AOW Bookswap: What we wrote

This post is for the hardcore book nerds – it’s a transcript of what Aisling, Clare and I wrote in our bookswap questionnaires, in response to popular demand.  Enjoy!  

Who is your favourite author?

Anna: Isabel Allende

Aisling: Margaret Atwood

Clare: Oh god. Why did we make this so specific? Can I have ten? Ummm…. ok….I adore all historical novels based in the past century, particularly set in Russia, so I’ll pick Paullina Symonds, for her epic time transcending novels. Not anything particularly highbrow, but I could get lost in her characters lives, and I always find my self rationing the pages when I get towards the end, because I can’t bear the thought of leaving the characters behind. That’s a sign of a good writer, I’d say.

What is your favourite book of all time and how would you describe it in three words?:

Anna: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.  Magical, lyrical, adventurous

Aisling: The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood - haunting, disturbing, phenomenal

Clare: This is too difficult. I can’t. I just can’t.  A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hossein. Unforgettable, moving, shocking.

What was the best book you read in 2012 – again, describe in 3 words?

Anna: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – epic, warm-hearted, funny

Aisling: Death Comes to Pemberley – P.D.James – clever, intriguing, fulfilling

Clare: The Bathing Women, by Tie Ning twentieth-century, complex-women, chinese-communism (the hyphens make them one word, yes?)

What was your least favourite book you read in 2012 and why – in
no more than 50 words?

Anna: The Road by Cormac MacCarthy.  Oh good LORD I wish I could have those hours back.  No plot, weak characterisation, the most exciting thing that happened was that they opened a can of kidney beans to refuel, there were only two characters and both were annoying and unrelateable, the whole thing tried to be epic and groundbreaking and literary but was just self-important.

Aisling: The Lake House – Kim Edwards. Written by the same author as The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (ohmyholygod I ADORED that book. Recommended it to EVERYONE and they all called me mental and said it was the saddest thing they’d ever read. Sad, yes. But so unutterably beautiful. Anyway.) so I expected it to be full of wonderful, rich characters and story arcs that took my breath away and and and…. it was RUBBISH. Pointless, unfulfilled characters and no real tale to be told. The literary equivalent of the follow up song to ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield.

Clare: Anna Karenina. I KNOW. I’m a heathen. I just couldn’t stand all of the self-absorbed characters. I need to empathise with the protagonists; I do not empathise with Anna Karenina. (Although I do, in fairness to the great man, admire Tolsky’s tension building towards the end).

If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?

Anna: The Passion (see above), The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  (Basically anything with strong characters, a beautiful plot and thwarted love)

Aisling: The Ultimate Calvin and Hobbes Collection, Bill Watterson. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (whoever you are, READTHISBOOK) and the entire Harry Potter collection. Cheating, moi?

Clare: Vanity Fair, by Thackeray (a reminder that materialism and social climbing are destined to destroy you), Fall of Giants by Ken Follet (EPIC 20th century historical novel to get lost in), The Jewel of St Petersburg Trilogy by Kate Furnival (for my Russian fix).

What was your favourite book as a child?

Anna: Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian

Aisling: The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton for reading to myself. Can’t you Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell for standard, beautiful children’s book magic.

Clare: Mathilda, By Roald Dahl. Books! Books solve everything, no? Or every book ever written by Enid Blyton. Whichever.

Categories: Books
28 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Hehe, I think my answers were a bit like Clare’s. Trilogies in box sets and hyphens make it just one thing right?
    Now I must GO READ things. Love it xxx

  2. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m quite glad I didn’t get any of you as my swappee (swapper/swap partner??) I wouldn’t have had a clue what to buy! Love hearing your choices though – lots there I haven’t read, more for the ever-increasing reading list…

    • Liz
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Linsey, I am very glad that I was your swappee! You drew a map! Can’t wait to get stuck into the books – big thank you! xx

      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Liz! I’m so glad you got it, are you on Twitter? Wanted to find out if you liked them. Glad you liked the map :)

  3. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh let’s play this game. I love reading people’s answers because I can write it all down for my future bookworm enjoyment, so for all curious people like me, here are my answers:

    - Who is your favourite author?
    Julio Cortazar, Milan Kundera, Herman Hesse

    -What is your favourite book of all time and how would you describe it in three words?
    Rayuela (Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar). Magic, Coincidence/Serendipity, Love story in paris

    -What was the best book you read in 2012 – again, describe in 3 words?
    Leonora, by Elena Poniatowska. It is the biography of Elena Carrington. Fascinating, Rebel, Animal lover, ahead of her time.

