What to Read Next?

Last month Bill asked “How do you judge a cookbook at first glance?”  For me the first thing a cookbook has to have is a great photo on the front to initially catch my interest.  Then it needs to be a niche that I’m interested in (vegetarian, ethnic, baking).  That’s enough to get me to request it from the library.  Once I get the book, the quality of the production is key, how easy it is to follow the directions, how many recipes appeal to me, will the ingredients be do-able?  Probably 50% of the cookbooks that I peruse from the library go back and I never think about them again.  Then about 49% might have a recipe or two that I’ll copy for myself (I have a big white binder for these).  Then there is the rare 1% that I feel I would to have my own copy of and then I try to find it as inexpensively as possible.  And then I have to get rid of an existing cookbook.  Cookbook shelving unit is cram-packed!

All of this quantifying led me to another thought.  How do you judge ANY book at first glance?  How do you decide to read a specific book?  And if you choose badly, what do you do about it?

For me, great titles are key; it needs to be interesting, maybe some word play.  “Dragons” in the title is a gimme.  The phrase “mercenary librarians” on the cover of a book was too tempting to pass up last month.  It’s a toss-up whether author or subject matter is the next ingredient for me.  I’ll pretty much read anything by my favorite authors.  I even read Michael Pollan’s LSD book last year.  Only a very few authors have failed to keep my interest.  Poor Barbara Hambly lost me between the vampire books and the nasty ice queen series.  If a book has an author with whom I am unfamiliar, then subject matter can draw me in.  Of course, I’m curious about so much stuff that pretty much anything can work in this respect.  I’m not a romance fan and I get irritated pretty quickly with historical fiction but even having said that, I will still occasionally read something in these genres.  I prefer fantasy to science fiction.  I’ve read my fill of WWII titles the last few years but if something comes well-recommended, I might put it on the list.

There is another category of “what do read” for me because I’m one of those folks who reads multiple books concurrently.  At any given time I have a book on CD in the car, an audiobook on my pc and a variety of books piled up in my bedroom.  When I decide I want to read, I have to decide WHICH of those books to pick up.  Most of the time, it’s my mood that decides, but if a book is coming due soon and I can’t renew it, that factor often takes precedence.  Now that the library has re-instituted due dates, I have to think about this more.

I am also a book-abandoner.  I decided about 15 years ago, after struggling for weeks to finish Blood on the Snow by Tunstall, that life is too short.  There are so many books published each year that no one could read them all so if I don’t finish a book, it won’t doom the publishing industry.  I once quit reading a book on page four; I already had the feeling that I wouldn’t enjoy the characters or the plot.  Authors beware – you gotta hook me fast!

So the answer to Bill’s question is complex.

How do YOU decide what to read?  Can you abandon a bad choice?

91 thoughts on “What to Read Next?”

  1. Covid changed me from an occasional reader to a non-reader. I simply could not follow a train of thought. As part of an overall program of recovery, I am now reading a novel I have read five times before. While I’m familiar with the plot, the prose can be challenging. I’m almost 400 pages into a 600-page novel, so the plan seems to be working.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Must be time to read “Lorna Doone” again. I don’t know why, but I’ve read this rather misogynistic “Historical Romance” every two or three years since buying it in a secondhand shop in Salisbury, about 1976. It doesn’t seem terribly in character for me, but then, not much is.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I really love ghost stories, and I read Wuthering Heights because my mum told me that Heathcliff killed Catherine and her ghost haunted him. 1) This is not remotely what happens in the story, and so I ended up ploughing through a pretty boring book for nothing. 2) Had this turned out to be true, SPOILER ALERT, MUM! 😬

    Liked by 7 people

        1. I used to tell people exactly how many parts English, Scottish and Canadian I thought I was. But actually it’s not clear, and the Canadian part is pretty much an exaggeration.

          Liked by 3 people

  4. I drop books in four pages all the time, and I’ve watched the Amazon dashboard while readers did the same thing with my own books. It’s been rare – and an acquaintance recently reports having stayed up to 2:30 AM to finish Silken Thread. I’ve never seen anyone give up on that one, but I’ve lost a couple on Illusion of Gravity.

    Since I write for a creative outlet rather than a living, you might think I’m not motivated to fix that, but I am. The first draft is always entirely from inspiration, the second and subsequent passes are where I apply craft with the goal of being as entertaining as possible.

    But every book isn’t for every reader. Illusion starts off slow, an exercise in developing a sense of place and the protagonist’s emotional journey prior to the inciting event. Not everyone will have the patience for that, but the turning point in the narrative (placed as early in the book as I could get it) required that readers understand character and motive.

    After writing half-a-million words the past 11 years, I’m more concerned about striking an acceptable balance between exposition and pacing than whether or not the beginning has a good hook in it.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Two things happened to me during the pandemic that I did not expect:

    1. I could not read in print, only audio books, and then nothing suspenseful. I just could not tolerate any anxiety.

    2. Every creative thought I ever had flew away. I have another book of my mother’s stories to do (Armistice Day Blizzard) and I could not even approach drawing the scenes. Any polymer clay project I ever wanted to do was dead. I sat there watching the Great British Baking Show. And The Crown. And other really pointless stuff to pass the time. Go figure.

    Regarding audiobooks, I return the ones with narrators that I cannot tolerate after 30 minutes. Unfortunately one of my favorite authors, our local William Kent Krueger, has never been established with a signature narrator. I read his books in print because of that, so I could not read those this past year. I read a lot of professional books, but those I dip into at whatever point I need to learn, then leave until I want to know something else.

    Now my creative juices are starting to flow again. My Art Circle friends are gathering for a potluck soon, and I cannot wait. They always get my creativity going. And with that I will find a William Kent Krueger book to read I think. Anything else, if I don’t like it, I drop it. Period. No Guilt. Just Disinterest.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. ***Forgot to say, I read our own Chris Norbury’s books in print, but those have a lot of tension, so none of that for 18 months, but not because I do not like them. I just couldn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I get that; it seemed to be a time of dealing with (waving hands in the air) “All This!” so if there was any way to cut out something anxiety producing, this was a good time to do it.

      I do the same thing with music. iTunes gives you a 30 second snippet and I’m jumping through that thinking, you better hook me with just a few notes there. Nope? Out.

      Liked by 5 people

    3. I experienced the same inability to read books (or watch movies) where good people are in peril. For example, much to my daughter’s regret, I bailed out of the Outlander series. But for me it wasn’t the pandemic; it was Trump.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I have to admit that for me the four Trump years were much more harrowing than the pandemic. Of course, we’ve not seen the end of either one yet.

        Liked by 4 people

    4. I don’t do audiobooks. Aside from the obvious fact that most of the things I choose to read are not available as audiobooks, I dislike the relentless progression of a narrated version, where there’s no easy way to revisit a significant line or passage.

      I also can’t envision a situation where I could consistently listen to an audiobook, except those times when I am already reading for myself. I don’t drive anywhere regularly or for long enough to make that practical and I don’t like to wear earphones and tune out when I’m walking. That’s the time I reserve to just think.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. To put it simply, most of the time I decide what to read by perusing my shelves and deciding what I’m in the mood for. I’ve spent decades accumulating books I’m interested in reading, so I usually need go no further. I also tend to read in threads—I’ll seize upon a topic or a milieu and read a concatenated series of books related to that subject. I pay attention to the bibliography or list of sources in the back of a book I appreciate and use that as a guide to add to my library.

    In general, my reading choices come from a different universe than those on the bestseller lists and “the books everyone is talking about”.

    I will often drop fiction if it doesn’t compel me. Usually that’s due to an author’s style—his or her voice— although it can also be that the story just doesn’t intrigue me. don’t usually quit nonfiction books, and that’s a large portion of what I read. I guess I’m willing to allow the author more leeway if he or she has something of substance to offer.

    Liked by 8 people

  7. My next book has been chosen for me: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’ve read it before, but only once. It is the book for this month’s book club discussion in this senior center. I’ll lead the discussion on it, so I’m pretty sure I will read it again and carefully.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. It might be a bad book but I’m committed once begun. I did almost give up on Ulysses but not because it was bad. It was like a mountain. You climb it because it’s there.
    I get a lot of books from Barnes and Nobel. Price helps my choices. Also I check in with what happened this day in history. Sometimes I get interested.
    Although I am very liberal and anti-Trump, I won’t buy any tell-all books about him.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. It says terrible things about me that I cheered when he got sick. Nobody ever deserved Covid as well as he did. It says worse things about my soul that I hated it when he got cured so quickly.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Steve, I think that the compassion that several, including myself, felt for Derek Chauvin, is out of place and unnecessary, when applied to the colossal evil that is Trump.

