H. M. L. Swann
#4 READING: "...as if it didn’t mean it, snow began to fall."
It's the last week in our series on why people read. Keep on scrolling to find your next book to read!
Or maybe you'll be surprised by the key takeaways at the end.
Either way... you won't want to miss it!
First Name: Reeve
Profession: Aerospace Engineer
Studied English, literature, or writing formally: No
Favorite Genre: Fantasy
Genre you NEVER read: Religious thought
Fun fact about you: Books helped raise me!
First Name: Gregory
Age: 29 and a half
Profession: ESL teacher
Studied English, literature, or writing formally: English Language and Linguistics
Favorite Genre: Fantasy for fiction, sociology and history for non-fiction
Genre you NEVER read: Shit fantasy. Joking aside... probably horror. I've got enough demons
Fun fact about you: I once won a year's supply of chocolate. Almost a real life Charlie Bucket
First Name: Erik
Studied English, literature, or writing formally: Yes
Favorite Genre: Non-Fiction
Genre you NEVER read: Religious, Inspirational, and Spiritual
Fun fact about you: I am deaf in my left ear
Questions, Questions, Questions
What's your favorite genre?
Reeve: I like fantasy most because this genre in particular has the best characters of any genre
I love fantasy for escapism. It helps calm things down with my mental health but I've always been drawn to it since listening to a dramatisation of The Hobbit on a cassette tape. I've always known that story in my life so I guess I was hooked because it was good storytelling and led to a much wider world that Tolkien created.
I'm enthralled by observations on what makes us tick and sociology and history are the two boys for that. Sociology tells us why we make mistakes and history tells us how we keep repeating them. To be less pessimistic, History tells us the mistakes we've made and sociology tells us how not to repeat them.
Erik: I enjoy non-fiction because I constantly want to learn more about the world. It's not that I dislike fiction, it's just that there is so much to learn about the real world around us.
2. What is your favorite book and why?
Reeve: Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. This is historical fiction, it shows quite intimately how life and science has progressed from 1680-1690 in a globe spanning adventure. With the advent of sailing, this was the first wave of globalization and having characters that you know and love experience it was really a fun a cool read. This book also has my favorite characters in it of all time, this was one of a few books to make me cry.
The Lord of the Rings but it's because it's totally infused with my life with a nostalgia that reaches as far back as I can remember and a pro-Tolkien world that wants to make films, endless video games, toys, models to paint, spin-off TV series, fan films etc. It has so much history built-in. Character arcs need journeys and the whole book is one massive camping holiday. It's meta with the way Bilbo is writing The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. There's so much of Tolkien's life poured into it. His experiences of the Great War are so vividly present, his love of nature is brought to life with characters that fight back against industrialisation and even his own love of his wife is immortalised in an ancient tale of the love of a human and elf. The Appendices were like some bonus features I could pore through for hours reading about the wider history and further journeys characters made. It was like the book never wanted to end itself and that's how we all feel about a good book?
Erik: International Building Code. I use it every day at work.
3. Do you have a favorite author?
Reeve: Yes, Arthur Ransome is my favorite author. He wrote books for children about adventure, sailing, and friendship. I think his writing has led to a lifetime of seeing whimsy for me. Indeed, a coworker introduced me as saying, “If you like whimsy, you are going to love it, Reeve!” One quote from Arthur which will I think shows what his writing is about is when he describes a snow fall at the beginning of a winter holiday: “Softly, almost as if it didn’t mean it, snow began to fall.” What charm!
No. I've always found reading something difficult to fit into my daily routine. I know there is so much out there to read and couldn't choose when I'm so ignorant of so much literature. I struggle to choose favourites anyway, it depends on my mood.
Erik: No. There's too many to pick from; how could I possibly decide?
4. How do you hear about books?
Reeve: 80% through friends, 20% from a couple librarians who have steered me to some really good read.
I'll actively ask friends about books but the majority come from a wide range of podcasts I listen to or the radio. These recommendations can come from interviews with scientists, actors, journalists, politicians, sociologists and are found on a wide range of podcasts. What I love about the podcast as a medium is that people are afforded more time to ramble on in conversation and share what their passions are, what inspired or informed them.
Erik: I don't. Or rather, I don't listen to referrals or seek out books.
5. What makes you buy a book?
Reeve: Only if I can’t find the book at the library will i buy it. Examples include Pirate Utopia and The Last Hero by Terry Prattchett
A good recommendation. I buy ebooks because I'm going to read something once mostly and I live abroad so don't want to be weighed down. I buy physical books less but will need to when it's a big coffee table book that I've picked up in an art gallery or museum. All of those are back home in the UK sitting in a box...
Erik: I only buy a book if I can't find a free pdf online.
