Sunday, February 07, 2010

How Do You Choose the Next Book You'll Read?


Not too long ago, SF Signal asked for its Mind Meld feature: What SF/F/H books are on the top of your "To-Be-Read" pile? That got me (and, from the looks of the 'meld, a few other people) thinking about a problem that plagues me often: How do you decide which of the books in your TBR pile (or In-box, or New Acquisitions stack, or Timmy, or whatever you call it) to read next?

If you're like me, this can actually be a problem.

I'll confess, I'm an SF book-buying addict. It's damn near impossible for me to go into my local SF specialty store, White Dwarf, and not leave without purchasing at least one book. While I'm not in there every week, the fact that I am in there every 4 to 6 weeks, and that it's not uncommon for me to buy 2 or more, the TBR pile can pile up pretty quickly. This really became an issue during the back half of 2009, when I was pushing to meet my 365 short stories quota and putting aside reading novels until I was done.

Now, there are some people who only buy or check-out from their library one book at a time and read it before they bother picking up another. If you're one of these people, that's fine, but you're from a different universe than I am, and this post ain't for you.

So the pile seems to keep getting bigger - at last count, there were 55. And when it's time to choose something to read, I'm confronted with the dilemma of whether to choose something old versus a more recent buy, whether to go with an author I've read before and know I'll enjoy or try someone new, a novel or short story anthology, etc.

Sometimes I've been waiting for a particular author to come out with a new book for a while, so when it finally hits the shelves, I'll buy it, make it the priority, and move it to the top of the pile. The latest Wheel of Time book is one example. Once I was done the 365 short story challenge, diving into Brandon Sanderson's continuation of Robert Jordan's series was non-negotiable. Similarly, when Patrick Rothfuss' new book comes out, or by some miracle George RR Martin's latest Song of Ice and Fire installment is released, those will take priority.

In the absence of that kind of clear leader of the pack, it can be a tough choice. Sometimes it's a random urge to read one type of genre or sub-genre over another, maybe because I'm looking for some diversity, like finishing SF and moving over to Fantasy for a change of pace. Or I might read a review of some author's latest work and realize I've got another of his/her books in the pile and be tempted to pick it up. But ultimately, I have to admit, it's pretty arbitrary.

So if you've got a big To-Be-Read pile, how do you decide what to read next?

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