Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Rut!

Sweet potato fries!  I've been reading some bad books lately.  First there was the new P.D. James Death Comes to Pemberley, a mystery set six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice.  Lifeless.  Snore.  Then there was Twain's Feast, our February book group pick.  It has a great premise (examining foods on Mark Twain's favorite American foods list - what do people still eat today and what's extinct?)  In the hands of a more skilled writer it could have been a lot better.  Then came Bruno, Chief of Police.  I'm a bit of a Francophile and thought a mystery set in a small town in the Southwest of France would be magnifique.  Quel dommage, I was wrong.  Setting, good.  Mystery and characters, flat. 

What's wrong with me?  Why do I keep picking losers?  Obviously my selection process needs some tweaking.  I've been going on pure whim, but perhaps a bit more intentionality would offer better choices.  Or maybe I just need to learn to cut bait and run.  Among my many quirky reading habits is the notion that I can't quit a mystery novel before I learn who did it.  And I don't like to abandon a book group pick, although I have done so a couple of times.  (We Need to Talk About Kevin comes to mind, which I shelved on Goodreads under "Yuck!")  But with limited reading time (J's nap time, lunch break at work) I need to get better about cutting my losses.  Maybe I've simply been experiencing a run of bad luck.

My luck may be turning around.  I'm reading, no, devouring, Margot Livesey's The Flight of Gemma Hardy.  This is a book to get lost in, a rich page-turner.  You need not have read one word of Jane Eyre (of which it is a re-imagining) to enjoy it.  Actually, I haven't read Jane Eyre since I was a freshman in high school, and have forgotten all but the basic plot outline, so I couldn't tell you how closely it follows the original anyway.  It's set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and 60s, and Gemma is a heroine I instantly wanted to root for.  The setting is just as deliciously broody and damp as any Anglophile would dream of.  About two-thirds of the way through I don't want to put it down; simultaneously, I don't want it to end. I've really enjoyed all the novels of Livesey's that I've read, and intend to read the rest before too long. 

So how do you go about choosing the books that you read?  Whim, cover-judging, magazine reviews, friend recommendations?  I'm always interested in the whys and hows of people's reading choices.


  1. Sad to say, I don't read as much for pleasure as I'd like. I rarely branch out, and just stick to the authors that have never failed to entertain me (i.e. Jodi Picoult). As an English major I should probably challenge myself ... but, sadly, entertainment wins out every time!

  2. Books just happen to be my entertainment - my passion bordering on obsession! It doesn't mean I'm more virtuous than you are though! It's just what I like to do. Plus, since I don't have a DVR, I never know if I'll get to watch my shows when they air due to the baby and his whims. :)

  3. Thanks for your comment on my blog--I came to check yours out and will bookmark it! I actually own Death Comes to Pemberley. Funny story. My (English) mother-in-law told my husband that my sister-in-law was hankering for that book for Christmas, but I read the reviews and they were awful, so I bought her John Lithgow's memoir instead (she likes acting). Guess what she gave me for Christmas, though? Death Comes to Pemberley. I haven't cracked it open yet, and your post doesn't make me very excited about it, I must say! :)

    I've been reading The Power of One, which is long but an interesting read.

    See you in the blogosphere!