September 24, 2009

Jill of Rhapsody in Books Answers 20 Questions

Welcome back to my new feature, 20 Questions, where we get to know our fellow book bloggers a little better. Today I would like to present to you Jill of Rhapsody in Books! Thanks, Jill!


1. Last book you bought:

I have to admit to buying the two available Stieg Larsson books: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. These purchases were in spite of a tottering TBR pile beckoning me to pay attention to it.

2. Last book you got in the mail:

I used free points from Amazon to order the Pulitizer Prize book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon. Now I just must steel myself to read what I know will be a depressing and infuriating book!

3. The first book you read over and over:

There are many books that I read over and over as a child, and they all have a similar theme: everything works out and comes out happy at the end! They include: The Little House by by Virginia Lee Burton (1942), The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (1930), The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen and The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm. These are books I owned, so apparently my mother stuck with the classics in the bookstores!

4. Children’s book every child should read:

This is a hard question to answer since so much depends on the child and the age of the child. But I do know that I like to see children reading books that stretch their imaginations rather than those which tout particular commercial product lines.

5. Favorite place to read:

On the couch, but that’s not the critical part. It’s having a place to put my feet up that is essential. Also nice is a little side table for pens, paper, stickies to mark interesting quotes or important passages, and hot beverage!

6. A book you bought just for the cover:

I wouldn’t buy any just for the cover, but I would buy books in the art or astronomy genres just for the cover plus pictures inside the book. The closest I ever came to buying a book just for the cover was the first “Blue Dog” book I saw by artist George Rodrigue.

7. Scariest book ever read:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I was fairly young when I read this, and I started it while babysitting, alone in a big house with no adults. I’m still scared!

8. Most romantic book ever read:

I have always thought Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was the most romantic. Rochester is irresistible (in the “bad boy” sense) but seemingly unattainable to someone like Jane, given her apparent plainness and station in life. Nevertheless, when he is around Jane, he seems to exude sex appeal and she vulnerability. So there is an erotic tension that builds throughout the story. Then you have this particular passage – my favorite of any romantic expression in a novel, when Rochester talks to Jane about the possibility of her leaving Britain for Ireland:

“…I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you – especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.”

In my opinion, authors that have to give anatomical descriptions of sexual encounters just can’t write as well as Charlotte Bronte.

9. Book that changed your life in some way:

There are two: one is I Cannot Forgive by Rudolf Vrba. This biographical account published in 1963 tells the story of how Vrba, a Jewish Czech teenager during World War II, became one of the few people actually to escape the Auschwitz concentration camp – an unbelievably daring accomplishment. He then made it his mission to warn the Jewish communities in Hungary and Slovakia, got a message to the Pope, joined the partisans fighting the Nazis, and later gave testimony against Adolph Eichmann. I was young when I read this memoir, and it was the first I had heard of the Holocaust. And it remains one of the most amazing stories to come out of the Holocaust to boot. To say I was shocked is to understate my reaction.

The second book, which I read probably close to the same time, was Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. Alinsky was a social activist from the Chicago area who advanced the thesis that life doesn’t necessarily have to favor the “haves” over the “have-nots”; that we could actually do something about it. He gave concrete examples through anecdotes from his own career as an organizer of how a more just world could be accomplished. This book definitely helped define my politics from thenceforward.

10. Book you’ve re-read the most times:

This would probably be Ulysses by James Joyce. Each time I read it, there is something more to be discovered.

11. Book you needed the Cliff’s Notes for:

Back to James Joyce for this one, and the winner is: Finnegan’s Wake! If anyone can make it past even one page without a guidebook, he or she deserves my lifelong respect.

12. Book you needed the dictionary for:

The only books that come to mind for which I need a dictionary have been novels published in Britain. The use of Britishisms is often beyond me, and I like to use a British-American translator on Google. (My favorite of such words in nappies for diapers.)

13. Book you like that no one else seems to:

I think The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers is brilliant, but I don’t actually even know anyone else who has even read it!

14. Book you don’t like that everyone else seems to love:

These aren’t hard to think of: Gilead, Wuthering Heights, anything by Philip Roth except for Portnoy’s Complaint.

15. Number of books you own (you can guess):

My current number as shown on Library Thing is 2,252 but we have around 50 that have not yet been entered.

16. Number of books on your TBR list (that you have not acquired yet):

Oh, this is a large and always-growing list, and I might add it is added to exclusively these days from recommendations by fellow bloggers.

17. Must-have reading accessories:

First and foremost: reading glasses. There is no reading without them! So I have them all around the house, in any location where I might stop and read.

18. Literary Destination You Want to Go to:

Dublin, Paris, Leningrad…. But to be honest, I would take trips there if I could regardless of their literary associations!

