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Finding a good book

March 18, 2014

This is something I have found more difficult in recent years. I think for a number of reasons. Partly I have read a lot, and so now, much I read is just going over the same ground. Partly also, I have formed more fixed conceptions of things, and so I go into reading a book with a more closed mind. Not open to a new experience. Another factor I think is the sheer number of poor quality books out there these days. It really is a matter of looking for a needle in a haystack.

But this is a challenge I should look forward to and embrace. The days of being able to pick up almost any book and glean something of interest or value from it are long gone. Most books I have judged unworthy of the effort as soon as I take a first look at it! Just based on the look of the cover it may say to me this is trashy fiction, for instance. The more frustrating time is when I see books that have an interesting premise, but once I start reading the book, I feel the author is letting me down, and not living up to the possibilities of the premise.

Anyway, I have recently managed to find a couple of books worth the effort, and that have lived up to, and exceeded, my hopes for them. So I suppose it is a matter of patience. I cannot find any fixed pattern to finding a good book. I am not much for reading many books by the same author. Though I made an exception for Frank Herbert, as many of his books were good in very different ways. And the Dune series was like one long novel really. Akin to In search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, I suppose. Another one I have read and enjoyed. But when you get these authors who write a series of separate books with the same basic structure and plot devices, with only superficial differences, I only need to read one, if that, and I have read them all, as far as my interest is concerned.

So, in worry of picking up on these predictable patterns I avoid reading too much by one author as a general rule. What procedure then can I use to decide what book to read next? I tried being genre-specific, with sci-fi, after the success of reading Dune, but that was to limit myself too much. And it was to categorise a book before reading it, and so prejudge my interpretation of it. I was coming to expect something from a book, a fix, rather than being open to the possibilities of the book providing some new experience.

In summary, I don’t think there is any sure-fire method for finding a good book, anymore than there is a set method for living life. But all we can do is be open to the possibility of a new experience. If we are too clouded up with preconceptions, and prior expectations, we are sure to fail in finding a good book, as we will not be reading it, but just getting confirmation in every sentence of what we could already read off from our own mind.


One Comment
  1. I totally feel you on this one..

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