    - What was your least favourite book you read in 2012 and why – in no more than 50 words?
    The particular sadness of lemon cake by Aimee bender. I found the story disturbing, I had to re read the ending several times to make sure I understood correctly, It made me feel very sad (though, the fact that written words made me feel physically weird says something about how the author succeeded at putting feelings into words, and that is I think the definition of art. )

    -If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?
    The chronicles of Narnia, Rayuela (Hopscotch), The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, And…. Alice in Wonderland. Yup, that’s more than 2, oopsie.

    -What was your favourite book as a child?
    Hans Christian Andersen-s fairy tales, I read the Chronicles of Narnia later, when I was around 12, and loved them too .

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      This may be embarrassing…

      Q3. Who is your favourite author?
      Katie Fforde at the moment. It is probably super-lame but it is easy, romantic reading where the plots are often similar, but I enjoy all her different characters, the way the women are always strong and complicated and have a cause even if they end up with the ‘he-was-super-arrogant-but-attractive-and-now-I-realise-the-arrogance-is-insecurity-and-character’ guy. It also makes me want to quit 9-5 and be a wedding planner, or a cook on a canal boat, or a house renovator. And know that it’ll all turn out OK. And they feel all homely because they’re set in England. I realise they are not high-brow, or particularly well-written, I guess I often use reading as escapism and I can read these over and over… OK, I will now stop this essay.

      Q4. What is your favourite book of all time and how would you describe it in three words?
      The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. Inspiring. Revelationary. Dense.

      Q5. What was the best book you read in 2012 – again, describe in 3 words?
      Divergent by Vernoica Roth (Mahj’s fault!). Enthralling. Interesting. Exciting.

      Q6. What was your least favourite book you read in 2012 and why – in no more than 50 words? Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I liked the Time Traveler’s Wife and was just disappointed. There were too many characters who weren’t that nice. SPOILERS (necessary to explain why I didn’t like it) a young girl is deliberately killed by her aunt so that the aunt can inhabit her body? It just made me feel icky and uncomfortable. Also some of the interesting points of the book weren’t explored.

      Q7. If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?
      Excluding ones already mentioned, I will go with “The Clan of the Cave Bear” series by Jean M. Auel (because they are long, contain useful tips for setting up civilization and have some… interesting sections…. that may amuse you if you’re trapped and alone), The Pellinor novels by Alison Croggon (because I love YA books, fantasy, magic, people’s changing status i.e. slave to Chosen One, and other complicated relationships) and “The Best of Times” by Penny Vincenzi (for a bit of light relief after all that. And for the intrigue and escapsim). Yes I realise I cheated there by including series…. What a shame box sets were invented :P Plus I read quickly and I don’t want to get too bored…

      Q8. What was your favourite book as a child?
      Beauty: A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley. Because Beauty and the Beast is my favourite Disney film and fairy tale, and I love this version a lot. Still do in fact!

      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        I might email you, if you like Katie Fforde I have a LOT of good reccomendations! Also totally agree on Her Fearful Symmetry. T’was rubbish.

        K x

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          Her Fearful Symmetry was such a disappointment – I’d loved the Time Traveller’s Wife and I think my hopes were too high. But even so I thought it was rubbish.

          Katy have you tried Anna Maxted and Jane Fallon (and also Marian Keyes)??

          K x

          • Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

            Yay people who agree with me! I just thought it was plain bad. It was weird, no-one was very nice, it was creepy but not in a thrilling and good way. Urgh.

