Over the weekend, Jenclair posed a good question--how do you choose books? (Also answered over at Quixotical). I think this sort of question has made the rounds in the blogosphere (and no doubt I have asked questions like this), but it is one that I think of often. So I am going to ask the question, and raise a couple more. Not only how do you choose books, but also has blogging/or the internet in general changed your reading style and book buying habits, and do you ever wonder/worry (not sure how I want to phrase this) what you are reading?
Prior to blogging, I would read maybe a book a week or maybe a little less. I read whatever looked or sounded appealing. I rarely read reviews (at least the sort you see in The New York Times for example). I never worried about what I was reading--it pretty much was all for entertainment purposes. However, I have always been a book buyer. I would mostly browse bookstores. Actually I worked in a bookstore for ten years, so I had lots of access to new books and catalogs chock full of new releases and backlist titles. Part of my job was to enter all the new books into our system and create orders for them. I had a little spiral bound book that was full of books that I wanted--I still have the book. Many of the titles are crossed off--the ones I ended up buying. Sometimes I like going through it and seeing what is still available, but not everything appeals to me these days.
Some of my reading and buying habits have changed and some are pretty much the same. I think I am reading more books now than before I started blogging. I'm not sure if I am just finding more books to read, am more structured in my reading habits, or am simply reading more and spending less time on other hobbies. I'm not always sure quantity is a good thing. I'm not setting out to read a certain number of books (I'm happy at about a book a week or so), but lately I have read more than normal. I'm sure every reader must feel this--there is a finite amount of time, and an infinite amount of books (or so it seems) to read during that time! My problem is so much of it sounds so good, I want to read it all. I sometimes feel like I am inhaling the stories, and how much of what I read sticks inside my head is another question entirely.
As for choosing books. I still browse bookstores, but I am far more selective these days. Before I would buy whatever sounded good--it didn't matter who the author was, whether it was their first novel or tenth, and I didn't care if they won an award or the book would end up out of print sooner rather than later. I still will buy unknown authors, but it is nice if someone has recommended it or I have read something somewhere about it. I feel like my personal library is filled to the saturation point, but I still manage to keep finding books that are worthwhile owning. Sometimes it is a matter of one book leading to another. Now that I am interested in Shakespeare, I want to read about his times, his life, his works. I start one place and meander around until I end up somewhere else entirely. A book might mention another book or author, or the bibliography will have some promising leads for interesting books. And of course other bloggers are always reading something interesting, that I end up wanting to read, too.
Which leads me to another question I have been thinking about lately. This is really probably a silly thing to think about, but I can't help it. I wonder sometimes if I am reading the "right" books. When it comes down to it, anything that I find entertaining is a "right" book for me. Of course I want the book to be interesting and well written as well. But when I see the multitude of lists of "important" books, and see how many of those books I have never read--I wonder what I have missed out on. And it isn't just the older classics, but contemporary, award winning authors as well. While not every book is going to appeal to all readers, award winning or not, there must be a reason a book has won awards or is critically acclaimed. So these days, I am sort of weighing the books that end up on my nightstand. Is it a worthy read? Or is it just fluff and entertainment. Not that you will only find classics only on my nightstand (as a matter of fact this year I have read fewer so far than last year), but I feel like there is room for a variety of books.