“They” (who are they anyway) say that if a child doesn’t make the transition from picture books to middle grade novels, it reduces the chances of them becoming long time readers. I have no idea if this is true or not. Nor do I remember my transition. It feels like one moment I was reading Dick & Jane (yeah, it was a fun time to learn to read) and the next I was devouring as many books as they’d let me check out of the library.
I can’t say I read everything, but I read a lot of books. I worked my way around the kids’ section, then started on the adult section. At first it was enough to be able to read books, but then I wanted more. I wanted to own books. Back when I got about twenty-five cents a month allowance, picking a book to buy was serious business. It took me about three months to save up enough for one book–and that’s back when you could buy a book for sixty cents. (Hey, penny candy was an ever present temptation, too!) I still have some of those early purchases on my book shelf.
As I grew up, I acquired a lot of favorites in used bookstores–and discovered some new, favorite authors there, too. With the surge in indie publishing, you’d think it would be easier to find books to read, but I have found that the challenge of finding that “just right” book, that new favorite author, hasn’t gotten easier.
The question of how someone finds books is of interest to me as an author, too, but looking at my own reading tastes doesn’t help as much as you’d think. When I peruse my book shelves I find Georgette Heyer (Regency) novels sharing shelf space with Mary Stewart (romantic suspense), Agatha Christie (I don’t have to tell you what genre, do I?), Jasper Fforde (no clue what to call his genre), and Alastair Maclean (action adventure). You’ll find Gothic (Victoria Holt), science fiction romance (Linnea Sinclair), Elizabeth Cadell, and D.E. Stevenson (both loosely classified as women’s fiction back in the day). I tend to wander among the genres like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park (read it, btw, it was okay) when the power went out.
And that’s just my physical book shelves (and only a sampling!). My digital book shelves are even more diverse. I have enough books to read until I die or get senile, but I still keep looking for great reads. It’s like my never ending hunt for the perfect purse (though I continue to find great reads while the perfect purse eludes me to this day).
I know some readers who only shop by genre. Obviously, I am not one of those readers, well, not totally. There are some genres I totally avoid. But if it was only about genre, then I’d grab every book in a genre, but it’s not. I was talking to a friend about this once, and we decided (based totally on our personal book buying preferences), that it is about having chemistry with the way an author uses words, the way they craft a tale, and the type of characters they create.
I can’t tell you how many well written, even interesting books that I never finished. I just couldn’t engage with the story, or their word choice or something. That is what makes book publishing so amazing and so frustrating. If you go search on your top ten, all time favorite novels, you’ll find a bunch of people who hated it enough to go write a bad review. Obviously these are not people you would take book recommendations from. Except, sometimes you can. Cause sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut you might like every once in a while.
One of the best (book) compliments I got was when one of my daughter’s told her husband, “If Mom recommends a book for you, you’ll probably like it. She won’t recommend without thinking about it.” (No pressure! O.O)
I think long. I think hard before I recommend a book to friends and family. And often I’ll qualify that with a “might.” My ‘word of mouth’ is carefully considered, because I recognize that reading is an intensely personal experience. In an ironic twist, it also makes it hard for me to market my books, because reading is an intensely personal experience. One size doesn’t fit all.
My books aren’t for everyone, because I write books I’d like to read. It’s the only way I know how to do it. And I have to spend a lot of time with my story, with my characters, so I have to like them. Sorry, but it does have to be about me. (grin)
While I can’t say it doesn’t bother me when someone doesn’t like one of my books, I don’t expect everyone to like my books. I don’t even expect readers who like romance, action adventure and humor to like my books, because there is that chemistry thing.
So, how do you find books to read? That new favorite author? Are you all about genre? Or are there other factors you look for in your books? Word of mouth all important? Whose word of mouth do you believe? Any favorite book blogs you follow? Who is your latest author find?
Let’s talk books, because I love talking books and I love comments. In fact, all comments are entered into my monthly drawing for a $10 AnaBanana Gift card. You don’t even have to ask. You are entered if you comment. Winner is announced the first blog post of the new month (and in this case, the new year!).
Here is hoping that your New Year is a happy one, and filled with books you have chemistry with!
Action, adventure, romance and humor with Pauline Baird Jones.
by Pauline Baird Jones