It takes a spot of courage to stand up tall and a bit of derring-do to rise when you fall

Monday, September 19, 2005

Skin Deep

Sometimes it seems like there's hardly anything more delicious than a really good book. Some authors have a way of writing that makes me gasp out loud in pleasure---does that make me really strange? Sentences put together in such a way that it's physically felt. How come some people can write like that?? It doesn't seem fair that for some, words just wait so beautifully until pen comes along and sets them free. Unfair. I mention this because I'm reading such a book. Maybe someone else reading it wouldn't have the same reaction, but I'm delighting in it even after only a few pages. (Incidentally, the book is called "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss or something like that. I know it sounds like a foolish romance but I assure you it is not). Another recently read book that exacted the same response was "Peace Like A River". Excellent read. And there've been others. I've read many super good books, but it seems there's that handful that just hover and hum above the others, winking at the best of them, and then take flight into greatness.

Obviously one thing that determines our reaction to a book is where we're standing at the precise moment we're reading it----I don't mean standing as in: standing by the first bench at Washington Park or standing on one leg in the backyard. I mean, of course, what is happening in our lives at that precise moment, what our circumstances are, what state of emotion we've been existing in. Also our response stems from our individual history, the things in life that shaped us, scarred us, lifted us. Those things will partly determine the appeal of a certain author, the appeal of a certain book. But sometimes it's just plain flawless talent.

Which brings me to what made me think of this whole topic---how one goes about selecting a book. Many times---and the best way---is by finding another book by an already-loved author. That's almost certainly a winner. And then there are recommendations by fellow book lovers whom we trust with book suggestions. Some of the best books I've read were recommended by those whom I know read something besides, say, Harlequin. Short of those two methods, however, I resort always to judging a book by its cover. I just do. If a book has an ugly picture or one that is unappealing to my senses in any way, it goes back on the shelf. There are just too many books to read to start with one that has an ugly cover. I understand that's a shallow way to go about things, but I've got to start somewhere, and I start with the most appealing and attractive covers. And that encompasses colors, font type, picture, layout. The only way I might bypass this method is if the title is extraordinary or unusual: "The Confederacy of Dunces" as a small example. A book with a title like that just begs to be read (a great book, too, by the way, with a very interesting author history. I may never have read it based on my skin-deep criteria if it hadn't been for that title). If books didn't have covers, I'd be in a bit of a quandary. If all of them were ugly, I'd have to just close my eyes and pick. But until that happens, the one with the best cover wins.

SO....to keep me from sinking even further into these shallow waters, does anyone have a great book recommendation? I'm all eyes.

3 Comments:

Blogger bryan torre said...

The way I judge a book is the same as for a movie: how many naked people and/or car chases do I think it will contain? I got this method from Dave Barry, and it has never failed me.

But it that's not your thing (because you are so soPHISticated), here's a more serious list of ideas. I'm sure you've read most of them anyway...:

Anything by Terry Pratchett.

John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey series.

Anything by PG Wodehouse, but especially his Jeeves books.

If you like SciFi, Christopher Hinz's trilogy (Ash Ock, Leige Killer, etc)

A Walk in the Woods or others by Bill Bryson.

Wordstruck, by Macneil

Anything by Mil Millington

Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

12:38 PM, September 26, 2005

 
Blogger jay are said...

AWESOME! Bring 'em on! I've read some but certainly not all you mentioned. My method of choosing does differ indeed from yours--my criteria is slightly different, though I think it has little to do with my level of sophistication, which is basically nil. Maybe it would help if I were male??

3:38 PM, September 26, 2005

 
Blogger bryan torre said...

I guess it would help in some things if you were male, but then think how sad your husband would be...

8:46 PM, September 26, 2005

 

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