Posted on October 24, 2008 - by MG
Just been glancing through an old favourite, “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler” by Italo Calvino (from which I quote in Joshua 3, heh heh), and marveling at the passages where he writes about all the different types of books he encounters in the bookshop, most of which try to distract the reader from going to the book he actually means to buy.
Also, fretting slightly about the forthcoming release of Joshua 2. I’m sure this is normal authorial angst – will it sell? will shops stock it? will they put it on promotion for long enough? or will it sink with little trace, read only by a small fraction of loyal readers who also read Joshua 1?
(Apologies for readers if you didn’t realise authors go through this – we do. Selling books is very hard work!)
So, it bring me round to the question of how readers choose books?
Here’s what I do:
In order of priority:
1. New Books By Authors That I Love And Who Are Considered To Be Still In Their Prime (In my case this would be books by Haruki Murakami, Kazua Ishiguro, Mario Vargas Llosa)
2. Book By Authors That I Love But Haven’t Yet Found Or Have Been Saving Up To Read (i.e. older books by Haruki Murakami, Kazua Ishiguro, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
3. Books By Authors That Seem Promising Possibilities To Join My A List (for example, I may have read about an author in TIME or something and decided that it’s worth trying one of his/her books.)
4. Books Written By A Friend (now that I’m a novelist, I have more of these)
5. Books That Are So Massively Talked About You’d Be Totally Out Of The Loop If You Didn’t Read Them Too (e.g. Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, The Name of the Rose, On Chesil Beach)
6. Books That A Good Friend Recommended Very Highly (although authors in this category usually wind up in the third category above. Right now I am considering Laura Restrepo’s Delirium, Alfredo Bryce Echenique’s A World For Julius. Failed recommendees include the tedious Javier Marias and fellow Murakami groupie, David Mitchell (the author not the comedian). Sorry, it’s probably me not being clever enough, but there you go.)
7. Young Adult Books That I Really Should Have Read Because I’m A Children’s Author But In Fact Am Only Getting Round To Now Because People Keep Asking If I’ve Read Them (such as The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin)
8. Books Which Take My Fancy During A Browsing Session (many are purchased but few are read…)
9. Old Favourites That I Re-read Every Few Years (e.g. ‘Numbers In The Dark’ by Italo Calvino, anything by Haruki Murakami)
10. Books That Might Help With Something I’m Working On (mainly non-fiction, books on novel structure etc, but occasionally I’ll use Murakami as a mood-setter when I’m actually writing)
So there you have it. Adverts, book reviews don’t have anything but the tiniest influence.