5.1 Do you buy physical books or e-books?
Reeve: Physical. I have accidentally bought ebooks when audible tricked me into paying for it when I thought it was a free account
I always prefer a physical book. It feels nicer, it's much easier to thumb through. The weight of a book feels like a part of the process. It's something you're going through (if it's a good book) and when it's over, there's the remains of a book almost like a tiny, less emotionally heavy, death. The weight of the book gives it a life and the sadness that you'll never read it for the first time again. a digital file just zipping away unseen feels cold and emotionless.
Erik: If I have to purchase a book I prefer physical because it's easier on my eyes and I feel like I have a greater sense of ownership over it.
6. Do you read books from diverse authors (people of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, identities, and abilities)? Why or why not?
Reeve: Yes, those authors bring me into their worlds and show me experiences I could never have about race, gender, backgrounds, even different politics
Of late, it has been my intention to, but also life has proved difficult to find personal time. Sometimes life demands so much productive time to keep on going. When I have downtime my mind feels exhausted and defaults to podcasts and gaming.
I want to learn from books and there's not as much to be learnt from an author telling me about myself (a cis white, hetro, English-native) as there is from an author with different experiences. I studied linguistics because I love communication.
We're all brains in jars and communication helps us to understand each other so that we can become living flesh that can hug another rather than chastise each other.
Erik: Not intentionally. It is not a factor I consider when deciding what to read. The subject matter is far more important to me than the author.
7. What language do you read in?
Reeve: Only English
8. We all know the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But real talk: do you? Does cover design play a part in whether you pick up a book or not?
Reeve: Yes, for sure. I picked up Crazy Rich Asians from the library before it was cool based solely on it’s unique cover
Book covers are marketing.
Same way you can tell a film will be shite by its poster.
Erik: Absolutely. Cheesy illustrations or graphics force me to avoid a book at all costs. I miss old books that had simple monochromatic covers.
9. How many books have you read in the last year?
1/2 a book. COVID hasn't affected my reading. Physical, mental and financial health has. To keep all of those well, I find almost no time for reading. It's sad.
9.1 Has COVID increased or decreased the amount you read?
Reeve: Decreased because it took MONTHS, which was too long, to figure out how to give books to people in a safe way
Erik: Increased. I have had more free time for reading.
9.2 If COVID has changed your reading habits, will you maintain them post COVID?
Reeve: I have borrowed more books from people around me, that has been a nice way to talk to people about books they recommend.
10. Do you wish you read more or less? Why or why not?
Reeve: More! Reading is so much fun and i find myself matching my mood to the mood of the book, so read good happy books!
MORE MORE MORE. I'm an ignorant slut.
Erik: I wish we could download books into our consciousness like they do in the Matrix movies.
11. When and where do you read?
Reeve: I read in bed at night. I do need silence
You'll find me in my anechoic chamber.
Erik: At home, typically in the evening. Silence is preferable to the other options listed ( silence, music, book groups).
12. What makes you stop reading a book?
Reeve: Other than it being done, when the book starts repeating itself. 25% of the non-fiction books I’ve read could have been 3 chapters instead of 20
It's become boring. I've become distracted by something new and shiny.
Erik: The back cover...
13. What’s your least favorite trope? Why?
I generally manage to avoid books with annoying tropes so don't have to deal with them (I'm looking at you Dan Brown). Maybe the rape of women? Don't be raping women in all your books people as a plot device.
Erik: I don't process literature in this way. What trope is being employed is of no concern to me.
14. You hear a book summary from a trusted friend:
a. What is the one thing that makes you want to read it?
Reeve: How excited their eyes get
If it' a trusted friend, they'll know more than me. If you're my friend and I don't take up your recommendation, I don't trust you enough. Sorry.
Erik: It helps me in my profession or contains interesting facts/stories about the real world.
b. What is the one thing that makes you NOT want to read it?
Reeve: If the book is a philosophy book, those books are so dull to me
Erik: It is purely pleasurable and does not help grow my understanding of my profession or the world around me.
15. What would be the perfect book for you? Do you think there is a story that you want to hear that isn’t out there yet?
Reeve: I think the world of QUALITY historical fiction is untapped! There are 4/5 series of awesome writing quality....then a bunch of other stuff of vastly varying quality
Dramatisations of historical underdogs.
Erik: I don't believe in perfection and I don't believe there is a story that hasn't been told yet.
Amen, Taylor Swift. Amen.
Check out my 15 Key Takeaways here
A huge thanks to all the readers that responded to the survey. I couldn't get everyone's answers up on The Nest, but I'm so grateful for your willingness to share your thoughts on all things bookish. I hope you had fun answering the questions!
Thanks to everyone for reading the series. I hope you were able to relate to some of the answers or able to find a new book to read.
Stay tuned for updates as always through the newsletter.
Cheers friends and happy reading!