Bookish Deadly Sins

Here is an intriguing theme which I spotted on Book Forager‘s blog after she was tagged by Winged Cynic of Tomes of the Unknown.

Without further ado, then, here are my choices for the Seven Deadly Bookish Sins.


What is the most expensive book you own? Which is the least expensive?

Right, I can tell you the most expensive book I used to own: a hardback reprint of a classic Victorian study on alchemy and hermetic philosophy, which I bought from a secondhand bookshop for £6.00 in the 70s when I thought I might find it interesting.

Well, as time went on I discovered that I wasn’t as interested in the occult as I fondly imagined, though it was many years before I sold it on for little more than twice what I’d paid for it.

Now, it’s not really a good indication of its true value as far as inflation goes, but I put six pounds into a calculator and came up with a rather mind-boggling sum. I don’t think I’d ever now pay that amount for a book, however worthy.

The least expensive? Easy-peasy: books beyond measure which I’ve been given free, gratis, as a present or as an offload. The last one was a Paddy Doyle, Charlie Savage, which I won for Reading Ireland Month from Cathy of, which is on my 20 Books of Summer list — an event also run by Cathy!


What book or books have you shamelessly devoured many times?

That’s easy-peasy too: The Lord of the Rings which I suspect would be on many of my contemporaries’ lists. I first read this in 1968 in the one-volume edition, and have read it about once every decade, which means it’s well overdue its fifth read now. Of course, it goes without saying that each reread is like coming across it for the first time.


What attributes do you find most attractive in your characters?

Generosity, whether in time, effort or emotions. Most protagonists in kids literature exhibit this sooner or later, which is why I enjoy many titles in this genre. Let me give you some examples that immediately strike me (all of them girls, as it happens, but female protagonists are often more giving emotionally in fiction, as they tend to be in real life).

Dido Twite, in Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles, is the archetypal resourceful child called on to be courageous and imaginative in this literature whilst also showing compassion to those in need. (Likewise her little sister, Is.) Another such child whose heart is in the right place is Lyra Belacqua, one of the leads in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books, cheeky, irreverent and determined to do what’s just.

Last in this trio is Tiffany Aching, the young witch in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series who grows in age through five books but seems to have already gained a preternaturally mature attitude as the series starts. And she too is kind, a kind of magical district nurse in at least one of the novels. I’m looking forward to the final two novels in the series.

Please note, I’m lusting after the characters’ attributes, ones that I admire very much in non-fictional individuals, not after the characters themselves!

What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

This is a difficult question because my tastes and preferences can change from day to day. While I love being gifted with books — so much more satisfying than socks or bath salts, say — it’s rare that I get precisely the one I was lusting for at the time without already having dropped heavy hints!

Much better to receive a book voucher, just as I prefer to offer another adult a voucher for their particular tastes — for a spa day, a department store purchase or a meal, for instance. This way one can choose whatever is on a current wish list; in my case it could be a hardback, a paperback set or an out-of-print publication, a genre or non-fiction title, by a favourite author or a new-to-me writer.


What book or books do you bring up when you want to sound like an intellectual reader?

In my opinion this is one of the basest of the vices, especially with a leading question like this to consider — and anyway remembering that pride comes before a fall!

I may have tried this when I was younger and inexperienced, hoping to impress, but I’ve learnt the hard way that this approach amounts to a fool’s errand because it can not only seriously underestimate the audience’s intellectual capabilities but also raise lasting hostilities.

Best to discuss bookish matters as equals or colleagues on a similar learning curve. Alternatively posit the semiotic undercurrents in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books with reference to Lacan’s psychoanalytical theories.

What book or series have you neglected out of sheer laziness?

I shall have to go back to my schooldays to reply to this. The correct answer is everything. I don’t recall completing any book, set text, text book, novel. Laziness or a grasshopper mind? Perversity or an aspect of being on the autistic spectrum? Lack of intellectual rigour or simply daydreaming?

Oddly enough, since we had to read plays out aloud in class, I vividly remember numerous dramas by Shakespeare, Webster (The Duchess of Malfi particularly), Shaw (Arms and the Man) and Ibsen (Peer Gynt and Hedda Gabler). But Thomas Hardy, Chaucer, some Dickens — all passed me by. And French literature — Leconte de Lisle, Baudelaire etcabsolument rien. (Yet I must have retained something because I passed French A level before leaving school.)

Poetry collections were different. In common with many of my contemporaries, the postwar baby boomers, I had to learn chunks of pieces by the old warhorses — Thomas Gray, Wordsworth, Coleridge and so on — so that thumbing through my ancient copy of The Oxford Book of English Verse is very much like meeting old friends.

