Something I’ve noticed lately is that the list of books I want to read has become so long that I could probably tell you 75 percent of the titles I’ll read over the next year. And this means I’m not going to be spending much time poking around the bookstore, grabbing things at random.
I used to do that often and the results were interesting. Of course, I found my share of stinkers that way, but I also discovered some of my very favorite writers. I tripped over Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn years ago and I’ve now read nearly everything he’s released. The same goes for Colum McCann, whom I’d managed to not hear about until well after Let the Great World Spin came out. I will shortly finish devouring his catalog and I’m desperate for him to put out something new soon.
The most recent discovery I’ve made has been A.S. Byatt. Cate and I were wandering through Borders not long after The Children’s Book came out. It had such a gorgeous cover that I kept coming back to it. I liked the first few pages, but I couldn’t make myself pick it up. I’ll take flyers, but not at hardcover prices. Instead, I got Possession (which had won the Booker Prize) and, well, that was a good choice. I continued to lust after The Children’s Book and the following Christmas, it was under the tree (my wife pays attention). I loved it so much, I put it on Cate’s reading list for this year.
But, as I said, this hasn’t happened for a while, which is a shame because there are so many great books out there by people you’ll never, ever hear about. Sure, the books I mentioned above are by very well-known, award-winning writers, and my not knowing about them was more a product of my own ignorance than anything else, but that doesn’t diminish the feeling of discovery. It’s wonderful to pick up a book by someone you’ve never heard of, start reading, and immediately do a double take. Who’s this and where did they come from?
So, over the next several months, I’m going to go into a book store at least a few times and make sure I walk out with a book by someone I’ve never heard of before. I might hate it. That’s certainly happened before. But, if I’m lucky, they’ll make my reading list even more crowded.