Recent Reading


Since the beginning of the year, we’ve made it part of our routine to spend Wednesday nights at the Claremont Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.  The library’s open until 8. I love the random nature of library nights, how browsing the shelves unlocks the titles you’ve stored up somewhere in your brain, and you remember you really like Philip Kerr, and you’ve been meaning to read Laurie King, and we’re going skiing this weekend, and it would be fun to listen to Jeeves, and there’s The Sister, which I stuck in the photo because it’s a library book I got in San Francisco a few weeks ago, but it IS a library book.  And then the other books are ones I picked up for twenty five cents from the little sale shelf, and which will do very nicely for next Christmas’s book stacks.

Beyond displaying my library choices, I wanted also to mention something — although I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice this, it’s still worth saying:  I rarely, if ever, choose books anymore because of a print review.  Thinking about what I’ve read in the last couple of months, I see that 75% of my choices came because of something I read about on one of your blogs, dear readers.  From Kate and Dani, I discovered the wonderful Spanish mystery writer, Alicia Giménez-Bartlett.  Rhian, at Ward 6, recommended The Summer Book (which I’ve just ordered) and JR, her husband, recommended Fakers, a book about creative frauds (which I’ve also just ordered).  Philip Kerr, whose novels about Bernie Gunther, a German detective during the Third Reich are really terrific, is someone I happened across by accident, I’m pretty sure.  Laurie Hall?  That would be Dani again.  The Sister?  Litlove, of course.  I think I must have discovered from reading the NYT book review that Dennis Lehane has a new book, The Given Day which I’ve just begun reading, but it’s entirely possible I just noticed it at Books, Inc. the bookstore in my work neighborhood.  The Great Gatsby?  Matt recently read this, and I realized it’s been a very long time since I’ve read Fitzgerald. Cold Comfort Farm?  Wasn’t that a good sounding movie?  I never got around to seeing the movie, but I can tell this is the sort of book I’d love.  I read a lot of Malamud short stories earlier this year because the free New Yorker fiction podcast featured a Malamud story.  Molly Panter-Downes?  Pauline.  Murakami?  Jade Park.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? A committed reader who spends a lot of time online is far more likely to be choosing books based on the recommendations of people who aren’t professional reviewers than, say, based on what Michiko Kakutani promotes or destroys in the New York Times.  And I can say, based on my unscientific sampling, that these recommendations rarely go wrong.  I’ve run out of time to say more, except to speculate that the reason online book reviewing works so well as a way to figure out what to read is this:  people who blog about books almost always talk about what they love and why they love it.  And they know that people they’re accountable to — people whose blogs they visit and who visit them — rely on their recommendations.  So they’re going to be as accurate and honest as they possibly can.  There are no axes to grind in these blogs, or there almost never are.  Just people who love books.  And people who love books are terrific people to know when you’re standing around in the library on a Wednesday night trying to figure out what to read next.


13 thoughts on “Recent Reading

  1. Bloglily! I’m so glad you discovered Murakami. I keep a reading list on my blog to share my book loves with others…but have you checked out goodreads? I am on good reads with my “irl” name. I think you might like that site–it’s where readers go to post the books they’ve read and share their reviews. You can have friend lists and share your book lists. I’ve found a couple of good books and authors there, myself.

  2. I have read so much about Murakami and I still haven’t read even one of his books! I am going to decide on one soon. An informal (because I usually don’t have) resolution is to read new authors, ones whom I never read.

  3. If The Summer Book by Tove Jansson is the one you’re getting, I also just got a copy, too, and can’t wait to read it. Summer. What a thought. I’m glad you enjoyed Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett and Laurie King (who I am reading this weekend as a matter of fact). And Mollie Panter-Downes is excellent, too! I get many of my reading suggestions from others, too, and for just the same reasons you mention. It is nice chatting with others who simply love books.

  4. My blogging friends are largely responsible for my reading choices, too. And you’re right – their opinions are much more valuable to me!

    I’m dying to get my hands on The Sister, and none of the libraries in our consortium have it! It’s the first time they’ve failed me 😦

  5. I completely agree with your comments – the majority of my reading this year has come from blogging recommendations – keep them coming I say!

