How to Pick a Book


When I’m nearing the end of a book, I usually get a little preoccupied. It’s not because I’ll be saying good-bye to characters or a story that I’ve come to know (although that does happen very occasionally). No, it’s because I’m actually already thinking about the next book.

When I came across this article by Dell Smith – The Psychology of Books: Why We Read What We Read, I had to share. I think this article was written for me (except the bit about being mailed random books once a month – I WOULDN’T LIKE THAT AT ALL). I go through much the same process as Smith –

“When I decide which book to read, it comes down to my mood at that precise moment. Sometimes it depends on the book I just finished reading. Was it a novel? Well, then maybe I want to try a book of short stories next. Or possibly a memoir. Was the last book a long slog through the precious, august mind of a revered white male Nobel Prize winner? Maybe my next book should be a short slice of pulp fiction from the 40s. Or a classic by Virginia Woolf. Or the recent YA sensation my sister recommended. But wait, here’s a book I bought five years ago with a faded spine by an author who recently died. I forgot about you my friend. But no longer. I shall give you a whirl. Yes, I have found my next book to read. Yeah, it’s that simple.”

Simple and also very complicated.

I also appreciate Smith’s observations about receiving books as a gift. I’ll sound like a royal-pain-in-the-arse here but no one I know well would give me a fiction book as a gift – it is simply too fraught.

I am reminded of a number of times, many, many, many years ago when I was about eight-years-old. A family friend would often give me a Secret Seven or a Famous Five book as a gift. But I wasn’t much into mysteries, even then (Nancy Drew was a slight anomaly but that was a few years later). Worried that this friend would ask my thoughts on the book (see, I was ‘reviewing’, even then), I would read the first and last chapters so that I knew roughly what happened and would at least have some discussion points should they come up. Now, as an adult, I can see how RIDICULOUS this was (have you ever grilled an eight-year-old about Secret Seven?!) but the point is – bad book gifts suck.

Note: the image above isn’t just a neat graphic, it’s an actual book. So if you’re unlike me and don’t know what book to read next, check out Read This Next.

3 responses

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