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You get to thinking how books come to you.  You wonder what makes you pick up this volume, put that one down.  As the year draws to its close you review the books you’ve read in your mind or let your eye scroll down the pages of your reading journal, looking at the various titles.  How did you come to read this particular book?  Where do the books I read come from?  How do they get from the library shelf into my hand, or the online bookstore into my device, or from the bottom of my TBR pile to the top? Other than “as the spirit moves me,” I have no answers that will satisfy most readers.  Do you have a reading plan?  I never have.

For me, taking the reading plunge is exactly that. How I come to books – or they come to me, for all I know – is exactly like the deciphered text of the long lost sutra written by the Buddha himself in Dai Sijie’s latest novel, Once On a Moonless Night.

Once on a moonless night a lone man is traveling in the dark when he comes across a long path that merges into the mountains and the mountain into the sky, but halfway along, at a turn in the path, he stumbles.  As he falls, he clutches at a tuft of grass, which briefly displays a fatal outcome, but soon his hands can hold him no longer and, like a condemned man in his final hour, he casts one last glance below, where he can see only the darkness of those unfathomable depths.

“Let go,” rings a voice in his ears, “The ground is there, beneath your feet.”  The traveler, trustingly, does so and lands safe and sound on a path running just a short drop below him.

That’s why I was delighted to discover this story about the Biblio-Mat, a book vending machine at The Monkey’s Paw bookstore in Toronto.  You pays your money and you takes your chance.  Las Vegas meets library.  Insert $2, pull the magic lever, wait in anticipatory suspense for the gears to grind and your book to be spit into your hands from the bowel of the wondrous one-armed bandit. “Every book a surprise,” it says on the refrigerator-sized dispenser of reading delights.  I need this machine!

The lure of the Biblio-Mat is that “People have a deep need to think the thing is actually being picked for them,” says the owner.  On this point and in my case alone, I disagree.  I don’t feel such a need to know.  I’m more like the trusting traveler and believe that whatever the book, I will enjoy reading it.  That is how great the power of the word is over me.  Almost without exception, once I drop into the pages of a novel, I am seduced by imagination.

I’m two-thirds of the way through a slow, chewy reading of Once on a Moonless Night.  How it arrived into my hands I’m not sure, but I believe it’s on the simple recommendation that seeing the author’s name on the spine of anything is enough for me to let go the tuft of grass.  This novel is a reader’s novel, requiring attention, an inquiring mind, and a gift for making associations.  It’s not inaccessible but it requires one to do more than just pull a lever.  Best described as a matryoshka doll of a book, stories nest within stories, myths open and reveal myths, emperor’s lives parallel earlier emperor’s lives, son’s lives mirror their father’s, fates unfold that have unfolded time and time again.  Running through it all is language, the powerful mysterious essence of culture, civilization, history, and inheritable knowledge.  Everything we are is what we record: events, legends, memories, lists, ruminations, and dreams.

Yet, the secret isn’t the words themselves or the recording of them.  It’s the discovery of them and their mutation over telling and retelling that makes them immortal.  Even when a language dies, it hardly ever dies without pieces of it surviving in an idea here, a philosophical point of view there, a lesson elsewhere.

Dai Sijie asks us to put our trust in taking the plunge, even when it means letting go of an old language or our own culture, even when it puts us on a new path, we must go forward.  Everyone’s life is a fairy tale that begins “once upon a time there was I. . .”  Every novel essentially does, too.

I don’t question why I am alive and I don’t question how a book arrives in my lap, I am just grateful.  But I do wonder sometimes.  If two dollars could decide my fate, tell me what comes next, would I put it into the machine and let it decide for me?  Would you?

Culling my Reading Journal, I offer my two dollars worth of contemporary fiction reads so far this year that include these jewels:

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng:  Told through flashback after a mysterious woman arrives at his door on Penang Island, the story of teen-aged Philip, half-Chinese, half-English youngest son of an important Malaysian trading dynasty is befriended by Endo-san, a Japanese diplomat and martial arts sensei in 1938.  At first, the relationship seems harmless as the boy and man develop a strong bond through teacher-pupil norms and through Philip’s desire to learn about Japanese culture.  But hints drop that Endo has a black past and once Philip meets his estranged Chinese grandfather, the balance of power shifts.  What terrible thing will Philip do during the war?

