Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Great ideas

Because of a lack of time to really read much beyond work related items or a textbook, I thought I would choose to answer an occasional question to prod my memory, pull an opinion out of myself and generally just keep me committed to blogging.

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

I guess I should say that book reviews of one kind or another are very powerful for me. I can't say that "official" reviews peek my interest as much as the reviews from fellow bloggers though. An official review helps to outline a plot for me and typically begins to peak my interest but it is the reviews from everyday readers, bloggers (typically those much more well-read than I am) whose opinions really intrigue me the most. I have always felt that word of mouth was the strongest recommendation and I still agree. When a friend pitches a book, a restaurant, a movie, a town to visit then I feel privileged with "insider" information.

I used to work at a bookstore and the goal of each employee was to put a book into every customer's hand. Of course if you could place it there with a personal comment about it 9/10 times the customer purchased the book, many times just on your recommendation alone. I loved that time. I felt like a member of a special club when I might find someone with a similar interest or another recommendation. If we had read the same books the fun was doubled and then the quest to find a different book to recommend was born. It was great fun.

I do read book synopsis in magazines, online, and on book jackets but I also pour over blogs from other readers all the time. I enjoy reading the Word of Mouth column at although it is typically just a gushing review that just puts the title in my mind. With a list of titles I begin to look on the library website and see if a copy is available - it's there that I find out a little more about a book and decide if it is the perfect book for me. Nancy Pearl of BookLust is such an eclectic reader and her books have exposed me to lots of authors I had never heard of. Great stuff. I even discovered a book review podcast that was such fun. I couldn't write down names fast enough. Good thing I subscribed to it!! I keep a very tacky list of recommendations on everything from post-its to envelopes and then try to write them down in my notebook. It seems that my list of things I want to read far exceeds the number of hours in a day, a year, heck, probably my lifetime!!

My sil and I share book titles in weekly emails. She's a wonderful source for me and vice versa. She's introduced me to Ivan Doig and I introduced her to Mildred Walker. Don't ya love it? There have also been clinkers though and I've given myself permission to not finish them. I used to feel guilty about it, sort of like not cleaning your plate, but now I realize that there are too many books and far too little time.

Best of all though is my own personal recording journal of what I have read and comments and passages from reading. It's a chronicle of my reading since 2000 and it's really quite precious to me. When I look back at titles and comments that I've made about the books I am instantly transported to the time when I read them and my feelings. I can locate the book I was reading when my nephew died and still feel the pain but also the growth afterwards. I can find the soothing books and the life-altering ones. It may sound schmaltzy and smarmy but it is a journal that I hope lives long after me! It says a lot about my interests and more than a bit about what I'm thinking. I keep personal quotes and comments as well as dates and starred ratings.

Wahoo. I'll never make it as Siskel and Ebert but I've recorded and stretched myself.

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