Time for a snapshot of my reading life right now (h/t to Grimlock for this!)
1. What book is on your nightstand now?
February 1942: Britain's Darkest Days by Adrian Stewart. I'm looking forward to replacing it with something else, which fortunately will be soon.
2. What was the last truly great book that you read?
Gaah, I dislike this question. I don't mind it's subjectivity, but I fall prey to it; I look at the books I've given five stars to and I start to wonder, "but was it truly great?" The last book about what I could say that unequivocally would be volume 3 of Jonathan Sumption's utterly fantastic history of the Hundred Years' War, so I guess I'm going to go with that.
3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?
No question for me; it would be George Orwell. I would love to get his take on modern politics, particularly in the United States, as I can't think of someone who would have a perspective right now that would be more worth hearing.
4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
I don't know; it depends on how well you know me.
5. How do you organize your personal library?
I have two libraries, and the organization is slightly different, so there are crossovers. I have fifteen categories: world history, American history, world biography, U.S. biography, world philosophy and primary sources (published diaries and letter collections), U.S. historical primary sources, film history, music history (mostly jazz), history of London, art and architecture, literature, science fiction, graphic novels, books I'm using for my writing, and a general catch-all of miscellaneous books I want to read and resell.
6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?
The list of books I can provide for this answer runs into the dozens, and every year there are 2-3 books i read that I realize I should have read years ago (though I doubt I would have appreciated it as much as I did when I finally got around to them). The one that probably crops up most often is Jenny Uglow's biography of William Hogarth, which always entices but never seems to warrant prioritizing.
7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
I don't know if I was supposed to like Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, but I thought that outside of its historical interest (which for me is considerable) I found it an annoying mix of snobbishness tinged by fear.
8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?
When it comes to fiction, I generally prefer SF with well-realized characters, which doesn't happen as often as it should in a genre where too many authors are drawn to the larger possibilities of the setting and the tech. The moment I encounter a story -- any story -- where there is a glaringly obvious Mary Sue/Gary Stu issue, though, I'm done.
9. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
I don't think I would recommend a book to our current president, as he seems pretty well read. If anything I would have him recommend a book to me.
10. What do you plan to read next?
I have a copy of Frederick Pohl's Gateway than I plan on starting today or tomorrow. I also have a half-dozen biographies on their way to me now; whichever arrives first will be my next nonfiction read and the subject of my next podcast.