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Choosing a book


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#1 oberon

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 01:16 PM

What decides you to purchase a given book? Do you read reviews, read what friends have suggested, or just go to the store and browse?

I read constantly, usually 2 or 3 books going at a time. I re-read favorite books every year, and sometimes when I finish a book I immediately start it again. There are many classic masterpieces I have never read, and some very obsure books that I devour and re-read.

This is how I've come to select a book: I go to my favorite store, 3 Lives, on 10th Street (Manhattan). I browse and when I see something that looks tempting, I read the last sentence of the book. Then I open at random to the middle and read a paragraph or two. If my interest is piqued, I'll buy it or jot down the title for future consideration. I have a limited budget but prefer to own rather than borrowing from a library.

A book that I have especially enjoyed lately is THE VIRTUOSO by Margriet de Moor.

#2 vagansmom

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 02:30 PM

Oberon, I'm always fascinated when I hear that people read the last sentence (or paragraph or page) of a book as part of deciding whether or not to read it. The very first time someone told me that, I thought she was unusual in that habit but I've since realized that many - this would make a good poll - people use the final page as part of their criteria.

It would completely destroy my interest in reading it! I like surprises and if I already know what happens, or how a book ends, then I feel cheated and don't want to bother. But I think I may be in the minority on this. I teach 4th and 5th grade literature classes and I always ask the kids at the beginning of the year how they choose what book to read. To a person, they say they read at least part of the final page.

Each week I glance at the NY Times Book Review. It's been awhile since I've actually read that section carefully but I do always give it a cursory read. Often that's where I get interested in a book. Our school staff is a very literary bunch of folks and I value the recommendations that come from any member of that group. I also value the recommendations made within the threads on this forum.

And I make choices at the bookstore. I like to browse for a morning or afternoon reading a chapter or two before deciding to buy a book. Three Junes was discovered that way.

If I've enjoyed one book by a particular author, I will always seek out more. I tend to devour books author by author. Like you, there are many classics I haven't touched. My husband attended St. John's College, home to the Great Books Program, so we have a fine collection of books. I keep saying that someday I'll systematically read through them but that hasn't happened. Also like you, I have devoured and reread many an obscure book.

Other criteria:

Size and clarity of font! That's a biggie in my middle-age.

#3 BW

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 04:14 PM

I'm in that minority vagansmom - I would never read the last sentence or anything close to the end of a book.

Nice thread oberon. Hmm, I do browse...sometimes a title catches my eye...often as not I'm an author addict until I've depleted their stash, or my interest, like vagansmom. I, too, check out The Book Review, but lately it seems nothing has caught my eye.

If I'm in a bookstore, where I seem to have spent countless hours in the last two years, while awaiting my ballet dancing daughter's release from class, I will either walk the fiction aisles and pull out titles at random, take a quick look through both the nonfiction and fiction "new releases" or search out books by various authors whose names have had the good luck of remaining in my memory banks...

And I agree that the threads on this forum have been fuel for the fire of reading, as well! :yes:

#4 Treefrog

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 04:42 PM

I just read whatever vagansmom suggests :wink:

We are fortunate to have a very, very good independent bookstore in our community. When browsing there, I tend to focus on the new books conveniently placed in the front room. I would never, never, ever read the last page! :mondieu: Part of what I savor in a book is that unfolding of character and plot. But, I do tend to 1) read the first page or two, and 2) open to a random spot in the middle. If either grabs me, I'll give it a try.

If all else fails, I just grab the next book in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series.

#5 oberon

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 06:50 PM

I went back and read the thread about THREE JUNES...sound like my kind of story. I will seek it out...thanks for the tip, vagansmom.

My sister sent me Jane Hamilton's SHORT HISTORY OF A PRINCE which shifts from the 70's to the 90's and details the story of two brothers, one an aspiring dancer and the other who is dying of cancer. It is not a page-turner but there are some very moving passages. The young dancer became enthralled with ballet after seeing SERENADE...like so many of us!

I read GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING twice in a week...I couldn't stop. By chance, I had picked up GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE, another "Vermeer" story. So that was a nice pairing.

I am not sure why I started reading the final lines of books before buying them. Usually the final lines don't really give away much about the book. I guess that when I know what the last thought will be, I am kept intrigued throughout by how the author will get to that point....sometimes it keeps me going when the writing sags a bit. Does that make any sense?

#6 BW

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 07:09 PM

P.S. I have to think that just about everyone reads some of their potential books before buying or taking them home from the library.

I remember picking up the book Seabiscuit one day. I'd heard some mention of it, and of course new about the horse...but as soon as I read the first page, I knew for sure I'd picked a winner. :grinning:

oberon, if your method works for you - it makes sense. :o

I did buy The Girl with The Pearl Earing myself, but it's sitting somewhere and I haven't delved into it yet...but it was the Vermeer lover in me, that prompted my choosing that one. :rolleyes:

Hey, Treefrog maybe we should start a vagansmom's book club and give Oprah a run for her money? :wink:

#7 carbro

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 08:41 PM

I was going to say that I never, never, NEVER read the last page first, but it occurred to me that maybe once or twice I've done just that. I tend to let the book (I'm drawn by a title or the author) fall open somewhere in the middle and read a page or two, skip a little.

