The Pleasant Art of Finding the Right Reading

I’ve vast lists of books to read, because I keep going to science fiction conferences and academic conferences and I always end up with loads of exciting reading. I ought to dissect these lists and ell you all the best reading in them, but I can’t, because I still have to read the books myself. Also, most of them are still in the mail.

That got me thinking abut how we decide what to read when there are too many choices. I’m the sort of person who can’t deal with choices. Give me too many choices and I will walk away in frustration rather than buying the thing I came into the shop for. Except with books. It’s much easier to know which book to read at any given time. This is because, for me, each book is surrounded by information that helps me choose.

When I travel to Sydney, for instance, and go to one of my favourite bookshops there, the folks behind the counter are always knowledgeable. Every time I visit, I buy a book specially for the bus trip home. It has to be something special, I tell them, and something new. It has to be something that’s not being seen quite enough and that I absolutely need to know about. We talk about my favourite writers and they always, always find me something. I’ve only ever given one of those books away, too. Booksellers know books. It’s as simple as that. If I am in a bookshop where the bookseller doesn’t know more than me about the books in their shop, then I walk straight out. This is why I have favourite bookshops: because the people who run them choose with care and thought and understand their work so very wonderfully.

Another route I take is to think carefully about the genre and even sub-genre of the book I want to read. I fit the type of book to my mood, in other words. To do this successfully, I need a vast TBR (to be read) pile. Choice helps me where usually it perplexes me. It’s so much fun finding the perfect book through this method, because I take each book out, one by one, and hold a kind of inner conversation with it.

Other days I need comfort reading. I have maybe 3 dozen authors I turn to for this and which writer I turn to depends so much on what my comfort needs are. When I need much comfort over a few weeks, I’ll haul down a series by a favourite author. By ‘haul down’ I mean that I actually climb onto a chair and take a whole pile of books down. Series of comfort reading are on my high shelf, you see, and reach to the ceiling.

Sometimes I am a butterfly, and stand in my library reading a bit of this book here or that there until I find the one I want. Sometimes I’m a carnivore and eat the content of cookbooks except, these days, all my cookbooks are finally in my kitchen or loungeroom, so I stand by the kitchen counter or sit in a chair near the door. I’ll make a stack of books I want to use recipes from, and read bits and pieces from half a dozen more. It takes several days for the books to all be returned to their place. Sometimes I cook all the recipes. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I sit down and read a whole book (or two) but mostly I use the books in my food collection as a trampoline for research and for thinking about what I will be eating.

Speaking about research, finding the right book for researching (whether for scholarly purposes or for a novel) is another method entirely, and even thinking about it makes me tired. I think I might stop this piece right here and go to bed. Time to dream of books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *