The Inside and Out Book Tag

I saw the inside and out book tag this morning on Karen Langley’s blog (who got it in turn from another blog and so on) and thought it was great fun. It’s always interesting to read about other people’s bookish habits, so I thought I’d share mine as well. Although my blog focuses only on 19th century Russian literature, my reading and book collecting is certainly not restricted to that area. I’m a real bibliophile with a soft spot for pretty vintage and beautiful new editions. Let’s get started!

1. Inside flap/back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough?

Ideally they should provide a bit of tantalising information about the book and the writer, so that when browsing in a bookstore (always a pleasure), you’ll know if it’s something for you and be tempted to buy and read it. 

Some publishers, however, think that it helps to put as many positive reviews of the book as they can find on the cover, back and flap. The fact that the literary critic from The Guardian liked it does not guarantee that I will too. And who even cares that the local weekly newspaper of Tollerton thought it to be ‘atmospheric and mesmerising’? I’d much sooner take the advice of bloggers and twitterers that I know to have a similar taste in books.

2. New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback or Hardcover?

I much prefer paper books and have a preference for hardcover, especially if it is a book that I know I will keep forever and so is worthy of the investment. 

For the purpose of my blog I do have eBook versions of books like War and Peace, because it’s much easier to search for certain passages or characters. I also listen to audiobooks sometimes when I’m out walking or doing chores. They make a nice alternative to podcasts and if the narrator is good, they can be great fun to listen to.

3. Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books; take notes, make comments, or do you keep your books clean, clean, clean?

Not in fiction, I use post-its or an eBook. But in the non-fiction books that I use for my blog research I’ll happily scribble away with my pencil. On the other hand I do not fold pages, nor the whole book, and I avoid putting it down upside down to keep it open on the page where I was. I also remove the paper covers from hardcopies before reading, so that they stay nice (although part 6 of Tolstoy’s collected works has travelled a lot with me, paper cover and all, but I suppose an obviously well read book also has its’ charms 😉)

4. Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?

Not at all. All I want is a good, interesting and entertaining story, and men are as good or bad as women at providing that.  

5. Ever read ahead? Or have you ever read the last page way before you got there?

Only when I was little!

6. Organized bookshelves or outrageous bookshelves?

Very organised. My shelves are categorised by country and genre, and placed in alphabetical order (by author, of course!). I do, however, put biographies next to the author. So Rosamund Bartlett’s Tolstoy is next to Tolstoy’s fiction. But general books about Russia(n literature) have their own shelf space. 

We are in need of a few extra meters of shelf space though, there are piles of books everywhere in our house, both of the read and to-be-read variety. That said, I have no problems with selling or donating books that I know I will not read again.

7. Have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?

Plenty of times! This cannot be avoided, I love books and if I find a pretty copy of a book that I already own, I’m often tempted enough to buy it. It runs in the family…

8. Take it outside to read, or stay in?

I can read anywhere. I love to relax by the lake or the sea with a book. Airplanes are never boarded without a book. But I mostly read in bed while my man is snoring next to me with his sleeping mask on because the light is still on 😄😴

That’s it! Of course I’d love to hear more about your bookish habits too. Take care and happy reading 📚


Text and photos © Elisabeth van der Meer 2020


36 thoughts on “The Inside and Out Book Tag

  1. “Hadji Murad” IS a great work. Thank you for recommending it to me a while back, Elisabeth. Tolstoy was certainly excellent at both shorter and longer fiction!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “Hadji Murad” by Tolstoy does look really interesting, and I envy your sturdy Bulgakov edition. As for bookish habits, I’m pretty much a weirdo. The cover art doesn’t influence me, but I then choose bookmarks that color coordinate 🙂 I also literally read myself to sleep. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Color coordinated bookmarks, I love that!
    Hadji Murad is a fascinating novella, one of Tolstoy’s best works, and in many ways an updated mini version of War and Peace.
    Thank you, Mary Jo! 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  4. My dear friend, you do give me something to think about. In fact, I spent the evening reflecting on what draws me to a book. Is it the name, the author, cover or blurb, a previous book by the same author? Perhaps it is all of it, but my primary motivation for reading a book is the connection to the story. You know those quotes that I love – well, those quotes lead me to the books. If I like the quote, then I’ll like the book. For example, Pascal Mercier’s, Night Train to Lisbon:

    “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

    While there are many who gives excellent book reviews, I don’t consider myself in that excellent group of readers. I live in the book and feel the presence of the author, past or present, so what I enjoy most is the conversation. I remember starting Julian Barnes, “Nothing to be Frightened Of” in 2012. I stopped reading it because I was very unhappy as to how the conversation was unfolding. Fast forward to 2020 – I am reading to resume that conversation, with the accumulated knowledge that 8 years brings. I was not ready for that book then, but I am now. I look to others, like yourself, who have been influenced by a particular book. Then the conversation becomes three – the author, my guide (you) and me. As to organization: In 2015, I went through a decluttering spree, which included looking into organizing my books. I use iBookshelf app which provides me with organization by Title, by Author, By Genre, By Status, whether I own or borrowed. Best of all, I am able to indicate where the book is located, by shelf and room. It has been a marvelous tool. Thanks for a great post and discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It seems that you have found a unique way to find books to read. And probably one that works very well!

    It’s absolutely true too that the timing to read a certain book has to be right. I’m a great re-reader and find myself interpreting what I read in a completely different way than when I was 20, and sometimes even change favourite characters.

    I had no idea there was an app for book organising, what a great idea!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I hope it’s okay for me to note that I have too blog posts of my own on reading and book collecting:


    For me: go for hardcover, if both hardcover and paperback are available. With occasional exceptions for quality, lower-priced paperbacks.

    I guess it dates me, but I hate e-books. I want a book in my hands.

    Re audiobooks, for me, they must be unabridged. There are some outstanding narrators (e.g., Frederick Davidson, Bernard Mayes). I find often the best thing is to first read a book, then listen to it as an audiobook. I have listened to some real long ones, such as Les Misérables.

    An audiobook with a good narrator and his or her inflections will reveal things you did not otherwise hear or see. This happened to me with Dickens’s Great Expectations, which I listened to narrated by two different readers. both good.

    Audiobooks are great for poetry, I have found. I hear and comprehend better. I had this experience with audiobooks of Milton, Keats, and Walt Whitman.

    I used to underline passages in books with a pen. Then I used a pencil, so I could erase and not necessarily deface a book. Now I email myself “marginalia” and notes from my cell phone. I also keep track of new words I encounter. Tanking notes as I read is essential for me. That’s where I get a lot of material. (Not from Googling.) But I don’t engage in summaries or book, reports. I write down passages that particularly impress me.

    I almost never, or rarely, read the introduction before the book. I want to encounter it “cold.” I almost always do read the introduction, after I have finished the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for sharing your bookish habits, Roger. Interesting that you mention poetry in audiobook form. I hadn’t thought of that, it could indeed add to the experience. Although I did discover the audiobook version of Eugene Onegin recently, and that’s a form of poetry as well. With a good narrator it’s definitely a great alternative. A little bit like having someone reading you a bedtime story.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thanks, Elisabeth. One further thing I thought of: Regarding paperback versus hardcover, in the case of very long books (e.g., Moby-Dick, War and Peace, Great Expectations, Les Miserables), a hardback is unquestionably better, because the pages open better and lay flat.

    As for poetry on audiobooks, Frederick Davidson’s readings of Paradise Lost and Keats had me hooked. I had found Paradise Lost almost unreadable before (my shortcoming). Keats’s poetry, the sound of the language as he uses it, came through to me when read aloud.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I, too, am a bibliophile and guilty of scribbling I’m the margins, dog-earring pages, and, on occasion, reading the end before it’s time because I just can’t stand the suspense, but I have to say that lately, I’ve been in love with audiobooks. My library had over 6,000 in stock and it’s been a wonderful treat to listen while walking the dog. Right now I’m listening to “A Tale of Two Cities” which I never read. It’s great fun to have the story told to you and I will do it again and again now that I found this treasure trove. Have a great day, Elisabeth!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Interesting comment. There is something about Dickens – his authorial voice; his humor and genius for language and words – that comes through splendidly on audiobooks. One is not reading (or listening) for plot alone.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I think that’s all fine, as long as you do that in your own books of course.
    Yes, audiobooks are certainly a discovery. When I was little I had records that told fairytales, I loved those. And my mother was also very good at reading with different voices. But somehow I always assumed that the ones for adults are just books read aloud. I enjoyed Stephen Fry reading Eugene Onegin a whole lot, and it made me see that a gifted narrator can add to the story. Now I’m listening to A Gentleman in Moscow, it’s very good!
    Thanks, Pam, for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Sure thing. 😘Also wanted to tell you that if you haven’t watched “The Great” yet on Netflix that you might check it out. It’s a satirical take on Catherine the Great and it’s very good. 👍

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Great piece, Elisabeth! Clean, clean, clean…although i should try differently, for I’m always going back trying to find a certain passage. Like you, plenty of times I’ve purchased a book by cover alone. And I’m still doing that habit from when i was young…I still will read ahead! Thank you for another wonderful offering. Cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Interesting comment. Advice from am all-knowing sage. If it’s the case that you don’t like (like me) to “deface” the pages of your books, make a note somewhere of the page where a passage occurred, the author or book, and the page number of numbers. Keep these notes together in one place — e.g., in a notebook, or on your computer. It’s very helpful when you want to go back and find that great, quotable passage or paragraph.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you, Decker, for sharing your bookish habits. Yours show a genuine love for books, keeping them clean and falling for a beautiful cover or edition. Have a nice day!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I really like your beautiful blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. See you soon. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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