Thursday, 24 June 2010

What Next?

How do you decide what to read next?

A lot of bloggers out there seem to be reading through shortlists for awards, or broadening their horizons by purposefully seeking out non Western authors, for instance, or works from an author they've never tried before.

I am also amazed at the number of people who seem to have these TBR (to be read) piles which some are methodically working their way through. I have no IDEA how many books I own which haven't been read and I certainly do not know the order in which they will be read. I actually hate the idea of having read every book on my shelves as I love having the lure of many undiscovered tomes lining my living room wall. (Am I the only one who sits and gazes at my bookshelves with a happy, dreamy expression on my face? Seriously, I do this a lot.)

When I am finishing a book, I start to get a feeling of the type of book I would like to read next, an itch that will need to be scratched. For instance, if I have been reading some magical realism or gentle romance, then I become thirsty for non-fiction; if I'm coming to the end of a novel set in the Victorian age then I will suddenly feel the need to read about contemporary characters whose daily, outer lives reflect my own. The feeling is sometimes vague but at other times, it is highly specific.

I am still reading the enormous Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, and this procedural, journalist's document filled with statistics, personal histories and grim realities has led to a yearning for something frothy and a little more superficial.

I want to read something set in New York in the mid 20th century. No earlier than the 20s and no later than the early 1980s. I have an image in my mind of a sophisticated drinks party attended by authors, playwrights and a couple of movie stars. The women are wearing cocktail dresses and the men sport ties. Glasses clink and slightly posh laughter rings in my ears. There is delightfully acerbic banter and there will probably be a couple of affairs. If there is a book which crosses Nora Ephron's New York nostalgia  with Truman Capote's social life and Elaine Dundy's razor-sharp lust for life, then it is what I wish to read next.

I want it to have descriptions of delicious food stuffs too.


  1. Well, I was going to say Breakfast at Tiffany's but I guess that may have crossed your mind already.

    How about a biography of JFK? That'll have plenty of banter, suits, and maybe an affair or nine. And the constant risk of nuclear war...

  2. I was going to post a picture of the party in Breakfast At Tiffany's!

    I do like reading about the Kennedys, but I think I need some fiction next. Perhaps I'll feel like a biography after that!

  3. Dorothy Parker? I don't know much about her, but some of her short stories might fit the bill.

  4. Ooh, good idea, I've been meaning to read some Parker for ages. Thanks!

  5. Though I'm currently trying to read through my tbr pile, it's large enough that it allows me to follow my reading whims. I notice that if I'm TOO method in my reading I end up feeling stifled.

    Your description of the kind of book you're in the mood for made me think of The Group by Mary McCarthy, though it's considerably dark and depressing.

  6. I read The Group earlier this year then went a little Mary McCarthy mad and bought two autobiographies and another novel called The Company She Keeps which I am hoping to read soon. I think it may hit the spot.

    I also hate feeling restricted by a reading schedule!

  7. I definitely don't have a TBR pile that I work through! Like yourself, I have no idea how many books are unread in my book shelf.

    My TBR pile tends to be quite small, at the moment there are about 20 books in it! There is no logic to it, it's just a book I read about and thought sounded good.

  8. I just seem to have piles of unsorted books all over the house from which I pluck a random tome as I stumble past...

  9. I myself have recently finished David Simon's Homicide. Interesting that you say reading it had led you to "a yearning for something frothy and a little more superficial."

    Whilst briefly looking up from reading the last few pages, my eyes caught the cover of my daughter's copy of The Wizard of Oz. I immediately thought 'ah, that'll do as a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palette for my next main read.'