All of my reading secrets revealed!

Little Women

My favourite book cover is a sentimental favourite – I spent hours gazing at this as a child, wanting to look as beautiful as I thought the Amy on this cover looked!

For a fun way to start the week, I thought I’d share with you the answers to a series of questions that are doing the rounds among authors at the moment. Thanks to Laurie Steed for tagging me in and sending the questions my way. Now sit, back, relax and let me share with you some of my reading secrets, including books I’ve pretended to have read but haven’t really.

So here’s the official bit:

1. Post these rules

2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover

3. Answer the questions below

4. Tag a few people to answer them too

5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them

6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

Now here’s the fun bit:

What are you reading right now?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I wasn’t sure about this book – the premise of a person who is able to start their life over and over again didn’t grab me. A quarter of the way through and I’m still not sure. I’ll report back when I’m done.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

Amanda Curtin’s Elemental. I purchased this at her launch a few months ago and it’s finally reached the top of the to-read pile.

restorationWhat five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

The Outsider by Alfred Camus (I’m stealing this one from Laurie Steed’s list because it reminded me that I have always wanted to give this one a go)

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Restoration by Rose Tremain

Anything by Henry James (Suggestions as to which is his best please?)

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/ lounge right now?

I’m just not a magazine person. I’d rather read a book.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

I’m not sure I can tar a book with this label as anyone who’s gone to the trouble of writing a book has some part of their soul on the line and it’s not for me to trample on.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell. I couldn’t connect to the main character, and found the whole book quite depressing.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

Anything by Jane Austen.

Where do you usually get your books?

I love second hand book sales, like the Save the Children book sale. Otherwise, independent bookstores and the library.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

I was obsessed by series, such as the Enid Blyton series, the Nancy Drew series, The Bobbsey Twins etc. My mum wrote a list of all the titles in each series in an exercise book and ticked off each one as I read them. I used to take the exercise book to the library so I could make sure I didn’t check out a book I’d already read.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

I probably shouldn’t admit this but I’m on the middle of a PhD and one of the texts I’m supposed to have read for my exegesis is Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality but it just bored the pants off me so instead I read a Foucault primer, and got all the bits I needed.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

Not just because I liked the cover but if I like the blurb as well, then a cover can certainly invite me in.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.

What book changed your life?

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. It’s perfection. It showed me how powerful a book can be.

 Joan DidionWhat is your favourite passage from a book?

“In the evening, after the baby has gone to sleep, I kneel beside the crib and touch her face, where it is pressed against the slats, with mine. She is an open and trusting child, unprepared for and unaccustomed to the ambushes of family life, and perhaps it is just as well that I can offer her little of that life. I would like to give her more. I would like to promise her that she will grow up with a sense of her cousins and of rivers and of her great-grandmother’s teacups, would like to pledge her a picnic on a river with fried chicken and her hair uncombed, would like to give her home for her birthday, but we live differently now and I can promise her nothing like that. I give her a xylophone and a sundress from Madeira, and promise to tell her a funny story.”

-Joan Didion, On Going Home, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

 Who are your top five favourite authors?

1. Margaret Atwood

2. Joan Didion

3. Jane Austen

4. Charlotte Bronte

5. Hilary Mantel

What book has no one heard about but should read?

My books! Kidding!

N.A. Bourke’s The Bone Flute. She’s an Australian writer and her book is exquisite. Also Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Possession by AS Byatt

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

 rules-of-civilityWhat are your favourite books by a first time author?

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

What is your favourite classic book?

Jane Eyre

 Five other notable mentions?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Thanks to Laurie Steed for tagging me in this post. I’m tagging Dawn Barker, Christy Hatcher and AJ Betts. Feel free to share your lists with me in the comments too – you don’t have to have been tagged to take part. And let me know what great books I’ve missed!


  1. Glen Hunting

    I think I should read Foal’s Bread, and you should read The Light Between Oceans after you’ve finished Elemental. Then we should compare notes on which book is the saddest. I remember saying how sad Foal’s Bread is after you finished it. I’d just finished Elemental and was still dusting myself off from all the tragedy in it. Then I read Oceans and found it to be even sadder. But it’s absolutely beautiful – it would definitely top my fave list of recent debut novels. But if Foal’s Bread turns out to be sadder again I will probably need some sort of remedial attention afterwards!
    I’m pretty sure you’ll love Elemental, though. I certainly did.

