With so many books out there, how do you decide what to read next?
You need to get a little inspired, and then go with it.
But where does the inspiration come from? Friends and family can make recommendations, certainly. Joining a local book club can help you choose a book to read… by choosing a book for you to read. The New York Times bestseller list can provide popular titles, but sometimes you want to get a little deeper than the latest bestseller, to find something more to your taste, more esoteric, an older classic, or something less mainstream, less popular.
The internet can be good source for book ideas. One link can lead to another and before you know it, you may have found your next book to read. Goodreads can help you keep track of what you’ve read, add recommendations, and see recs from others. Other titles can be found through various websites. I’m actually not very good at surfing the web. I get bogged down and lost and then bored. BUT! Sometimes it is good for something…
I recently followed a couple of links and ended up at an online comic, Unshelved. It’s all about the wacky world of librarians and libraries – it’s crazier than you’d think… After poking around there for a while, I came across a series of book reviews done by the comic. In one, the character recommends Lois Lowry’s The Willoughbys to a mother who is looking for a wholesome, family read for her son. The joke is that the book is about a particularly un-wholesome family. The parents are trying to get rid of their children (they just can’t stand them, and are likened to the parents in Hansel and Gretel). The children hope against hope that their parents will meet some horrendous fate and leave them orphaned, like the poor sweet orphans of some classic stories. It sounded interesting, we had a copy in the library, so I checked it out.
I read The Willoughbys in about 2 days – it was a really quick read, geared toward children, but really enjoyable. If you’re somewhat familiar with classic children’s literature, or classic literature involving children, you’d appreciate some of the nods in that direction (A Little Princess, Oliver Twist). Olderish kids who are questioning how much they still want to be in their own families at the moment may get a kick of this one, too.
Another inspiration came from an article about literary pranksters – apparently Virginia Woolf was in on a pretty big one, impersonating Abyssinian royalty. I realized I didn’t know much about Virginia Woolf, and haven’t read anything by her (I started Mrs. Dalloway years ago, but never got into it). Intrigued by this little bit in an article, I decided to read her biography. I checked out to myself Nigel Nicholson’s biography Virginia Woolf. This is a bite-sized biography – will probably hit the spot to satisfy my craving. I ordered another ‘definitive’ biography from another library, one by Hermione Lee, but I got it today, and will probably end up sending it back… it’s got waaaay more information than I planned on looking for.
Right now, I’m in the middle of Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity. The inspiration for this came from a certain JM. He and I both love Dave Eggers’ works (he has books, a website, has done TED talks, and more) and he heard Eggers speak last year at the CT Forum. After that talk, JM had the book signed by Eggers for me. Awesome. He then read half the book, marking up key sections and phrases, and then waited for my birthday to give it to me – I was given a signed book by an author I really like, annotated with interesting comments by a person I really like. Awesome times, like, a lot. I’ve now passed the halfway mark and am plunging forward, making (hopefully) interesting markups of my own. It’s a really cool way to get through a book.
After this, who knows? I’ll either dig into the ever-growing stack of books near my bed, past items I’ve been inspired to grab but never got to… or maybe something else will catch my eye before I get them.
Where have you found your inspiration? Where do you turn for ideas for your next book to read?