February 29, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink

I have to admit, I used to be a little bit of a book snob. Being an English major, I didn’t find it necessary to read anything but classic literature. Not only because that’s all I had time for, but also because I thought other books not “worthy” enough, as strange as that sounds. I took an editing class where we had to just go to the bookstore and pick out a bestseller at random and read it. I got Patterson’s The Beach House, which immediately confirmed my prejudice. I remember my little sister telling me that she wanted to read the Harry Potter books, and I told her not to waste her time and to read something real. Because that’s what “bestsellers” were to me at that point—a waste of time and typeset.

When I finally graduated, and I got a chance to read whatever I wanted, I decided it was time to branch out. I joined a book group that would meet monthly with a bunch of girls from church. The first book I read for the group was Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. It was a bestseller, and I . . . loved it. Yes, folks, I did. It was great and opened up my eyes to a whole new world of reading that I'd closed out for all those years. How was I to know that good books could be written by some other than American transcendentalists or British romanics? I thought to enjoy his or her art an author must at least be dead, preferably by some tragic method. I thought, "Bestseller's, p-shaw, they are just stories!" But, in actuality . . . all books are just stories.

Now, this is not to say that I don't still adore the classics and try to spend time in them as much as I bury my nose in bestsellers, because I definitely do. But bestsellers are quicker to read and provide much easier entertainment. And I have found that both have a place in my life. A classic can definitely tolerate a bestseller, and vise versa. But, the thing that I love about classics is that they are easy to come by. There are lists everywhere where you can just pick them off one at a time.

Bestsellers on the other hand, take a little more time to sort through. Not every bestseller is worth the time I put in, which I found with The Beach House and others that I've read since then. So how do you wade through the troublesome high waters of the bestseller sea? There are so many, it's hard to figure out which ones will quench your thirst. Here are a few resources I use to find the best books to read.

1. The Public Library. Now, this may sound silly, but we have a really great library. On their website, they have several book lists to search through, and I love adding more and more to my own personal list. My favorite is the Book Club list. The library has special "sets" of books that you can check out if you run your own book club. I don't check out the book club set, but I find that the list of books is very reliable for supplying good reads. (P.S. If you are in fact interested in reading classics, the library has a great list for that as well.)www.provo.lib.ut.us/reader_srvc_booklist.asp?age=Adult

2. Oprah. My husband rather detests this because he sees Oprah as, what he likes to call, a "prophetess." He thinks she sticks her nose where it doesn't belong in too many cases. However, I have the distinct feeling that she gets some help when choosing who gets on her reading list, and I've been happy with the few I've read from her suggestions (i.e. Map of the World). One of her latest picks, Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, I've heard from several friends is a great book, although I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

3. GoodReads. This website was started by an avid reader who wanted to be connected with other people who shared his passion. It's free to join, and if you can get people you know to join, you can see what they've been reading. You get updates from their pages when they add a new book or a new review. I usually just stick to looking through book lists from my friends on GoodReads, but they also have other things you can do with the site. I do like to peruse through the reviews from all the members on books I'm thinking of reading. I believe there are "groups" you can join, etc., to get more ideas on what books are out there. I find it's a good resource and the best of it's "kind" out on the web today.

4. Online Bookgroups. Now, I have joined two book groups through Sparkpeople.com, a health/diet website. So, the book groups I have joined have two purposes, that of getting healthy and reading good books. But, I know there are online book groups out there that you can join where people from around the world post opinions and have discussions about books. The "bestsellers" group I joined posted the list of all the books they've read so far, and I've read several off of this list that I really liked:

The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards)
The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
The Innocent Man (John Grisham)
Sunday List of Dreams (Kris Radish)
Turning Angel (Greg Iles)
The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)
The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz)
Good In Bed (Jennifer Weiner)
The Lottery (Patricia Wood)
Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)
What The Dead Know ( Laura Lippman)

I haven't been with the group long enough to have read all of these, but I've read a few. What I like about this book group is that everyone has a say in what will be read, but you don't always get the one you picked. So, I end up reading books that I never would have considered reading otherwise. Broadens my horizons a little bit.

5. You Must Read This. I just barely discovered this site, "You Must Read This" through NPR radio. They ask authors to write reviews of their favorite books. I try not to actually read the reviews of the books I haven't read from the list until after I read the book, but it's given me some ideas of books that sound interesting. And it's nice to know that the suggestions are coming from seasoned readers.

6. NY Times. And lastly, I look at the actual bestseller's list. This is usually my last resort, when I just can't seem to find a book that sounds interesting any other way. But, since I like to use the afore mentioned avenues before this one, I usually end up reading the book long after it's been "popular." So, if you are in the mood to catch a good book before the hype blows up too big over it, here's where you'd like to go. Beware, you are running a risk, mind you! You may pick up a book that really isn't worth the time. But, that can still be fun and exciting—a Russian roulette of reading, if you will.

And just for the heck of it, here is a list of some of my favorites. This can also be a good practice . . . just asking around to your friends about their "best picks" lists. I've come across a few goodies that way. Happy reading!

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
My Antonia - Willa Cather
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
One for the Money - Janet Evanovich
Plain Truth - Jodi Picoult
For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
The Boy Next Door - Meg Cabot
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 - E.B. White
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China - Jung Chang
Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbitt
A Room with A View - E.M. Forster


laurylaro said...

How you inspire me! I love to read, however I had yet to tackle a real adult book in the last 5 years. However, I recieved a wonderful book as a Christmas gift that I endeavor to finish. I am halfway through David McCulloughs' "John Adams". It is fascinating. It is also a Pulitzer Prize Winner. I have to read it with a dictionary near by, I admit the vocabulary is more broad than my life with 2 kids affords me:-) If you get the chance, I highly reccommend it!

Dan and Margo said...

My favorite book lists come from you! :) I love Goodreads and I think it is a great resource to see what real people think about the books. It also lets me choose books that have a personal recommendation, so that I don't waste my precious time.

Ryan & Candice Nelson said...

Gosh I need to read that "Twilight" book! I'm left out of the popular group at church :( All my girls have read it, I guess it's my turn. Love the pic of you and Michael on here! See you soon.

Cami said...

Camie, I just have to say that I love to read your blog. I mean I just found it since you updated on Facebook, but you can definitely tell you are a writer and I love how you tie everything in. You're good!

Ryan & Candice Nelson said...

I saw John Grisham's book "Innocent Man" on one of your lists. Did you read that one yet?? I'm almost finished. Quite interesting for non-fiction! Can't wait to see you guys in a few days.