Recommended reading

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reading recommendationsThere are a lot of books in the world. Lots.

So many, that it is impossible anyone can read them all in one lifetime. Add in the recent upswell in self-published books and you have an enormous (and potentially confounding) amount of reading out there.

During my heavy reading period, I easily devoured all the books from my most popular writers. Many of those writers are no longer around, so I won’t be buying/reading any more Vance, Dick, Zelazny, Tolkien, MacDonald, Thurber, etc., etc.

That means finding new books to read and that means figuring out which new books to read.

Some choices are made by virtue of my favorite author recommendations (a book blurb that might say “Author X says it’s one of the best books he’s ever read!”). Other choices are made from recommendations from close friends. Both of these have a better than average chance of my enjoying the book.

Still, they don’t always work. That should be obvious, but I offer two examples of recommendations from my oldest friend that didn’t quite work out the way we expected.

In one recommendation, he suggested a series by George R.R. Martin (yeah, you know the one). So popular they spawned an even more popular cable series, I so entrusted my friend’s suggestion that I bought the first four books (massive as they are).

I found the writing structure distracting and the death of nearly every “good” character dismaying. I admit I prefer to root for a main character. I don’t need them to be heroic, per se, just someone who is not despicable (for example, Ash in Evil Dead is a cad, but he’s rootable). No chance of that in the books, so I stopped reading (though I did finish all four).

The next recommendation was for a book that I couldn’t find, so I bought another of the author’s (China Mielville) work. I’m only a small way into the book but the names and locations are so tongue-twisting that it’s driving me batty trying to get through a simple paragraph.

The book is also in first person, which has always been a negative for me. I think the way I think, so when the character is using “I” and thinking differently than I do, it’s unnerving.

Another source of recommendations come from a review group in which I participate. These are mostly self-published books and I’ve read a number of them to fulfill my “obligation” to the group.

Through that association, I’ve learned new names for genres I used to lump together (such as “shifters”, for shape changers – primarily werewolves). The problem usually arises in the fact that I find most “monster” books (werewolves, vampires, etc.) immensely boring.

One of the nice surprises coming from the group is that there is a wealth of talent in the self-published world, even if I find many of the story concepts not to my liking.

Historically, I always finish a book I start. I can only think of two books I have not finished (because the writing or story itself was too awful to continue). Even when the book seems boring or distracting (such as the cases mentioned above), I try to get to the end.

My theory is that somewhere along the way, the popularity behind the story will grab me if I just give it enough time. This is not necessarily a good thing, because if I get a book that I’m really struggling to enjoy, it may take me weeks to finish instead of days. That costs me valuable time away from potentially more fun books.

Finally, because most of my previous purchases were in bookstores and most of my review group support has been on Amazon, the “You might also enjoy” recommendations from Amazon tend to be way off base from anything I would be interested in reading.

Last night, another friend, who has given me a couple of excellent non-fiction books to read (I’m no fan of non-fiction, but his two recommendations were strong), gave me a book by Brad Meltzer, a popular fiction author. After I get through struggling with the current crazy book, I’ll give that a try before diving into some of those self-published books I’ve got on tap.

And then I can go fishing for new reading recommendations.

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