Friday, February 4, 2011

Interview: A Student of Literature

Thanks for reading this post, I'm so excited to visit with you!  
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Dear fellow readers and conversationalists,

I love interviewing people; it's such a fun way to learn about somebody!  You don't have be Barbara Walters or meet a former president to find the opportunity to interview somebody - everybody has a fascinating inner life, some sort of story or idiosyncrasy to be explored, some knowledge about their field - be it changing diapers, the mechanics of housework, or past trips to Mars.

The following interview took place at my cousin's home in Seattle, Washington.

Name: Amanda
Previous Appearances: Billed as Mandatory, appears from time to time as kitchen assistant and helper extraordinaire
Age: 15
School: The living room
Earliest Memory: Passing out from fear that everyone was going to leave me behind, somewhere, when we were camping, I don't remember where [Montana]
Why we are interviewing her: Mandatory is a self-confessed bibliophile (a person who loves or collects books).  In 2010 she read 300 books; impressed by her accomplishment, we are here to discuss her love of reading, her thoughts on literature, and hear about her plan for 2011.

What is the first book you remember reading?
Shames me to say that it was the Cat in the Hat.  Shames me because I hate Dr. Seuss!  He makes up words for rhymes and that's so cheating, it's just cheating. Goes against my grain.

How many books did you read in 2010?

Where do you find all these books to read - titles, authors, recommendations?
I look at the authors that people compared the books [I've read] to, and [at the] library; I troll bookstores and pick up anything that looks interesting - and I take recommendations. I also look up lists online; Google "100 best books ever written" or "50 books you've probably never read," something like that.

Do you buy your books, or borrow them from the library?
I prefer to buy, but I borrow if I see something that catches my eye.

How big is your personal library?
I could look up the exact number - somewhere around the 400s.  I like to buy books because I like to re-read them whenever I want to, and I like to lend them to people that I want to have read them, and because I totally love books and they are very shiny, I just like having a tangible something I can look up.

You realize that you sound like Gollum.
Yeah. It borders on obsession, yes.

Do you like like e-readers, like the Nook or Kindle?
They're useful. I much, much prefer having actual books though. I can see the definite benefits in having [e-readers] but I'm old school. I wouldn't be against using one.  

What would make you want to re-read a book - what kind of story, what setting?
If the story was really good, obviously; if it's well written. Or if it's just a book that I read a long time ago and I remembered it was interesting.

What do you mean when you say a story is 'really good'? What would make a good story?
Lots of action - I mean, stories that are just describing the beautiful sunset are kind of boring. It has to have a good plot; something to keep you interested even on the boring part; characters that are real people instead of [the author just] telling you what they look like.

What do you think about pulp fiction, like Nancy Drew? Do you read or own any?
I don't think I have any ... Well, I've probably read quite a bit; usually it's ... well, I don't like to read a book if it's not well written, so usually I tend to avoid them, I don't know if I have any.

I guess the obvious question right now is, are you a speed reader?
... I read fast. "Speed reader" usually implies lots of skimming; and I do skim on occasion. But I just read quickly.

How long does it take you to read a book, say, the length of War and Peace?
I can tell you how long it took me to read War and Peace (laughs). Eleven days.

Was that reading all day, every day?
I usually read about 100 pages every night, maybe more. [War and Peace] is only like 1,400 pages.

How long would you be reading at night?
Maybe 2 hours, 'cause it was very thick reading.

How long would it take you to read a really engaging book, such as the books by Terry Pratchett?
Those books are usually about 300 pages long; [It would take] like 2 - 3 hours. If I was really into it.

How does reading so fast affect your re-reading - do you feel like you remember [what you read]?
I have pretty good comprehension, but sometimes I go back and read a book and I don't even remember a scene.  I think I remember most of what I read; I mean, to a human extent.

Do you consider yourself conversational on most books you read? Say, could you discuss a plot from last year.
Maybe; well, it depends on how much I liked the book.

Let's say; Poison Study? Could you discuss that?
Well I read it three times last year, so I could discuss that. I could probably discuss a book I read last year unless it was dead boring.

When you look at all the books over the past year, do you see a theme in what you were reading?
Lots of fantasy for sure; but I also really enjoy classics. Lots of British literature.

What attracts you to fantasy? Why do you like it?
I'm not sure; maybe its 'cause I really like the medieval setting and there are not many books about actual medieval life. I like dragons, so that plays a part of it; and I started out with Lord of the Rings so I guess I just went on with the theme. And I like swords.

And what do you like about British literature? 
I like the humor; the old, really dry humor. They usually use long words, which I like. And, I like reading books that lots of people have read because then it's, I think it's called taking part in the Great Conversation - you know, when you read the really good books that are popular.

Is there a book that you read all the way through, and felt it was a winner, and then the last chapter ruined it for you?  And What is the worst book you ever read - a book you would rather throw away than keep on your shelf?
I don't think I've really read any book like that, usually if a book is bad I can tell from the start.  Well ... Twilight was pretty bad. Twilight was really bad. I'm glad I didn't buy that one. We aren't really gonna go into that. Don't know any other books - that I've read recently, anyway - that are that bad. Oh, there was one, I don't remember what it was called; The Naming of the Dragon or something, and it turned out to be a romance novel.

What makes a book? Tolkien-esqe action, or Jane Austen social analysis? 
Well, the most important thing is that it's well written. Because if you have a great plot and you can't write worth a hill of beans then no one's going to read your book. If you have a kinda lousy plot and you write fantastic then its still going to sell.

