Friday, January 22, 2010

Recommended reading

How do you choose your next book? Sometimes a new book just bought or just borrowed from work leaps over the entire tbr pile in a single bound & demands to be read. Sometimes the next book seems to lead on quite naturally from the book just finished. My next book is often chosen because of a recommendation from my online reading group. I’ve been a member for five years & we’re a small group of about 30. Some of us post almost every day, some join in when they have time or when a book or author sparks a response, usually along the lines of “Oh, I love her, have you read...”. Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey (reviewed below) was the result of enthusiastic raves from two of our members. I bought it some time ago on the strength of that but another mention recently sent me running to the shelves to find it & read it. In the last couple of days, Elizabeth Von Arnim’s All The Dogs Of My Life & Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria have been read & recommended. I have the Strachey so that’s moving towards my reading table tbr pile & I read the Von Arnim years ago but would like to read it again even though I’m a cat person rather than a dog lover. Another member of the group discovered P G Wodehouse last year & has been raving about Jeeves & Bertie Wooster ever since. I’ve picked up a remaindered copy of The Inimitable Jeeves very cheaply & will be reading it soon. The same person is my infallible guide to any BBC classic serial shown in the UK. We don’t see these in Australia for at least a year after they’re broadcast in the UK so I rely on Elaine to advise me about buying the DVD or just waiting to see it on TV. I’ve just watched the new Emma which I bought on her recommendation (review shortly) & in past years I’ve enjoyed Jane Eyre, Cranford & Little Dorrit months before they were shown on TV here. Little Dorrit still hasn’t made an appearance. So, how do you choose the next book? Serendipity or according to a strict system – first bought, first read? Or whichever book you happen to trip over in the hallway because your bookshelves are overflowing & you have nowhere to put it?


  1. I hardly ever buy new books. So I adopt books from charity shops usually. I will probably have heard a blogger talk about the book or I know of the autor, or increasingly hard to find, a Virago just because it is a Virago.
    Then there are the titles. Drowning Ruth, because my name is Ruth. When I lived in Switzerland i was starved of decent English books so the one place that sold them was the Tabac and only had one swivelly display of books. But that was where I discovered Chaim Potok so I should be grateful for that deprivation. Brian Moore was another discovery. I think I acquired his first book from Padstow Library sale. If it is only 10p and readable, I usually take it home. Years ago in the 1970s I bought an old copy of A Kid for Two Farthings for 2p. Bloomsbury have just seen fit to republish this and I feel so superior because I "discovered" it all on my own nearly 30 years ago.
    And how about browsing through
    Find someone who has a few of your books and see what else they have. I really should update my library over there. If you want to visit me there, I'm "ruthmarler". Just checked and I have just over 500 books over there so i really should walk around the house with the laptop again and get up to date.

  2. Ooh - that's hard! I try to make every other book a Virago for my project, but otherwise it is down to whaever I have from the library and in terms of unread books knocking around at home.

  3. Ruth, my problem is too many recommendations, not too few! I'm almost afraid to discover a new blog to follow as I know I'll end up with more books to chase up. I've started Lytton Strachey's Queen Victoria & as I've just read an interview with Gillian Gill, author of We Two, a new book about V&A I may have to read that to compare & contrast.
    Verity, your challenge is definitely a good way of structuring your reading & VMCs are diverse enough that you hopefully won't get bored.

  4. Many sources:
    Trusted friends (and bloggers) whose taste in reading is compatible. Book lists (Modern Library's top 100 books of the 20th century, etc.). Nancy Pearl's wonderful "Book Lust".

    One thing I almost never do is follow up on a recent book review. I like books to have some time to sink or swim before I pick them up.

  5. Thomas, as a fellow librarian, I'm a Nancy Pearl fan. I especially like her advice about when to give up on a book. Subtract your age from 100. If a book hasn't grabbed you by that page, move on.