Recently I’ve been thinking about how I choose books and why I choose them.
Since I discovered this part of the Internet where like-minded people talk about books and I started blogging myself, the majority of my TBR list has been filled with the books talked about by bloggers and Booktubers. After reading reviews or watching videos, I find myself adding to the Word document that is my TBR, and it’s continually increasing.
But then I think back to how I chose books before I even knew this corner of the Internet existed and before I started recording and reviewing the books that I read. I was an avid library user (I still am, but I don’t borrow as many books as I used to as a child) and I used to make trips to the library to return my books and scour the shelves for my next reads. My head tilted to one side to read the spines, I’d walk slowly along the shelves, picking out titles that looked interesting, look at their covers, read their blurbs, and if I liked what I read, it would stay in my arms. The pile would build, full of titles and blurbs that held promises of an interesting and engrossing story. And when I’d had my fill – or reached the limit of the number of books I could borrow in a week – I’d make my way to the desk (and later, the self-service machines that we now have to use) and check-out my books. I’d go home and read. More often than not, I’d read nearly all of the books I’d chosen, one after the other, devouring each one.
Recently, I’ve begun using my library service in a different way – now, I order books through their online catalogue. It’s a great, invaluable service and one that I will continue to use. Now when I need something to read, I look through my TBR list, choose a few books, and order them through the library online service. The library will phone me when they’ve come in, and I’ll go and pick them up. I love this way of using the library – I’m always coming home with the books that I’ve chosen, that have been recommended, where I have an idea of the writing style or plot or characters because someone’s reviewed the book or recommended it to me. I know the type or genre of books I’ll be reading and, in some ways, what to expect. This way of choosing books means that I rarely read a book that I don’t like or don’t enjoy – because I know what I’m getting.
When I used to scour the library shelves for my next read, I didn’t know what lay around the corner; I didn’t know if I was going to like a certain book and I went into reading it with no expectations, no preconceptions, and little knowledge. By ordering my books online now, I know that there’s less chance of spending my time reading a book that I don’t like. And this is great.
But I miss that organic way of choosing books. That way of walking along my own path and unexpectedly finding authors whose work I enjoy, the kinds of stories I like to read, the kind of writing style that I admire. I’m not saying that I don’t want to add books that are written about on blogs and talked about on Youtube videos to my TBR list – there are too many great books being talked about that I’ll miss out on. But I’d like to visit my library or local bookshop more with no titles in mind and run my fingers along the book spines and pick out a book at random, take it home, and see where the story takes me.
There’s no real conclusion to this post, but as this blog is mainly a record of what I’ve read, I wanted to record my current thoughts on my reading/choosing books. I’m not going to stop reading blogs and adding to my TBR list from reading reviews, but my new resolution is to visit my library more often, and not just to pick up the books I’ve ordered, but to choose a book from the shelves. Yes, I might find a book that I don’t like, but that’s okay. Not every book I read has to be brilliant, and who knows, I might find some books that I just can’t recommend enough.
How do you choose books? I’m curious how other people pick their next read, so please let me know in the comments below!
P.S If anyone’s interested, the above photo is of some pages from my copy of Oxford Classics’ edition of Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Short Stories.