Monday, August 16, 2010

The Problem of What to Read Next

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. -P.J. O'Rourke

Finishing a good book is a bittersweet moment for me. I don’t like saying goodbye to characters I’ve grown to love. But that’s only part of the problem. Ending one book means it’s time to select what I’m going to read next. With so many books available and so many ways to decide, making that choice is no easy task.

Some readers might visit the new books section at their library; ask for recommendations from their local book store; follow their book club list; or, opt for something a friend or family member mentioned in passing.

Others might go online for advice. Recently ran an article, “The Five Best Book Recommendation Services.” They included sites I would expect to find, like Shelfari, Library Thing, Amazon, and Goodreads, plus one I wasn’t familiar with called GetGlue. The article mentions the pluses each site has to offer.

There are some people who find an author they like and read without a pause everything by that one writer. Once the author’s books are devoured, the fan can select from a list of books that the author likes. At there’s a top ten book list by a wide range of authors. For instance, here are the number one selections from a few random authors:

Kate Atkinson: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Russell Banks: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Carl Hiaasen: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Stephen King: The Golden Argosy by Van H. Cartmell & Charles Grayson, editors
Anita Shreve: The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
Tom Wolfe: L'Assommoir; Nana (tie) by Emile Zola
Jodi Picoult: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
John Irving: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Joyce Carol Oates: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Alexander McCall Smith: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

OK, so they aren’t exactly recent releases…but, classics can always be reread.

Another option, and one of my favorites, is to select books after reading about them from blogger buddies. They might be books they’ve written or books they have reviewed.

While all of the above methods are good, I wanted to work my way through my leaning tower of to-read books before adding more confusion to the selection process, so I utilized a very unscientific approach. I recently finished reading The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle (passed on to me by my sister). I thought it was an excellent book and I enjoyed it, but it was dark, sad, intense, and addressed a touchy subject these days (immigration). My next read needed to be on the lighter side. I plucked a book from the stack according to the fun-looking book cover (I warned you my method was not scientific).

I selected Delicious and Suspicious, a cozy mystery by Riley Adams (an author I ‘met’ through blogging). The only problem I can see with my selection, after reading only a few pages, is that I might have to go out for barbeque tonight (those who have read it will know what I mean). Check out Mystery Writing is Murder for more information on this author (also known as Elizabeth Spann Craig) and her books.

How do you go about selecting your next book to read? Are you inclined to read all books by an author you like before moving on to something else, or do you like to mix things up a bit? If you made a top ten list, which book would you include as number one? (I didn’t answer this question, because I simply don’t know. Again, there are too many for me to select only one—or ten.)

Thanks for dropping by today. I hope to see you again next Monday.

Tags: P. J. O’Rourke, Lifehacker, top ten books , Delicious and Suspicious, Tortilla Curtain, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult , book recommendation services, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Riley Adams,


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I used to read anything and everything by Anne McCaffrey, but I'm in the hunt for someone new. Most of the books I've begun lately I haven't finished.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Classics are great to read and reread! I love some of those books on the top 10 list.

And thanks for reading mine. :) Hope you'll treat yourself to a little BBQ.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

I, too, have that stack of books--and how I choose? I suppose it has more to do with the one that grabs my attention first. I like certain authors, but I find some of their books fail to hold my attention like earlier ones I've read. Right now, I'm trying to weed through the first quarter of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo--and wondering why an editor published it without serious editing--even if the guy wasn't alive to help with it.
Sylvia Dickey Smith

A War of Her Own

A. K. said...

It a very tough thing for me to choose books, so i choose them randomly. But recently I got three books from this Indian Writer called Chetan Baghat after reading his first book. Though i never by books based on the writer but I like his books. Its very simple and a great way to experience the culture and the tradition of India!

Mason Canyon said...

While I enjoy reading every book an author has written, sometimes I need a change. I like going back and forth from one genre to another to help keep my mind fresh. Then again when I read cozy murder mysteries there are so many different themes involved I can read three or four straight and they are still all different.

BTW, be sure to get a glass of sweet tea to go with your BBQ.

