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Thread: Why do you read what you read?
December 13th, 2006, 05:19 PM #1
Why do you read what you read?
Why pick up Hobb instead of Bakker or Keyes instead of me? Martin instead of Tolkien or Duncan rather than Stover?
What makes you choose the books you end up reading?
Why wouldn't you read a book of mine and then buy Erikson, or put aside Vandermeer and pick up Lynch?
Is there a feeling associated with an author that the title or the cover or the discussions on the internet generate that's an intangible here, that you can't put your finger on but makes you want to get a hold of one book over another? Are there key words that describe a book that make it more alluring to you? Words that turn you off?
Curious.. very curious.
December 13th, 2006, 05:47 PM #2
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So many reasons
For me there are a myriad of reasons. Some are biases and predjudices. Art work for example. If I see a cover that does not appeal to me such as it being childish or poorly rendered (I'm jaded by Micheal Whelan's work) I will usually have to be very wowed by the blurb to consider it.
Sometimes I look at the idea and see if it grabs my attention or sounds rehashed. I will read some stories that are formulaic if I get the sense the author is a good writer. I am also demanding of good characterization. I have been spoiled by the likes of Donaldson, Williams, Cherryh, and Brust.
I like good imagery and strong plots. If I have to struggle to get involved with the story, the author has most likely lost me. I am currently taking my first stab at a Charles De Lint novel "Dreams & Memory" and I was hooked about 20 or 30 pages in.
December 13th, 2006, 08:20 PM #3
books often jump off the shelf at me, at the library. i'm serious. it's happened. ok, well, not often (and maybe someone accidentally pushed from the other side), but it's happened, and always with great results.
i have the horrible habit of judging a book by it's cool (or not cool) cover artwork. this has bitten me in the butt many, many times, but i still do it.
the blurb on the back of the book (or inside cover) must grab my attention, or forget it.
if i've read something by an author and loved it, i will seek out more works by the same author. and if a friend keeps bugging me to read something, there is a good chance i will look for a copy.
Are there key words that describe a book that make it more alluring to you?
December 13th, 2006, 08:48 PM #4
I think it is all down to word of mouth, outside of picking up a favorite author. Interestingly enough, David Louis Edelman asked readers the same question on his blog recently:
with results here:
December 14th, 2006, 09:29 AM #5
I'm often drawn by titles as well. I just finished The Tooth Fairy. Normally I wouldn't find that title attractive, but knowing that Joyce was writing for adults, not children, I found it compelling. I was more than satisfied.
But there's so much that's subliminal in the choice of a book unless it's totally spur of the moment and random. It's those subliminal things I'm trying to understand.
December 14th, 2006, 09:47 AM #6
Most often it is a personal recommendation. Example, I just finished The Road because it was recommended to me by . . . Gary Wassner!
Otherwise, it is usually because of some dicsussion about the book here or elsewhere on the 'nets. I rarely just browse through bookstores anymore.
December 14th, 2006, 09:52 AM #7
And will you take my recommendations in the future? Did you like The Road?
December 14th, 2006, 09:58 AM #8
Stunning, disturbing, brilliant. Everything literature should be.
How was the Caribbean?
December 14th, 2006, 10:17 AM #9
Stunning, brilliant, (not disturbing), everything the Caribbean should be.
December 14th, 2006, 03:37 PM #10
You went to the Caribbean and you want me to tell you how I chose books? You cad, you!
A title can attract my attention, especially as fantasy titles tend to be very bland, so if the title is unusual, I might check out what the book is about. Interesting cover art can attract my attention if I'm browsing shelves and the cover is turned out or partly exposed. But neither of these things will cause me to chose that book over another. It just gets me to read the content blurb.
If the content blurb interests me -- the description of the plot -- then I'm more likely to read it. I have no prejudices about setting, plots, style, etc., but I do look for a premise that sounds interesting to me.
Other things: if people are talking about an author a lot, here and in reviews, etc., then I may try to read a work to stay current. I may or may not like it. I discovered that I'm not wild about Vernor Vinge that way, for instance, though he is in my opinion a good writer, but that I do like Kim Stanley Robinson a great deal and he is also a good writer, IMO. If an author is very established in the field, likewise, then I may try to read something by that author, usually what is considered their seminal work.
If I interact with an author here at SFFWorld or elsewhere, I am more likely to check out their work. I deliberately seek out information about books, from here, from review sites, from Amazon, and from things like publishers newsletters.
