DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jul 30 2010

ShareReads: Try It, You’ll Like It

by Lesley B

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

How do you decide you want to read a book? What is more likely to inspire you to try a book – someone else’s recommendation or a written review?  I used to rely almost exclusively on written reviews and I rarely followed up when someone told me how much they loved a book. That’s not to say my taste in reading is so lofty or refined. There are a lot of classics I’ve never gotten around to and I read a lot of what my old English teacher would call “junk”. However, I was a bit of a bestseller snob. If a book was popular with many, many people, I was less likely to read it and more likely to suspect it wasn’t very good.

At some point I realized I was in a reading rut. Sure, the Internet made it much easier for me to find reviews from people who liked the sort of books I liked.  (Put a list of your favorite authors into Google and see what comes up.  Any new names that pop up on similar lists are automatically writers to check out.)  It made it too easy. It felt like I was eating the same thing for dinner every night.

So I got over myself and tried something new to find my next book. When someone recommended a book and I felt that old impulse to reject their recommendation, I jotted down the title and read it.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but more often I’ve liked the book. Taking other people’s suggestions, I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett (more humor and nuance than I expected), A Sudden, Fearful Death, one of Anne Perry’s Victorian murder mysteries (I enjoyed all the background information about hospitals in that era), My Life in France, Julia Child’s autobiography (her enthusiasm and determination are inspiring) and Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With (I assumed it was typical chick lit, but her characters are more thoughtful and real). The book club I joined did me a real favor by picking Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I don’t know that I ever would have gotten around to reading this book otherwise and what I would have missed by not knowing the story of Janie and Tea Cake.

Try putting those author’s names into Google together and you get nothing; so if you are one of the people who suggested a book to me – thanks! And what have you been reading lately? Have you read books that surprised you? How do you usually find out about books? Do you use the bestseller lists? Share Reads is for sharing books, but I’m also curious about how someone decides to open that book up in the first place.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Veronica W July 30, 2010 at 3:52 PM

Since I have neither the time nor the inclination to wander up and down library aisles looking at titles and scanning book jacket covers, Novelist has become my best friend. Most of the time I put in a favorite author’s name and then search author read-alikes. I’ve discovered some great finds that way. I can also search it by subject matter. That way I can get my favorite author’s titles as well unknown others that may be as good.

Shantrice W. August 2, 2010 at 4:46 PM

Often I’ll choose a book based on it’s eye-catching cover and whether or not the summary sounds interesting. I also choose books recommended by other folks. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett is a great example. Never read the reviews for it but I listened to the audio book and loved it. Thinking about buying the book, now.

Jesse M August 2, 2010 at 7:52 PM

Although I recently read an article arguing that blurbs (short endorsements,typically by a popular author writing in the same genre, or by an expert on the subject being addressed) are an unreliable method for determining whether or not to read a particular book, I have often utilized them (along with the plot synopsis detailed on the back or inside flaps) in making my reading decisions. Aside from that, I’ve found personal recommendations from people who share my tastes to be the best method for discovering new authors and stories.

Ardene August 3, 2010 at 2:06 PM

I have started conversing online at librarything.com with people from the 75 books club, and my wish list is expanding at a fast pace.

Jesse M August 4, 2010 at 4:23 PM

The website Lifehacker has recently posted an article spotlighting the five best book recommendation services. Several of them have already been mentioned but it still may be worth a look.

Ken August 6, 2010 at 11:48 AM

I like Novelist too, especially the regular articles written by contributors in a section called “What We’re Reading.” I not only enjoy certain contributors’ postings, but they’ve recommended some things I’ve really liked.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: