As I won’t have a book finished for review for a few days, I thought I’d dip into this week’s question at Booking Through Thursday, a weekly reading-related meme, to help keep me on blogging task.
This week’s question:
What makes you choose the books you read?
Genre? Reviews? Certain authors? Covers? Recommendations?
Like many avid readers, I gather ideas for my to-read list from a myriad of sources. I follow a number of general book-related websites and online magazines, such as Book Riot, The Millions, and Flavorwire Books, as well as the book sections of several more general publications, such as NPR Books, The Guardian Books, and The New York Times Books. I am forever getting turned on to some new book or new-to-me older book from these sources.
As for genre, I am always scouting for new and unusual science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and the like. I focus mostly on adult titles, although some great YA does catch my eye. I follow a number of speculative fiction websites and online magazines, such as Tor.com, Worlds Without End, SF Signal, and Fantasy Book Critic. However, I don’t tend to like mainstream speculative fiction, gravitating more to lesser-known stuff, so I have to pick my way daintily through the big spec-fic sites.
I also follow a whole troupe of great book bloggers and interesting Goodreads friends, and the reviews and opinions of many of these readers does definitely sway me. Especially if I note a particular title ringing the bells of several different bloggers and friends, I’ll definitely plop the book onto my reading list.
It may seem odd to many readers, but I’ve never been a bookstore browser. I go to bookstores with lists (I mean long lists of several hundred titles.) of books to look for, otherwise I become overwhelmed. I am usually, especially of late, on a very tight budget, so I have to have some way to limit myself. If I stick to searching for titles on my lists, I am never left without at least a book or two to bring home. As a corollary to this tendency, I am not generally swayed by book covers. My eye is certainly caught by a lovely cover, but I will jot down the name of the artist (or search for it on the internet later if I can’t immediately find their name) and visit their website to view more of their work. I see the story and its author and the cover art and its artist as very much separate, I guess, so I don’t really tend to choose books based on covers.
There are certain authors who get an immediate add to my to-read list, even if they are writing outside the realms of what I’m used to them writing. Some currently-active writers in this group for me include Haruki Murakami, Catherynne M. Valente, Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterson, China Miéville, Ted Chiang, Elizabeth Hand and naturalist Sue Hubbell. Several older/deceased authors also see their books hop onto my to-read pile the moment I learn of a title by them that was not already on said pile; Barbara Comyns, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Leonora Carrington, Agatha Christie and Roger Zelazny are the queens and kings of this group. All of these authors, both the living and the dead, are absolute must-reads for me, with very few exceptions. An interesting article or review on any of their books can send me clamoring, drooling, to the library and/or bookstore as fast as I can manage.
I admit to being strongly attracted to certain imprints or publishing series, notably Virago’s Modern Classics and the New York Review of Books Classics and Persephone Books lines. There is simply a wonderful mix between obscure and more well-known titles and a generally-high average of quality to the books included in these collections. They feel like treasure troves to me, full of forgotten or fading gems, and I find them nearly irresistible. Seeing a title on one of these publishing lists will often encourage me to give the book a look-see which I might not otherwise have done. I have so rarely been steered wrong when following this path that I can’t help but believe it’s a good thing to continue.
A guilty pleasure of mine is book recommendation engines, such as the ones at Gnooks, Whichbook, Booklamp and Goodreads Recommendations. I have lost an embarrassing number of hours fiddling about with these toys, and I have found many, many interesting titles through them. Once I start playing around on one of these things, that’s it for my afternoon. They are lovely and dangerous!
I’m sure there are other sources that provide me with good things to read, but these are the ones that leap to my mind. Lamentably, none of my family or friends really read much, and those who do are into more crowd-pleasing stuff than I am, such as bodice-rippers and long sword-and-sorcery series, so they don’t often tend to recommend books to me. Ah, well. Luckily, the internet is a nearly-limitless sea of wonderful reads and readers, so I shall never go bookless!