JoAnn blogs at Lakeside Musing.
Aarti: My sister and I both read a lot growing up (my brother less so), so I would say that we did grow up in a book-loving household, though I don’t remember my parents reading to us very much. My dad would tell us bedtime stories, but they were never book-based. They just came out of his head and he usually focused on science or Indian history. I have a very vivid recollection of him telling us how gravity was discovered.
I don’t think I had a favorite book when I was very young, but as I got a little older, I fell completely in love with Anne of Green Gables. I loved how smart she was, and how she questioned everything, and I always wanted to go and visit Prince Edward Island (alas, I never did). She was such a hero to me.
JoAnn: Books have always been part of my life. I can remember both parents reading to me as a child and, as the oldest of six siblings, I have fond memories of reading to my younger brothers and sisters. Scholastic book order days were always the best. I’d run home from school with the new books I’d ordered and hide in my room for the rest of they day. My favorite book from childhood is probably Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. There was something about Harriet and her notebook that struck a chord with me… and lead to a life-long fondness of stationery supplies.
Aarti: I think I most remember books that I read in my freshman year English class in high school. We read To Kill a Mockingbird and All Quiet on the Western Front. They were both so brilliant. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it, but at that time, the 1960s felt so far in the past and quaint to me. I recently reread the book and realized just how revolutionary it must have been when it was published. And I don’t think any book has brought war so vividly to life for me as All Quiet on the Western Front. I think that’s when I started to understand nuances in history – that there isn’t necessarily a “good” side or a “bad” side, but so many perspectives and motivations.
I don’t think anything very special was going on in my life at that point – just that I was in my early teens, beginning to understand that adulthood isn’t all that simple!
JoAnn: I was in high school when I finally figured out that books had a lot to say about life and how you might choose to live it. Ethan Allen Hawley’s moral crisis in The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck’s final novel, turned me into a Steinbeck devotee and cemented my love of classic literature.
Aarti: I read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolo series in my early 20s. A lot of the Latin language poetry and historical events went right over my head, but I LOVED those books (especially the House of Niccolo). I was also active in what is the now-defunct Yahoo Groups, so had so many people all around the world to talk about the books with, which was so wonderful and definitely a precursor to book blogging for me. I have always
loved historical fiction, and Dunnett’s complex plots and twists and turns and massive casts of characters made me realize just how IMMERSED writers can become in a world. And just how passionate fans can be, too. It was really nice to see.
JoAnn: I didn’t read as much in my 20’s and early 30’s…mostly professional journals, then children’s books to my three daughters. When I did read, it was often sprawling family sagas. Favorites from this period include Steinbeck’s East of Eden, novels by James Michener and Maeve Binchy, Beach Music by Pat Conroy, And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer, and The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.
Aarti: Oh, gosh, that is tough to answer! I will answer the second question first. As I mentioned above, I was active on a lot of the forums and Yahoo Groups related to books when I was in college and my early 20s. From there, it was a fairly natural progression to blogging.
I don’t really know how blogging has changed my reading habits as I started blogging quite young – in my early 20s. I suspect that my reading habits would change as I got older, anyway. But I do think my reading tastes have expanded considerably since I started blogging. I would say that the most powerful impact that blogging has had on me personally has been my quest to read more diversely.
As to my favorite book over the past year or two – probably Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have a massive literary crush on Adichie. Not only because she’s so smart and articulate, but because she’s so good at bringing up important points in a humorous and non-confrontational way that really makes you think. She’s the best. And Americanah’s unapologetic love story, the commentary on racism in the UK and the US, the sexism that women face – it’s all wrapped up in a truly engaging and witty writing style that I loved.
JoAnn: Favorite books from the past year or so include Stoner by John Williams, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and, most recently, Florence Gordon by Brian Morton – all beautifully written character-driven novels.
Before blogging, I owned a classics reading group on Yahoo and followed a few book blogs…an innovative concept back then. I wanted to participate in the conversation and started Lakeside Musing in 2008.
Since then, I’ve discovered many wonderful books and authors. enjoy virtual friendships with other book bloggers, own infinitely more books, and my love of reading has grown even more. My approach to the “what to read next” question has changed dramatically, too. Before blogging I would often wander around the bookstore or library waiting for something to strike my fancy. Now the sheer number of choices can sometimes leave me paralyzed with indecision.
JoAnn: This is a hard one! I suppose my guilty pleasure is literary beach reads. I don’t read any romance and very little of what might be classified as women’s fiction, but I do love a good family story set near a body of water. If it involves an old summer home and coastal New England, all the better.
Recent favorites include A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams, The Vacationers by Emma Straub, The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine, and Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.
JoAnn on Aarti’s choices: A fabulous list of books! This is someone whose blog I should be reading, if I am not already doing so. I admire the variety and diversity of interests reflected in these choices. From a childhood favorite of my own, a WWI classic novel, and a sprawling saga to current literary fiction and the fun and comfort of Georgette Heyer, I feel this fellow book lover and I could chat for hours. The only question is whether to brew a pot of coffee or get out the teakettle.
Stoner has popped up a lot on blogosphere over the past few years, and most everyone has very positive things to say about it, so I would guess that the blogger keeps a pulse on book blogosphere and gets many recommendations from the people s/he follows and trusts. (Even if, like me, it takes him/her a long while to get around to reading those books.)
All of the books chosen seem to focus on relationships – family relationships in particular – and decision points that have impact not only on the protagonist’s life, but also the lives of others. I think this blogger cares a lot about people and is deeply interested in stories that focus on how our actions impact the people in our lives.