Thoughts in Progress

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Diane, I think sometimes when you really enjoy a particular author or book, it’s even harder to get into the mindset for something else. I hope you find one that grabs your attention all the way through soon.

Elizabeth, I’m enjoying Delicious and Suspicious. It’s just what I was in the mood for. However, I still haven’t made it out for BBQ, but don’t know how long I can hold out.

Sylvia, I had the same problem with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It came so highly recommended that I forced myself to finish it, but I know I’ll have to be desperate for something to read before picking up either of the other two in the series.

A.K., picking a book by subject matter that you’re interested in is a good idea. India certainly has much to offer in the way of history and culture.

Mason, I need to go back and forth, too, even if I love every word an author has written. I’m not usually a fan of sweet drinks, but the discussion over Aunt Pat’s sweet tea might be enough to make me give it a try again.

Karen Walker said...

I do have some favorite authors whose books I buy automatically. I also love going to the bookstore and browsing back covers for blurbs that grab me. Then I read a page or two and I'm either hooked or not. I am working my way thru purchasing books of friends I've met online. I love supporting writing buddies in this way. Must get Elizabeth's new one.

Darcia Helle said...

I've never heard of GetGlue but now I'll have to check it out! Another site for those confused on what to read is You type in a book title or author you like and the program will toss out suggestions for similar authors and genres.

I have a to-read list on Goodreads that is over 600 books long. My method is about as scientific as yours, Jane. I grab what I'm in the mood for. Lately, I do lean more toward indie and/or new authors. I've been disappointed with some of the big name authors these days and I've found some gems in the indie world.

Anonymous said...

I need to get cracking on that list of 100 classics from the past 100 years. I read too much current stuff that's starting to sound generic and cookie cutterish.

Stephen Tremp

Laura Marcella said...

I read Delicious and Suspicious and I know exactly what you mean. I was salivating within the first couple pages, LOL! Thank goodness there were recipes at the end!

Tamika: said...

I never want to stop reading! I have a list that could last until eternity of what's up next to read!

Thanks for the links:)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Karen, I also enjoy reading the work of the newly emerging authors I meet online. I’ve discovered some really good books this way.

Darcia, thanks for the link. I remember reading something about, but then forgot all about it. Over 600 books – that’s amazing! You must be an incredibly fast reader.

Stephen, I find cookie cutter type books do grow old quickly. When in doubt of what to read next, a classic is usually a safe choice.

Laura, I’m not sure I want to learn how to cook that good. It’s tough enough for me not to over eat as it is.

You’re welcome Tamika. It’s a long list that makes selecting my next read all the harder. However, it’s also a secure feeling for me to know that I’ll probably never run out of books to read.

Anonymous said...

My book choosing process is not very scientific. I have a stack of books that I need to read. If I don't have something checked out from the library that needs to be read, then I just pluck a book from the pile. I'm always adding books to the pile, so there is a great variety of reading materials at any given time.

Carol Kilgore said...

I have to mix authors because if I don't, I burn out on authors I love. I try to read one new author for every two of my favorites. As for favorite book? I have a few shelves full :)

Hart Johnson said...

I don't tend to read more of the same author in a row unless it is a continuing story--I DO like trilogies or series, but they need to have an intentional continuing thread. If they are able to totally stand alone, the author has to put in so much repeat info, I get bored reading right in a row.

My reading stack is about half gift, 1/3 'freebies' (I live in a city that gifts books when done and I never pass a stack of free books without going through it, though I make a habit of only taking one at a time, so others get a chance). The few I buy HAVE taken a turn toward 'authors I know'.

Best read this summer: Bad Things Happen (reviewing and interviewing very soon)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I tend to mix it up. I'll read an author I know I enjoy and then follow that with a newer author.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Susanne, it sounds like you use a random selection mode, which makes sense. I tend to make everything harder than it has to be.

Carol, that’s a good way to work new authors into your reading time. I see we have the same problem naming favorite books:)

Hart, I like the idea of gifting books when the reader is done with them. I haven’t heard of your choice for best summer read, so I’ll be on the lookout for your review.

Alex, wouldn’t it be great if we could ‘train’ the reading public to read newer authors as often as newer authors read each other’s work.