Are you that person that, when they visit a house, sits and reads in the corner the whole time?
*thinks* I can be one of those people. I usually try not to be. But I usually want to be. If it's a party where everyone is doing something like playing a game that I don't want to do, I'll read a book.

Ever have a book so good you drag it everywhere?
Yes, I have done that. Usually people know to just leave me alone if I don't reply after the first few times.

Do people ever harass you about your reading - say you should be more social?
Not really. They harass me about it in other ways .... such as .... bringing up my reading speed as often as they can. Or, you know when you do something, like you [Mrs H] like to cook, and everyone makes a joke about it.

What is the most depressing subject ever to read about?
Mental disorders.

They say great writers were first great readers. Do you write?
Hm, I don't write very much. I used to write, Hm! Reading all those great works sort of depressed me.

What author influences your writings the most, and in what way?  
Probably Tolkien.  Definitely the language; and, well [I] would probably [write] fantasy, 'cause that's what I know.

With all your reading experience, you've developed a great filter for picking out fine literature.  Would you consider creating a career out of reading - working at a publishing house as an editor?
I would love to be an editor. That would be awesome.

Do you read multiple books at one time?
Yes.  I read as many as 10 books at a time.

What books are you currently reading?
I'm actually only reading one book right now, a Star Wars novel.

Are you going to try to one-up yourself this year and read over 300 books?

Do you set a goal? Or do you just read?  
Last year I didn't set a goal until about November, and then I saw I could read 300 [books] in a year.  But this year I'm gonna see if I can hit 365 just for the heck of it. Lots of really skinny books in my future.

You can also try to beat page counts, not just titles.
Yes.  [Last year Mandatory read 84,652 pages].

You can follow Mandatory's obsession with books at her site, Being a Bibliophile.  Explore her library, her consumed literature for this year, and her recommended books.

Thanks for enjoying our conversation together!  I'll meet you back here at the kitchen table for more chats very, very soon.

Mrs H

Extra: Mandatory's Top Rated Books

1. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
2. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
3. The Han Solo Trilogy - AC Crispin
4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - JRR Tolkien
5. The Silmarillion - JRR Tolkien
6. Poison Study - Maria V Snyder
7. The Inheritance Cycle - Christopher Paolini
8. Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchet
9. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
10. The Naming - Alison Croggon
11. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
12. The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
13. The Mistborn Trilogy - Brandon Sanderson (READ IT READ IT)
14. The Hyperion Cantos - Dan Simmns
15. A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket

Bonus Interview: Asking Mandatory fun questions about some of her favorite books.  

What is your favorite book of this past year? 
Can it be a series?


Off the top of your head, without even thinking, what is your favorite book of all time; or favorite series?
Lord of the Rings.  Closely followed by Harry Potter, that was good. Discworld was good.

If you had to decide any of the Lord of the Rings books to be unwritten, which would it be?
Counting the histories?

Not if that makes it too easy.
I would say Fellowship of the Ring.

And why?
Because it sets up too much, it doesn't really have any of the plot twists or anything; I think if you read the last two [books in the trilogy] you could sort of figure [it] out ..

You have to decide: one of them never picked up the pen - CS Lewis or Tolkien?
Well, C.S. Lewis

Have you considered writing a sequel to the LOTR trilogy?
No, I've written fan fiction, but ... never a sequel, I mean what would there be.

In the Redwall series - what would happen to you if it came out that Martin the Warrior was a bad guy? How would you re-read the books?
Ha ha.  It would be a lot more sinister, him appearing in dreams and all. It would be much creepier. Especially him guiding all the dibbuns. Very disturbing.

Who is the Tolkien "Fabio"?
If we were going by charming, I don't know if there is anyone really charming .... (shakes head). 

What is a character you would like to be out of a book?
Does it have to be a girl?

Okay; I am going to have to go with the most obvious answer of all time and say Aragorn, because he has the sweetest sword.

How do you feel about 3-D novels?
Just kidding! 


  1. WHAT?! Just kidding. Hahaha Awesome.
    I didn't even know Amanda had a website!!!

  2. I see that the Bibliophile has read a lot of Tolkien but not much of C.S. Lewis or that would have been a much more difficult decision! If you like mind-bending mental challenge, long words, and intricate paragraphs go ahead and tackle 'Miracles', 'Abolition of Man', or 'The Great Divorce'.

  3. Haha! "Anonymous" is totally Mom!

    I didn't know Amanda had a website either! I should write a list of all the books I've read too but I'm not very motivated since I know it will look pitiful compared to Amanda's list...

  4. PS - Hey Andrea, can you set the little verification words we have to type in (so that the computer knows we aren't spammers)? Because my verification word was 'mandi' and that's just way too much of a coincidence!

  5. Ok maybe not... it must have just been the world's most amazing coincidence.

  6. tThat IS a coincidence! No, I do not set them! But there is this whole blogspot/Google sub-culture where we sit around and think of definitions for the bizarre words the captcha comes up with. It actually is VERY entertaining!!!!

    And yes - see, *I* thought the CS Lewis vs. Tolkien question was VERY difficult, and I thought to myself, of course Tolkien would have to go! But, both Mandatory and Max seemed to think that "Obviously, Lewis would have to go!"

  7. I know - I didn't know she had a website either ... but at least I don't share a room with her, so I sort of have an excuse!! (Not that you literally share a room any more ...)




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