          Like

  9. Like Bill, what I read at any given time depends on the mood I’m in. To the best of my recollection, I have never chosen a book based on it’s cover. Many years ago I tried reading several books recommended and promoted by Oprah. Some I liked, and some I just didn’t care for at all, so I don’t consider her a reliable source of recommendations of books that will appeal to me. I have no trouble quitting a book that doesn’t appeal to me.

    Two of my favorite cookbooks, The Greens Cookbook, and The Silver Palate Cookbook don’t have fancy covers and no photos, but the recipes are easy to follow – though the ones in “Greens” tend to be labor intensive – and yield excellent results.

    At the moment I’m rereading Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. I also read his Young Men and Fire years ago. He was a superb writer, and I enjoy his writing style.

    Next up is a book written, and recently published, by his son, John Maclean: Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River. Looks like he’s a fine writer, too, and I’m looking forward to it.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I don’t have any trouble figuring out what to read next both on audio and again print I have a waiting list at the library and a stack on my bedside table and box after box in warehouses but when I open up I always grab four or five out of before setting it back down again my interests are so varied my appreciation of different writing styles is such that I just tune in to that brainwave for a while and enjoy

    Ulysses I tried it three times and haven’t gotten past page 100 yet but I so enjoy James Joyce that I will get to it one day

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I, too, have trouble reading suspenseful books and most other books, I think mainly because of my work as a psychologist, and also grieving for a few years after my parents’ deaths. Just last week, though, I read a memoir by Judy Blunt called Breaking Clean, about her ultimate rejection of her life as a ranch wife and her family’s 4th generation ranch in eastern Montana, and her move to Missoula to get an education and become a writer. Wonderful book.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I enjoy reading memoirs. A recent one I read was Ani DiFranco’s No Walls and the Recurring Dream, a surprisingly well written and interesting book. Don’t really know why I was surprised that it is as good as it is, she’s an extremely talented and thoughtful artist.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. I often go by book recommendations, which would include those I read for book clubs. I belong to one (basically) fiction club, and one non-fiction, so there is a nice mix of title. (Unfortunately I can’t often get to our own Blevins Book Club since moving away from the Twin Cities.)

    I’ll usually have two or three books going, so can choose according to my mood.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I find that recommendations can be tricky. We have friends that are forever recommending movies that they love. We have come to realize that a film recommendation from them is pretty much guaranteed to be a film that neither of us will like. They have about a 98% record of recommending movies we both hated. Of course, once you realize that, that can be helpful, too.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s a curious experience to really hate a movie that friends seem to love, especially when you go to see the movie together. It makes you question what they see that you don’t (or vice versa) and whether their perception of you—that this movie is one you’d like—can really be so incorrect.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. This couple used to go to the movies once a week. It was just a routine for them. I don’t think they really gave much thought to what they saw, just whatever was showing at their local theater. They seemed to have the mindset that I had as a kid, i.e. that any film is better than no film.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. My friend Jerry says “Is there popcorn?” Ok, I’ll go. He doesn’t care so much what the movie is.
          I skip the movie and just buy the popcorn.

          We haven’t been back to the movie theaters yet, but when we do, and if they still have the refill on the large popcorn bucket, we buy one, walk over to the corner and dump it in a plastic bag, and get a refill. 🙂
          I’m working up the guts to just dump it into a bag right there at the counter and ask for a refill! I mean, what difference does it make how long it takes me to ask for the refill, right?

          Like

  13. OT – I know that probably none of the US baboons are following the Euro championship in soccer, and I’ll confess I wouldn’t be either if it weren’t for the fact that the Danes are still in it (as are England, Spain and Italy). Don’t know if Fenton or the sunking are following this, but living in Europe I don’t see how they can avoid it?

    I happened to be in Denmark in 1992 when the Danish team, entered on a wild card, won the tournament, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in the way of public celebration in Denmark. Danes aren’t exactly known for their prowess in soccer, nor for their public display of emotion, but when they beat Germany in Sweden in the final match, they were ecstatic. Total strangers were embracing and high-fiving each other in the streets, and hands holding small Danish flags were waving from cars and buses wherever you went. It was pandemonium for days, if not weeks.