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick:  Charlie Beale arrives in his pick-up, two suitcases to his name and a set of butcher knives, and nothing else, to the small Virginia town of Brownsburg that nestles in the foothills of Appalachia.  Filled with a longing he can’t identify, he puts down roots, camping by the Maury River, bathing in its waters, and sleeping under the stars.  Brownsburg is filled with good people, including Will, the butcher, his wife, Alma, the Latin teacher at the one school, and their young son, Sam, who loves baseball and comes to worship Charlie after he sees him play at the annual Methodist oyster festival.  But even an idyllic Eden has its snake.

When the Night by Cristina Comencini:  Marina is a new mother who is afraid and incapable.  Knowing she makes her husband afraid because of her anxiety, she takes her toddler son, Marco, on a one-month vacation in the mountains, renting the apartment above Manfred, a mountain guide.  Manfred has women issues since his mother abandoned him and his two brothers – or so he believes.   His wife has left him after he struck her, taking their children.  He thinks he can do just fine on his own.  When Marina arrives, she upsets his life and inserts herself into his family’s broken circle.  More enemies than lovers, the two of them mentally fight each other, yet must acknowledge their common desire when Manfred, seriously injured in a fall into a crevasse, is kissed by Marina.

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford:   Cerebral and self-absorbed Frank Bascombe struggles to fight back against his grief and loneliness following his son’s childhood death and, as a result, his divorce, and his disintegrating life.  An internal story of Frank’s struggle against what he calls dreaminess but is really a detachment and disengagement from the world that is symptomatic of his crippling depression.  Told over the Easter week, beginning on the anniversary day of his son’s death, it is a story of one man’s Christ-like agony, entombment, and resurrection.

Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon: “Stand by Me” meets “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  Wonderful coming of age story set in the early 60s that mixes memoir with magical realism and stirs in the fantasy imagination of an 11-year old.  Cory Jay Mackenson lives in Zephyr, Alabama, has two loving but struggling blue collar parents, good friends, bad enemies, knows his hometown and all the people in it, including the black community of Bruton and the Lady, its queen.  At school he hates his bullying teacher and the bullying boys who make his summer baseball games hell.  Cory is kind-hearted, richly imaginative, and true.  And he’s lucky to own a magical bicycle named Rocket that he was rewarded with by Lady and the people of Bruton for saving one of their own from drowning during a great flood.  Zephyr is a place of memory and fantasy, able to support solid citizens, petty criminals, and the secrets of a dangerous murderer.

The Storyteller of Marrakesh: A Novel by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya:  In order to live, a story requires a teller and an audience.  In the case of Hassan, the storyteller of the Djemaa el Fna, the central square of the fabled city of Marrakesh, he involves his entire audience in the recreation of the night two foreign visitors disappeared from that very square, involving Hassan’s brother, Mustafa – a man who has sworn to pursue beauty no matter the cost, in the crime that seems to surround the incident.  We often hear that stories are the means we have invented for exploring and finding life’s truths, but in this case we see that the story’s truth may be a compilation of everyone’s lies.  Roy-Bhattacharya gives us an enigmatic tale, richly symbolic, and overflowing with the exotic variety of the inhabitants of northwest Africa.

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li:  Told through the eyes of the townspeople on the day of Shan’s execution for being a political dissident, Li provides a vivid and condemning picture of China’s post-Maoist era.  All the characters are sharply drawn, their personalities are strong and varied.  They are alive on the page: the good (Teacher Gu, Shan’s father); the not so good, a sexual pervert who lures a hapless girl crippled by birth defects; Kai, the broadcast personality blessed with a perfect but dull husband and her lover.  They both tremble on the verge of dissident activism. The reader feels like she is “living under the volcano” as socio-political tension seems to be mounting toward another revolution.

A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun:  Mohammed Thimmigrant (The Immigrant) is an illiterate, diabetic, meek Maghreb/Berber from Morocco who came to France as a newly married youth to work in a Peugeot factory where he spent his life and is now due to retire.  He’s afraid of that stage of life as he has only been defined by his work routine.  He is estranged from his children who are completely “Frenchified” and have no desire to be like their parents.  He has no personal life with his wife, no life beyond work with friends, no life that includes hobbies or interests.  He fears “‘tirement” because he imagines it to be a death sentence like he believes it was for Brahim who died soon after his retirement; he fears dying alone like Momo who was found dead after three days; he is totally occupied with thoughts of his own death, fantasizing about how he’ll return to his home village when the time comes to die, surrounded by his extended family. And so, he returns to Morocco to build a palace in his native village where there is no running water and no electricity in an effort to reunite his family.

The Untouchable by John Banville:  In a stream of conscious interior dialogue, Victor Maskell reveals his duplicitous nature now that he’s unmasked as a Russian double. Once a member of British intelligence and for many years art expert to the Queen, he’s now a disgrace.  Inspired or based on the life of real spy, Anthony Blunt, art adviser to QEII and Russian double agent.  Even includes a character based on Alan Turing who also commits suicide by eating a poisoned apple.  Loyalty and identity, moral ambiguity, homosexual networks, good old Cambridge spy boys – it’s all here in the quiet masterful prose that proceeds with the inevitability of ocean waves returning and returning to the shore.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman:  I loved this strange and evocative book constructed in a series of short stories, telling the history of Blackwell, Massachusetts, which nestles at the foot of Hightop Mountain, over 300 years.  Each chapter records characters and incidents that are intertwined by fate and action that give us a continuum of mysterious, magical, and vivid occurances (humans love bears and eels more than other humans, children drown, women kill husbands) and inhabitants (the Starrs, Partridges, Bradys, Kellys, and Jack Straw, the tavern owner),.  At the center of everything exists a particular garden where only red plants can grow and where “the truth can be found by those who dare to look.”

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey:  This dark and haunting novel is lyrical and sad and beautifully constructed.  The subject is pederasty, a topic inherently too taboo to explore in an even-handed way or without provoking overriding disgust.  But Livesey has created a story about the destructive pain caused by inappropriate desire told from the points of view of several characters.  The core characters are Cameron and Dara, the father who thinks of himself as a present day Charles Dodgeson whose particular affinity for pre-pubescent girls is also documented in his photography.  Dara is his daughter, a social worker, who as an adult comes to know what her father is.

Gardens of Water by Alan Drew:  Powerful and beautifully written story of two families – one Kurdish, the other American -- and two faiths – Christianity and Islam – set in Istanbul, Turkey where East meets West, just after the devastating earthquake of 1999.  The great themes of this novel are loss and betrayal, the collision between an agricultural tribal society with a technological urban society, and the manifestations and curses of faith and ideology – and honor.  Drew hasn’t written a small novel but a great one that tackles the major issues warring with each other throughout the Middle East and violently raised by terrorists abroad from their homelands and within them.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo:  Miles is in the middle of a divorce from Janine and is trying to protect his 16-year old daughter, Tick, from the heartbreak.  She, in turn, is trying to protect her father from her misery at high school where she’s just broken up with a popular boy who she no longer likes and is friendless.  Miles’ brother, David, isn’t the black sheep he used to be.  His father, Max, remains the reprobate he always was.  The town is dying, seemingly without hope as it’s without the industry of textile mills and shirt factories.  The restaurant Miles is proprietor of but doesn’t own is as paralyzed as the town because it’s owned – like everything else of value in Empire Falls – by old Mrs. Whiting, the relict of CB who put a bullet through his head after realizing he couldn’t have Miles’ mother.  More than being a novel about the town, it’s a book about high school, the buried emotions that can flare with tragic consequences, and the agony of being a teenager.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt:  Who knew psychopathic killers for hire could be so likeable – well, one of them anyway.  Eli and Charlie Sisters are brothers who are employed to kill Hermann Warm, a gold prospector, by the enigmatic Commodore.  They set out from Oregon City for San Francisco, have horse trouble, meet odd-balls, fall in love, get drunk, and lurch from moralistic musing and pronouncement to senseless slaughter.  Cowboy noir has arrived.