As for now, I occasionally put aside — temporarily, you understand — works I find slow going. Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh is one outstanding novel from about ten years ago; more recently, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley sits accusingly on my bedside table while I amble through Claire Harman’s biography of the writer.


What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Neil Gaiman, Bookforager’s choice for this category, might be mine too. He can be poetic genius one moment, banale the next, go from pathos to bathos in the blink of an eye, hold you rapt in the palm of his hand and then gratuitously poke you in the eye with a description of some casual sex. No doubt there may be others but I’ve gone into a daydream and lost interest…

Anyway, hard to remain angry with any one writer — if I did I simply wouldn’t read them again!

Like Bookforager I shan’t be tagging anybody, but if you fancy a go at this little exercise I’d very much look forward to reading it!

I’m usually publishing a review about this time but I’m in the middle of a couple of weighty tomes at the moment, reviews for which may not be ready for a little while yet. I shall however soon be away for a few days, somewhere relatively WiFi-free (rather than with free WiFi) so may get round to finishing one if not both.

37 thoughts on “Bookish Deadly Sins

  1. Lord of the Rings would be my gluttony choice as well 😉 When I was a kid, I used to read it once a year, and because I read it for the first time when I was seven, I might’ve read it as many as 10 times 😉 Very much enjoyed your little confession, Chris, and I’m sure you are absolved 😀

    Liked by 2 people

        1. I meant are you up for sinning rather than the penance, Ola, but I’m OK with Tom Bombadil! Piotrek suggests that you collectively might be interested, but not till he comes back from a summer break…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m always up for sinning, Chris – in moderation 😉

            Yes, I believe we will tackle this particular tag sometime by the end of July… It is not only fun, but also very revealing, I think 🙂


  2. Very enjoyable! I’m delighted to find I’m not alone in finding Gaiman both wonderful and… not wonderful. I’ve reached a point where I pretty much have given up on him, finding it too much like hard work hunting down the good stuff. I think you should do a post on your Noddy analysis… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A Noddy analysis? That’d be a challenge, but one I’ll certainly consider! Glad you enjoyed this, Gaiman notwithstanding: I must read (and reread) some more Gaiman and get round to reviewing—I’ve actually got Fragile Things on loan from the library, though goodness knows when I’ll get stuck into it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am so in agreement about book vouchers. I once ditched a boyfriend who, having asked me what I wanted for Christmas and been told book vouchers, then gave me an electric toothbrush! I have been (unjustly?) prejudiced against electric toothbrushes ever since.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I shall be trying a bamboo toothbrush for the first time soon, when the last electric toothbrush I have runs out of juice. The rechargeable ones were too bulky, I found, and then the single use battery ones couldn’t have their power source changed. Then when you could change the battery we all learned about microplastics getting into the water. Enough already! Hope book vouchers are being delivered to you now…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. earthbalm

    Very much in agreement with the 3 favourite characters though would add a willingness to learn (and resilience) to the generosity attribute and agree too on the Neil Gaiman point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought you might like the Dido-Lyra-Tiffany combo, Dale, and those two additional qualities can certainly be attributed to the trio, too. I also remember you had problems from the start with American Gods for precisely the same reasons.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha Ha! I had Chaucer and Thomas Hardy as set texts for GCSE and I couldn’t bring myself to read either. I managed with the Scholar’s Notes.

    However – and I can feel the animosity that is about to rain down upon me already – I also do not get on with Tolkien at all. For me, alongside Ulysses, the most dreary thing(s) I have ever tried (repeatedly) to read.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s the problem with an educational system that presupposes uniform development at set ages, not to mention a common cultural heritage. Being a city lad (principally Hong Kong and Bristol) I had no real concept of any relevance the Wessex countryside might have to my experience, and my folkloric and historical sensibilities were just beginning to emerge, so Hardy and Chaucer might as well have been set on a planet circling Aldebaran.

      No animosity concerning Tolkien at all, Colin, he’s a Marmite author after all! Can’t speak for Joyce as I’ve yet to try him, but I have a feeling that in a year or two I might have matured enough to give him a go… 😁


  6. piotrek

    I intend to listen to LotR this time, it’s also high time for a re-read for me 🙂

    Very interesting idea, bookish sins… we might be interested, although I start my vacation tomorrow and will be inactive for about two weeks…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Who’ll be narrating your LOTR reread, Piotrek? Not that I pursue that line, you understand, I’m just curious—I prefer to linger over my text, which is what a physical book allows more readily. However, I have watched the extended edition of the film on DVD a couple of times so I have no real objection to alternative ‘readings’.

