Oct 162012

I used to read a lot of fiction, and then I didn’t, and now I do again. And since I’ve just read a (very long and German) blog post about how people find books to read (found through Merlix (also German)), and how hard it is to find books you like – I thought I’d write a few words about how I find books. (And yes, I know there are too many parentheses in this paragraph.)

So there was a time when I had the feeling every single book that I started to read was boring, and I began wondering if I had grown out of reading fiction. Or if fiction had started becoming too familiar. I went to bookshops, and I picked up books new to me, and I’d read a sentence here and there, and put it back again.

I also bought every book that came out from any of the authors I knew I loved. I looked at every book anybody mentioned in my presence but what I never, ever do is read something that somebody tells me to read based on another book I have talked about.

Because that one – for whatever reason – never works. Every single time, somebody tells me, “Oh, if you liked that you will love this.” Nope. Not in films, not in series, not in music, and not in books. That point, the uselessness of recommendations has made me sit in front of my bookshelves and wonder what all the books in there have in common, apart from the fact that I all bought them and liked or loved them. Because every book that’s not either emotionally very important to me, or likely to be re-read, or an absolute classic is thrown out as soon as possible. I have more than five bookcases full and overflowing, and about 150 books on my Kindle, I don’t really need to keep every single book around.

So. I was unable to say what all those books have in common but me.

So. If I can’t tell, who can?

Well, apparently Winterkatze can. She’s the one person in all the world (besides my husband) whom I trust to recommend books to me. But then she has known me for a very long time, and she doesn’t recommend books based on her likes but on what she knows about my likes. And she reads a lot, and has at times worked in bookshops, and libraries, and writes excellent book reviews.

When I was complaining to her about how I don’t really like fantasy anymore because I’m rather sick of Tolkienesque bands of mismatched people/dwarves/elves/whatever to go on a quest to find the jewel/sword/stone/whatever that will end all evil and save the world she said what I needed was a dose of urban fantasy. And after a bit of thinking she told me to try “Dead Witch Walking”. Which I love. And, great for me, there are a lot more books in that series.

So that’s one way of getting at books I love. She also gave me books for my birthday and Christmas that I absolutely loved, and then bought sequels to. I’d count that as recommendation from a friend, and recommendation from your friendly bookseller all in one package.

Once I have something I like I usually seek out more by the same author. And then I sometimes follow amazon’s recommendation as well.

Often I read about a book on a blog that I like. So I always check out things Neil Gaiman loves but I don’t always enjoy them. But then I found out about Caitlìn Kiernan though him, and her books are marvelous. And Dave McKean.

There are other blogs that I love to read but if they recommend a book I’m rather certain to not like it. And just now I’m thinking that often it is because I don’t read in German. Which, yes, is rather strange. I don’t think it’s because of the language, I think it might have to do with the publishing industry here, and with the fact that I don’t usually enjoy literary fiction.

A rather unexpected source of book recommendations has turned out to be ravelry, the social networking site for knitters. It turns out that a lot of knitters, spinners, weavers, and crocheters like books as well as textiles, and not only books about textiles but about other things as well.

And only when one of my trusted sources recommends a bestseller to me am I willing to look at it because usually I don’t like bestsellers at all. And I can’t say why.

And all of this is a very long way to say where I get ideas about what book to read next. And I tend to keep lists, and so when someone mentions a book that sounds interesting I make a note of it. And then I download a sample to my ebook reader, and then I decide if I might like it enough to buy it. And so I’ve ended up downloading these books since two days ago:

  • Flatland (recommendation on ravelry)
  • The Code of the Woosters (recommendation from the blog post mentioned above that reminded me that I like P.G. Wodehouse)
  • Her Royal Spyness (review by Winterkatze)
  • Into the Woods (I had it pre-ordered because I love Kim Harrison)
  • Digitale Demenz (I met a guy on Sunday who recommended this. I think I might buy and read it just to hate the book and think about ways the author is wrong.)
  • A Blink on the Screen (I buy just about everything by Terry Pratchett.)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (recommendation through ravelry that reminded me that Neil Gaiman spoke highly of Diana Wynne Jones)

Never mind that I have about 80 unread ebooks, and about 20 unread paper books flying around the house. I’m always afraid I will somehow get back to the abysmal times of my childhood when all I had where about three books that I knew by heart, and a library that held less books than the house I live in now.

Or the times when every book I wanted to read in English had to be ordered specifically, and was really expensive, and took about two months to get my hands on.

I do love living in the future.

So. Where do you get your book recommendations from? Or are you one of those people who tell me they don’t have the time to read? Whatever that means.

  One Response to “On finding books to read”

  1. I have had poor results from recommendations as well, yet I still make them to other people, with modest success. I read very fast so I find books by browsing in bookshops and if a story appeals, I will buy it. Sometimes I find reviews online that tell me enough about the book to get me to look at it. Some authors are fairly reliable.

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