Monday, August 12, 2019

The Next Best Read. by Brenda Chapman

Question: Out of all the books available to read and limited time, what influences your choices? What books have your read this summer and which would you rate as your top recommendation?

A number of factors go into my book selection. 

I belong to a book club that meets monthly. We tend to stray from the mystery genre and read mainly literary fiction and often by Canadian authors. Quite often the book has been on the best seller list and usually quite recently.

However, if I'm standing in a bookstore trying to decide on my next mystery read, there are a number of considerations that affect my selection. First, I peruse the selection to see if any of my favourite authors have a new release. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't impacted by the cover and the cover synopsis, even by authors I've previously enjoyed. If the plot outline doesn't grab me, this could make me keep looking. The cover isn't as important, but often it too gives a sense of what is inside. However, the cover could attract me enough to make me pick up the book to have a look.

I'm always open to looking at books by authors I haven't read before. If the cover synopsis sounds promising, I'll open to the first page and read until I have a sense of their writing style. If the first page grabs me and I like the sound of the plot, I'll add the book to my pile.

Book recommendations by those working in the store are also important. Independent bookstores are a terrific resource since you can get to know the people working there and they can get to know your tastes. Even in big box stores like Chapters, the staff will make their picks on the shelves, which can be a place to start looking. And of course, recommendations from my many book-loving friends are also key to the books I select.

I also like to read book reviews and check out the week's best sellers in the newspapers as well as listen to book panels on CBC Radio. Bottom line though, I'm always looking for a good story and good writing with characters who have depth. The setting isn't as important.

I've read several good literary books this summer: Educated by Tara Westover, Becoming by Michelle Obama, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and All Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay. All fine reads but Hay's memoir made the most impact on me. Her writing is beautiful and the story of her parents' final years is both unsparing and poignant. 

In the mystery genre, I read some terrific cliff-hangers: Falling Glass and Hidden River by Adrian McKinty, Cold Granite and Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride. My top pick in the crime fiction category is Before the Fall by *Noah Hawley. This thriller tells the story of a plane crash survivor and recounts the last hours of those lost in the plane crash as the investigators strive to solve why the plane went down on a short, routine flight. An interesting plot that keeps your interest to the end.

There truly are so many good books out there and so little time. I know that I've passed up some wonderful reads but hope to get to these books eventually. I'm finding that I will stop reading a book if it doesn't hold my interest by the half-way mark since my time is so limited, but this is the exception. My screening process seems to be work for the most part since I've managed to choose some varied and interesting reads to while away the summer afternoons.

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Terry said...

What a great post. I'm posting tomorrow and you said what I should have said. Your approach in a bookstore is exactly ming. But I'll just provide a different slant.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Brenda. I like to read outside the mystery genre, too — anything that's well told. And you're right, there are so many books and too little time.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Terry and Dietrich - I'm looking forward to both of your posts this week - hoping to get some pointers and great book suggestions :-)

Susan C Shea said...

I have a question for you, Brenda, that I face too often: How do you feel about having paid for a book only to give up on it part way through? I feel like I'm throwing away money...

Brenda Chapman said...

Hi Susan - Yes, I'm never pleased about buying a book that I don't finish, but I hope I'm still supporting the author in a small way. The longer I'm in this business, the more I realize that reading tastes are subjective. That's why I never write bad reviews :-) Sometimes, a new author will develop their skills in the next book so I applaud anyone for attempting this creative pursuit.

Rick Robinson said...

The most enjoyable books I've read this summer would be Bitter Recoil and Twice Buried by Steven Havill, and The Shallows by Matt Goldman. The latter is the third in his P.I. Nils Shapiro books. They are all very good.

My question is why not find books through word of mouth and reviews and then get them at the library? That solves the pay-and-be-disappointed problem, and supports your local library.