  6. You might like to know I have just purchased Alice Mattison’s The Book Borrower, which looks like it will be marvellous. I’ve found so many fabulous authors, thanks to blogging, and have got to know some pretty fabulous soon-to-be published authors too. 😉

  7. I completely agree. My recent Powells order is largely made up of books that I have read about because of other bloggers. About the only print review I still read is, occasionally, in The Economist of all places.
    The Summer Book is lovely, I think you will like it. And Cold Comfort Farm is a favourite of mine, so I would definitely recommend tracking that down too. How can one dislike a book in which the bull is named Big Business? And I love Mollie Panter-Downes (Persephone Books has a lovely collection of her stories).

  8. I really enjoy reading your blog. Many of my recent forays to the library or bookstore have been to check out books that I’ve read about on blogs like this one. By reading blogs, I too discovered Murakami. It was also because of buzz all over the Web that I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Play Love – great fun! I love following the trail from one great book to another across the web!

  9. THE SUMMER BOOK rocks! On Rhian’s suggesstion, I bought it last, um, summer, and wound up recommending it to my novel workshop. We all read it a few weeks ago and had a grand time talking about why it is so freaking compelling. Eye-opening. Am swiping some strategies for my own novel.

    BL, I am reading THE PASSION by Jeanette Winterson and it is to die for: rich and textured and surprising and so smart. So, you know. When you run out of books you want to read…


  10. Hello dear Elizabeth — I’m looking forward to reading it. We read the Moomintroll stories to the boys when they were little, and I was so interested to hear about this book. isn’t it great when you read something and see how you can solve a writing problem? The Passion! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Writerprogress — Hello and welcome! I think this change in the way books come to the attention of readers is interesting and really quite wonderful. There’s so much more to be said about it, but for now I just wanted to record how fascinating I find it, and how glad I am to know so many smart readers!

    Becky — I have that collection of Molly Panter-Downes stories — they were fun to read. (Plus, those persephone books — beautiful!) I see we have really similar taste in books. (Cold Comfort Farm is indeed a good, entertaining, but never guilty, read. Oh, how I love books like that!)

    Oh, litlove, I look forward to reading your review. She’s another really terrific writer I might not have noticed, but for blogging — in this case, Sandi Shelton, whose friend Alice is, and who always speaks so highly of her as a fellow writer and, of course, a lovely friend. So, it’s no surprise, really, that Alice Mattison turns out to write beautifully and interestingly about women’s friendships.

    Dear Karen — Exactly. It’s always a good day when you discover another great thing to read. If only I didn’t have to work, and raise children, and cook, and try to write my own stories, and drive places, and … eat. You know. Not enough hours in the day, are there?

    Becca — You belong to a consortium? That’s very… spy-ish sounding. (Or is it a group of libraries?) Either way, they need to get The Sister to you. It’s a thought-provoking and sad book, well worth bugging the consortium for.

    Hello Deborah — I’m so glad you’re here. Isn’t David a really fine writer? I am a big fan of his essays/blog posts. (And he made me look up Joe Felso, a long time ago, which is a good thing.)

    Dani — Yes, the very same book. I’m looking forward to your reaction.

    Matthew — what a good thing to resolve to do. There are so many good things to read; it shouldn’t be hard to find new writers. And Murakami is a must-read.

    Goodreads — Jade, I’ve seen this (I think my friend Debbie Freedman might be on there), but I haven’t ever looked into it. I’m just now recovering from a frenzy of facebook activity — is there room for another internet addiction? Yes, obviously, there is.

  11. ah, blog friend recommendations! Many of the books on my “to read” list are there completely because of things I have read on blogs. And so often the book is fantastic.

    The frustrating thing is living in the midwest in an itty bitty town where not only do half of the things I read about not appear in the library, when I ask them to get it on inter library loan I get a message back that “it is not available.” Then I go to Barnes and Noble and sometimes they don’t even have the stuff because well, it is a British author and they don’t carry it. And besides, I can’t afford to buy all the books I read. So I am always looking at used book stores, and the used books on Amazon. Still, money is tight and we want to go on vacation in April so I have to rely on Bookmooch, which is also sometimes not very helpful.

    But at least I have lots of ideas. And the blog friends recommendations are VERY helpful. I tend to get stuck in a run sometimes.

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