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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » How do you choose which book you'll read?

   
Author Topic: How do you choose which book you'll read?
History
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Now that I morbidly recognize I have lived more years than I have years remaining, I find I have a new perspective toward the books I choose to read or re-reread. One that inescapably perceives life, particularly my life, as ephemeral. That choosing to use my time for one endeavor means excluding another forever from my experience. [Yes, I perversely dwell on such thoughts, choosing the "red pill" and forgoing the "blue", in the recognition that nothing focuses the mind on what is real and true like one's imminent mortality. Even though I write fantasy and sf mostly, you'll find such themes as an undercurrent in my tales, the gritty particle board beneath the veneer]. [Smile]

Anyway, I find my reading selections fall into three categories:

1) Nostalgia: reading or re-reading works by authors I've enjoyed when I was younger. While some are "dated", many still are a delight and evoke the thrill (or pleasant memory of the thrill) I experienced on first reading them or first discovering the author.

2) Hype (established new authors or genres): By this I mean if there has been enough talk/scuttlebutt regarding "steampunk", "urban fantasy", "realistic fantasy", "paranormal fantasy", or the next post-Potter YA bestselling series, I'll make time to read a sample to see what the fuss is about--usually 5-10 years after they were published or the subgenre was first established.

3) Chance: New authors whose works I sample by chance on-line (e.g. James Enge), or whose blurbs/descriptions sound interesting because they are a new take on nostalgic genres I've enjoyed (e.g. Matthew Hughes), or whose literary reviews are noteworthy for their command of language (e.g. Michael Chabon, Catherynne M Valentin, etc.).

I don't buy books because of their covers (I find most book covers today are awful and uninspiring).

I also, after being stunned by the brilliant hooks at the openings of Jim Buthcher's Harry Dreseden stries and novels, read the opening paragraph of books I pick up from store shelves or "Look Inside" on Amazon. I find very few have strong hooks.

Alright...enough procrastinating. Time to write.
How do you choose which books to read?

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[ June 15, 2013, 10:39 AM: Message edited by: History ]

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Robert Nowall
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Of late, it's the subject matter that attracts me---nonfiction, mostly---if I see something that catches my interest, I'll buy it. This is determined by dust jacket copy.

There's the old perennial---the writer's name. If the writer is familiar to me, if he turned out something really good, I'll check out previous and future books.

Sometimes the cover does interest me, too...

But I've never bought a book because of its first thirteen...

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wetwilly
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At any given time, I've got 3-4 authors whose books I'm always looking for to read next. (Right now it's Philip K Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, and Raymond Chandler).

I'm a high school English teacher, so I also try to keep up on what's hot in YA books, which sometimes dictates what I read next.

Mostly, though, it's just a mood thing. "I feel like something light, quick, and fun. Grab a YA sci-fi book." "I feel like something dark and gritty. Hit up the mystery section." "I want something thought provokinf, with substance. Maybe hit up the 19th century Russians?"

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extrinsic
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Yes, nostalgia, hype---or buzz, Buzz, BUZZ---and happenstance chance are reasons I select reading material, also rereading because what I'd read a few years or decades ago is more relevant and accessible later, and because of assignments, formal or informal, self-assigned or by acquaintances or mentors or from writers I want to unravel. Plus because the directions my studies go take me onto niche journeys. Jack Kerouac, for example, led on back to Faulkner, Joyce, Dostoyevsky, P.D. Ospenski, Tatiana Negro, Georges Gurdjieff, Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kippling, Flaubert, Virgil, and Homer, and led forward to Cormac McCarthy, Joan Didion, Charles Frazier, Donna Tart, E. Annie Proulx, and Jonathan Franzen, and so on.
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LDWriter2
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Hmm, I have many reasons to pick a book to read. Not that all of them have to fulfilled for me to get a book but at least one does.

Like one person it can depend on my mood, like someone else I watch for certain authors and along those lines certain series. I can also by attracted to a title, a cover, what others have said about it. That last three means I will check the book out.

Genre has something to do with it too but I can read something in other genres.

I have less time to read now so I'm more picky than I used to be, but you couldn't tell by the pile of to read books I have--some of which is hidden on my Nook.

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Robert Nowall
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Neglected to mention recommended books...reviews, friends, coworkers, people 'round here-and-elsewhere online, and so on and so forth.
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Melanie Vera
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I like to read the introduction about the book and then I like to read the reviews and furthermore I like to read a preview. I am not one to like a lot of swearing in a book so in the store I will thumb thru the book and if I find those words that will stop me from reading it then I will know it is not for me.

I also go off my friends on Facebook on what they recommend and then do what I mentioned before. I also look at the cover of a book , so yes it needs to be eye capturing. I also have to be in the right mood to read.

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wise
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Sometimes it's an "old friend", either author or particular book that I want to reread for the same reasons as you, Dr. Bob.

Sometimes it's a recommended author or book from a friend who has similar tastes as me.

Sometimes it's a cover that catches my eye as I'm browsing the store.

Sometimes it's a topic I'm interested in, like Chinese history or the Age of Exploration (either nonfiction or historical fiction, doesn't necessarily matter), social issues, or the biography of someone I want to know more about.

Mood and the season is important. Winter is for heavier topics or maybe a Victorian mystery so I can cuddle up with a cup 'o tea on the couch on a chilly day. Summer is for light reading, maybe John Grisham or something funny.

In summation, I think I'm all over the map when it comes to how I choose a book to read. Sometimes it's merely chance that I find a book. But that's the fun of discovering a new friend!

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MartinV
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Right now, I will pick up anything and start reading from the start. If the beginning hooks me, I will read it whole. Maybe not at that moment but I will write it down and buy/borrow it some other day.

What usually makes me reject a book is the writer's voice. I've become terribly sensitive to the voice and if the narrator sounds like a 40-year-old teenager (and a surprisingly large number do), I will drop the book in an instant. I've actually bought books and later learned they have a voice that's not compatible with me. So it's basically money wasted because I will never read that book.

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Rolag
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I read more extensively in terms of author and genre now I have a Kindle. I live in a remote location, so Kindle has opened up a whole world of books that I wouldn't otherwise see. I nearly always download the free sample before buying, usually the first couple of chapters, so have benefited two fold in reading many unfamiliar authors as well as saving myself a lot of money. I think most readers can tell within a page or two if they want to part with their hard earned cash to read the rest. I trawl through the free books now and again, not because I'm cheap [Smile] but because it's possible to find the occasional gem written by a new or lesser known author. I came across Hugh Howey's "Wool" that way and would never have heard of it otherwise. Likewise "The Last Policeman" by Ben Winters.
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MartinV
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Yep, free samples is the way to go as soon as you have a Kindle. [Big Grin]
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legolasgalactica
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I'm with extrinsic. One book leads me to another whether because of , subject, series, author, recommendations from others based off that book, research about questions that arise from reading, etc.

Probably the most interesting way I've 'chosen' to read a book is because my mom was addicted to audio recordings of her favorites and she'd crank up the volume so no one within a mile could avoid hearing it as well. So whether in our small home, or working out in the yard, or driving long hours in the car I was thoroughly brainwashed into liking (against my will) Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Mrs Polifax, and a long list of other strange, old or 'girly' books that I now recall with great affection.

Listening to audio-books has become my preferred 'reading' method because of the freedom to multi-task and also for the additional entertainment features provided by a good narrator or cast of voices in audio drama.

Jim Dale, for example, made me love the Harry Potter series through his narration in a way I never would have reading it on my own or watching the movies.

And so i often find new books I like because of who narrates it. I know it seems silly, but good narrators narrate good books. In fact there are several whole series that I have never physically read because I love the narrator's rendition better than my own inner interpretation.

Sorry to go off on a tangent but I thought I should try to explain the why behind my unorthodox methods.

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Smiley
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Lately, it's whatever my granddaughter brings to my lap.
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