Sunday Salon: In the Garden

I spent the whole of today basking in the sun, sustaining myself on nothing more than mangoes and nashi pears. Even though it was swelteringly hot, I just wanted to feel the sun on my skin, so I carried my notes outside and studied in the garden. All in all, it was a pleasant but uneventful day. Summer is so delicious. Right now, storm clouds are gathering over the horizon – rain during my exam is undesirable, but oh. My. The smell of freshly cut grass, and rain, and jasmine blossoms is irreplaceable.

What about books, you may ask. Isn’t Sunday Salon essentially about reading? Well yes, here’s a list of what I’ve been reading this week:

  • Obedience or Choice by Russell Cowie
  • Hitler: A Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock
  • The History of WWI by A J P Taylor
  • Conquering Chemistry, Fourth edition by Roland Smith
  • Emma, by Jane Austen

It’s been more like vigorous note-taking and brain-using than leisurely summer reading, though. I haven’t really had time for anything leisurely lately. Nevertheless, since Sunday afternoons are now devoted to TSS, I’ve decided that tonight I will do a bit of light reading. Not anything new, not anything to do with Les Miserables. I want to settle into something familiar today. Maybe Mrs Dalloway, or Memoirs of a Geisha.

Plus, I present the Mother of all Memes, which I compiled by digging up several old ones:

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Although I like to take good care of my books, and want them to last a long time, I detest hardcovers. So it’s trade paperbacks for me – they’re cheaper, easier to hold in your hands and the covers are always nicer too.

Bookmark or dog-ear?

Bookmark! Mostly train tickets, but they wear out quickly, so I sometimes use receipts, old vouchers, post-its, etc etc  Occasionally, I am guilty of dog-earing a library book.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?

Neither of the first two, but not random either. My books are divided onto two shelves: classics and contemporary. When my collection of non-fiction books grows, they’ll get a shelf of their own too. The classics are shelved by publisher, because their spines are always the same colour. The current order is something like this: Penguin, Vintage, Oxford, Penguin Modern, Wordsworth, Barnes and Noble, Aladdin and then miscellaneous. My contemporary books, on the other hand, are arranged in colour order. I was inspired by this:


Keep, throw away or sell?

I always, always keep my books! Of course, currently this is no hard feat because I don’t own that many, but I know I’ll never weed. I’d rather buy myself more bookshelves; there’s certainly enough space for more in my study. Throw away? Never.

Keep dustjacket or toss it?

This is another reason why I detest hardcovers. All those loose bits flapping around, ugh! I don’t buy hardcover books in any case, so I have no idea why I’m answering this question.

Last book you bought?

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And I still haven’t read it, so I still can’t discuss it.

Last book someone bought for you?

Anna Karenina. Sorry, I promise I’ll read it soon.

What are some of the books on your to-buy list?

  • Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
  • A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
  • Selected Poems, John Milton

Collection (short stories, same author) or anthology (short stories, differnet author)?

Anthology. Preferably anthologies collected in themes. Purely because I find that short stories tend to become repetitive if written by the same author (I’m not a short story person)

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

Need I even answer this? Who wrote this question? There is no question. The question should be ‘Harry Potter’, and the answer should be ‘Harry Potter’. What is Lemony Snicket?

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?

Reading in the morning is so refreshing. In summer, I like to sit in my garden on a comfortable deck chair, with a banana smoothie stuck in the drink-holder. Afternoons are also delicious, particularly around dusk when the light is softer. I infinitely prefer morning and afternoon to nighttime, but the only reading I manage to get done these days is about five minutes before bed.

The books you need to go with other books on your shelves?

Definitely Northanger Abbey; it’s the only Austen I’m missing. And The Mysteries of Udolpho to go with Northanger. I would also like a complete set of Virginia Woolf books. Including To The Lighthouse, even though I’m not overly fond of it.

Do you read anywhere and anytime you can or do you have a set reading time and/or place?

I like to read wherever I am, but I enjoy reading the most in my garden, and during long flights.

Do you have seasonal reading habits?

Although I am constantly on the lookout for new books, I love to re-read old favourites. I talked about my summer reads here. The books I read in spring include Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, and Alcott’s Little Women. In winter, I tend to read Possession by A S Byatt and Austen’s Mansfield Park, and have unsuccessfully tried to read Tolstoy (Anna Karenina) and Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities) in the past. Those two will be shifted to my summer reading pile; maybe then they won’t seem so dreary.

Do you read one book at a time or do you have two or more books going at once?

I used to read five or six at one time. Last year, I cut down to two or three, but now I try to read only one at a time, so I can give it my undivided attention.

What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books?

I loathe creased spines. Yellowed pages, etc I don’t mind as much, but creased spines will send me into a fury. I don’t mind when other people do it to their books though. My pet peeves only concern my own books.

Name one book you’ve always wanted to read, but have never gotten around to

J M Barrie’s Peter Pan, and I’ve got to do it soon, before I’m properly grown up! I’ve watched the movies, and know the story by heart, but I’ve never actually read the book.

1. My favorite classics are Mrs Dalloway (for ingenuity and beautiful prose), and The Count of Monte Cristo (for fascinating plot and characters). Before, I would most probably have said Jane Eyre, but for some reason, I don’t love it the way I used to.

2. The classic I had the toughest time finishing is Wuthering Heights, because of the way the dialogue was written. I had a hard time deciphering the ‘foreign’ words.

