about and others that would stop you following their work? Do you know about the pasts of ‘your’ authors? Do you want to?

I’d like to say that a writer’s personality and/or past life crimes don’t affect my reading their work and that I judge it on its own merits. But of course it does. It hasn’t actually stopped me reading their books but I find it means their books have to be sufficiently absorbing for me to disregard what I know about their authors. The only way to avoid that influence is not to read anything about an author.

With regard to Susan Hill, I like her books and had read those comments and articles she published, plus her blog. I don’t agree with everything she writes by any means, but I did find her blog entertaining, perhaps more so when I didn’t agree with her views, and I went to hear her talk at Abingdon. She is not an easy character, in my opinion, certainly not very comfortable speaking in public and she had some very sharp words to say about e-books and book bloggers. But I still enjoy her books and won’t stop reading them.

I’ve read one book by Anne Perry, which I didn’t think was very good and based on that book I decided not to bother reading any more of her books. I didn’t know anything at all about her, but when I saw other bloggers recommending her books I checked them online and read about her crime. I did wonder whether that would have affected my decision if I’d known about it when I chose her book to read but I suspect it wouldn’t have put me off. There are plenty of films and books about real-life crime and I have no qualms about watching/reading them.

Non-fiction is different. For example, I want to know that an author’s credentials are genuine when reading books on health, diet, exercise and so on. I used to go to a book group where one person always asked these question about an author – “Who is the person and why should we take any notice of what s/he writes? “.

Unfortunately I haven’t always asked myself those questions. I picked up Bad Science  by Ben Goldacre this morning, which my husband is currently reading. Ben Goldacre is a qualified doctor working for the NHS, so maybe I can trust his book. There is a chapter on “Dr. Gillian McKeith PhD”, which reveals that she is neither a medical doctor, nor is she qualified as a nutritionist. Her PhD was  bought from a non-accredited correspondence course college. I had watched her TV programmes, You Are What You Eat with interest and I even bought her book, which has since sat on the bookshelves unread, along with other books such as Carol Vorderman’s book Detox for Life – both of them totally useless books, Carol’s because, as my husband points out, I didn’t follow it, but then I didn’t want to spend loads of money on all the supplements she recommends, although some of her recipes are good. As my bookshelves are groaning under the weight of too many books I think it’s time to get rid of at least McKeith’s book.

Weekly Geeks – Reading Globally

weekly-geeksThis week’s Weekly Geeks is brought to us by Terri who asks us about our world travels through books.

Are you a global reader? How many countries have you “visited” in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven’t yet?

I’ve included books both set  in the country and by a native or resident of the country. I don’t have favourite places or cultures to read about – my choice of books is purely haphazard as far as location is concerned. Looking at the map there are large “white” areas indicating countries I’ve yet to visit. Brazil is the only country I’ve “visited” in South America through reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, who is Brazilian. I’ll be reading more from South America with Isabel Allende’s City of the Beasts and The House of Spirits.

Create Your Own Map at The World 66 site

Some of my favourites are:

Weekly Geeks – Reading Challenges

weekly-geeksThis week’s Weekly Geeks topic was suggested by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. She writes:

“Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you’ve failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I’ve picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?”

As we pass the halfway point of 2009, how are you doing with your reading challenges? Did you participate in any challenges this year?

I’m always attracted to the reading challenges, full of enthusiasm for reading the books and I joined quite a few last year. But then I found that I wanted to read other books when I “should” be reading the challenge books.  Now, bearing in mind that these are all books I want to read I can’t really understand that, except that it’s that imaginary “should” that’s the stumbling block. I’m very much a mood reader!

So, at the beginning of this year I decided to limit myself to just a few reading challenges and I chose What’s In a Name? I took part in that last year and completed it. This has six categories such as read a book with a building in the title, the time of day, the name of a relative etc. I’m doing OK and have read books from two of the categories; as this challenge is for the whole year I reckon I can still easily finish it. They’re all books from my TBR list, which helps.

I can’t say that doing any of the reading challenges has made me pick up and read books I haven’t heard of before, but that’s because I’ve used them to read books I already own or by authors I already know – such as the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. I’m loving that one – each time I finish one I go to the library and borrow another one. So far I’ve struck lucky, with at least one AC book sitting on the shelf ready for me to read.

There’s a tab at the top of my blog for Reading Challenges where I’ve tried to keep track of them – I need to add the Agatha Christie Challenge to it and update the whole thing!

There’s also Support Your Local Library Reading  Challenge 2009 – which is really easy if you read library books. I didn’t have to think twice about taking part – my aim was to read at least 25 library books this year, but as I’ve already read 20 I think I’ll be way beyond that by December.

Catching Up On Reviews

weekly-geeksRecently I’ve got behind writing reviews of books I’ve recently finished reading, so this Weekly Geeks topic is just right for me.

1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you hope to finish this week.

2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs.

3. Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. Link to each blogger next to that blogger’s question(s).

4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!

These are the books I’ve not reviewed yet. Please ask me any questions about them.

  • Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
  • A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell
  • The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine (I wrote a bit about this after I’d started to read it. I wasn’t too enamoured at that stage, but it did improve and I finished it. I need to update my thoughts somewhat.)
  • Jane Austen: a Life by Claire Tomalin