I know what I like. I’ve been reading for 40…ish years, so yes, I should know by now what floats my boat when it comes to books. Strong characters, authentic motivations, deep and worthwhile themes that resonate with me as a reader and settings as character that make me loathe to leave at the end. Where do I consistently find these books? If there were a section so labeled in bookstores, I would camp out on their shores.
But there is no such shore. So, I cast my nets wide in the stacks of new releases or trawl musty secondhand stores for well-thumbed books. Dog-eared corners don’t lie – they have a reader’s stamp of urgency about them.
Occasionally, I reel in a surprising catch. Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and left me running breathless through the stacks. His even darker book, The Angel’s Game, had me cowering under the covers with a booklight into the early hours of the next workday and thanking God for people of courage. Flavia de Luce pulled me onto the back of Gladys (her bike) to race through Bishop’s Lacey for poisons. I promptly downloaded her next three books on my Kindle at the end (thank you, Alan Bradley). The unabridged version of Jane Eyre left me aghast at what incorruptible spiritual truths had been gutted for word count and brevity in the version I’d read early on. I tasted the desperation and joys of a New York slum in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I laughed open-mouthed at Green Shadows, White Whale. Who knew Ray Bradbury could turn writing a screenplay for Moby Dick into a thing of hilarity?
So, yes, I love the heftiness of velum and cloth cover in my hand, the knowing scent of old type and fuzzed edges of well-worn books, the cover photo that stirs the waters of imagination, the lure of a title that befuddles, the quick catch of a downloadable world.
I never want to be so sure of what I like that I steer away from unknown waters. What have you read that surprised you?