Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dating a Book

It’s been a very long time, maybe a millennium, since I went on a first date. That’s the way it is with married folks. But I can remember that time in my life. The getting to know you questions, listening with your whole body, really paying attention, noticing the details. And friends always had commentary. They had strong opinions about who was and was not worthy and why. Sometimes it was really smart to listen to friends, other times I wondered. Get a group of friends together and see how a strong opinion, whether based in fact or not, can influence the whole group. Soon everyone is agreeing each other because we like to belong, to be part of something. We like people to agree with us. 

I was thinking about dating when I was looking at some book recommendations from friends on a well known reader site. And I began to wonder if the same group think phenomenon was true for books too. And then I came across a post by Laura Fredericks on the site Writer Unboxed.
“…authors can pay for reviews, readers can gang up on an author, and it’s been shown that up to a third of reviews are fake. Like also tends to beget like in the book review space. If there a lot of five star reviews, then the five star reviews keep rolling in. Insert a few one star reviews, and the ball rolls in the other direction. Mob mentality is no way to choose a book.”

Our thinking appeared to be in sync. I have a few trusted friends I listen to when selecting a new book to read. We have the same tastes much of the time, but not always. There are tried and true authors I go back to again and again, like a soft well-worn shirt. But many of my favorite books have been discovered quite by accident when browsing in a bookstore or even on line when I’ve been able to take the time to listen to the voice. As a reader, I can’t always articulate what magic draws me into a story. It’s not just genre, some fantasy I love and some, well not so much. I can’t look for a character type.  I’m not always wooed by the same kind of voice.In fact, one of the most gratifying reads is when I am captivated by a book I never suspected I might fall for. And as for that pretty cover, it may catch my eye, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be taking it home.

A great example for me was the book, I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. The cover wasn’t appealing to me. I hadn’t heard any gossip about it, hadn’t read the reviews, didn't even recognize the author. Then I read a page and found Cassandra Mortman sitting in the kitchen sink.

And when the magic is right....I like to think that there is a dialog that happens between reader and book. At a particular time a book is speaking just to me. I am its intended audience in this place and time. And time stands still.

As a reader, how do you choose your books?


Jordan Dane said...

I love this, Maureen. It reminded me of my love for discovering new authors on the bargain table in an actual book store, and adding to my debut book collection. I read the back of the book and maybe the first page or two. Something would entice me and I'd buy it.

Even buying for my kindle, I don't rely on reviews. I prefer word of mouth from someone I know and respect who reads a lot and may have similar taste, but then I still read the blurb and download a sample. Deciding on what book to buy based on the opinions of strangers isn't for me.

Great post. Happy Thanksgiving.

Maureen McQuerry said...

I agree. And different books appeal at different times in my life. Sometimes I think a story shows up when I need it most.
Happy Thanks giving to you too!