Monday, October 24, 2011

Eenie Meenie Miny Moe

I love organization. I'm a bit of an organization junkie, actually. Which makes the utter chaos I call home rather ironic. I made a resolution this weekend that I was going to commit a minimum of one hour every day over the next few months...or until I finish, if that comes REALLY organizing my house.

Regardless of which way you look in my house, you see books, so that really has to be the place I start. And today I did just that. Here is a look at the books that have come into my house in the last 3 months AND that I haven't been able to read yet.

I took about a dozen to a friend yesterday and about three dozen from this picture are going to be shipped to another friend this week. That still leaves a lot of books, and they are all books that have an appealing concept to me; therefore, ones I'd like to read. 

That got me thinking about a conversation I had with an author at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association's trade show. He asked me about how I decide which book to pick up next. He shared a story with me about a book he decided on from his pile because he remembered there had been some discussion about it online. He couldn't remember what the discussion was exactly, but the fact that the discussion had been about that particular book made him pick it up.

Then last week in Friday's Shelf Awareness Pro, Robert Gray talked about "How do we decide which ARC to read next?" His present choices are due to a conversation. Hmmm, I'm sensing a pattern here. Word of mouth seems to be making an impression.

But even readers who don't receive ARCs, I'm pretty certain you're like me and walk out of the book store, book sale, library, etc., with far more than one book. So how do YOU decide which one gets priority in the reading order? For me right now I'm reading books of the authors I'll moderate on a panel in Muskego next month. And sometimes a deadline for a review or a release date might prompt me to choose one book over the others. But a lot of times I'll look at the stack...ok the mountain...and after recovering from the minor coronary, I'll choose the book that fits my mood. And I think a lot of determining that comes from what I've heard about it...or maybe what I know about the author.

That leads to the question: what about the authors you don't know? Or better yet, the brand new authors...the ones who you don't really have much, if anything, to base your choice on? What makes you pick up THAT book?

A friend recently told me that he was at a point where his "regular" favorites were writing often enough for him to stay reading without having to pick up any new authors. That can be an incredible hurdle to overcome for fledgling writers.

I admit that I sometimes have to force myself to put aside a book of a favorite author in an effort to read a new-to-me author. Had I not opted to do that, I wouldn't have discovered the likes of James Thompson, John Verdon, Hilary Davidson, Daniel Palmer, Keith Thomson, Brad Parks, Kelli Stanley, Rebecca Cantrell...

And on the flip side of that, there are times when my mood demands that I curl up with the comfort of something I know and can count on.  When life is feeling a bit overwhelming, I know I can count on Elvis Cole, John Ceepak or Walt Longmire to whisk me away from my reality.

As you can see from my picture, which represents only a small fraction of the books taking up residence in my house right now, I have the luxury of doing both. But I'm curious. What book(s) are YOU reading right now and what made you pick that one over all others to read now?


bermudaonion October 24, 2011 at 8:00 AM  

I'm reading Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski because of a review I read on a blog. If I don't have a deadline (from a review I've committed to or an author event), I read whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

Harvee October 24, 2011 at 8:48 AM  

I have gone to the extreme of using a random number generator to choose my next read. That lasted only so long before I just went with my gut instinct based on the cover, author, and title.

Beth F October 24, 2011 at 9:24 AM  

I have a two-tier method. First I make a pile of books I want to read based on word or mouth or reviews, then I start reading first pages until one grabs me so tightly I can't stop reading.

Julie Geistfeld October 24, 2011 at 9:32 AM  

I'm reading Deadworld by JN Duncan and before that it was Creep by Jennifer Hillier, both are authors I met on Twitter. I have several others on my wishlist from the same method. It has been great meeting fellow writers and discovering some amazing stories.

R.K. Ryals October 24, 2011 at 9:42 AM  

I pick books based on the description on the back cover, then I check out the reviews. This usually provides the final sway. If the number of negative reviews out number the positive, I tend to set it aside. I don't normally judge a book by it's cover, as I have found many wonderful books to have less than desirable covers. I probably shouldn't let reviews sway me since everyone has a different opinion, but there are so many books, especially in the genre I prefer, that I have to have some way of reducing how many I read.

Jen October 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM  

R.K., that's a great point! I was mentioning one day about an author I'm opting not to read because of his/her behavior at an event. I've been told the work is great, but there's a ton of great stuff out there. That author helped me filter out some options and leave room for others.

So once you've decided if the books are worthy of reading, you probably have a stack of those, what makes you pick one to read before another?

Jen October 24, 2011 at 10:01 AM  

Julie, I think social media has a huge impact on readers these days. Thanks for your contribution!

Craig October 24, 2011 at 10:01 AM  

I'm reading "Innocent" by Scott Turow because I very much enjoyed "Presumed Innocent." Finding it interesting so far to see what he's done with the characters (though the sex scenes were pretty icky). Also plugging away at "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner, which is a great book about the use and abuse of water resources, but so jampacked with info that I can't absorb more than about three pages a day.

Jen October 24, 2011 at 10:02 AM  

Candace, that's perfect! I'm sure that makes the cream rise to the top in your piles. I'm reading a book that would have passed those qualifications for me right now. It's made for a couple late nights, though, when I didn't want to put the book down! :-)

Jen October 24, 2011 at 10:06 AM  

Harvee, I love it! We go to some desperate measures sometimes don't we? I'm regularly taxed when I have to choose between 6-8 books I want to all read NEXT! :-)

Jen October 24, 2011 at 10:07 AM  

Kathy! I loved FUN & GAMES and it isn't my usual fair. I mean, it's crime fiction, but not my usual crime fiction. Duane has done a masterful job with that least the first two. Still have to wait on the last one. :-) Enjoy!

