What was the last book you bought?
Update: Make that Naguib Mahfouz, Palace Walk. Note to me: All children's birthday parties should be held just across the business park from a large bookstore, so that parents have an excuse to browse for two hours before picking their kids up again. On the other hand, I see that if I had bought it online, I could have saved $5.
Name a book you have read MORE than once.
Since I reread books for a living, I'll recast that question and name some books I consider my 'comfort' books--ones I reread often because I like where they take me. Actually, even that could be a long list, but here are some perennial favourites: Anne Tyler, Ladder of Years; Alison Lurie, Foreign Affairs; Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night; Lynn Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field.
Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
I'm not sure about the "fundamentally" part here, but every time I read Middlemarch it challenges me to approach my life differently--better, I'd even say.
How do you choose a book? e.g. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?
Recommendations play the largest part for me now, as I've become a bit cynical about reviews.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction. But I like fiction that has the ring of truth (whether historical, personal, psychological, moral, or other), and I also have a long interest in the instability of the distinction between fiction and non-fiction.
What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Most loved/memorable character?
Dorothy Sayers's Harriet Vane, and Dorothy Dunnett's Philippa Somerville.
Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Defining "nightstand" a bit broadly to include the table by my favourite reading chair, the extra little shelf on my desk at home where I stash my overflow "TBR" pile, and my literal nightstand--and ignoring books that are there only because I have to read them for work--I see Claire Messud, The Emperor's Children; Frank McCourt, Teacher Man; W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz; Penelope Lively, Perfect Happiness; Ahdaf Soueif, Mezzaterra; and Vikram Seth, Two Lives.
What was the last book you read?
I finished Richard Price's Clockers last night. I didn't actually like it that much. I wonder if it would have captured my imagination more if I hadn't watched all five seasons of The Wire so recently.
Have you ever given up on a book halfway in?
There are a couple of books I've started recently and not persevered with, but usually I don't like to think of it as "giving up": sometimes it's just not the right time to read a particular book, so it goes back on the shelf to ripen. Recent examples include When We Were Orphans and A Suitable Boy: I look forward to reading all of both of them eventually. I did give up on a few of the books that I tried out for my mystery class, including Helen Tursten's Detective Inspector Huss and both Henning Mankell books I started. I can think of at least one book I sort of regretted reading through to the end: Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin.