Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Choosing a Book

Okay, so I haven't added a "Next Up" box yet, nor have I commented on what book I'm currently reading but those things will come. In the meantime, I thought I'd throw out a question: How do you decided what to read next? I'm sure most people just read whatever suits their fancy at the time. I, on the other hand, am a little too anal about these things (much to the amusement- or is it bemusement?- of my wife). When I first got into reading heavily, my system was to keep track of books mentioned in other books and then add them to my "To Read List." This was a horrible system that just didn't work. Most often, I'd get a reference to an old book like say, War and Peace and the system would die there. Or I'd read something like Volkswagen Blues or Bachelor Brother's Bed and Breakfast and I'd pretty much be reading someone else's reading list for the rest of my life (they have an absurd number of references to other works- you think I name drop?!). Not only that, but I felt I was neglecting many genres. That's when I came up with the cycle that has yet to be named:

1. Canadian Fiction- Contemporary, older works, plays, short stories, etc.
2. Non-Canadian Fiction
3. Non-fiction
I've used this system for about three years now and for the most part it's kept me well rounded in my literary pursuits. That said, I've adapted it lately. Now I read poetry throughout this cycle- keeping poetry for the, reading room, and adding a forth component to the cycle:
4. A book of the Bible or a Shakepeare play- I'm not ambitious enough to read the entire Bible or the complete works of Shakespeare straight through, and if you want to know if I'm brave enough to actually critique either, you'll just have to keep checking this site!
You might also be horrified to learn that I hardly ever read a book twice. I'm not against the idea, I just have so many others that I want to read that I haven't even read once! I did read the Old Man and The Sea twice. I didn't enjoy it high school but tried it again as an adult thinking my maturity level might have been the culprit. Suffice to say, it wasn't. Interestingly, the only other books I want to reread, are more that I didn't enjoy the first time around, i.e., Hubert Acquin's Next Episode and Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Sucker for punishment? No, just want to make sure sure I've given these classics a chance.
Any comments on the aforementioned books? Your own system for choosing your next book? Or any recommendations? I'd love to hear them.


Robert Hiscock said...

In all seriousness, I admire the system.

I've fallen into reading almost exclusively Canadian fiction, with a fair chunk of that coming from Newfoundland. It started with a desire to keep up with what was being published here but, due to our prolific writers it has become quite a task and it comes at the expense of reading a lot of other great fiction.

I too have read the Bible -- a book at a time. Found it difficult to take in any larger chunks. My purpose in reading the Bible was to come to a better, more informed understanding of western literature. I find Biblical references everywhere and I wanted to understand them better. Though it was not always thrilling reading, and sometimes annoyed me, I am not remotely sorry I did it.

I do re-read books... and am mildly horrified that you don't! A good book is a good friend and I like to visit from time to time just to get re-aquainted. Life is short and there are a lot a good books to read but as I read for pleasure I don't feel I'm cheating myself by going back to an old favorite. I enjoy it and know there will be time to make new favorites as well.

PeachyTO said...

Hey John, I just thought I would take a look at your archives to see how you started out. Being that I am still at a novice level with all of this, it should help me to learn a little about the evolution of a blog. ; )

I started laughing loudly when I read about your previous system for book selection, since my TBR list which now consistes of over 1,500 books was founded on this very system.

It has become a bit of a compulsion. I'm willing to bet that more than half of the books that I've added under this 'book-link' process are of completely no interest to me. I think it may be time to let go of some of the dead weight on my list and make room for the tons of more compelling reads that are actually in my preferred genres.

John Mutford said...

PeachyTO: I didn't think I'd be commenting on this old post again-- thanks for going through the archives. 1500 books, eh? I wonder what number I'd be at if I stuck to it. It's hard to get any new books read if you stick exclusively to that list, isn't it?