What to Read Next?
How do you choose what to read next?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely curious, for a number of reasons.
I tend to have a set list of authors whose work I will pre-order the instant I hear about it. Neil Gaiman, Sarah MacLean, Kate Elliot. I have authors I forget about for a few years and then dive in to read everything they’ve put out in the meantime (Stephen Brust tops that list: I can’t quit Vlad Taltos). I have graphic novel series I follow closely (Pretty Deadly, Ody-C, Rat Queens) and others I dabble in when the mood strikes.
I am deeply blessed to have friends who throw books at me, as well. One of my oldest and dearest friends recently sent me an entire box full of books, including Trudy Canavan’s Traitor Spy trilogy; another hounded me until I read Cold Magic (thank goodness!).
But it’s easy to find oneself in a reading rut. Which is a shame, given the wealth of material out there. Self-publishing and digital publishing can make it easier to be published, but that isn’t always a good thing. Finding quality work in those muddy waters is its own trick. So how do you find something new?
Sites like our own here are helpful. I discovered Saladin Ahmed because of a review here, and that has been an absolute delight. (And if I’m dropping names and titles left and right, it’s because I’m returning the favor.) But even comprehensive sites can’t cover everything.
So how do you find new stuff to read? And how do you find new stuff to read when you realize you’ve gotten in a rut? When you discover that everything you’ve read in the last year is, say, fantasy by white women, or all space sci-fi? What are your favorite resources, and what was your favorite surprise find lately?
I think there are actually two separate questions packed in there. To answer the first, how do I decide what to read next? Well, these days, unless I already have something specific in mind I probably just go to my Kindle’s home page and start scrolling through authors until something catches my eye. In the pre-Kindle days, again, unless I had something in mind, I’d end up kind of walking back & forth in front of my shelves waiting for the spark, even if that sometimes took 15-20 minutes of dithering.
(And I am congenitally incapable of _not_ having a book in progress — even if I finish my current book late at night, I’ll probably go find the next book and read at least a page or two before going to sleep.)
The second, broader question, is how do I find things to add to my queue so that they’ll be available when I’m ready for something new? And for that, the short answer is, “Lots of ways.” I still subscribe to Locus (although I admit I don’t keep up with the reviews & forthcoming releases like I used to); I visit lots of websites (present company very much included); I listen to a bunch of SF/fantasy-related podcasts; I’m active on Goodreads; I’m fortunate enough to have friends & coworkers whose reading tastes are similar, but not identical, to my own, so we can exchange recommendations.
As to getting out of a rut, well, step one is to realize that I’m in a rut, and step two is just to make a conscious effort to find something in my queue that’s outside of the current rut. (Oh, and I suppose step one-and-a-half is to decide that I do want to leave the rut, at least temporarily. That’s actually the hardest step, most of the time.)
Like you said. I have a list of authors that I’m interested in. RA Salvatore, Stan Sakai, Margaret Weis.
I get a lot of good suggestions from blackgate. Also I hang out at different forums and I see stuff get mentioned in those places. Or I’ll see a cover that catches my eye on those Amazon lists that pop up on each books page.
its easy for me to get out of a rut. I don’t usually read the same type of book twice. For example if I just read a dnd fantasy book I’m probably not going to read another high magic fantasy book right after, unless it’s a trilogy.
Sometimes you just need to walk through a book store and find a good cover that catches your eye and buy it. That’s how I found Gail z martins chronicles of the necromancer series.
A lot of times I’ll switch mediums. I ve found myself getting into a lot of comic books over the past couple years. Alternating between novels and comics makes for a nice change of pace.
One year for Christmas I told my wife that she should go to the bookstore and pick out a book for me from the scifi/fantasy section that was the first in a series.
Worryingly, Black Gate seems to exerting an undue influence on my choice of reading material! I’m am an occasional reader at best but since the start of the year (thanks to recommendations on this site) I’ve read the following –
The Lottery – a short story by Shirley Jackson
Six Worlds Yonder – Eric Frank Russell
A Boy’s Life – Robert McCammon
Starfish – Peter Watts
Fevre Dream & The Armegeddon Rag by George R. R. Martin.
I tend to stick with the older stuff, but did move outside my comfort zone twice last year, and bought books that came up in discussions – ‘Blackdog’ and ‘Fragments of a Broken Land’, both of which I enjoyed.
> I have graphic novel series I follow closely (Pretty Deadly…
Wait, PRETTY DEADLY is a series? I thought there was only one! Virtually everyone in my house read the first one… there’ll be a riot if they found out there’s a second volume and I haven’t bought it yet.
> (thanks to recommendations on this site) I’ve read the following…
> Six Worlds Yonder – Eric Frank Russell
If I’ve turned a single person on to Eric Frank Russell, my work is worthwhile.
What did you think of SIX WORLDS YONDER? And how the heck did you find a copy?
My choice in reading depends on a lot of things; what I am currently reading, what I just finished reading and what websites I am reading. I am also in a book exchange with a friend in Toronto who has different tastes than me, she turned me on to Gillian Flynn and Jonathan Howard (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer).
I do tend to read a lot of science as well and try to balance science with fiction.
All that being said, I read the last four October Daye novels in a week…
And now I’ve just decided that my next couple of books will be Discworld. RIP, Sir Terry.
Funny you have a picture of Neil’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the top: that one’s next on my list!
Rat Queens was recommended to me by Gabe Dybing, who is such a fan and so wanted to make sure I read it that he bought me the first collected GN (reprinting issues 1-5)! [And there’s a hint, folks: if you want to up the odds that I’ll read something you recommend, give me a complementary copy! ;-)]
Aonghus: You can’t go wrong with recommends at this site! That’s a pretty good list you have there.
Joe H: What spurred my visit to the BG site today was my wife looking up from her iPhone and asking, “Who’s ‘Sir Terry Pratchett’? That name sounds familiar.” I immediately thought Oh no: I knew that could only mean one thing, and I knew John would be on top of it posting an obit here.
Like so many others, I revere Pratchett — although I confess, to date I’ve only read about four of the Discworld books. My admiration is based on those four books: which means I am absolutely chuffed (to use U.K. slang) that I have dozens more Discworld books awaiting me. I’d been planning on returning to that series soon anyway — this news will certainly add fuel to that.
(And in a related note, the Michael Shea reading kick I’ve been on was prompted by reading of his passing here.)
I just heard the news about Sir Terry. It has me literally gasping for breath like I just took a right hook to the sternum. I knew this was coming, but… Wow.
For books to review at BG, I go through my heap of ARCs and go with whatever is least like the last book I reviewed.
For other fiction, I confess I’m often driven by my typical-writer case of impostor syndrome: I read whatever I feel most embarrassed at not already having read.
For non-fiction, I go on skill-building kicks, often connected to research for the fiction I’m writing. I took up drop-spindle spinning because one of my characters is a weaver, and it bugged me that this skill she’d known since she was five years old was something I couldn’t describe. Now hand-spinning has become something of an obsession, and it got me back into knitting, which I hadn’t done in a couple of decades, because what else was I going to do will all this yarn I suddenly had? (Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle is an awesome first book on spinning, by the way.) I’m kind of hoping the research for my tattoo artist character doesn’t have the same effect on me…
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