A recommendation for me is not a recommendation so much as it is an information source of books and authors I may not have heard about otherwise. If someone says to me that they thought a book is great, that's not all that helpful unless I'm sure we have pretty much the same tastes. If they tell me why they thought a novel was great, preferrably not in vague adjectives, that gives me more information.
My liking a book comes down to a combination of things -- do I like the plot, the structure, the characters, the theme, the imagery/style, the set-up? Sometimes I only like some of those things, but enjoy the book anyway. I don't think I have a liking formula per se.
December 14th, 2006, 03:59 PM #11
I think I do have a bit of a 'liking formula', as you so aptly put it, KatG. The characters have to be passionate about what they're doing. They have to have depth and sensitivity, and the crisis or conflict that drives the book has to be one that I can relate to, usually in philosophical ways, but frequently in emotional ways. I have to feel that there's something serious at stake and that there's a chance, however slim, that the conflict can be resolved. I read toward that resolution, and if my favorite characters are killed off, I rarely forgive the author. I grow close to them and it hurts.
The emotional stakes have to be high, not trivial and trite and the relationships between the characters have to be powerful.
Is that a liking formula?
December 14th, 2006, 05:22 PM #12
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December 17th, 2006, 06:56 AM #13
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In my teen years I just read a few authors I had found that I liked early on. If I remember correctly it probably started with Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Then I found a couple authors I liked writing for Forgotten Realms. Salvatore (like a lot of people back then and my age I am pretty sure) and Niles. I ended up picking up anything those two wrote. Now my reading then was very different than now. I would got a few months and read quite a few books, then go a few months without ever picking up a book.
These days I always have a book going and now it is rare if I go a day without reading some of whatever book I have going. I have never been a fast reader and still am pretty slow compared to most that read as often as I do. Part of that now is concentration issues I have because of my health, but mainly it is just the way I have always been with reading.
I now will buy just about any author out there. I do enjoy reading others thoughts on authors and books. While I will try anyone, if I see that someone is primarily getting only bad reviews, then I may stay away from their books until I see something that tells me I should try it. Now when I say reviews, I generally mean what people on various boards are saying. I will read "pro" reviews sometimes, but find a lot of time I would rather not because there seem to always be something in them that can tend to be a spoiler for me. I would rather hear more general on why someone liked or disliked a book. Another reason for this is that reading message board members thoughts on books usually ties in better with what I enjoy in books. Similar to reading the average joe's thoughts on movies being better for me than reading a movie critics thoughts on them. I watch movies and read to be entertained. So, if something doesn't review well from the "pros" but still seems to be popular with the average reader that reads as much as I do, then I am going to give it a try.
About the only thing that keeps me from trying new authors now is lack of money and lack of being able to find the books in a store as I prefer not to purchase them online. Which is an odd thing because I do a lot of other shopping online. I'm also an avid comic book reader and get my comics through a mail order site because of the great discount. I am probably more picky on what comic book authors I will try than regular book authors, but still not that picky overall.
The funny thing is I have books from all but two of the authors you mention in the first post. Those being Vandermeer and Lynch and Lynch because I have never heard of them. Or at least I don't remember hearing of them. Now I will have to look into them and what books they have.
As you know Gary I haven't had a chance to read your books, but definitely plan to once I purchase them. Not sure I will get through all three that are out very quickly as I tend not to read a series straight through like I used to when I was younger. Even now if I have them all, I tend to float around the different series and authors I have on my three bookcase to read "pile".
December 17th, 2006, 11:12 AM #14
I like the kind of books that are different, like fantasy not involving dwarfs and elves. (Except if it is tolkien or any author that I know is good.)
I don't know why but I haven't been attracted to Eragon or The Da Vinci Code. I don't know if it is repelling to read a book that a huge number of people have read before me. It took me a long time before I even touched a HP-book.
Different authors that I know about in a positive way makes me check out more books that they have written. Even if I know that they are bad. But I guess that everybody does that.
But the best thing that can happen while looking at a cover is getting what I call Tolkien-shivers. (I got it the first time I watched LOTR). If I get that then it feels that I must read the book.
It happens more often when you know what the book is like.
Listen to some music, then read a really good bookpassage, think of great adventures and close your eyes. Then the shivers will come to you.
But then I can choose a book because it feels like I have to or because I must have something to read. That happened today by the way.
Then you got to read the classics like Dune and I Robot because if they are as good as a few generations say, then you can't risk missing something that great. Mind you though, Dune and I Robot are two of my many favorites.
December 17th, 2006, 12:24 PM #15
Those 'shivers' you mention Konrad are what I try so hard to generate in my books. I live for them. Those moments in books bring tears to the eyes.