    • I just read Light Between Oceans while I was away in New York! I’m not sure if it was because I was away and in such good spirits and having such a wonderful time while I was reading it, but while I did find it sad, it definitely wasn’t up there with the saddest books I’ve read. I’m actually going to review it, and Anna Goldsworthy’s latest memoir, on the blog next week so you can see what it was that held me back from truly loving Light Between Oceans then. Foal’s Bread is so much sadder, you will need to read it in small doses and you will require remedial attention afterwards but it is absolutely worth reading!

  2. Glen Hunting

    Hmmm….I shall be fascinated to hear what you made of it….

  3. I remember really liking Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove in high school – of course this could mean little now! 😉
    I had similar feelings about The Bride Stripped Bare. Meh. Couldn’t finish it.
    Hope you enjoy the rest of Life after Life.
    PS To Glen above – Foal’s Bread wins the sadness comp. no question!

    • Hi Adele, I feel as if I should have read a Henry James by now, so, if there are no other suggestions, I shall start with your suggestion and let you know what I think. I got a bit further in to Life After Life last night and I am definitely now getting into the flow of it. She’s such a great writer.

    • Glen Hunting

      I am now suitably disturbed, standing as I am on the brink of an ever-deepening pit of literary woe *shudder*

      • Definitely don’t start Foal’s Bread if you are in a pit of literary woe! You will never read another book again afterwards!

        • Glen Hunting

          Elemental + Light Between Oceans = Pit Of Literary Woe.
          But it’s a DEEPLY REDEMPTIVE, TRANSCENDENTAL pit of woe. This is a very, VERY important point to remember. 🙂
          Head up, shoulders back. And off we go…

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Natasha, some interesting choices here. The Year of Magical Thinking is an incredible book, one of my favourites of all time. Speaking of literary woe (albeit non-fiction), that’s probably another title to add alongside Foal’s Bread and The Light Between Oceans!

    Re: the Foucault primer, I did the same with Derrida. I think it’s mandatory during a PhD to read at least one primer…

    • Hi Laurie, yes, I’d better make sure Glen doesn’t add The Year of Magical Thinking to his list at the moment – another gorgeous but deeply sad book. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who gave up on the French Structuralists or Post-Structuralists or Narratologists or whatever the hell they are! Thanks again for linking me in to this.

  5. annabelsmith

    Primers are the way to go! I primered the pants off Derrida! And speaking of transcendental woe, The Man Who Loved Children eroded my will to live. Ugh.

    We Need to Talk About Kevin has shown up on a lot of these lists.

    Loved that Joan Didion passage you chose – she is amazing, and what a babe in that photo.

    • I know, I love that photo. It’s completely non-politically correct in glamourising smoking but it’s so divine I had to use it.

      Oh dear, did The Man Who Loved Children erode your will to live because it was bad or because it was sad?

      And yes, Kevin is great, I read it while pregnant with my first on our baby-moon in Port Douglas. Completely inappropriate reading choice for that time but I thought it was amazing, just the same.

      • annabelsmith

        Oh, that is a carzy book to read while pregnant!

        The Man Who Loved Children was sordid, and depressing. I hated it.

  6. I love all the books you mention here, for almost the same reasons, Natasha…all except Hilary Mantel. Can’t read her, for some reason. Crept away from ‘Wolf Hall’ after about 200 pages. And while ‘Life After Life’ frustrated my hubby immensely, I loved it. Big fan of Kate Atkinson and also count ‘Behind the scenes…’ as an all-time favourite. I must read Joan Didion. She’s the only one among your list I haven’t read and I loved the quote you shared here. Oh, and I so relate to the PhD exegesis thing. I’m currently wondering if I can pass off all the short stories I wrote while writing the novel as an exegetical methodological thing!

    • Hi Rashida, it probably took me at least 50 or maybe more pages to get into the flow of Wolf Hall and then, when I did, I loved it. And yes, I’m sure you will love Joan Didion, she is marvellous.

      PS – I’m sure that Foucault and Derrida and the like only exist to make PhD students tear their hair out!

      • Louise Allan

        Yes, it took me about 80 pages — when it finally dawned on me that ‘he’ was referring to Cromwell!

  7. Louise Allan

    Hi Natasha, Loved your lists — I feel quite voyeuristic, gaining a peek into people’s minds through their tastes in literature! I enjoyed ‘Elemental’ — the prose is breath-taking. I need to know, though, how can you have three small children and still can stay up half the night reading ‘Gone Girl’? It must have been very, very good!

    • Yes, Gone Girl really surprised me. I knew it had been really hyped up and so I went into it thinking it couldn’t possibly be as good as everyone said, because that is so often the case. But it was great! Very hard to put down once you begin and I must confess to skipping ahead a couple of times just to know what was going to happen!

  8. Pingback: A bit of fun! | Christy Hatcher

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