Jen October 24, 2011 at 10:08 AM  

Craig, once an author has proven themselves with me, I'm always excited to go back to them. Sometimes they disappoint later, but building that initial cred does wonders for me choosing to read a book!

Beth Hoffman October 24, 2011 at 11:06 AM  

I usually select two or three books that reflect the subject matter and genre I'm in the mood for at the moment, and then I'll read a few pages of each. The one that grabs my attention the quickest is the one I'll read.

Linda October 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM  

Jen, My house looks like yours. Between print and Kindle, I have hundreds in my TBR pile. Recently, I've been keeping up with my regulars, but trying works by new authors I saw/met/heard about at Bouchercon 2011 in St. Louis. Just finished two by G.M. Malliet and loved them both. Also near finishing the anthology Down These Strange Streets, which I was drawn to because of stories by Diana Gabaldon and Laurie R. King -- definitely NOT their usual style!(but fun!) Also has a story from Charlaine Harris. I also tend toward books by authors I follow on Twitter and who blog, i.e. @JungleReds, @JeffCohenwriter,, etc. Lots of social media connections keep my list long but varied and interesting.

Jenn's Bookshelves October 24, 2011 at 12:54 PM  

It would take forever for me to explain my insane method of picking books. For review copies, I have calendar which I go off of. I'm particularly picky when it comes to accepting review pitches, only agreeing to review books that I would have read anyway. That helps in picking which book to read next. Also, I make sure to read a book from my personal TBR stack in between each review copy read.

H. L. Banks October 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM  

I'm reading Ann Cleeves' Silent Voices. I found out about her books through a writer's blog and glad that I did. I also follow reviews, twitter, and blurbs on back of the book. I value my time and money as a reader and take the time to read the first five pages before purchasing. There's so much to choose from - I know I'm still missing some great reads out there.

Evelyn October 24, 2011 at 5:09 PM  

I love to find new authors and the ones you listed are all new favs of mine, too! It was much easier when I read reviews several months in advance of publication, but now that I'm retired, I'm getting more recommendations from blogs and sites like GoodReads. When I visit the library, I take home a bag full and hope that I'll find some good ones--chosen mostly by the covers/titles. Right now I just found Bill Cameron's County Line and it is great. I'm definitely going to go back and read his previous books! I like your cat right in the middle of it all, too!

Teresa October 24, 2011 at 5:09 PM  

If I am picking up something by an author I'm unfamiliar with it is largely because someone has suggested it to me. Could be friends or family, but even more likely it is a blogger.

Holly West October 24, 2011 at 5:52 PM  

My head hurts just thinking about this topic. I don't have near the blog/book commitments you do, but in the last couple of months my choices were based solely on review commitments and a panel. Now I'm "free" again and the book I picked up was the one I went to a signing for on Friday--even though I've got probably 100 books that by rights should've been higher on the TBR pile. I'm fickle that way.

Pop Culture Nerd October 24, 2011 at 5:55 PM  

I use a bunch of different methods, my mood being one factor, and sometimes I read three books at once if I can't decide.

Last night I selected Todd Ritter's BAD MOON as my next read. Yes, it's gotten great reviews, but a major reason was because he's funny and nice to me on Twitter. Sometimes it's that simple. I've never met him and haven't read him before so social media can definitely work when it's done right.

Anonymous October 24, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

Ginny says:

Just read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. My daughter picked it up this week as a friend of hers suggested she read it. It is a book to pass on - not to hang onto - so it is yours, Jen, after Gwen reads it!

I read EVERYTHING - I have a stack by my bed but I read library books first as those have 'read by' dates. I like to read 2 books for fun for every one that makes me think.

I read from the NYTimes Bestseller list, from 'what's new' at the library, from used books stores and books shared by friends.

If I start a book I am not in the mood to read, I pick up a faster fun read and keep the deep book for reading chapter by chapter. I read the newspaper end to end every day too.

I JUST READ. Everything. Every Day. But it has to be printed - I love the smell and feel of new books. I love the smell and feel of old books. I love library books. Books is good!!!

pattinase (abbott) October 25, 2011 at 5:12 PM  

I buy every book in sight and then I read the ones from the library since they have due dates. Right now: NEMESIS by Philip Roth; THE MARRIAGE PLOT, Eugenides, the Roger Ebert autobiography and THE SPEED CHRONICLES since my kid has a story in it. A thousand books or more wait my attention.

Karen Russell October 25, 2011 at 9:48 PM  

Well, I'm glad my TBR isn't as bad as yours -- it's hard enough to decide as it is. ;-)

I would like to mention the flip side of the problem you discussed about new authors having to break through the barrier -- which is that sometimes I forget to check on favorite "old" authors because I'm always wanting to try something new. Then I discover there's a new book by a favorite author that I somehow missed.


R.K. Ryals October 25, 2011 at 11:40 PM  

Hey Jen! Sorry, I'm so late getting back to you! Had some computer trouble yesterday.

After I narrow down the books I want to read based on the back description and the reviews, I have to admit I turn selfish. I then narrow down based on preference. This doesn't mean I don't read outside my comfort zone, I just begin by reading books I know I may like first. For example, I love Paranormal, but if I had to choose between a vampire book or a fairy one, I'm more likely to choose the fairy first. A couple of months ago, I would have said vampire. I like to change it around here and there.

now, I've narrowed my books by back description, reviews, and preference so I look last at POV and story. Do the events in the story interest me?

I also prefer first person POV which probably makes me a novelty becaause I know many prefer third person. I just like the feeling of "being" the main character, especially when I read aloud to myself. Hope that all makes sense! lol

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