What's a Common Reader -- and what is Uncommon Reading?

Virginia Woolf defined a common reader as someone who is not a scholar; not a critic. A common reader "reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole." By that definition, I'm definitely a common reader -- reading an uncommonly large and diverse collection of books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Porn; or, Are Book Publishers Really Dealers in Addictive Substances?


Are book publishers just drug pushers in disguise? I sometimes wonder. Certainly, every time I take a step back to look at a list of upcoming books, I begin to think that for all the agonizing that has been going on about the crisis in which publishers find themselves, they really have one big ace tucked firmly up their sleeves. They have the books that we all want to read.

Sorry, but I'm just not queuing up to read a vast number of the books that are made available by Amazon's own publishing divisions, however intriguing I find their business model and however delighted I am that it has created new career options for many authors whom the short-sighted business policies of the New York behemoth publishers have left to flounder. I've tried several and thus far my reactions boil down to "meh". I'll keep trying, and I'll let you know if that changes.

I'll always, always, always be scrutinizing new offerings from a handful of smaller publishers that have firmly established themselves as my favorites, based on my tremendous success with their offerings. A while back, I summarized some of these and listed their attractions. Today, I'd add the likes of Graywolf Press to the list, thanks to books like The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, which I'll try to get around to discussing one day soon on these cyber pages.

But around this time of year, I sit down to pull together a list of books that I am desperately eager to read, and I realize just why book publishers might do very, very well as peddlers of various illegal and intoxicating substances of the kind of things our parents told us we're supposed to "just say NO" to. Their wares are seductive and appealing. And I know that just like a really great drug might do, they'll take me away from ugly realities -- or at least, catapult me into someone else's ugly reality, reminding me that my own really isn't all that bad, after all. They'll make me believe in some greater wisdom. They'll inspire me. They'll show me wonderful imaginations at work; tremendous writing. And yes, there will be some disappointments, too, but that's part of the game.

And unlike the drug pushers, they get to promote their wares publicly. So to share some of the pain of anticipation, I'm going to tell you about some of the books that I'm most eager to read in the coming few months. Call it drugs; call it book porn; call it whatever you want. All I know is that, one way or another, by hook or by crook, these are the books that will be finding their way onto my shelves or my Kindle. A book habit can indeed become a very, very scary thing.

December 2014
Moriarty by Anthony Horwitz (my most coveted and most elusive mystery books of the winter!)
The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran by Nazila Fathi (timely...)
The Convert's Song by Sebastian Rotella (people keep telling me this is an author to read)
When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning (if they packed 'em, I want to know why)


January 2015
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman (yum, more short stories by this truly amazing author)
The Honest Folk of Guadeloupe by Anthony Williams (new author, but from Soho Press)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (lotsa buzz about this suspense novel)
Once Upon a Revolution by Thanassis Cambanis (likely to be a good book about the Arab Spring)
The Orphan Sky by Ella Leya (yes, set in Azerbaijan, but why not?)

February 2015
Shame and the Captives by Thomas Keneally (WWII POWs in Australia)
The Siege Winter by Ariana Franklin (finished posthumously by her daughter)
Discontent and Its Civilizations by Mohsin Hamid (non-fiction anthology by a fave novelist)
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (falconry; grief; it just won the Samuel Johnson Prize)
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket writes for grownups!)
When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (Estonian resistance to the Soviets; lotsa buzz)
The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli (I loved her debut novel)

March 2015
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (how to resist??)
Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon (a 50/50 chance of being a winning suspense yarn)
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (the sequel to Doc; it's time for the OK Corral...)
The Porcelain Thief by Hsu Huan (scouring China for buried... china?)
Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner (a move to the 20th century for this author)
Meet Me in Atlantis by Mark Adams (the quest for the lost city...)
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (historical fiction about the Indian mutiny)
Last Wake by Erik Larson (The Lusitania's sinking; marking the centenary)

1 comment:

  1. Good news book lovers, The Girl On The Train Audio-book is available on AudioBooksNow.

    ReplyDelete