19. Top Three Favorite Authors:

There are some science fiction authors I keep revisiting: Isaac Asimov, Robert Sawyer, Connie Willis, and Orson Scott Card to name a few. There are also some mystery series I enjoy by authors that include P.D. James, Karin Slaughter, and Ridley Pearson among others. A third category of authors I like are favorite historians: David Hackett Fischer, who writes well-researched books that read like exciting novels – I recommend, for example, Paul Revere’s Ride; Thomas Fleming has written very good books that never seem dry about important actors in American history (one example is Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America); and James F. Simon writes what I would call “short but sweet” histories that tackle small portions of larger subjects, such as What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Created a United States.

20. Three Book Bloggers You Want to See Featured in the Future:

Bloggers are such an interesting group: I like reading about all of them!

Thanks for participating, Jill! I enjoyed getting to know you better!

Check the schedule below to see who is appearing next on 20 Questions!

Tuesday, Sept. 29: Gayle of Everyday I Write the Book
Thursday, Oct. 1: Debbie of Debbie's World of Books
Tuesday, Oct. 6: Shannan of Shannan Loves Books and Movies
Thursday, Oct. 8: Alea of Pop Culture Junkie
Tuesday, Oct. 13: Amy of Passages to the Past

Do you want to be featured on 20 Questions? Send me an e-mail (which you can find on my Blogger profile!) with your answers to the questions! Please include questions and answers together, which makes it easier for me to post, plus a photo if you want me to put a different one than your blog's profile picture. I will then e-mail you and let you know when you will be featured! Thanks!


  1. I love Jill's blog, so it was a lot of fun reading her answers. In Cold Blood was a really scary book!

  2. Very fun! I couldn't agree more that IN COLD BLOOD was terrifying!

  3. Regarding question #8 - COMPLETELY agree with you about Jane Eyre. That passage makes me swoon every time I read it! :)

  4. How fun! And what an impressive library!

  5. I really enjoyed Jill's answers, and she just added to my to-read list!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  6. Jill is a pretty amazing blogger and such a voracious reader of intense non-fiction. I love reading her thoughts on what she's read....getting to know her a little better was quite fun!!

  7. Love the answers.

    I LOVE her bookshelf's, so envious!!!

  8. I just really love Jill's bookshelves! The picture stuck with me when I first saw them on her blog (actually, a little envious). :)

    I do love Gilead, Wuthering Heights, and Philip Roth! But I don't think everybody likes Wuthering Heights. Based on the comments on my last post on Agnes Grey, almost everyone hated Wuthering Heights. I was almost alone in loving it!

  9. I regularly read Rhapsody in Books, so it was fun to get to know Jill a little better thru your 20 questions. I find her writing to be sharp; it's a pleasure to read her reviews and commentary.

    And I totally agree about having your feet up when reading! At home I'm either stretched out on the family room sofa, or in my comfy chair and ottoman in the living room.

  10. Jill is one of my favorite bloggers -- she is so warm, intelligent and funny as heck. Plus she has over 2,000 books in the coolest bookshelves in the world so I pretty much want to be her best friend. Fantastic answers ... I didn't expect any less.

  11. great answers Jill! WOW, I want your library!

  12. Loved learning more about you, Jill. Your library is amazing. I'd like to come and just sit among your books. And you're so well read. While reading this, I kept thinking, "And this woman finds me interesting?"

    Don't know how I missed this. Thanks for posting the link on your blog.

  13. So much fun!! I love this. Jill is a pretty new-to-me blogger, but I can see I will have to make up for that!

  14. I'm a big fan of Jill's blog. Her writing is so intelligent and at the same time down to earth. Plus, she has a fantastic sense of humor. Your questions gave all of us some new insights into Jill so, thank you for that.

  15. I need me a little side table, for the exact reasons you mention!

    Wuthering Heights definitely seems to divide opinions!

  16. Rhapsody in Books is one of my favourite blogs, so it's great to read more about Jill and to see her photos.

    Coincidentally the last two books I bought are the same as Jill's and I love Jane Eyre - but also Wuthering Heights. We can't all like all the same books!

  17. Jill puts a lot of us to shame--not only with her super-organized personal library, but her book reviews are always so well-researched, so thoughtful, and so perfectly contextualized that you find yourself writing down the title even though you KNOW your TBR pile will kill someone someday (when it tumbles over). Thanks for giving us a more intimate glimpse into Jill's world.

  18. Those bookshelves are a thing of beauty!

    I had the opportunity to meet the awesome Jill in person at the National Book Festival and she was just as lovely there as she was here! Great questions and showcase.


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