Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What to read next?

by Dietrich Kalteis

READING: How do you pick what book/s you’re going to read? Is it the cover? Awards it’s won. The author. Genre? Word of mouth? Reviews (pro and customer)? Someone you know? Anything else?

When I walk into a bookstore, it’s the book’s cover that first grabs me. I was in the graphics industry for a long time, so I’m a sucker for good cover designs. But what tops the design, is who wrote the book. When the next Carl Hiaasen, James Ellroy or Don Winslow hits the shelves, I’ll be at the book store, and it doesn’t matter much what the cover looks like.

Sometimes I pick a book on the recommendation of friends and fellow writers, those who like the same kind of books. Then there are the folks at my local indie book shop. It’s not that I have anything against the big box stores, I just like to walk into my local store where I know the people working there, and they know the kind of books I like. Here in Vancouver we’re lucky to have shops like White Dwarf/Dead Write Books, Book Warehouse, Pulpfiction Books and 32 Books. It’s one of my favorite things to do – walk in, pick up one that catches my eye and check it out.

Sam Wiebe, Walter Sinclair and me at White Dwarf/Dead Write Books.
Awards and nominations are wonderful for the author. They get the writer some deserved attention, especially when that author keeps winning them. And that can make me curious about an author’s work.

Sometimes it’s my mood. When my days are busy, I might opt for a quick, light read, perhaps a Robert B. Parker novel I haven’t read yet. Or something funny by Carl Hiaasen or Terry Fallis. Other times I might go for a classic I’ve been meaning to reread, maybe Ken Kesey or John Steinbeck. Other times I go for something new, somebody I haven’t read before. Or I pick one that I’ve been meaning to read, like Sam Wiebe’s Invisible Dead which I’m reading now. And once in a while I feel like reading a novel in German. Since there are more books than there is time to read them, I try to be choosy about what I read. If a book doesn’t light me up in the opening pages, I’ll put it back on the shelf, and look for something else.

I love a good crime novel, but I like to read outside the genre too. And I’ll read just about anything if the author’s got a strong voice. I just finished Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk — what an awesome voice, and the kind of book that leaves me looking forward to reading more of his work.

Sometimes a review gets me curious about a book. I follow the reviewers who lean towards the kind of books I like. For crime fiction reviews online there’s Col’s Criminal Library, Crime Fiction Lover, Detectives Beyond Borders, The House of Crime and Mystery, the Interrogation Room and  Crimespree Magazine. And many dailies run regular book reviews and there review publications like Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Bloomsbury and more.

Sometimes I learn about a new author at a book event. Events like Noir at the Bar, an author’s book launch, panel discussions at conferences and readings at festivals are good ways to get to know an author’s work. And they are great ways to get a signed copy and an opportunity to meet the author. I’m reading Red Snow by Michael Slade who I was lucky to have read at our latest Vancouver Noir at the Bar. When I’m traveling to festivals or conferences I’ve had to learn to refrain from stuffing my suitcase with books till it feels full of cinder blocks. Not to mention, that leads to shelves full of books waiting to be read at home, but I intend to read them all – one book at a time.


Susan C Shea said...

A question that, I swear, has no political or shaming intent. I'm just curious. Are you ever drawn to crime fiction written by women and, if so, what kinds of stories do you like? Can you think of a woman author whose work runs along the lines of some of the authors you mention in your post? I ask because I think that I read as many male authors in the genre and women, just based on the subjects and styles. Do the covers for women-written books seem to suggest they are aimed at women and send a negative message to you? Good post - got me thinking!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Linda L. Richards is a great crime fiction author, and there's Sue Grafton, J.K. Rowling, Robin Spano, and Deryn Collier. And I just picked up Black Orchid Blues by Persia Walker. I haven't read her books before, but this one looks interesting. A lot of the women authors I read fall outside of crime fiction. I recently read Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood — what a great voice. Also, not exactly crime fiction, but a novel with a punk theme like my latest book, I liked The Town Slut's Daughter by Heather Haley. And I'll read just about anything written by Patti Smith.

Susan C Shea said...

Persia Walker's new to me, as is Deryn Collieer, so thanks. I guess you're saying gender doesn't matter but subject and style does.

Susan C Shea said...

I just ordered Black Orchid Blues - thanks for the tip!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

For me it's always about the author's voice and style. I hope you like Black Orchid Blues, Susan.