3. I would recommend The Great Gatsby to someone who doesn’t read a lot of classics or who doesn’t generally like classics because it’s timeless, and yet refreshingly modern (IMO)

4. To me, a classic book is a book that conveys the nature of human existence in such a way that it speaks to readers centuries after it has been written

5. The type of relationship I have with classics is steady and long-term. The longer I get to know them – and the more of them I get to know – the more I fall in love.

Name one book you surprised yourself by liking

The Lord of the Rings. Although I did go through a fantasy phase once, it’s not really a genre I enjoy nowadays. I suppose I just have a thing for huge, rambling books (which is why I thought I would love Anna Karenina)

How often do you read a book and not review it on your blog? What are your reasons for not blogging about a book?

I never realised I skipped books, until I wrote out that list of every single book I read in 2008. I think it’s most probably because I’m busy at certain times, but I’ve been reading far too many books to blog about them all. Or, simply because I’m lazy.

THREE bookish habits:

  1. I always cover my books in clear contact
  2. I always keep a book in my bag, wherever I go
  3. I hoard. Will buy new books, even though I have stacks to read at home

THREE things that distract you:

  1. this blog
  2. Mealtimes
  3. my studies

THREE favourite book beverages:

  1. H2O
  2. a hot, frothy greentea latte (the genuine home-made variety, not those disgusting things they sell at coffee shops)
  3. banana smoothies

THREE dead writers you’d love to meet:


  • Virginia Woolf
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Charlotte Bronte

Book Memories

20 years ago: Sadly, I have not even been alive twenty years. I’m almost there, at eighteen, but not quite.

10 years ago: This was when I first attempted Great Expectations, which I bought because I liked the cover. I wasn’t too impressed by Charles Dickens. Instead, I opted for more girly classics, such as Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden, A Little Princess – L M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the Bronte sisters, etc. Fell in love with Jane Eyre, and eventually Wuthering Heights. Oh, this must also have been the time when Harry Potter first came out! I also adored Roald Dahl, particularly Matilda and Boy, the autobiography.

5 years ago: my Austen phase. I was also obssessed withThe Princess Diaries at this time.

3 years ago: Began to discover a wider range of books. Had a brief historical fiction phase, where I devoured Tracy Chevalier. Continued to love the Victorians; fell in love with The Count of Monte Cristo around this time as well. I remember reading a lot of art books during this time – biographies of Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel, the origins of French Impressionism etc.

Last year: Made a conscious decision to read more contemporary literature. Started with some of the books on Angus and Robertson’s Top 100 list – The God of Small Things, Memoirs of a Geisha etc. Also began to read more 20th century classics, such as Virginia Woolf, F Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce etc. (didn’t enjoy the latter)

This month: Have not been reading much due to exams, slowly making my way through the second half of Les Miserables and A Suitable Boy


13 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: In the Garden

  1. I have to say I am so impressed with your reading choices, especially when I learn how young you are! I wasn’t reading anything worthwhile at 18…. And I love following your blog. Thanks for being an inspiration!

  2. Great meme – I’m about to complete it over on my site. Just wanted to say that I wanted to read Peter Pan, and when I finally got round to it I was disappointed! I have teh sequel and the prequel (written by other authors) on my TBR. I’ll see if they fare any better than the original.

  3. Ann – thanks, it’s Andy Warhol’s ‘Flowers’

    Rebecca – thank you very much! I’m so glad that someone enjoys reading my rambling ons =]

    Mrs S – hm, I never knew there was a sequel. In what way did you find the original disappointing?

  4. I hope you enjoy The God of Small Things–it is my favorite of the year (so far!).

    The read-a-thon is something that is hosted by another blogger, Dewey (don’t have her site handy but you can find her at The Hidden Side of the Leaf). She hosts the read-a-thon twice a year so I’m not sure when the next one will be–maybe in April? Hopefully sooner as they are such a blast! The event is a combination of reading and blogging (although you don’t have to blog–I think that’s what makes it so much fun). Hope you can join the next one. :)

  5. Yay! I’m not alone in my hatred for creased spines! I’m an alphabetical-by-author sorter myself (I’d never find anything otherwise), but those beautiful sorted-by-colour photos have me seriously reconsidering this.

    Great blog, by the way!

  6. Trish – I think I will be joining in next time; it sounds really fun~

    JRSM – hahah! Yay, for me also. I always thought I was alone in being obsessive compulsive about spines! Hm, I considered alphabetical-by-author but the size of my books poses a problem – the smaller books always look rather odd when wedged between two bigger ones.

  7. How lovely to meet you :) I’m rather envious of your young age, because you have so many wonderful books yet to discover. You’ve made quite impressive inroads into your reading experience already!

    Vikram Seth is a marvelous author. His novel An Equal Music is one of my favorites.

  8. Hello, thank you for dropping by~

    I think since I started this blog, I’ve been continually exposed to new books, so sometimes I feel rather overwhelmed – but in a completely good way, of course. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I have so many books yet to discover :)

    And I agree that Vikram Seth marvelous – I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m in love with his writing/characters already. I’ll have to add An Equal Music to my reading list now. Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. I loved reading this meme. I, too, am impressed by your reading choices, being how young you are. I love reading your blog.

    I’m borrowing this meme and linking to you. Thank you.. keep writing.

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