by Jeanette O'Hagan
If I made a stack of all the books in my to-read pile — both virtual and real — it would probably look something like the leaning tower of Pisa.
I have 143 books listed on my Goodreads to-Read pile alone — and there a swathe of e-books on my Kindle and the six or seven stacks of print books dotted around my bedroom all waiting for their turn.
It hasn’t always been so. I can remember the days when I finished one book and would wonder what to read next. Despite my mammoth to-read pile, I’m still discovering new books to read and enjoy.
How about you — are you scratching about, wondering what to read next, or does your to-read pile grown ever higher like Jack’s beanstalk?
Thinking about my to-read pile got me wondering about how I find new books and how /what criteria I use to decide what to read next.
The Time honoured and the New
Browsing — I love browsing in book stores, picking up books, looking at their covers, flipping open their pages, soaking up the ambience of store. In fact, I find it hard not to leave a bookstore without at least a couple of purchases. Which is why I was devastated when the Word Bookstores closed down recently — and now the ABC shops are going the same way — and why I was excited to hear about the opening of the Little Gnome book store relatively nearby to me. Somehow browsing online is just not the same. Plus, online doesn't do coffee.
Secondhand bookstores — often hiding old treasures long forgotten or niche books you wouldn’t find anywhere else. There’s the Lifeline Bookfest — but also thrift shops and shops that will swap your old books for their old ones.
My favourite authors — having discovered a good author or a great series – I love tracking down their books in bookstores and libraries. At the moment, I'm keeping an eye out for books by Jodie Picoult.
The local library – now my children are no longer toddlers or preschoolers likely to attract the gimlet glare of the librarian for disturbing the peace, I feel safe enough to return to my local library and browse its aisles or return trolleys. I’ve found some Dee Henderson and Karen Kingsley as well as Neil Gaiman in our local library – and I know that the Toowomba library stocks Paula Vince J
Recommendations and/or gifts from friends and family — My family gave me I am Malala for Christmas. My kids introduced me to Emily Rodda and her series of books while my sister and I often exchange books — introducing each other to new authors to hunt down and devour (er – the books, not the authors).
Book Clubs — in one former book club I went to, we talked about (and exchanged) the books we were reading. I discovered Geraldine Brooks and Ahn Do among others. In another book club, we read set books each month and discuss them. Some of the books have been fantastic —The Book Thief for instance — at other times, it’s been more of a challenge to read (Welcome to Normal comes to mind) — but each time I've learnt something.
Movies — yes, I’ll admit that sometimes I first learn about a book when if comes out as a movie — The Hunger Games, for instance, or, maybe I’ve heard of it, but it’s only after watching the movie that I more actively search out the book — as with John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
Review sites — like GoodReads — or blog review sites like Soul Inspirationz, Rel's Reviews, Iola's Christian Reads or The Vince Review. Sometimes sites offer giveaways or Advanced Review Copies (ARC). Light the Dark website is another great place to look for books.
GoodReads Listopia — has lists of books under almost any topic you can think of — like this. I discovered Turn Right at Machu Picchu in the library, then looked at Listopia to find other, similar books such as Eight Feet in the Andes, which I’m enjoying reading at the moment.
Offering to review or critique books — I’ve enjoyed reading a number of books this way – including Imogen’s Chance and Mark’s Strength. I like to support local authors and have discovered a great many enjoyable books and great authors at the books tables of Christian Writer’s conferences or interaction with other authors. Sites like ACRBA, Netgallery or (recently) Rhiza Press may give new releases for honest reviews.
Searching Amazon or the internet for a specific title or subject — I found a great book on world-building by searching Google and then used my Mother’s Day voucher to purchase it from Amazon. But, this is my least likely source of new reads.
I try to rotate my reading, alternating between books set for book club, recommendations of mainstream and Christian fiction, writing craft, and non-fiction books from family, friends, review sites and dipping into offerings discovered through network of local and Christian authors. I usually review the books I read on my GoodReads page.
So, there really is no need to be at loss for reading material.
Jeanette O'Hagan has recently had a short story published in the general market Tied in Pink Anthology (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) and two poems in the PoeticaChristi’s Inner Child anthology. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She cares for her children, has just finished her Masters of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here.