            Thank you for not laughing at my (not so) secret shame of enjoying absolute trash. Does anyone want to set up a book festival with me a la Katie Fforde? None of her heroines ever just sit in an office – I like that.

            Will get on the recommendations (yay)!
            Katie please e-mail me. You know the address :-)

  4. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Heh this made me laugh! I’m glad I’m not the only one who bent the rules of English to describe a book in three words… if I just ignore the space bar that’s ok, right?

    It’s also nice to see the books people loved as children – seen so many I agree with, I wonder whether that’s how we all got to this place together, through those books.

    Right, I need to stop reading posts about books. My ‘to-read’ list is so long I can’t remember what was at the top of it.

  5. Leni
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    It was fab to read your answers ladies.

    Aisling – I sent my swapee The Handmaids Tale – they should get it tomorrow. I hope she enjoys it as much as you and I did.

    I won’t put all my answers as I don’t think they are very exciting but my least favourite book of 2012 was Mockingjay. It made me soooooo angry!!! I thought it was poo. I hope some other people agree – otherwise I care far too much about the endings of Teen-lit sagas.

    • Lynsey
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree! What a disappointing ending to an otherwise brilliant series! x

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Hmm, I agree the ending was rushed and maybe disappointing – but I don’t think it was a bad book. It left me a little deflated on the trilogy BUT was still kind of necessary?

      • Sandie
        Posted February 22, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

        That was also my least favourite of 2012! x

  6. Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    This just makes me want to be all of your friends, and recommend five million books to you all based on your answers, and read everything that you mentioned that I haven’t read *runs to bookshop wildly*

    Anna, Goodnight Mister Tom was one of my childhood favourites too. It was so sad I still cry when I think about it.

    K x

    • Carly
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Katie, you could so set up your own reading spa and give us all amazing recommendations!


      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        DO THIS!
        Also have a science outreach centre. And a cake shop.
        And a double-panting support group.
        Your life is sorted now, you’re welcome. xxx

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

          Book Therapy, Science Spa and Cake Cafe. You’re right, my life is now sorted. That would be my DREAM.

          K x

          • Posted February 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            That sounds like the best day out ever!

          • Kate G
            Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:35 am | Permalink

            This has ALWAYS been my if-i-win-the-lottery-dream! A cafe with cakes that Ive made, books on the shelves for people to read, and a selection of beautiful and perfect presents to be wrapped in unusual but beauteous wrapping! Not exactly a career path, glad Im not the only dreamer on this track !!

  7. Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Hahahaha I love that Aisling’s favourite book was my worst book. (And also the worst book as voted by my entire book club, sorry Aisling.)

  8. Carly
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Oh my god! I totally forgot abou A Thousand Splendid Suns. Oh, I loves that book!


    • Carly
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      LOVED with a d! Stupid iPhone.

  9. Elsie
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    The literary equivalent of the follow up song to ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield is the best description of book disappointment, ever.
    I’m now looking up books that you’re all mentioning and mentally answering the questionnaire just for the heck of it. It is really rather hard isn’t it.

  10. Lee-Anne
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Shadow of the Wind is an amazing book, my father in law gave me it to read and ended up telling me to keep it as I had it so long cause I kept re-reading it.

    I keep say to my pupils when they tell me they hate reading not to worry by the time they are my age they will have discovered the wonder of books. It makes me so sad when they just dismiss reading. Books made the world better.


  11. Liz
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I put The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Symonds as one of my 3 desert island books! Got to love a good tragic romance with a Russian backdrop!

  12. Rach M
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Love reading this. Anna I am so pleased that The Passion is your favourite book ever. Wowzers. So even if my swapee decides she doesn’t like hers when it arrives, I’ll console myself with the thought I once good a book selection very right! Brilliant x

One Trackback

  • [...] Book Swap became my initiation to the community, but what was it all about? Well it pretty much did what it said on the tin (or in the tweet). Basically the AOW ladies sent out a little questionnaire that gave all of us avid readers the opportunity to give an insight into our literary likes and dislikes. This was then shared with another member of the community and they sent you a lovely treat in the post. [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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