Trojan Women: A Novel of the Fall of Troy by Byrne Fone:  The voice is that of Chryseis, now an old woman who serves as a sort of priest of Apollo and Sibyl at the ancient temple of Smintheum in Chrysa – a land ruled by Troy, as she narrates her life story.  Chryseis is a miracle child of great beauty and the ability to experience mystical visions that should guarantee her future but instead merits her doom as a captive slave to Agamemnon and forces her to keep that “gift of the god” secret.  Chryseis is the “Cressida” of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.  Then the voice of Briseis, another captive of Achilles rounds out the Greek p.o.v.  From inside Troy, Hecabe, Andrmoache, Kassandra, and Helen complete the first person voices that tell the re-imagining of the Iliad.

The Noodle Maker by Ma Jian:  Two friends meet for dinner, get drunk and talk.  One is a writer pf political propaganda, the other a professional blood donor.  The writer recounts stories he would create, had he the courage.  The other campaigns to be the subject for his friends new assignment – to write a Communist Hero tale to inspire the worker bees.  The novel is constructed around the wanna be novelists stories and bridged by the satirical and witty comments of the blood donor.  The people who exist in the imagining of the writer lead lives “pulled and pummeled by fate and politics as if they were in the hands of a noodle maker.”  Warm, engaging, bitingly humorous, and devastating.

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje:  Michael, an adolescent, is making a month long sea voyage from his native Ceylon to England aboard the Oronsay.  With him on the ship are his two friends – Cassius and Ramadhin, who has a bad heart.  His cousin, Emily, with whom he’s infatuated is also sailing, but in higher class.  Mynah (his nickname) is seated at the least distinguished table, farthest from the captain’s, with his friends, a woman birder and crack shot, a botanist who keeps poisonous plants in the hold, a quiet tailor, a thief, and a kindly piano player with a dark past who takes an interest in him.  Using flashbacks and present time narrative, Ondaatje builds a mystery around a shackled prisoner, a mute girl, a Ceylonese circus troupe, and undercover cops as the ship journeys across the seas, carrying Michael from innocence to knowing.

Caleb’s Crossing Geraldine Brooks:  Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a minister, grows up on what is now Nantuckett Island in the mid 1600s.  She meets and befriends Caleb (as she names him), an Algonquin boy destined to become the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.  Brooks writes in a style that echoes the time her book is set, using archaic vocabulary on occasion, but it does not distract; rather, it enriches the story that unfolds.  While the title makes clear the story is about an Algonquin’s movement from his own culture to that of the white man, Bethia makes her own crossings: first into an appreciation of some aspects of native culture and later to achieving a surreptitious and somewhat sketchy, though higher education, by dint of putting herself in the way of learning.

Baudolino by Umberto Eco:  Decameron-like philosophical fable of adventure set during the time of Frederick Barbarossa as told by a liar to a Greek chronicler while Constantinople burns down around them.  Eco shows us that religious myths arise from political need to suit the requirements of the actors on history’s stage; that history is story and story is exaggeration, and exaggerations are really just plain lies invented by the more intelligent among us to suit the occasion or solve a problem.  An unreliable narrator illustrates the unreliable nature of history, which deals in facts, and religious history, which deals largely in a tissue of fantastic myths and superstitions largely concocted to give provenance to false “relics” that meant economic and political power accrued to the cities and rulers who held them.

The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander:  In a fantasy medieval Chrysanthemum kingdom exists a powerful sisterhood with its own secret language and vows of friendship that supersede all others and cross all walks of life and station. When a massive earthquake destroys the mountain summer palace, the Young Empress and 2nd heir, rule passes to Liudan a lonely frightened girl who hides behind an aggressive facade.  Can her group of gathering jin-shei bao step up and help her govern her empire wisely and well?  

Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss: Samson is found wandering in the Nevada desert and has no idea who he is.  It happens that he has a benign brain tumor.  After it’s removed, he is returned to his wife of 10 years, Anna, and she takes him home to NYC with the hope that his memory may return beyond what he knows up until age 12 and the present memories that he’s creating.  To Samson, Anna is a perfect stranger; he has no idea how to love someone; he has no desire to re-create his past in terms of reconnecting with friends or his teaching position at a local university, where he goes one day and encounters Lana, a student of his with whom he begins a relationship.