    My sister and her then husband picked me up close to midnight after the game against Germany ended, and we headed to the town hall square in Copenhagen to partake in the spontaneous festivities. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a larger, or more exuberant crowd. In fact, they said it was the largest crowd in Copenhagen since the Danish liberation on April 9, 1945 after the end of WWII. It was a night of singing and dancing in the streets into the wee hours. I think it was around 4 AM before we returned home to dad’s apartment.

    This coming week, on July 6th, Spain will play Italy in the first of the two semi-final matches; on the 7th, Denmark will play England. The winner of those matches will play each other for the championship on the 11th.

    On the tennis front in Wimbledon, Roger Federer is still in the hunt for another championship, as is Djokovic who is favored to win it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. PJ, I follow football less than anyone else in the world, pretty much, and didn’t know about the championship.
      Jane loves to watch tennis, though, and became enraged, slowly discovering she just couldn’t get Wimbledon on TV. So she’ll be at her mum’s house a lot for the duration. She loves Federer.

      Like

  14. What a great conversation today. I love reading what everyone reads. I have been having trouble listening and/or reading without falling asleep. I belong to two bookclubs and I hardly ever finish a book I am suppose to discuss. Recently, however, I started the Somerset Maugham novel “A Razor’s Edge” and much to my surprise I cannot put it down…I’ve spent the past two afternoons reading it and NOT falling asleep. I had read an article in the New Yorker about it and since I love his short stories, I decided to try it and I am really enjoying it.

    PJ, I also love the Silver Palate and Greens cookbooks. Years ago it was the only one I used. I also loved the Norman McClean books. We read both of them in one of my bookclubs. (Remember Dale & Jim Ed playing James Keelaghan’s “Cold Missouri Waters” which is based on the “Young Men and Fire” story.) I will note your recommendation for his son’s book to recommend to at least one of my bookclubs. I agree with you also about Oprah books.

    I’ve tried Ulysses many times, even joined an email discussion group to try to help me through it, bought the movie, but finally read a cartoon version…like an outline. chapter by chapter. I wanted to start a sub-group of one of my bookclubs to read it aloud. No one was interested.

    I have stacks and stacks and book shelves of read and unread books. Now have a Kindle full as well. My all-time favorite is/was The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I read at least two of the novels three times. When a member of one of my bookclubs suggested it, I was so delighted. And I enjoyed it again…well, we read just Justine, I started Bathazar and liked it even better than Justine, but then had to read other ones for the book clubs, but still plan to go back and continue.

    I also love Willa Cather and Wallace Stegner novels. Modern favorites include Louise Erdrich (though I didn’t get through the last one via reading or listening), but now I can’t think of another living author that I stay awake or like.

    MN Steve: I listened to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and loved the variety of narrators for each letter. Well done.

    Thank you, VS, for the question. Have a great Fourth…no masks?

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Cynthia — that is how I read Guernsey as well. And enjoyed the same thing that you enjoyed- the different narrators. And of course I also love the epistolary genre so that helps too.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Good to hear your “voice,” Cynthia. How about Barbara Kingsolver? I like most of what she has written. Another contemporary writer that I enjoy is Alexandra Fuller; English born, grew up i Africa and now lives in the US. Excellent writer.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Cynthia: you just listened to an Audible version of the book, it seems, so this probably won’t interest you. The book has been made into a delightful movie streamed by Amazon. One reason to watch is the photography of that island.

      Like

        1. Steve’s comment about “the photography of that island” made me curious, so I checked to see if it was actually filmed on Guernsey. As it turns out, it was not. “Despite the film’s title, production for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society combined locations in London, Bristol and Devon for its 1940s setting. The county of Devon was used to double for the film’s titular island which saw itself under Nazi occupation for the majority of the Second World War.” Written by Tom Deehan on Apr 25, 2018. Posted in On Location / Production News.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. OT. I am home! Left St. Louis at 4:45 this morning got home at 1:30. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy to be home from any trip I have ever taken as this one.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. First, my business trips are very busy. I’m going from the time I get up until the time I go to bed with activities and meetings and meals with clients. Sitting in the condo with Nonny was a little boring and a little frustrating and in the early days very stressful because we weren’t quite sure what kind of progress Nonny was going to be making. And I think all of those combined to make me think a lot more about home. I don’t think I would be a very good long-term caregiver for anybody.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I think the thing that saved my sanity was running errands. Otherwise I was in the same room with Nonny from six in the morning till 10 at night. Did I mention she has a very small place? Anyway I did grocery store, hardware store, drugstore, Panera, Taco Bell, etc. I even dealt with her car issues and that’s a whole ‘nother story. I never thought I needed a lot of alone time but obviously I need some!!

