Friday, February 10, 2012

What to Read Next?

How do you decide what to read next? I find that I am highly susceptible to suggestion, but I don't always realize it. Here's an example: My brother is in his last semester of college as an English and Writing student. He's very well read, and is constantly suggesting books for me, and giving me books to read - usually in genres that are not my first pick. I ALWAYS like the books he gives me - even if I think I won't, and even if it takes me years to get around to reading his suggestions.

But the real story is this: Last summer we spent a lot of time talking about what he was reading for classes, and what he thought was interesting about them. I knew of the books, but I hadn't read most of them. Included in this list is a bunch of books written by the Beat Generation (of which I knew almost nothing), and the book Moll Flanders. I remember this conversation vividly - I loved having a sibling to talk about literature with and it was some good bonding time for us.

A few months later, my brother and I were able to both take a trip home to visit our parents and our sister. It was a magical time - our entire family reunited for almost two weeks - eating, laughing, playing and beating the crap out of each other. One day we took a trip into Portland so that we could go to Powell's Books - the best book store in ALL THE LAND! While I was there, I bought Moll Flanders and a biography of Jack Kerouac. Only when my brother pointed it out did I realize I was buying the exact things we had talked about earlier in the year. It seems obvious now, but I really didn't even make the connection until it was pointed out to me.

There are two lessons here: 1) my brother is brilliant when it comes to choosing great books; and 2) I am totally a follower.

Moving on: I sometimes like to take bubble baths. Shocking! But when the book I'm currently reading is on my Kindle, I have a problem - the Kindle doesn't get to be near a body of water, so what do I read while soaking away my cares? (Did you notice that doing nothing and actually relaxing in a tub of hot water and sweetly scented soap isn't an option?)

Well, the other night I took a stack of books with me and decided to read the first few pages of each, and that would determine what book I would read next. In picking this short stack, I took into account all the challenges I've entered this year. Here are my three choices. I'm putting a poll on my blog so that readers can vote for what I read next, but here is what I thought while browsing these books.

The Corrections

By Jonathan Franzen

I've had this book for years. I promise myself all the time that I will read it around the holidays or when I have some extra time. I've been unemployed for months now (and all through the holidays!) and I still haven't read it.

It seems like the kind of story I'd like: an older, Midwestern woman feels alone living with her aging husband whose declining health makes her days even more difficult. She thinks back on her life and decides that she's ready to have some fun. Desperate for something to look forward to, she set her heart on bringing the family together for one last Christmas at home. I don't yet know if it will work out for her.

It seems heartwarming and nice, but reading the first few pages also promises some good conflict and the back of the book says that modern day life will collide with Enid's ideal - the lifestyle of the 1950s. Seems promising.

So why can't I seem to get into it? I've picked it up 3 times, and put it down for later - I never got more than a chapter in. It's time to change that, because I have to read it for my TBR Pile Challenge. I'm guessing that once I get into it, I'll really enjoy it.

The God of Small Things

By Arundhati Roy

From the back of the book:

"The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer terrible consequences of forbidden love, [this book] is set in the state of Kerala." The back of the book continues to describe the characters involved and how the decline has come about. It seems like a good story of inner strength and coming through adversity for the twins at the center of the story. I also like that it's set in another country with another culture to learn more about.

I've never actually tried to read this yet, except for the few pages I read the other night. This might be a good one to read next. It also would allow me to check something off of my TBR Pile Challenge.

Moll Flanders

By Daniel Defoe

My brother sure was right about this one. The copy I bought at Powell's that day is a Norton Critical Edition, so after I read the novel, I get to read some other stuff about it. It also means footnotes with explanations of antiquated phraseology. The nerd in me just squealed in delight.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines from the first few pages:

"...having gone out of the World by the Steps and the String." This means he got hung. Amazing.

" Mother pleaded her Belly," This means she claimed to be pregnant so she couldn't be executed. Instead she was transported to the American colonies.

This book is going to take me a long time to read, because of all the rich verbiage and footnotes, but I'm going to enjoy every moment of it.

Another advantage is that it would be a notch in the Back to the Classics Challenge, the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die Challenge, and my TBR Pile Challenge. So there's that.

Anyway, vote or don't vote. Those are my first impressions of the books I might read next. Any thoughts?

P.S. I notice that when I write posts there is always some punctuation mark I use a lot - it must depend on my mood. Often it's a lot of commas, and I'm very fond of parenthesis. Today it seems to be the colon. Sorry. It's a quirk.


  1. If you're into international mysteries, complicated but fun to read books, you might try "Catchers in the Sky" by Jonathan Damien. The author is a friend of mine. Great talent. The beginning is a little slow, but once into the book, it's a good read.

    1. I will check that out. Thanks Rosemary!

  2. For me it's usually about the author or recommendations from friends. I do a some book reviews too, which takes over my to-read pile on occasion. A few months ago I got curious about how other people choose books so I posted a poll at Facebook: how do readers choose books? It turns out that people, I suppose not surprisingly, are interested quite a bit in covers, titles, and synopses.