Have any of you guys used that Facebook app where it takes things you’ve said in status updates and comments and ‘generates’ a status that you might have written? I was procrastinating earlier while working on quote-hunting for themes in The Iliad (not the most riveting revision technique), and I found myself playing with it.
Half of them were non-sentences, a few were hysterical, and overall I realised I talk about my characters too much on Facebook, but one of them was very true:
“According to Goodreads, I’ve read books.”
I mean, it’s not wrong. Goodreads does, indeed, tell me I’ve read books. It usually does so in more detail, like telling me I am 22 books ahead of target for this year’s reading challenge, or suggesting an eclectic combination of YA novels based on my ‘read’ shelf, or trying to convince me to like quotes by Thomas Hardy. But the fact remains that I’ve read books.
Mostly, I get my books from the library. There are exceptions to this: if I own earlier books in the series, I buy the latest one; if I adore an author, I buy their new book; if the library is selling it off for 10p, I buy it. But mostly I borrow books, which is the only reason I’m currently not drowning in a sea of paperbacks.
And I have a few methods of choosing books:
1. Go to the SF/F section of the library and drift around vaguely like some sort of octopus, hoping my tentacles will alight on something that looks interesting.
Sometimes that’s because of the author, like, “Oooh, new Tom Holt!” or “Oh, I haven’t read that Ben Aaronovitch book!”, and sometimes it’s because it has an awesome cover. Sometimes I have vaguely heard of a book, but haven’t read it yet. This works well because the SF/F section tends to yield good results. Downside: long books, heavy books, sex-and-death-and-dragons books. Some that are all three, but those are usually by George RR Martin.
Books I discovered this way recently: Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin. Though I felt like it could have been in the Historical Fiction section just as easily.
2. Go to the Teen section and wait for something to stand out to me.
Reject anything that mentions “hot new guy” on the blurb (unless the protagonist is established as male, in which case, queer characters YAY). Also reject anything that implies pointless love triangles. Basically ignore all the ones that are obviously romance-based. Find a very small selection of books.
One of my favourite techniques is looking at the newest books. Which has the clean pages and the uncreased spines? I like trying new books before other people can tell me about them, although there’s usually a delay in the library buying them after publication date, so I’m often late to the party.
3. Sneak around the Children’s sections pretending I’m not borrowing books from there.
Leave with at least three books, try to check them out via self service, get an error message, and have to go up to the desk. Every time. I like kids’ books, though — they’re inventive and interesting and often there’s a lot of crossover with YA, so just ignore where they’re shelved. Classic kids’ books from the mid-20th century, the ones your parents probably grew up reading, are usually slightly less patronising.
Books I discovered this way recently: Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. Okay, so everyone’s heard of her and I recently read Song for a Dark Queen, but I swear her Roman Britain-era novels are the key to doing well in my Classics exam this summer.
4. Browse the Quick Choice shelves and pick up anything that looks halfway interesting.
Usually books are on there for a reason, and they’ll be a weird mix of genres and target audiences, so I find things I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up.
Books I discovered this way not-very-recently: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Vintage lesbian superspies, guys. I don’t feel like I need to say anything else about this book because if you’re not interested, then there’s something wrong with you.
Because of this, I’ve developed a complete inability to leave a library without borrowing books. I’ll go there to pick up a reservation, and come out with three others that I just picked up ‘on a whim’. I’ll go there with the intention of returning books and leave with four new ones. It’s a serious problem at this stage — how can I revise for my exams when I just keep reading?
I mean, this is my current library haul:
Eclectic? You could say so. There are three children’s books (one by RJ Anderson that I figured I had to check out because I loved Quicksilver so much and because it has fairies, two by Rosemary Sutcliff that totally count as Classics revision). Two YA books (I’ve been waiting for the library to buy Cress for ages). One Historical, fairly angsty looking book from the Quick Choice shelf (The Dream of the Celt).
And I am going to have glorious fun reading all of them.
Unlike The Iliad. Which is not much fun. I am going to sit here and glare at that until it cooperates and yields more useful quotes for the theme of kleos because at the moment I have more about gender roles and I don’t think they’re what we’re meant to be studying.
How do you discover books? What’s your current library haul or to-read list? Does Goodreads say you’ve read books?
Oh, and if you’ve used that Facebook app (“What Would I Say?” I think it is; it calls me MiriamBot, if that rings any bells), then please share some of your best results from it. One of my favourites would definitely be: “I’ve never read a tiny tiny plane, but then, Moffat.” Though I was also fairly amused by this one: “This place needed a serious change of cardio exercise every week.” Glorious, that is. Absolutely glorious.