I look forward to the next moonless night when I can sit up late with a book that has arrived in my hand from who knows where, or how, or why and free fall into myth or reality.

[NOTE: This diary is also a stand-in for bookgirl's regular TUE 10PM series, now on hiatus, Contemporary Fiction Views.]

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There is a lot of substance in this diary (10+ / 0-)

    I'll comment again when I've read the whole thing. It looks appetizing.

    Just wanted to mention now, for anyone stopping by, that I'll be filling in for bookgirl at 8pm EST Tuesday with a diary on J. M. Coetzee for Nov. 27th, and another on Jhumpa Lahiri for Dec. 4th.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 05:37:03 PM PST

  •  Your Biblio-mat picture isn't showing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, Aunt Pat

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 05:53:12 PM PST

  •  Once on a rainy night (6+ / 0-)

    a traveler....

    I don't want a computer program picking my next novel-to-read, nor a box.

    I will choose it, as I please.

    There are so many horribly-written books, you see...some of them on the NYT bestseller list.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:01:19 PM PST

    •  How Do You Go About Your Choosing? (5+ / 0-)

      That's my whole point.  I don't have a plan of attack or even approach.  Somehow the best books seem to find their way over my awareness horizon.

      Admittedly, some not so good ones do, too.  But I give them the courtesy of my attention for as long as I can.

      That said, Barbara Kingsolver's, The Lacuna didn't make my Gems of 2012 list, even though she's a highly regarded author.  I had a lot of difficulty appreciating that book because of the ineffectual hero who didn't come to life for me until the second half of the novel, and then only somewhat.  It was a secondary character from the second half who stole the book out from under the hero, IMO.  And an author should never let that happen.

      I'm with you in re the NYT Best Seller List.  So much dreadful stuff.  I avoid reading Best Seller List books whenever I can.

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:24:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Brick and mortar stores. (5+ / 0-)

        I pick up the book, and I give it the sentence test:  If I can open to any page in the book (and then another, and another any page in the book) and the writing is consistently wonderful -- the book is worth reading.

        If it flunks the sentence test...go find another book.

        But you really do need a brick and mortar store to perform this test.  I still miss Borders.  And before them, all the independent bookstores NYC used to have.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:35:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I do have a reading plan. I don't stick to it. (7+ / 0-)

    When you recommended half a dozen books you'd recently read to me, Limelite, I went looking for them, but came home with another one by one of the authors: Geling Yan's The Banquet Bug. It just caught me eye from the library shelf, looking like a sweet morsel - and it was. It did make me hungry for her The Lost Daughter of Happiness.

    I am glad there is a Biblio-Mat. It should be.

    Once on a Moonless Night sounds worth re-reading. Not that I've read it yet.

    My reading plan, you know, it's ridiculous. About 1000 books. Including your six recommendations.

    If I could, would I be like David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, watching 40 TVs at once: would I want to read 5 books a day, so I could have them all inside me, and be consummately well-read?

    It's easy to fall under that pressure. Twice in recent months, while reading wonderful books (The Secret Life of Saeed, The Pessoptimist, and Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr), I found my pleasure impaired by an urge to hurry.

    So, no, I wouldn't like to read 5 books a day. I'd rather have a detachable ego. Then, when I read, I'd forget myself fully, and swim entirely in the world of the book, breathe it as if I had gills. It is better to read one book with your whole self. When you reach the end of it, and stand again on dry land, you find a bit of the river has stayed with you, and your self is a little bit larger.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:19:46 PM PST

    •  Perfectly Stated (6+ / 0-)

      I find myself deliberately slowing down my reading when I like a book very much.  I never want it to end;  I want the pleasure of the read to last forever.  I call this wallowing in a book.

      On the other hand, when a book doesn't come up to snuff, I skim through it.  And I'm not ashamed.

      Those titles are intriguing.  Perhaps they'll come my way.

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:30:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Each of those two is quite unique (5+ / 0-)

        The Secret Life of Saeed, The Pessoptimist has a flavor that falls between Candide, Catch 22 and Confederacy of Dunces. It is, in essence, a Palestinian Invisible Man. Funny with a sharp, sad edge, very short.

        Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr has a different magic. E.T.A. Hoffmann is famous for fairy-tales. This book has been called the first of magical realism (150 years early). It is the biography of a bourgeouis, conceited, un-self-aware tomcat, interspersed with the biography of a thoughtful romantic composer, which the cat considers wastepaper.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:41:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I assume that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Limelite, Monsieur Georges

        when I really like a book I will reread it.  So sometimes my first take is too quick.  And it slows down my life list of books which is somewhere around 6,000 and counting (started counting for some unknown reason in my 30s).

        Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

        by barbwires on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:04:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  yummy! (5+ / 0-)

    more books to read. thanks, limelite.

    i've enjoyed many of your suggestions.

    •  No Fair! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, Aunt Pat, shari, Monsieur Georges

      You must leave some for me.

      Play the game and be a Biblio-Mat back.   ;^)

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:47:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  here goes (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, Limelite

        i have lost track where i have come across many of the books i enjoy but i think some have come from you

        first off is the book i obsessively read at all hours of the night, In The Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larsen, who writes of the rise of the Nazis in the Berlin through the lens of the american ambassador to berlin

        i don't know how Larsen does it but he has the gift of inhabiting the past as though he was right there and then showing it to us.

        the book i didn't want to finish reading was Rules of Civility by Amor Towles about wicked smart Katy Kontent who navigates the social ladder in NYC in the 30s. this i could see as a movie and i have no doubt it'll be made. the dialogue comes straight from a 30s movie. i fell in love with the enigmatic tinker gray and i'm still trying to figure that out.

        I still chuckle over the musical references in The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, the philosophical references not so much. About the dour seeming concierge who deliberately cultivated an image that decieved most but not all. She was an intellectual and she is found out by two of the inhabitants of her building. The contrived ending, however, was disappointing.

        •  currently (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht, Limelite, Monsieur Georges

          i am lost in the Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo and cannot put it down. i cannot tell you how i found this book but i put it on hold at the library. it is likely on a list of best somethings.

          although it is quote unquote a narrative nonfiction, it feels more like a novel and is the story of a family who literally live on a garbage dump and is trying to survive by collecting and selling garbage

          reading this makes me feel horrified at the inequality we have here on earth. a propos for thanksgiving.

  •  The Creator has a master plan. (4+ / 0-)

    At least that's what Pharaoh Sanders said. I'm not entirely sure what he meant.

    Anyway, I follow my nose. That's where I get the next choice. Right now, Cesar Aira's Varama. Before that, Paco Ignacio Taibo II Mexico City Noir. Before that Fernando Pessoa (didn't finish it). Before that, a book about the Ireland.

    If I finish something, I look around for the next one. Sometimes the looking is influenced by wanting to try something new, sometimes by checking to see if a favorite writer has something new. Sometimes I see what the litblogs are talking about. Sometimes I get a book from someone. The next book is the history of a boiler company by John R Stiffler, a college friend.

    It works for me.  

  •  I've got several ways of choosing. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shari, old wobbly, Brecht, Portlaw, Limelite

    I read a lot of book reviews, so I get ideas there.  Other times, I read books about books (which are really collections of book reviews, now that I think of it, but I'm particularly attracted to books that writers like).  

    But I'm like a crow; shiny things catch my eye when I don't expect it.  The book I'm reading now isn't one I sought out, or had even heard of.  I found it when I was looking for another book.  It's Weimar Culture by Peter Gay, and it turned out to offer my favorite thing, which is an intellectual buzz.

    •  i'll have to put that one (4+ / 0-)

      on my hold list at the library

      when i finally get the call for a pickup,  i never know what i'll find on the shelf. oftentimes, it will take forever for a 'bestseller' to come my way and find by then, i often have lost track of the source of the impulse.

      •  And that's a pitfall of buying books. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Limelite, shari, Brecht

        You look at the TBR stack, and you can't remember what led you to buy something in it.  I was a bit fuzzy on why I had bought Kurzio Malaparte's "Kaputt," but when I read it, I found it had been a good idea, however I came up with it.  ;-)

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