          Liked by 4 people

        2. I love my son. He was born when Jane was forty, and I was fifty eight, a last ditch miracle after nine years of Jane becoming increasingly desperate and unhappy. People would say, “He’s a special baby then,” and it took me years to realise that he wasn’t actually physically different from other babies. But when it was my turn to take care of him for the day(we were lucky to be able to juggle our jobs, and not need childcare), God, there was nowhere on earth I wouldn’t sooner be. He worked at being an utter menace.

          Today’s children don’t WANT to learn the correct way to plough the carpet with their farm toys. It’s incredible to watch their destructive shenanigans.

          Liked by 2 people

  16. OT- Well, this is eerie. It is currently 100°F AT 6:00 pm. The wind is strong from the north, and there is smoke in the air, bad smoke that smells like prairies on fire. I suppose it could be smoke from the fires in British Columbia, given the winds out here, but I sure hope some fool didn’t start a fire with fireworks.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Fire’s a scary thing. We’re in a high risk area here, and there was a serious fire within sight of our village, over a good few days. People died.

        Like

  17. Catching up from yesterday… I am glad to know it’s not just me who has been unable to concentrate on books the last 12-15 months. Non-fiction, which is sometimes easier to read in small chunks, has seemed easier than fiction (with a couple of rare exceptions). Like Bill, I have a hard time with audio books – even e-books are dicey as I like holding the paper in my hands and flipping the pages (and flipping back to re-read or check on details).

    And probably no surprise that like a lot of you I have stacks of books here, there, and everywhere – some not yet started, some started and paused, some put down and not yet given away… when I packed up my bedroom to have new carpeting laid, I filled a good-sized box just with the books stacked by the bed (the others scattered around the room, which went into a different box).

    What makes for a good book for me? Whim, author I like, curiosity, good characters – I can get intrigued by a good title, but sometimes that backfires for me. There are some NPR folks who recommend books that I have learned have similar tastes to mine – so those wind up on the library wait list for me. Now that due dates are back, I am once again running into forgetting to pause my holds and winding up with four books arriving at once (including the two recipe books currently awaiting a good thumb-through).

    Liked by 6 people

    1. She woofed at me and licked my toes. She is a dry mouth Newfie, not a drooling Newfie. I guess there are two kinds.

      Like

      1. The only Newfies I’ve ever met were apparently the drooling kind. The amount of slobber they could, and did, fling around, was disconcerting, to say the least. Sweet, sweet dogs, but no, I wouldn’t want one in my house for that very reason. I wonder if the dry mouth Newfie is the result of some surgical procedure, like the poor dogs some acquaintances of ours had, they had been debarked? Do you know, Renee?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just did a little research, apparently there is no such thing as a dry-mouth Newfie. It’s the luck of the draw if you happen to get a Newfie that doesn’t drool, although some breeders do claim their dogs to be dry-mouth.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. You are correct PJ. I have a friend who’s had Newfies her whole life. Some of them drool a lot and every now and then you get one who doesn’t drool quite as much.

          Liked by 2 people

  18. OT – I want to watch this, but I know it’s of no interest to husband, so I’ll save it for when he goes up north in a couple of weeks.

    “There are plenty of new movies to watch on streaming this 4th of July holiday weekend, but if you’re going to pick just one, make it Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). This documentary—which is now in theaters and streaming on Hulu in the U.S.—is not just a must-watch for music lovers. It’s a must-watch for everyone.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great article. I basically judge a book based on the book cover, and also the title. I strongly believe that an author who cares about hooking up the reader by the title and the cover – I mean the outside factors – The inside has a big chance of providing good content. 

    And quitting books, according to me, is a bad habit. I know that not all books will catch my interest, but that’s not the goal. As a writer, by comparing the components of a good book and the mistakes made in a comparatively bad book helps me figure out how to produce better writing. 

    But I see your point. Indeed the publishing industry isn’t going to be doomed if I don’t finish a certain book lol 😆 

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.