Choosing a Good Book

Walking into a library for the first time in at least 5 years was a somewhat overwhelming experience.

I wanted to borrow a book – but there were so many to choose from. Where to start?

Its not that I’ve neglected reading over the past 5 years – its just I’ve been buying all my books. In particular, I’ve been downloading plenty of e-books. I realise, however, that this has narrowed my choices. At first I would download all the books in a series, or by a favourite author. Once I’d exhausted those options I found myself relying on the recommendations Amazon generates for me based on my previous choices. I wouldn’t rely on them alone, I’d look at reviews to help my selection – and so far haven’t been disappointed, but even so, most of the books I read come from a computer generated list.

There is more to the world of books than the titles available in the Amazon bookstore, so I looked forward to my trip to the library, but once there the choice was paralysing. Without a list of recommendations, either from friends or Amazon, I had no idea how to go about selecting a book. I seemed to have forgotten that fairly basic skill.

I was tempted to fall back on the other sources I sometimes use: Book club lists can easily be found online and offer a good selection of fairly worthy titles. Lists of prize winners and nominees are also a good source of recommendations. But for me, the idea of going to the library with a list would somehow detract from the experience. Again, my choice would be limited – this time to worthy, quality literature, which isn’t a bad thing, but there are a lot of great books that never make those lists.

In the end, I decided to simply start at the letter A and see what jumped out at me.

This is when I discovered the importance of a book’s spine and title. They are the very first things you notice when wandering the shelves of a library. I discovered I was attracted to certain font types, and would pass by others. Once a font attracted me, I would read the title, and only then, if it sparked my curiosity, would I pull it from the shelves.

What jumped out at me today was the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton. The titles amused me. I was tempted to borrow Aunt Dimity, Vampire Hunter but settled on the earliest novel of the series the library had on its shelves: Aunt Dimity Digs In.

I have no idea what these books will be like, but I suspect they won’t have been nominated for any prizes. A quick search on the net saw them described as “Cozy Mysteries”. I’m not sure if I even enjoy “cozy mysteries”. I did, however, enjoy the first couple of pages that I read – so I’m optimistic about the series.

The other book I borrowed was “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman. I follow @neilhimself on Twitter, but have never read any of his books. This was the only title the library had on the shelves, and is apparently his first novel. It seemed like a good place to start.

Its been such a long time since I’ve read a book without any prior research. And that’s the wonderful thing about libraries. They are full of hidden treasures – and trash. It doesn’t matter if I accidently found myself with a book I don’t like – I may waste  time finding that out, but at least I haven’t wasted any money.

It’s a mid-winter’s afternoon here in Sydney, and the temperature is dropping. Snuggling down by the heater with a cozy mystery seems the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

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4 thoughts on “Choosing a Good Book

  1. It’s been years since I last visited the library… I may just have to go and check it out, to see how things have changed! I can spend hours browsing in a bookshop, but used to feel as though I had to rush to get out of the library for some reason, well, I did years ago.

    Happy reading, Corisel! 🙂

    • What an interesting reaction to the library – I wonder what it was that made you want to leave. I know what you mean about bookstores – I can spend hours browsing in them too.

  2. I wonder if you have ever read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the unabridged version of course as that one is a most excellent choice, of course I do favour horror themes but libraries do offer such a wide and varied selection don’t they my friend?

    I do hope that you have a lovely rest of the weekend Corisel 🙂

    Androgoth

    • Oh Hi Androgoth,
      Thanks for dropping by – I’ve seen you commenting on Aquatom’s blog – so I feel like I almost know you. 🙂

      I’m not sure if I have read Bram Stoker’s Dracula – I have a feeling I may have, but it was a long time ago and I might be confusing it with seeing the movies. Great recommendation – I’ll definitely be putting it on my list – love a bit of gothic horror.

      Since you like that, you might enjoy Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian”. Have you read it? It’s a very cool vampire novel – more in the gothic horror tradition than in the current vampire romance style.

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