Moving on

So I finished my two un-put-downable books, and now I am in the slightly angsty position of having to choose what to read next.  Debby asked me recently how I choose my next book, and I have a few different ways, but I don’t use any one of them consistently, and I often find myself agonizing a bit.  The easiest way of selecting my next book is to pick up whatever I need to read for my next book group meeting.  In this case, that means I’ll be reading Nam Le’s The Boat, a brand new collection of short stories.  I don’t know anything about the book except that it’s gotten some good reviews and that my friends have liked it.  I’m excited to be reading some short stories again.

But I will want a novel to read too, I’m suspecting, and so will probably pick up something else as well.  If I’m not relying on my book groups to choose my books for me, the task is a little harder.  Sometimes I go with an impulse; I’ll just scan my shelves and see what jumps out at me.  Sometimes I go with a friend’s recommendation, which is what I did with both Fingersmith and The Silent Woman.  Sometimes I’ll have a desire to read a particular genre or from a certain time period, and I’ll see what I have on hand or can find at the library that fits the category.  Often I will try to think of what book would be as different as possible from what I just finished to get as much variety as I can.

But still, I rarely find the choice easy.  I make too big a deal of it, I know, but it sometimes seems that choosing a book is like making a statement about who I am.  If someone comes along and asks me what I’m reading, what will they think of my choice?  What will they assume about me?

But enough angst.  What shall I read?  Perhaps Adeline Mowbray or Shirley if I want to go with an earlier time period.  Perhaps Thomas Bernhard’s Frost if I want something edgier.  Perhaps Antonia White’s Frost in May if I’m in the mood for a Virago.  Perhaps Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker if I want something more contemporary.

Oh dear, maybe I should put the decision off until tomorrow … how do you choose?

17 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading

17 responses to “Moving on

  1. It can be terribly hard to choose. If I really can’t decide, I’ll go alphabetically by author. This alleviates some of the stress.

  2. Isn’t it funny how we can have lists of books we want to read, shelves piled up with books, books all over the house and yet struggle to decide what to read next? I don’t have a consistent way of choosing the next book either, but often I have to read the book that’s due back at the library and can’t be renewed. Somehow that’s not what I want to read next!

  3. I have to say that at the moment I have so many good books from the library that my choice is being made for me in terms of which one has to go back first! If it isn’t that then it’s which one is the shortest so that I can take it back and claim the next one that’s waiting for me before they send it back to the branch it came from.

  4. Sometimes I manage to put myself off a whole fist of initially lovely looking books by thinking too hard about what I want to read! My husband was very mixed about The Echo Maker, but then that only makes me want to encourage readers I trust to try it. I’m intrigued by both Antonia Frost and Thomas Bernhard although I’ve read neither. Hmmm… might be best to do a lucky dip, Dorothy!

  5. With all my books and plans, I still mostly choose according to my mood. Very scientific :)

    Have fun deciding what to read next!

  6. All right, you want to know how geeky I am? At the beginning of every month, I consult the TBR tome and browse our shelves, choosing one book per one of seven categories I’ve devised: classic (this can be fiction or nonfiction), light fiction, serious fiction, nonfiction, poetry/short story (these two are one category, because I’m still not someone who naturally gravitates toward either, and it would be too daunting for them to each have their own categories, so I choose one or the other), children’s/y.a., and food/nutrition (technically, I know, that’s nonfiction, but I realized a long time ago that I read so many cookbooks, they deserve their own category). That way, I get to choose a whole bunch of books at once, which is always fun. Some choices last more than a month, of course and get carried over (like Gone with the Wind, which was a classic that lasted most of last year, I think, or this year, Myths from Ancient Mesopotamia has dominated the poetry/short story classification for three months so far), and some get replaced — if I happen to go to a bookstore, or something I’ve had on hold at the library becomes available, say — before the month is up. And sometimes, I have a month in which I just put it all aside and read nothing but light fiction or nonfiction, say. Generally, though, this is how I do it.

  7. It’s fun to read how everyone approaches The Next Book, a big commitment, so we want to make sure it’s the right one for the right time.

    I took out a whole bunch of mysteries and spread them on the table and looked at them for a day or two. Now I have to start the one I chose.

  8. Oh god, I LOVE Antonia White. I seem to have an odd knack of picking up each of her Nanda Grey/Clara Batchelor books when I’m the exact same age as the protagonist, and if ever I recognised myself in a literary character, it was in her. Which is a little bit unnerving, really.

    And now you’ve made me want to re-read ‘Shirley’ *sigh* Maybe I’ll pick up one of the new Oxford World Classics copies….

  9. Oh, and if you’re a Bronte fan, allow me to gloat for a moment – my aunt works at Haworth Parsonage, and has actually held the handwritten copies of their juvenilia….I am appallingly jealous.

  10. Oh, that daunting choice! I have no particular method, and it’s really un-scientific: I judge a book by its cover, or its first sentence. It gives a better chance to recent editions with good graphic designers!

  11. Sometimes I have a book already picked out before I even have finished one and I just dive right in. Other times I have several books in mind and then need to choose between them, which can be really hard–usually it depends on mood and which one draws me in–I might read a few pages and see if I like it. Sometimes it’s a matter of what’s due at the library first and whether I really, really want to read it or am willing to let it go back unread. I have several library books that I need to choose from, and I still haven’t made a choice! Good luck finding something really good! A couple of books you mention are on my list as well.

  12. musingsfromthesofa

    Sometimes it’s just the next book on the TBR pile. Sometimes it’s something I’ve just bought, specially because I wanted to read it right now. Sometimes my choice depends on mood; or if I want a filler book for the evening, or a lengthier one that will cover a couple of train journeys.

  13. I have tons of unread books yet somehow choosing can often be such a hard thing to do… Sometimes I go with a library book if the due date is coming up but usually it’s just whatever I’m in the mood for that will lead me to my next book. Have fun choosing your book!

  14. It looks like quite a few of us struggle with this at times. I use many of the same methods you mention, and when all else fails, I make my husband pick for me!

  15. Chartroose — I can see how that method would work — something arbitrary can make the “decision” easier.

    BooksPlease — sometimes I wonder if my old method — having no unread books on hand (or very, very few) and heading out to the bookstore or library whenever I needed something new — doesn’t work better. At least I wasn’t feeling obligated to read anything in particular …

    Ann — yes, I can see that library deadlines create some urgency and give you a reason to read something first! I don’t tend to get books from the library often, though, so that method doesn’t work so well for me :)

    Litlove — interesting about The Echo Maker — and interesting that you’d want to recommend it in spite of what your husband says :) I didn’t pick up either White or Bernhard, as it turns out, but maybe next time …

    Stefanie — oh, if only I knew what my moods really were! Sometimes what mood I’m in is not entirely clear to me …

    Emily — the geek in me really likes your system! If I did that, I’d have to narrow down the number of categories, and also not mind if I don’t start the next month’s books until the middle of the month, as I read so slowly, inevitably books would carry over, but that said, I do like your method! I like your method of putting short stories and poetry together — even treating them as one category means I would get more of them read.

    Debby — I like the idea of taking some time to gaze at your books before choosing! I have my unread books on shelves in my study that I can see from my usual seat — that helps remind me of what I’ve got on hand.

    Madwomansattic — oh, how good to hear about White! I’m so looking forward to her work. And how cool is that that your aunt works at the parsonage! I’m insanely jealous too!

    Smithereens — well, if it’s so hard to decide, it pretty much has to be some arbitrary factor, doesn’t it? Judging by the first sentence seems like a good way to do it too.

    Danielle — I tend to think about books ahead of time too, although I don’t necessarily decide right away! It’s too tempting to think into the future a little bit, even if I don’t really like doing it.

    Musings — maybe I should just create a stack and read my way down through it? But inevitably I wouldn’t like what’s on the top … I’ve got a list though — maybe I should use one of those random number generators … or maybe I just need to agonize now and then.

    Iliana — why is it so hard when we have so many books on hand? I always want to find just the right thing, though, and while lots of books look good, they aren’t necessarily exactly what I want at any given moment …

    Lisa — yes, lots of people struggle to choose, don’t they? I’ve tried the husband method, but inevitably I don’t want to read what he picks! I doubt he would even be willing to play along anymore, unfortunately :)

  16. Pingback: Picking fruit or picking books… « Literati in the World

  17. I pick by mood (sad? Agatha Christie! lazy? Short stories! bored? Dickens!)…but usually I don’t have much to choose from, so that keeps it simple.

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