Besides favorite authors, I would be drawn to titles. That's when I start judging the book. I check the publisher -- vanity press? religious press? -- to make sure the book is "legitimate". Then I look at the inside flap, trying not to read too much of it because of the infuriating habit many publishers have of giving the entire plot away. After that I check the blurbs. Are they all from such sources as Kirkus reviews or backwater newspapers? Rejection! Finally, I read a few lines to get an idea of the author's style, rejecting fakey archaic language ('tis, prithee, that kind of crap) or preciousness, or purple prose, or clunkiness. I don't mind books that are partly made of up of correspondence, but pages & pages of tiny italic print are a turn-off.
I went to Virgin Megastore last week in Cairo. They have a lot of books. My method of choosing was as follows - 1. Find the Crime section 2. Scan eyes along shelves to see the thickest ones 3. Pick up a thick one and see if the type is small or they've cheated by having big type all spread out so it's poor value for money 4. Check blurb for story and see if it's full of the main detective having personal problems (usually from female authors) - if it is, discard and move on. 5. Repeat until book found.
Mark, I saw today that Ian Rankin has a new book out. He has replaced Rebus with a new detective.
When I had a hard time getting books in English (got French ones from the library), I tended to use Mark's step 2 above. Felt I should get my money's worth. I hate paying a lot of money for very thin books. I just ordered a new book by Elizabeth George -- 976 pages!
If I cannot find a book by one of my favourite authors I go to the library and and go to the Thriller or Horror section, look for authors and books I dont know and take home about 6 books. If I am lucky I find at least one author I like and add them to my favourites list. Then the hunt is on to find other books by that author.............
I took 5 books (for a second time) to the free book van inside the CentQuatre yesterday. What I like about this book van is that it is quite large so the racks of books are quite extensive. I was pleased to see that the books I had brought the last time seemed to have all disappeared, even the ones in English. Anyway, I put my books on the shelves and even rearranged some of them as other people have clearly done before me -- non fiction with non fiction, English books with English books, etc.
And for the first time I chose a book to take away -- Miss Jane by Th. Bentzon. It is a small leather bound book and looked too old to be left in such a place. I don't really know what it is about and won't read it for awhile since I have quite a few other books to read, but the title amused me for personal reasons and I am very happy to have taken it. I was very intrigued by the author Th. Bentzon and looked up the name on Google. Normally, when you see "Th." on an old French book, you automatically think "Théodore." There's the rub. The author is Thérèse Bentzon (actually just a nom de plume for Marie Thérèse de Solms).
Delving into her biography, everything became more and more interesting. Her claim to fame in France is as the translator of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (sado-masochism, anyone?), but she also wrote many books after being abandoned by her husband 3 years after the birth of her son.
She became a literary correspondant and went to the United States in 1893, going to New York, Chicago, back to Boston and then down to Louisiana before going to the Midwest. She stayed for more than a year and then returned to the United States in 1897. She wrote books about these trips and the second one was a bestseller, reprinted 8 times up until 1904.
She was particularly interested in the condition of women and was considered a feminist. I was fascinated.
Anyway, even before reading Miss Jane (I read the first three pages and it begins in an Italian cemetery) I went hunting to see where I could buy any of her other books. They are all out of print, but I saw that due to an agreement between the French National Library and a publisher, you can put in a special order for any of them. They have all been digitalized, and the publisher will print you a copy for something like 19 euros. I find this amazing. So I ordered the book about her trip to America in 1897.
Sounds great, Kerouac. I too tend to pick up very old-looking or leather-bound books in such cases. Once I found a book by a Mrs Childes about her trip to Egypt in the late 19th century.
These days I have been getting books out of book boxes. There are a ton of them in Gironde -- the entrance to nearly every park and beach has a bookbox. This weekend I picked up Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, a book in French by Orhan Pamuk, which I will probably find unreadable -- My Name is Red.
I try to get a book of someone I know. I read the back cover. For my wife I ask my libraryman. (Librarian ?). Jean luc. And I trust him. He mislead me only once in 20 years. I never buy from internet. I want a social contact.
The only books I buy on the internet are those I already know and want to read in English, for example Philip Kerr.
It's difficult to follow recommendations from official critics. A couple of times I read rave reviews of a book in the New York Times and bought two or three. One was a total dud which neither I nor anyone I gave it to managed to read, another was really good and the third was okay but not more. And even then, I chose books because the subject interested me.
By the way, the dud was Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, an anti-war book set in Germany during WW2.
My most recent dud was Phillip Kerr's Metropolis which was little more, to me, than an exercise in Weimar celebrity name dropping. Now Fallada, I love. I've read all in German and all those I could get in English. Some of the German movies made from these books that I've been able to buy from Amazon.de are wonderful. His biography by Jenny Williams in English is one of the better biographies of a literary figure.
Until recently I had wonderful reading buddies. We didn't share much on book commentary but their "I think you'd like this" was all important. Unfortunately age takes its toll in many ways. I'm not reading as many new books, but rereading many old favorites. Fallada.
A good reading buddy is a jewel without price. My best reading buddy moved away, but he was perfect in not having exactly the same taste as I, but sharing my love of intensely discussing books we'd both read.
re: reviews ~ I must have mentioned this before, but I always check the 3-star reviews on Amazon, as it seems they're more thoughtful. Those reviews by readers plus the "look inside" feature of Amazon make it valuable for deciding whether or not to buy, whether or not you're actually buying from Amazon.
I was a pretty early reader and when my friends were still into picture books I was reading "real" books. A wise teacher encouraged me by saying, "Open the book at any page and read the page right through. If there are more than 5 words you can't understand on the page, choose another book."
I loved mysteries, travel and biographies with a bit of sci-fi that wasn't too technical...still do. Not interested in romances or psycho-dramas. Love satirical and humorous books.
The book I remember most was one I had ordered from our State Library. Travels in Arabia Deserta by Charles Doughty, published in 1888 but re-issued in 1920's with a long foreword added by T E Lawrence. I had expected a Penguin type copy but the library delivered to my home an original from the 20's. It was a huge tome about 40cm by 35cm by 12cm. It was bound in heavy, worn leather and the thick paper was like fabric. The thing that made it so memorable was the smell. It carried the aroma of the embossed leather, dust, pipe smoke and age. I didn't open the volume for 2 days...just sat and smelled it.
Travel! Set out and head for pastures new[br] Life tastes the richer when you’ve road worn feet.[br]Ibn Battuta[br]
That is indeed a classic that I have never read. I believe that Germinal is much more fascinating, but I suspect that schools try for less popular works and assume that the more readable books will be absorbed voluntarily at a later date.
As I recall, going to school in the United States, I think that only one French novel was on the programme. In 10th grade, we were obliged to read an abridged version of Les Misérables. Naturally, all of the exciting parts were retained and most of the history was eliminated.
I have been using my confinement to declutter a bit and have come across all sorts of books of which I have absolutely no recollection. Some of them even have bookmarks in them indicating where I stopped for unknown reasons.
I shouldn't need to buy any new books for quite some time.
They should come in handy since libraries and book boxes are all closed right now.
I have a bunch of recently bought "serious" books but somehow don't feel like reading any of them. Hearing nothing but Covid19 news doesn't inspire me to read about damage to the environment. So I am rooting out old detective stories and re-reading those I can't remember.