      Hope you enjoy your vacation—we’re off for a few days in Devon soon before the school holidays kick in in earnest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. piotrek

        Robert Inglis. I have similar predilection for traditional books, but audiobooks give me a chance to read more. So I use it, and lately – often with re-reads. It’s not easy to maintain full concentration all the time, so it help if I already know the material. With Tolkien, I will probably follow with some traditional reading, I haven’t yet read the “Fall of Gondolin”.

        Thanks! We certainly needed vacation, I have great hopes for the next two weeks 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, I loved your confessions Calmgrove! 😀

    And, oh my goodness, book vouchers! I’m so ridiculously greedy for them because there is, as you say, greater satisfaction in going and finding those books you’re currently most interested in reading. Something very gleeful too about skipping up to the shop counter with an armful of goodies that you don’t have to pay for … (or clicking the “add to basket” button?? … less so, methinks). 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And thank you so much for letting us share in your own dark bookish thoughts and for inspiring this post … I’m all behind your reasons in favour of book vouchers, and yes I do mean actually going into a real bookshop for the real things! While I do get the odd title online when it’s unobtainable elsewhere there’s nothing like the full sensual experience that an actual bookshop offers. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great meme and great answers. I wouldn’t know where to start with this one which is a good thing as I don’t have the time to be side-tracked right now! Enjoy your time away when it arrives Chris. Wi-Fi free sounds very tempting… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sandra! Life’s too short to be sidetracked into something you don’t need to do—it’s taken me many years to come to that realisation! Probably down to a guilt-tripping Catholic upbringing… 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oooh this is fun!

    My most expensive book is a hardcover of “Principles in Neuroscience” – a textbook bought with a college prize while at University.

    The book I read again and again…Well there are many of these. I love re-reading books. My most read books are probably Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, Philip K Dick’s “Martian Time-Slip” and Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead”.

    The qualities I like most in book characters are a certain wildness of spirit, courage and compassion.

    The book I would most like as a present would be “Water and Shadow: Kawase Hasui and Japanese Landscape Prints”.

    What book might I bring up to impress? I’ve always disliked this kind of thing as it tends to exclude people from learning and gets right under my skin. So I tend to bring up some good comic books, or some Star Wars novels as an antidote! (Although since I have a genuine love for both of these types of literature I do talk about them quite a lot anyway.)

    Which book have I been too lazy to read? Dicken’s “Great Expectations”. It was one of my English Lit O’Level books and I only ever read half of it (I did read all the others). Fortunately for me I read the Penguin Passnotes book the day before my exam and one of the essays I read came up on the paper!

    A love/hate relationship with an author? That would be Neal Stephenson. I loved his earlier books but then he came out with “Cryptonomicon”. I really liked his style and subject but he kept dotting about in different times frames and leaving each time frame’s narrative on a cliffhanger. I found it increasingly annoying until I literally binned the whole thing in disgust. (Not something I have done more than twice in my life.) I still re-read his earlier novels but I’ve not read any more of his stuff since.

    Thanks for a super interesting post!


    1. ‘Wildness of spirit, courage and compassion”—I admire these too, to the extent that I wish I occasionally entertained them more than I do. And I like that your instinct to impress is really an instinct to enthuse and share your passion about select genres.

      I can’t comment on many of your selections, not being familiar with them all, but I enjoyed Dune and its first sequel (though I don’t think I’d reread either, I would give Children of Dune a chance at some stage). And yes, Great Expectations dragged for me at the end, but at least I completed it, though I’m not sure Dickens’ revised ending made resolution any clearer for me.

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the post and the exercise! 🙂


    1. I think I’ve only read F&H three times (the last time quite intensely for the review) but I’m sure there’ll be more in the future! Looking forward to your post now. 🙂


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  12. An excellent exploration! As far as re-reads goes, I’d have to point to one of my Christmas traditions–not A Christmas Carol, but The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding. Poirot, of course, but NOT Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. Gah, you know my take on that one. 🙂 Nonholiday reads…hmmm. Howl’s Moving Castle, I’d say. That’s an old friend, to be sure! xxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have a tradition of reading titles at a particular time of year (though I try to read LOTR roughly every decade) so no Christmas book for me, but I do see the attraction — much as people often watch the same film like The Sound of Music at that time of year.

      As for DWJ: I do like to reread her stuff, particularly the ones I never got around to reviewing, and I’m especially looking forward to both Cart and Cwidder (which I did review, but briefly) and Black Maria (which I haven’t posted about). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Seven ‘Bookish’ deadly sins | Cath Humphris

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