You know what’s daunting? Going into a bookstore, armed only with the ambition of finding something new to read. Let’s make the task more challenging, let’s add my criminally short attention span. How do you choose what to read next? I could spend all day browsing through titles, but eventually the people who work at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million would like to go home, and I don’t blame them.
So, Mr. Author of Days of the Phoenix Available Exclusively at Amazon.Com on May 7th, how do you choose your next book to read? Well, I have answers, a few of them even. My time is finite and precious and I’d like to use it reading if I can — with that being said, here is how I choose books to read:
No. 1: Recommendations from friends. Cheap and easy, right? A friend is super enthusiastic about a book, you go and pick it up. If you read it and love it, you ask that friend for another recommendation. If you read it and hate it, you cut that friend out of your life forever, never speak to them, and spent the same amount of time it took you to read the book cutting their faces out of pictures that you may have taken together. See? Easy, squeezy.
No. 2: Movie novelizations. I didn’t want you to find out like this, but movie novelizations are my literary guilty pleasure. I can’t tell you how many I’ve read, but they aren’t the good ones, I can tell you that. What’s worse, my favorite ones are the action movie novelizations. Let me be clear on what a novelization is: a movie comes out and then a book with an identical plot comes out, that is a novelization. A book being based on a movie is something completely different. Of the god-awful-yet-I-read-it-enthusiastically books that I’ve read: the Punisher (the Thomas Jane movie), Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Mortal Kombat, the Empire Strikes Back, and I’m sure there are more, but I can feel you judging me.
No. 3: Books movies were based on. The fastest novel I’ve ever read was “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen — I loved the movie, but I absolutely consumed the book. I can admit that there was a time when I was more interested in television and film that a book, but I’ve been reformed. The moments when I can find out that one of my favorite shows or film were based on books, well that just adds another book to my “to read” list. Some of my favorite manuscript-to-screen crossovers are “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk, “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice, and pretty much any Stephen King adaptation.
No. 4: GoodReads.Com. A social network based on your love of books?! What?! It’s all there, friends. Ratings of books you’ve read, recommendations, a chart system, it’s glorious. Now, you need to take those recommendations with a grain of salt, not everyone shares your taste and perspective. As long as you can discern between what you know you’ll like and what someone thinks you’ll like, GoodReads is a treasure trove of recommendations!
No. 5: Display tables & end caps at bookstores. My favorite bookstores put a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to sell me stuff — you know, a lot of time it works. Just looking over my bookshelves, a lot of those titles were picked up because they were arranged on a table, or on an end cap, and I regret nothing. I hate being sold to; on the adverse, I enjoy being consulted to. If a sign says “If you don’t read this, people are going to judge you and your small intellect,” I’m just going to go to another store. If a sign says “If you liked Y, you might like X,” now my interest is piqued.
No. 6: Complaints and outrage. There are times when I refer to myself as a “Literary Anarchist,” and so I’ll pay attention to a book if its been banned or is causing some sort of consternation to the masses. I do that for a simple reason: I’m not trying to watch the world burn, but an author took it upon themselves to challenge the way literature is consumed, and that deserves a look. If there is never a situation where someone is uncomfortable, then there is no growth. The arts, literature, has to push those boundaries; that’s how we expand our understanding and how we relate to each other more completely as a unified species. Such books that have been called for bans: “The Adventures of Huck Finn,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
No. 7: (and my absolute favorite) Ask the clerks at the bookstores and libraries what they recommend. Let’s be honest: sometimes, working retail is challenging and laborious. Some executive, sitting at a corporate office, decides that the minions at the cash registers have to get three credit card applications instead of just two. The store has to be cleaned up sooner, the store has to run on fewer staff members, you know the drill. Every single time I’ve asked someone who works at a bookstore what they’d recommend and they have yet to steer me wrong. Even though I know they might not be getting the fulfillment out of employment they are hoping for, those associates still let their passion for reading shine when I ask them for such a recommendation. For that, I salute you.
That’s it — that’s how I pick out my next book to read. Would you like one more recommendation on a book to read? Be sure to check out Days of the Phoenix, available exclusively at Amazon.Com, on May 7th, 2019!
I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!