My name is Anitra, and I am a Bookaholic
I read myself to sleep at night. I read to wake myself up in the morning. I carry several books with me at all times, in case I finish one during the course of the day and am stuck somewhere with nothing to read. I read on the bus, while waiting for appointments, while in line at stores. One woman was startled to see me reading in a grocery store aisle, but I explained that I was waiting for a clerk who was fetching a product from stock. I read while waiting for the curtain to go up at the movies, or even the theater, except then I'm usually reading the program, and at open mics, except then I'm usually talking to other poets and reading their new chapbooks. I read while walking down the street. One day I looked up while crossing the street to see a woman coming toward me, reading a book. She looked up just then, too. We shared a smile of rare companionship. I read while taking rare, luxurious baths, with scented bath oil and little floating candles; I read in the shower every day. This is a good test for the quality of a book binding. I understand and appreciate friends who care for the physical appearance of books, and I do not borrow from them. I regard books as consumables: I dogear pages that I want to refer back to later, underline pages and make notes in the margins, use the flyleaf to keep telephone numbers and appointments because I am always losing my pocket calendar but I rarely lose a book. I delight in buying a used book and finding margin notes from the previous owner.
I have written a number of Twelve Step parodies, but I have never written one for bookaholism, because I have never chosen to recover. I do have one self-imposed limitation -- I will not read while I'm driving. I tried, when I was sixteen, in my grandfather's car. Do not read while you're driving. So, I know my limitations, I don't have a problem. I could quit anytime I wanted to. Really. If I wanted to.
How I Find New Books
- Following an author
- If I read something I like, I look for more by that author. There are a number of bibliographies on the net that make this easier: the ones I use a lot are listed in my Booklinks. Your local library can also help, especially if it has an online catalog, like the Seattle Public Library does. There's no guarantee that your local library will have all of a particular author, but at least what they do have you can "try before you buy". For immediate gratification, you can go to your library or bookstore and browse the bookshelves. If an author publishes in two or more genres, though, you may need help hunting. I always check the flyleaf of a book for the author's other titles, but some extremely annoying publishers do not list books by series, or in series order; also, some authors have changed publishers one or more times, and often the publisher will list only the author's books from their own house. Your best bet is your own nice big copy of Books In Print; failing that, an official and/or frequntly updated website for your favorite author(s).
- One way I find new authors, without spending a great deal on books that wind up feeding the dustbunnies under the couch, is to read short-story magazines and anthologies. Not all writers of impressive short stories write impressive novels, but many do. (I discovered Connie Willis in short stories.) An increasing number of books are promoted with sample chapters on the web, and many authors also have sample short stories posted. Some place where you can find these are listed in my Booklinks.
- Friends; fellow readers on book discussion lists; fellow fans of Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, Alice Munro, whoever; librarians; bookshop owners; my favorite authors themselves; there is always someone ready to say "Oh you'll like this ..." Some of my alltime favorite books were recommended to me by Seattle barristas (espresso servers).
- Of course, not every stranger is going to make a recommendation that suits you -- not even all of your friends will. But I tend to go by Theodore Sturgeon's Other Maxim: don't try anything just once. I'm willing to stretch a bit, to give something new a chance to stretch me, and it's paid off a lot. (I still don't care for Joyce Carol Oates, though, no matter how many people recommend her.)
- Even better than a recommendation is some detailed comment about why I would like this book. I read the book review columns in all the sf magazines, and occasionally the mystery mags. I have some online review sources listed in my Booklinks.
- I don't agree with all awards, but they are a guide to books to check over. Some of them, like the Edgar Awards and the James Tiptree Jr. Award, I've gotten more good reading out of than others. My favorite award sites are listed in my Booklinks.
- Follow That Genre
- Or topic, or theme, or whatever... I regularly browse the shelves of "New Arrivals" in mystery, fantasy and science fiction; I look at "checklists" from the library or other sources on re-worked fairy tales, or non-European fantasies, or historical mysteries, or female private detectives. Some subject-guide sites are listed in my Booklinks.
- There is also the joy of just picking up whatever's available next on the library shelf, or the free-exchange rack, or the bargain table at the thrift store. Sarah N. Dippity Is My Friend.