Daisy Hickman said...

Wonderful topic & closing questions, Jane! Unscientific is the only way to go when it comes to "what to read next." I go for self-discovery type books as a steady diet, but spice things up now and then with a novel or short story collection. One book often leads me to the next: a book recommended or referenced by the author, for instance. If a book arrives as a gift, it often will get priority placement, as well! Overall, I go with whatever seems compelling in the moment, and once I start a book, I start another one ... usually working on 6-8 books at once. Some books are savored, a few pages a day; others I race through, unable to put down; and some linger on a backburner ... waiting to become "the next book completed." :)

arlee bird said...

I've got no real system in place and I've got a few hundred books in my office and rooms nearby that I still haven't read. The ones I want to make my next reads are Flannery by Brad Gooch and New York by Edward Rutherfurd.

Tossing It Out

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Hey Jane, sorry it's been awhile since I've stopped by!

I used to have a method of choosing my next read (this was before my library became such a monstrosity). I have a tin with scraps of paper with each letter of the alphabet printed on them. I would choose a letter and that would be the author I would read. I would just have to choose which book by which author. This started to become a problem when my home library reached 1700+ books! Now, when I'm not reading review books, I take the list of books I'm reading for reading challenges, which are all books I already own, and I plug the numbers into And that's how I pick my next read! If, however, it chooses a book too close to the genre I just finished, I let it pick another one. It seems to work pretty well and takes the pressure of decision-making off of me...LOL!

The Old Silly said...

I love that Rourke quote, lol. I don't have a system for which book to read next. I always have a mountain of them piled up in my TBR office corner and it's just a serendipitous whim as to which one screams at me the loudest. Unless I've promised some author a read and review and they are nudging me, sometimes that gets priority.

Helen Ginger said...

I tend to just pull one from the stack on my desk. My husband has authors he reads, so as soon as a new one in a series comes out, he downloads it. I try to introduce him to new writers I've met, just to get him out of his rut.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Daisy, I can’t even imagine trying to keep track of reading 6 to 8 books at one time! How do you keep them all straight in your head?

Lee, at least you have something in mind as your next reads and don’t have to stand in front of your few hundred books scratching your head.

Michelle, I know it’s tough to get to everyone’s blog. Just happy to have you visit whenever you can. Your comment made me laugh. I love the idea of using for book selections. That’s certainly the most original method I’ve heard of.

I liked that quote, too, Marvin. I’ve never thought of standing back and letting a book scream at me – think there might be a Stephen Kingish type story there:)

Helen, you make it sound so easy!

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Anonymous said...

LOL. Love the opening quote.

bed frames said...

It is also one of my big problems in reading book. I have so many books to read and every time I finish one book. I am having a problem on what to read next. That is why can fully relate in this post.

Darcia Helle said...

Jane, I'm not a fast reader. I just have no self-control with books!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

Your opening quote made me giggle! Thanks for making my day. I am currently in school- so my reading list is picked for me, but otherwise I go by whim/mood or my friends.

Cheers, N

Dave King said...

I don't have a method. I keep 2 or 3 (no more) books on the go at any one time, all different genres. When I finish one I try to find one that contrasts with all 3. I keep an eye on the book reviews, but never allow myself to be put off by a bad one.
Interesting post.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love the "leaning tower" image, because that's exactly what I have. Since I read all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, I dig through my stack until one topic or author or genre feels right at the time. Today I started Alan Orloff's "Diamonds for the Dead." We're off to a good start.


Glynis said...

Until recently I grabbed the next off of my tbr pile. My daughter set up a small family online reading group and now I am reading whatever is decided there. I like that because I am reading books I might not have considered before.
I also read my online friend's books as they are published. It is a great mixture, so the choosing is never an issue.

Glynis said...

I have just read the comment about the Girl with Dragon Tattoo book. I have just finished it, but while I was reading I felt like someone out of the exorcist. My head was swinging from one POV to another, and felt it needn't have been that way. I agree editing was an issue with the book.
I am about to read, The Girl Who Played With Fire, another of Larsson's books. I wonder if I will break my rule and put it down should the head swivelling become too intense. LOL

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world