Saturday, January 12, 2008
How do you decide what to read? Reviews, word of mouth, friends' recommendations? I know a lot of us gather up gems of books loved and recommended by fellow bloggers - I sure do. But do you ever have an experience where, say, you read a review of a book. Then you see someone reading it on the bus. And then, there it is, in the window of a book store or on display at the library. Do you take that as a sign and go with it? Or do you just shrug at the coincidence and keep walking?
I tend to take it as a message that yes, now is the time to read that particular book. It may be silly, but it always seems to work out well when I listen to my instincts and get the book. For example, the other day I was putting together titles for my annual Year's Best list at the library where I work. This is something I've been doing for five or six years now - I put out a little ballot box and some voting forms, and I ask people (adults and kids) to write down the most memorable book or books they read during the past year (doesn't matter when they were published). Then I compile them into a list with book summaries, and they can peruse the list for reading ideas. I get some great book recommendations that way myself!
Anyway, one of the recommended books was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I'd heard of the book but didn't know anything about it. When I read the book description in the library catalog, I thought it sounded interesting, but I didn't think any more about it. Then a day or two later, I read a post at Dark Orpheus's blog about Hugo winners. I wondered how many I had read (it turned out more than I expected) - but guess what book won the Hugo in 2005? Of course! Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And then, to top it all off, a patron at the library happened to mention - completely out of the blue, that the audio version of Jonathan Strange was one of the best audio books she'd ever heard!
This is just a recent example, but things like that happen to me all the time. Does anyone else choose reading material this way? I have, of course, added Jonathan Strange to my list - and I think I'll try the audio book while I'm at it. Do you have any fun book serendipity stories? If so, I'd love to hear them!
By the way, the wonderful illustration above was done by David Wiesner as the poster for Philadelphia's first annual book festival (in 2007). I love it!