After staring at six bookcases for the last thirty minutes and concluding you have nothing to read (disregarding the three boxes you brought home from the library book sale last week) you set out to find your next read. Below I’ve listed some personal rules and structure I use for selecting the next book.
Eight Guidelines for Personal Reading
- Avoid series books. Sequels and trilogies are fine but once the number of books surpases three, most authors are asking for a commitment I can’t make. If they publish one a year at between three to five hundred pages, it requires a lot of devotion. Series don’t usually inspire long term passion for me so I avoid them.
- Should you disregard rule one, do not start a series until after the author has finished it. There are perfectly legitimate and acceptable reasons for this rather harsh rule. I prefer to binge books like I binge television. I’m sure I keep company in that regard. Also, I think we all know the Wheel of Time dangers. So no, I have not started A Song Of Fire and Ice. I think some of you are very brave. No wonder fandom lashes out when George R. R. Martin takes a nap or makes lunch.
- Judge a book by it’s cover. A book clubber once confided that for a summer every book in her “To Read” pile had large lettering in white over a mostly blue background. See Station Eleven for example. The physical book gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect. Also, you’ll want to know the weight and size to determine which purse to buy.
- Similarly, judge a book by its publisher. A bookish mentor of mine swears by all things Knopf. Odds are pretty good that if it’s in the oh-so-gorgeous Penguin Classics edition, I’m going to enjoy the read. See, at some point we’ll address the topic of both “Book Buying vs Libraries” and “How to Shelve A Home Library”… but not today.
- Favorite author’s works should be hoarded. I described in “Currently Reading” how Anne Lamott contains a long term bookmarking so I can avoid finishing for savor sake. This also happens with dead beloved writers. Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Conroy, refuse to write beyond the grave. I must save a least a few works in case life becomes so bleak only great fiction will pull me out. My “Break in Case of Emergency” stash.
- Mix it up. Read new authors regularly. If you can’t finish all your favorite author’s works, you need to have a lot of good standbys in circulation. To acquire a hallowed cast of writers, you’ll need to explore. Check out your friend’s Goodreads lists; peruse the Discover New Authors bay at the bookstore; chat with your friend the librarian about readers’ advisory. Devour accordingly.
- Stretch yourself. To prevent stagnation, I work in at least one book that may make me insane every year. I like the intimidation factor. Sometimes it’s the heft of the book that makes readers quiver, such as Infinite Jest . Sometimes it’s word of mouth horror stories. For example, Moby Dick and all you may learn about whaling. Take risks, make commitments, see what the hype is about, learn more.
- Read enjoyable trash from time to time. For me, that means beach reads, humor books, teen selections, kitschy popular stuff, and anything that overly appeals to the Vonnegut crowd.
How do you select what book is on deck? What rules do you keep or break? How do you discover great books?