What I do read the end of first are newspaper reviews -- all newspaper reviews. (Not magazines, though. Doesn't work for them.) Then, if it seems as though the content is worthwhile, I take it from the top.

#8 vagansmom

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Posted 27 February 2004 - 09:18 PM

Carbro, that's a good idea - reading the END of newspaper reviews first. I'd never thought of it (now where's an emoticon that says "duh!"?) but I am going to employ that strategy from now on.

BW, it would be a very small book club indeed. The truth is that nobody but you and Treefrog would be so goodnatured about putting up with my clunkers!

#9 dido

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Posted 28 February 2004 - 05:41 AM

:offtopic: I went to St. John's too, vagansmom. I still have all my program books with me (including some really weird ones --the 4 volume Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas for one, boy that was expensive and needless to say I haven't exactly finished it).

I choose books almost entirely by author, and so sadly I rarely read any "new" books, I'm still working my way through books by people whose other books I liked. I'm also an inveterate re-reader. There's a whole slew of books that I reread at least once a year (all of Jane Austen, the Master and Margarita, anything by Dasheil Hammet :wink: ).

And it would never occur to me to read the last line/paragraph. How astonishing!

#10 Paquita

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Posted 28 February 2004 - 07:33 AM

I am always very tempted to read the last page or last sentence, but I never do. Instead, I read the first few pages to see if the author grabs my attention. If I like it, I'll read a random excerpt from the middle.
Another consideration is chapter length! I tend to read books with short chapters faster.

#11 BattementCloche

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Posted 12 March 2004 - 11:56 AM

I have a list of books I still don't have and really want so long that there's no chance of my being able to walk into a bookstore, pick up something that looks interesting that I've never heard of before, and buy it without a guilty conscience!

However, we own a toy/bookstore, so I can get the books that I want at a discounted price :party: (albeit a small discount--but every little bit helps!). However, parting with the money to buy the books, when I need it for ballet clothes/shoes (I always need shoes) is rather difficult... Most of the time, though, it's worth it :wink:

~*~Rosalind~*~

P.S. Next book splurge: The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato. And maybe, since it's small, I'll get Principia as well :unsure:

#12 Guest_Angel2Be_*

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 08:15 AM

I read the last sentence of 1984 first. :shhh: Never again.

I like to look around and see what other people (friends, passersby, etc.) are reading, I get a lot of recommendations from print and amazon.com, and I have to admit I choose some books just because they have pretty covers. Actually... I'm also still in school, so much of what I read is not by choice. :P

Definitely, make good use of the library. That way, you're not at a loss if you pick a bad egg.

#13 Funny Face

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 08:49 PM

You people who attended St. John's -- how lucky! I wish I'd known about that college so many years ago. I was fascinated when a woman I met about 12 years ago told me about her experiences there. I believe there's a similar program in Santa Fe.

As to reading the last sentence of a book first, it reminds me of Billy Crystal's line in "When Harry Met Sally," when he told Sally he did that just in case he died before getting to the end -- that was his way of explaining his "dark side."

Actually, there have been several recent movies that have led me back to the book: "Where the Heart Is," "The Emperor's Club" and "Under the Tuscan Sun." I recently reread Dorothy Gilman's "The Tightrope Walker." I was curious to see how I would react to it years after first reading it. I think it's interesting to check our own perspective this way.

Also -- I believe there's no better therapy when you get into a very dark place than rereading your favorite children's literature. That's when I need the comfort of the Melendy chiildren, Anne of Green Gable, and Betsy and Tacy, for starters. I also love fairy tales, and have rewritten a few from my own perspective. I am currently penning "Cinderella," as I have taught it over the years to dance pupils. I had not realized just how much this tale had evolved in my teaching, and penning my version as a teaching guide has been quite an undertaking. I am fascinated by the appeal this tale has for children far and beyond any other. In my experience, even "Sleeping Beauty" is a pale runner-up. I think there must be some deep belief that many children have at one point or another in their childhood that they were mixed up at the hospital, or somehow landed in the wrong family. For children who come from troubled homes, this could be especially true. In fact, how many of us adults wish on certain days that we could open the door to a fairy godmother? "Please turn my abusive boss into a toad today, please!"

#14 carbro

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 09:24 PM

Never thought of it until now, but couldn't children (and former children), boys as well as girls, draw from HC Andersen's The Ugly Duckling pretty much the same comfort offered by Cinderella? The one who was ostracized turns out to be the coolest of all! :cool2: Don't worry about what the others say about you, if you're true to yourself, you'll be fine.

#15 Juliet

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Posted 17 April 2004 - 07:53 AM

This is a really interesting thread! I'm a librarian and am always amazed at how many people buy books rather than borrowing them.....I've never figured this out, since we get thousands of books donated to us every month....

I buy books if I want them for future reference, of course......lots, occasionally duplicates, and of course, out of print dance books that I have lent and which have never been returned.... :P
As part of my job, I scan a good bit of what comes in, especially the children's/young adult titles----reading the end first, of course.....!


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