I love books and find that reading them provides me with three benefits. Books give me conversational currency – stuff to talk about – with friends. Novels take me away from what’s happening inside of my head, giving me the protagonist’s problems to worry about instead of my own. And like a bedtime story for kids, books at night are a sleeping aid, signaling my brain it’s time to rest. The only problem with reading is this: after finishing one great book, how do I find another? Here are the ways I solve the problem.
Major newspapers frequently publish lists of best books – I often look to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today. USA Today, for instance, puts out a list of the 150 top selling books each week. The list includes every genre and age group and not all books are hot off the press. This is great for frugal people – it means the books may be available at the library. From USA Today’s list:
- I have read and recommend: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012). This young adult novel is about a ten-year-old boy with a severe facial deformity and the impact it has on his entire family.
- I hope to read: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (2018). Frances Welty is one of nine guests at a remote wellness resort. Her goal while there is to nurse a broken heart. I can’t wait to see what the other guests are up to. I have read other books by Moriarty. Indeed, this is another way to find a good book – look at the website of authors you have enjoyed in the past. (Note: her book, What Alice Forgot tells of a woman whose great animosity toward her ex-husband is erased in the aftermath of a head injury.)
I look to award-winning books – The Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Award, and The Man Booker Prize are all good sources. From the Pulitzer Prize lists:
- I have read and recommend: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014). This book features two teenagers – a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy. It shows the impact World War II has on them.
- I hope to read: Less by Andrew Sean Greer (2017). Arthur Less is a failed novelist who is facing his 50th birthday and the marriage of his longtime boyfriend to somebody else. Needing to get out of town, he travels to literary events around the world. Purported to be a comic novel, I can’t wait to see why it snagged this big prize.
I peruse my local book store to see what is featured there. There is always a table at the front door with newly released titles, fiction and non. But better than this, in the back of the store are tables of “Fiction Favorites” and “Popular Paperbacks.” These tables showcase lots of books I have already read making me feel rewarded for my good taste and ready to exhibit more. From these tables at Barnes & Noble:
- I have read and recommend: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016). The year is 1922 and Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov has been sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. The house arrest continues for more than thirty years, all chronicled in the book.
- I hope to read: Still Life by Louise Penny (2008). This is the first book in the Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery series. (The fourteenth book was released November, 2018.) I have not read this author before but her ability to write fourteen popular mysteries in ten years makes me want to check her out.
Note: Bookstore books always look so much more appealing than library books. But after the new, pretty book captures my attention, I search my library’s website to either download the eBook version or request a hard copy.
I check with friends for book suggestions – Goodreads.com is a good way to stay in touch with friends who read. As friends list the books they finish, they assign a star rating. Five stars is the best, and when they give such an accolade, I am sure to pay attention. From my Goodreads account:
- I have read and recommend: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (2017). As this book opens, Ingrid Colman has been missing for twelve years. Her husband and daughters do not know if she left them or died. Indeed, book clubs will want to chew this question: is it better to live with the knowledge your love one has died or to live with hope the person has not?
- I want to read my friend Rhonda’s recommendation: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (2017). This mystery/thriller is the story of a mother whose daughter has been missing for ten years when new information appears. (I previously enjoyed another book by this author, The House We Grew Up In, a fascinating fictional look at hoarding.)
If a book is suggested by more than one of my four sources, you can bet it moves to the top of the list. Such is the case with Less, which appeared in all four search categories! I am so eager to read it that I bought it outright at Barnes & Noble today! All that stands between me and reading the book is finishing this blog. Hmmm…