This past weekend, I took home three books that received great reviews and looked interesting after reading the blurb on the inside flap.
I started one of them, and within the first few pages, I just knew that this wasn't the story for me. After chastising myself for the quick dismissal, I continued reading. After 10 pages, I put the book down, thinking that maybe I wasn't in the right mood.
I then started the next one. I read a bit further on this one but still wasn't particularly drawn to it and set it down as well.
After taking a reading break for a day or two, I started enthusiastically on the third title, sure that things would turn around. I was discouraged to find that I still wasn't feeling the love for these books that came recommended by others.
Sometimes it just happens that way. The reader might be in a mood for something entirely different than what's currently sitting on the end table. My theory is this: Don't force yourself to read a book that you're just not feeling excited about — unless of course it's related to school or work.
Books are written to convey an idea and to spark interest in the reader. In our library alone, we have more than 425,000 items in our collection. Not all of these are books, but you get the idea. There are a lot of options.
So how do you find the books that you'll enjoy reading? There are lots of readers' advisory websites out there, but I'd like to bring you a little closer to home. First of all, ask our staff. We have an amazing staff who read from a wide assortment of subjects. We have "specialists" in almost any genre. Don't be afraid to ask someone; that's a part of our job that can be the most enjoyable.
If we can't think of something off the top of our heads, there are books — about books — that can help. Right by the second-floor information desk, we have a selection of reference books marked "Readers' Advisory."
There are some helpful titles there, the most well-known being "What Do I Read Next." This is a multivolume set for the customer who has an author in mind that they've already read, looking for guidance to similar titles and authors. You can even look up character descriptions you are interested in like firemen, cat lovers or spies.
If you're looking for things to check out and peruse at home, try a magazine we have called Bookmarks: For Everyone Who Hasn't Read Everything. This comes out bi-monthly and is a great source for the layperson to pick some interesting books to read. There are summaries, reviews and notes on other resources that have listed that title.
In the Dewey Decimal area of the 011, 027 and 028 sections, you'll find lots of books that list reading ideas. Some of these are all-encompassing, and some focus on a specific genre.
As an example, "Fang-Tastic Fiction" by Patricia O'Brien Mathews lists ideas for the wildly popular paranormal fiction titles. We're talking vampires, werewolves and the like. It's organized by theme: Cozy, Historical, Chicklit, Urban, etc then under each of these is a rating based on violence, sensuality and humor.
Similarly, there is a series of books on themes, one being "Read On: Historical Fiction" by Brad Hooper. This one has chapters based on topics like village life, the sea, exotic locales and old New York. Or you can look up type of character, like royalty or unlikely heroes.
Lastly, there is an option for story line. Examples here would be acts of courage, politics or science and medicine. What a great series for finding just the right title.
Besides the collections featuring specific genres, there are books that are more wide-ranging in their selection. "The Joy of Reading" by Charles Van Doren is a virtual encyclopedia of reading, arranged chronologically, beginning with the Greek philosophers and continuing to current times. There also is a great index.
"1001 Books for Every Mood" by Hallie Ephron is a fun compendium full of ideas based on what kind of temperament you're looking for. The themes listed include: I want to "celebrate siblings." "to be astounded" and "see with apocalyptic vision." Under each of these random topics is a list of authors and titles with a rating system based on things like literary merit, humor, family friendly and books made into movies.
A similar study is "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die," written by more than 100 international critics. Is it just me or is there a plethora of books out there listing all of the things that I must do before I die? My bucket list overfloweth.
The moral of this story is don't give up; there are books out there for you. We can find them.
My favorite quote at the moment is from Frank Zappa: "So many books, so little time."
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.