Because I haven’t done one of these things in a long, long time:

1. Favorite childhood book?
  Rascal by Sterling North because we had a pet raccoon for a short time ourselves.  I cried every time at the end when Rascal returns to the wild.  Oh, and I had the American Heritage Junior Library volume Carrier War In The Pacific practically memorized.

2. What are you reading right now? Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
 I haven’t set foot in a library since school.  On the other hand, the gels seem to be providing a large part of the County’s budget through all the overdue fees we seem to keep racking up.

4. Bad book habit?
 Reading too fast the first time through.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? See #3.

6. Do you have an e-reader? Neeeeeeeeevahhhhh!!!!

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I usually have one book for commuting and another for dinner, which I often eat alone on weeknights.  When baseball season is over, I usually also have a third book for evening reading.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
 Only insofar as I sometimes flag a particular passage for posting and commentary here, and I often follow up on recommendations by other bloggers.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? 1421, The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies.  I’m still kicking myself over being lured into even starting it.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
  I assume this means favorite new book?  Because I have a habit of reading the same stable of authors over and over and over again.  I can’t think what my favorite new book has been so far, but I thoroughly enjoyed Joseph Ellis’  His Excellency: George Washington.  UPDATE: Oh, and now that I think on it, it was only recently that I discovered the joys of Willa Cather, of course.  And let me not forget Conan-Doyle’s Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard, as well as John Zmirak’s Bad Catholic Guide series.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? I don’t know what that means.  There are a great many books that I avoid, not because they’re outside of my “comfort zone” but because life is too short and I consider them to be a waste of time.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? See above.

13. Can you read on the bus?
  I read all the time on the metro.

14. Favorite place to read?
 My comfy chair in the library.  It’s next to the fireplace and has a view of the bird feeder.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
  Nobody ever asks except the Mothe.  We have a mutual borrowing/lending system that is closer to an exchange of hostages between barbarian courts than anything else.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Yeah, I do.  And I know it’s a bad habit.


17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?  I never have since school.

18. Not even with text books?
 See above.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?  I’m only capable of the one, really.

20. What makes you love a book?
   Depends.  With some, it’s the subject matter and/or point of view.  With others, it’s the style.  The best combine all of these.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?  Well, I have to like it first.  Then I have to believe that whoever is at the receiving end of the recommendation might have some interest as well.


22. Favorite genre?
 History, probably.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?  Mysteries.  I try Sayers and Christie and even Conan-Doyle from time to time, but simply can’t get that interested.

24. Favorite biography?  Probably Elizabeth Longford’s double volume on Wellington.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? Nope.  I think they’re mostly bunkum and snake-oil.

26. Favorite cookbook?
 Don’t cook much.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
  Well, I’ve been reading a lot of theological books, which surely are inspirational to me.

28. Favorite reading snack?
 As I say, I often eat dinner alone on weekdays because I get home rayther late-ish.  But I don’t snack whilst reading.  The cup of coffee or tea, or the glass of wine is, however, compulsory.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
   I have an allergic reaction to hype, so tend to avoid the sort of book that receives a lot of it in the first place.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
  The only time I can recall paying any attention to criticism involved Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis, a book I adore.  There, I thought a lot of the bad criticism was the result of reviewers missing the point, thinking Ward was trying to reveal some kind of metaphysical “code” when he was really just pointing out what amounted to a decorative scheme.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? Regular port-swillers will know that ol’ Robbo has no trouble pulling the trigger.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
 Ancient Greek.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? I’ve taken a couple whacks at Aquinas’ Summa, and I confess that it makes me feel like a gibbering idiot.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
 I keep meaning to read War and Peace, just because I think it’s one of those works with which anyone interested in literature ought to be familiar.   It doesn’t exactly intimidate me, but contemplation of the shear length trips my mañana circuit.

35. Favorite poet?
  Can’t say that I really have one, because I’m not all that much of a reader.  I suppose that the poetry which really “speaks” to me the most is that of Kipling.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?  As I say, I don’t check out books.  But the gels sometimes seem to have thousands.

37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread? See above.

38. Favorite fictional character?
   Oh, probably Guy Crouchback, as I’ve mentioned here before, although I feel a certain affinity for all of Waugh’s anti-heroes.

39. Favorite fictional villain? Hmmm…. I suppose Harry Flashman is more rogue than outright villain.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
  Actually, I try to bring a mix of books, generally broken down into the categories of history, theology and trash.  That way, I’m prepared for any circumstances and any frame of mind.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
  Yeesh.  I read every day and simply can’t remember not doing so.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
  I gave up on Noel Mostert’s The Line upon a Wind, An Intimate History of The Last and Greatest War Fought At Sea Under Sail, 1793-1815, because the prose was so clunky as to be fatally distracting.  For reasons I have yet to figure out, I am also having a terrible time struggling with Timothy Wood’s Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World.   

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
 Alas, everything.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
  Regular friends of the decanter know all about Robbo’s aversion to film adaptations.  The best one to my mind – and it is, indeed, very, very good – is still A Room With A View.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?  I’m too jaded to allow myself to put any hope in such projects, so although I am very often disgusted, I am never actually disappointed.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? Oh, probably somewhere between $100 and $200, I would guess.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
 I don’t, unless my habit of reading fast the first go around actually constitutes a form of, shall we say, heavy skimming.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?
 Once I start a book, I feel honor-bound to do my best to finish.  I noted a couple of exceptions above.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?  My library has two sets of floor to ceiling shelves on opposite walls.  I keep the non-fiction/history on one side, in as nearly chronological order as possible.  Theology and fiction are on the other side (not that there’s any connection).  I try to keep them organized by genre and period, but I confess that they’re not as orderly.  On the other hand, the books covering the coffee table are a complete mish-mash, as are those kept in the bookcases in the basement and on Mrs. R’s and my night tables.  And don’t even ask about the gels’ collections.  Altogether, I would estimate that the Port Swiller residence contains something like 1300 to 1500 books, give or take.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
 Four words: My. Cold. Dead. Fingers.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? The Old Gentleman used to give me books about or by famous lawyers and “the System,” I suppose to encourage me to become a big-time legal muckety-muck.  Other people have given me various political screeds.  I really don’t read any of them, because I find the subjects to be somewhere on a scale between uninteresting and revolting.  On the other hand, as I can’t abide throwing books away, they all occupy a sort of Black Hole of Calcutta shelf behind my comfy chair.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
  Angry at who or what?  The author? Or the subject matter?  As a general rule, I most despise books used as platforms for the author to show us his or her contempt for Western Civilization.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
 The Mothe, in an outburst of Kremlinphilia, eventually persuaded me to read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.  I didn’t expect to dislike it, but I didn’t think I would reach the same level of enthusiasm as she did.  Well, I still don’t think I did, but I got an awful lot closer to it than I had expected.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?  The above-mentioned naval history by Noel Mostert.  Also come to mind the collective satirical novels of Christopher Buckley, most of which start out with hilarious set-ups, but none of which come through with a really satisfying punch.  And, I’m sorry to say, I believe Peej O’Rourke is over the hill.  His last couple have been, shall we say, pretty flat.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
 Guilt free? Wodehouse, of course.  But I confess to the guilty pleasure of occasionally dipping into Tom Clancy and Bernard Cornwall, too, the literary equivalent of playing Cowboys and Indians.

Woof! That’s a lot of questions!

A glass of wine with Terry Teachout.

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