Saturday, July 17, 2010
There was a bit of a pause, as Amy searched (I imagine) for some pattern in my selections. "Interesting," she said at last. "How do you choose what you are going to read?"
In answering the question I realized just how many influences weigh upon me. The fact that I work in multiple genres, that I teach, and that I care a whole lot about language has me scurrying after the books I hope will teach me—in every genre. The fact that I sometimes wonder why the rest of the world reads what it reads (e.g., The Help, Girl in Translation, Loving Frank) gets me curious enough to buy. Blogs influence me (hence my purchase of My Name is Mary Sutter). Friends do (Kate Moses has led me to The Names of Things; Jane Satterfield to The Importance of Music to Girls). Reviews do (The New York Times Book Review led me to Forest Gander's As a Friend, Kim Echlin's The Disappeared, and Chloe Aridjis's Book of Clouds). I trust imprints, like Graywolf, because they publish friends like Alyson Hagy and so I read and not surprisingly love Jessica Francis Kane's The Report. I trust editor friends like Laura Geringer, Jill Santopolo, and Alane Mason, and so I read, respectively, Virgin Territory, Between Shades of Gray, and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives and Nothing Happened and Then it Did. Many, many authors send me their books, and I do all I can to read them. On lovely afternoons, I drift through bookstores and find titles that appeal, and some of my favorite books have come to me this way: Michael Ondaatje's work, The Book Thief, The Cellist of Sarajevo, to name just a few.
This time around, my reasons were thus: Maile Meloy because my writing friends adore her work and because I've been impressed by earlier stories. John Green because he is John Green. Richard Russo because I always meant to read him and because bloggers I respect insist. Libba Bray because two minutes in her presence and I adored her. Jane Mendelsohn because I absolutely loved her first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, which begins: "The sky is flesh. The great blue belly arches up above the water and bends behind the line of the horizon...."
Marketers would love to know the why behind book selling. Pundits speculate (interestingly, following the recent New York Times story suggesting that book trailers are highly influential, my in box was full of readers saying they never watch trailers). I can only tell you what I do. I wonder what your methods are.