British author or setting. Generally historical. Lately 18th or 19th century. Female protagonist. Seafaring or adventure story welcome. This is my M.O. when it comes to reading. I know I like certain types of books. We all must. But I really didn't think I was quite so predictable until I was reading Litlove's most recent post. She mentioned that American authors have a "tendency towards character portraits at the expense of plot". I had to think about that one for a moment. Do they? Honestly I didn't realize it, as I read so few American authors these days.
Case in point--of the books I have started six are British authors, two are American but with British settings, one a foreign author, and only one an American author writing about America (must pay attention to character development vs. plot)--and yes, I know that is a lot...I am still working on whittling down the pile...truly. Of the books I bought last week only one was by an American (again with a British setting), and even yesterday when I was out Christmas shopping (I did much better--all but one of the items purchased were actual gifts!), I managed to find a discounted hardcover of Emma Donoghue's Life Mask (British author now living in Canada--book set in 18th century England!). This came recommended by another blogger and I was looking at it last time I was in the bookstore. In the end I put it back, and I was rewarded yesterday by finding a pristine hardcover for a mere $4.99--a third of the cost for the paperback. I am never sure what I think about stores like Gordman's offering discounted books (apparently this is new...but since I found one I want, I guess I better not complain), but that subject is better left for some other post.
For me a big part of reading is the escapist value, which I am sure I have mentioned quite often. Since this is the case, I go for stories that are not typical of what I already see and experience. But perhaps I am not branching out enough. It is always good to have a varied diet. So I think next year I need to try and incorporate more books that are not my usual choices into my reading plans. And it doesn't even have to involve buying anything new. I was looking through my piles and came up with more than enough choices to keep me busy all year long. And there are a multitude of major American authors who I have never read that I really should have. Here are a few authors/novels that I hope to draw from:
- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
- Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
- History of Love by Nicole Krauss
- Braided Lives by Marge Piercy
- The Chateau by William Maxwell
- Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
- I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
- Garner by Kristin Allio
- Property Of by Alice Hoffman
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt (no, I have never read this one)
- New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
- Something by Joyce Carol Oates
I realize there are other biggies out there like Don Dellilo and Philip Roth that I know I should read and maybe I will. I tend not to pay a lot of attention to books set in contemporary America (or even America in the last century). When I browse books I admit I first go for an attractive cover and then I will start skimming the blurb. If it doesn't catch my attention fairly quickly--and that would be setting and time period I am looking for as well as what the story is about--I am a bit dismissive and will put it back on the shelf. I feel like I have missed a lot of good books this way. Do you read a certain type of book more than others? I guess I am a plot-driven rather than character-driven reader generally. Do you choose books mainly for the story? Or do you just try anything at all? Do read outside your comfort zone often? And most importantly--what is the best American author/story set in America you have read this year?