24 March 2006

How to Pick a Book

Recently, Word Nerd had a friend who needed recommendations on books to take with her on a trip involving flying and sitting on the beach. Word Nerd obliged, but it got her thinking, "How do I pick the books I read?"

So here goes an attempt of an explanation of what makes it home with me from the library and what actually gets read.

1. New books by authors Word Nerd has read before. This one is self-explanatory. If she liked the writer in the past, that gives a new book by the same writer a boost.
2. Recommendations. Word Nerd listens to what other readers tell her. This will even get her reading things outside of the genre(s) she prefers. For the record, she even is currently borrowing a bona fide chick lit book from a friend who recommended it.
3. Title/Cover Art. This is seriously how Word Nerd found Rachel Caine's Weather Warden books. The cover was catchy enough that she checked it out.
4. Blurbs/Reviews. These can sway Word Nerd either way. A blurb, for example, comparing Rachel Caine to Laurell K. Hamilton was persuasive. Likewise, the review for Gentlemen & Players was good enough that Word Nerd picked up the book without having really ever heard of Joanne Harris before. The review for John Irving's new book has made Word Nerd leery, despite previously reading and enjoying Irving.
5. First sentence/paragraph/chapter. This is often the criteria after Word Nerd gets the book home from the library. Maybe the cover art looked cool, or it looked like a good genre fiction book. Case study -- Word Nerd checked out the first book of K.J. Parker's Fencer trilogy because it looked like decent fantasy. After reading the first few pages at home, Word Nerd took it back because she was bored.
6. Commitment. Sometimes length is a factor. Or the due date. Or the level of engagement the book will require. Case study #2 -- Word Nerd has Garth Nix's second Keys to the Kingdom book and George R. R. Martin's next book checked out. She's been waiting for the Martin book for years since his last one came out. But, she' reading Nix. It's shorter. It's also for kids meaning the characters have a high probability of living through the story. That cannot be said for Martin's book. So why Nix over Martin? After finishing Ivanhoe, Word Nerd decided she wanted to coast through a book before tackling another long and involved one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bethany,
A couple of good series for travel are the Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George; the first title is "Great Deliverance." Her main characters Lynley and Sergeant Barbara Havers are especially well drawn and nuanced. Another series is the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, which includes elements of horror with the usual FBI thriller. "Relic" is the first book in this series.
If travelling to or from Florida, any title by Carl Hiaasen is good--he combines absurd comedic situations with commentary on the disappearing Florida landscapes.
As for me, I've been carrying around Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" on trips for at least five years. Haven't made it past page 100 yet.