Aaaages ago Carmen did a guilty reader book tag post, and I’ve been meaning to do it ever since. So here it is: my contribution to the world of guilt and books.

Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been given?

I’ve given lots of books to charity shops over the years, and some of those were probably books that had been given to me. Mostly that’s been because I’ve been moving house and trying to downsize (and then afterwards have regretted getting rid of the books – will I never learn that there’s no such thing as too many books?)

However most of those were books that were given to me in a sort of job-lot, handed-down way, with someone going “I have all these books, do you want them?” which doesn’t really count. In terms of meaningful gifts, when someone’s picked out a book specifically for me and given it to me, I think I’ve only regifted one once. It was Robinsheugh by Eileen Dunlop, a story about a young girl who is sent to live with her aunt, a historian who’s notoriously absent from emotional life.

When she goes out to explore one day, she discovers she can slip back in time and interact with the people who used to live in the big old house nearby. She spends time getting to know them and drama naturally ensues.

I liked it because it brought history alive in a way I’d never felt before. I’d always thought of ‘history’ as boring stuffy white people rattling around in musty houses, which ironically is pretty much the synopsis of this book, but something about it made me see historic figures as human too.

I gave it away because it had been given to me by someone I cared about, who stopped talking to me when I left my mother’s cult and was shunned by all my friends. At the time it was too painful to have constant little reminders of these fractured relationships around me so I got rid of most of them, including this one.

Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?

I don’t think so – there are some pretty significant gaps in my reading history, like everyone’s, but I’m pretty sure I own up to all of them when asked.

Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

Yes, from people and libraries. Sorry.

My friend loaned me a book when I was leaving school as a kind of joke: I was notoriously awful at geography and it was a basic guide to Europe. She said she needed it back and I said I’d give it back (and fully meant to), then we lost touch for years and now I don’t even know where it is.

Another friend’s mum loaned me a book about a Catholic saint, which again I fully intended on giving back to her but then again I didn’t see her for years and who knows where the book is now?

One of the books I accidentally stole from Brighton library. Whoops.

And library-wise, my worst offence happened when I left Brighton. The night before I left, there were two carrier bags next to my front door: one contained a pile of books I was going to take to the charity shop, the other a pile of books I needed to return to the library. So I returned the library one, but it was out of hours so I just left the bag in the little cubbyhole thing and went home. The next day there was no time to take the other bag to a charity shop, so it ended up moving with me.

About a year later, I had a confusing letter from a debt collection agency saying I owed Brighton & Hove Council over £300. I called to query it and they said it was lost library book fines. I fought them about it but in the end decided the books must have somehow been stolen from the drop-off point, and since I couldn’t prove I’d actually left them there wasn’t much I could do about it. I paid the fine.

In the meantime all my own books had been in boxes while I renovated the bedroom. Once it was done, about six more months down the line, I unpacked and was suprised to find the very books for which I’d been fined by the council. So yes, you guessed it: I must have switched the bags.

Have you ever read a series out of order?

I don’t think so because I’m kind of obsessive about things like that. The only likely candidates are things like The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High or the Sugar Secrets series, all of which I read as a kid and could only read in whatever order I found them. But I usually tried to make it vaguely chronological, and all the series I’ve read since have been in order, I think.

The Babysitters Club was without exaggeration one of the best things in my childhood.

Have you ever spoiled a book for anyone?

I don’t think so. I spoiled Star Trek: Discovery for one of my clients a few months ago though and it was nearly the end of our working relationship.

Have you ever dog-eared a book?

Yes, I do this fairly often. I use bookmarks to mark my place and I carry a notebook around to write down things I want to remember, but sometimes if the notebook’s not there for some reason or I’m in the bath and I want to remember which page to quote from, I’ll fold down the corner of it. I live by Umberto Eco’s rule:

“If the book is yours and it does not have antiquarian value, do not hesitate to annotate it. Do not trust those who say that you must respect books. You respect books by using them, not leaving them alone.” – from How To Write A Thesis

My books are usually accompanied by notebooks anyway.

Have you ever told someone you do not own a book when you do?

I don’t think so. I don’t know why I’d do that.

Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?


Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?

I skip the sex scenes in every book I read because I don’t like them.

I’ve skipped chapters in textbooks when I’ve been reading them for a specific purpose, or when they don’t align with my interests. I read a lot of physics books and I’m only interested in about 75% of the material so some of that gets skipped.

Have you ever bad mouthed a book you actually like?

No. I think questions like this come from the concept of ‘guilty pleasures’, with which I fundamentally disagree. If you like a book, like it. Own your liking of it. Fuck anyone who tells you otherwise. At least you’re reading.

If you decide to do this book tag too, leave me a link in the comments so I can check out your answers! 

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