1. What book are you reading right now?
On tape: Patricia Cornwell, Cruel and Unusual. In print: Mike Ford, Growing Up Weightless.
2. Do you like it? Why or why not?
The Cornwell book is OK. I like the calm and competence of the main character. The detective work and forensic science isn't as impressive-seeming as Jeffrey Deaver's, though (I decided to read Cornwell because reading a couple of Deavers got me interested in forensic fiction).
The Ford book is starting off kind of slow for my taste, more architecture and less character development and more futuristic slang than I prefer, but I expect to like it better as I continue.
3. Have you read the author before? Did you like him/her?
Haven't read either author before. People I respect speak highly of both.
4. What's the last book you read?
On tape: The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver. In print: The Sardonyx Net by Elizabeth Lynn.
5. Did you like it?
I liked Bone Collector a lot, but I like Deaver's later book featuring Lincoln Rhyme, The Coffin Dancer, better.
I loved Sardonyx Net. I really admire authors who can create multiple characters with a variety of personality strengths and flaws and make you like / appreciate them all in spite of yourself. I also really like her main character for being unfailingly polite.
6. What's next after this one?
On tape: Death at the Crossroads by Dale Furutani. In print: Probably something by Patricia A. McKillip or Eleanor Arnason, the guests of honor, or this year's Tiptree winner, Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff.
I've also got Paul Campos's The Obesity Myth on my to-buy list.
Why the science fiction? I'm going to Wiscon (the convention that sponsors the Tiptree award) at the end of May. Why The Obesity Myth? Campos says stuff about the US obsession with fat that I've been thinking for years, but people aren't listening to me the way they are to him.
8. Do you read more nonfiction or fiction?
I have a preference for nonfiction that I've been trying to change by deliberately reading more fiction. For a while I felt anxiety when I contemplated reading fiction. I'm not sure why. Anyway, actually reading it has helped.
9. What's your favorite nonfiction book?
I don't have a single favorite.
10. What's your favorite fiction book?
I don't have a single favorite. I re-read Lord of the Rings regularly.
11. What was the first book you read as a kid that really got you going?
Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
12. What book do you wish had been around when you were a kid?
Any of the size-positive books available today. The best I could do was Fat is a Feminist Issue, which I read as a teenager. It told me that if I acknowledged that fat was a feminist issue, I'd lose weight. Feh.
13. What was the worst so-called classic you were ever forced to read?
I really didn't like Catcher in the Rye.
14. What was the worst modern book you tried to read as an adult?
At one point I thought I could make some easy bucks by writing romance novels. So I figured I should read a romance novel to get a sense for them. I picked up one at random. It was horrible. I decided if I couldn't even read one, I was never going to be able to write one. So much for that money-making scheme.
15. Who is the most overrated author in history?
I can't really answer that. I haven't read widely enough; I don't know what rating scale to use (sales? admission into the Literary Canon?). Also, if an author is highly thought of, and I don't like them, I tend to assume that there's some mismatch between my personality and their writing, rather than that everyone else is wrong and the author is really horrible.
In my community, I think Heinlein is kind of overrated. But he is in fact a decent writer. I just don't like some of his beliefs.
I think the quality of Ann Rice's writing doesn't warrant her sales, especially for her later books. I really, really don't like the way works frequently don't receive enough editing once the author is very popular.
16. Who is the most underrated author in history? (Published only.)
I can't answer that either. See above. I've read plenty of books that I think should get more attention.
17. What author would you most want to meet in person?
If we include both living and dead, then Charlotte Brontë. Reading her stuff gave me the first ever sensation of having someone talk directly to my brain from the past. It's one of the most marvelous sensations there is. It's like time travel.
If we include living only, I've met many of the authors I want to meet (Ursula K. LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, J. Michael Straczynski). But what I really want is to meet them in circumstances that would let me have a meaningful conversation with them, not in signing lines. Unfortunately, I'm really not very good at having a meaningful conversation with someone out of my own fan-space, so that would take a lot of doing.
18. What sells a book for you: the cover art, the description on the back, sitting down to read the first chapter...?
I read mosly on recommendation from people whose tastes I trust. If I'm coming at a book without a recommendation, then recognizing and approving of the author is an important part of it. Otherwise I look at the marketing copy and the table of contents and then I skim quickly/randomly through the book to see if I like the writing style. I'm very fussy about writing style - I can't read books that I think are badly written, even if the author is good at telling a story.
19. Who's the writer who sells a book to you just with his name, you don't know anything about it but you'll buy it because s/he wrote it?
Lois McMaster Bujold, Neil Gaiman. Well, I'll try to acquire the books to read, but I won't necessarily buy them. I'm a big fan of my local library.
20. When you're bored, and you look at your bookshelf for something to reread, what do you reach for first?
I almost never look at a bookshelf for something to re-read when I'm bored. I look for something new to read. I re-read books very rarely and only when I've deliberately decided to do so. This is the result of being chastized by my 9th grade English teacher that there are too many good new books to make re-reading worth it. I'm somewhat annoyed that this advice stuck, because I don't agree with it - hence the deliberate re-reading. But there it is.
Practically the only book I have re-read frequently is Lord of the Rings. I'm planning to re-read Jane Eyre and the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Another problem with re-reading, for me, is that re-reading a book sometimes spoils it. For example, I re-read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five recently. I loved it as a teenager. But on re-reading, I was quite turned off by the sexism. Something similar happened with a Sherlock Holmes story I re-read. There was a large factual error in it, and that spoiled it for me.