Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fellow Alumni

Linden says she doesn't feel like there are a lot of good books out there to read, and she doesn't know where to find them, except through recommendations. This is how I do it:

I'm on the Boston area Williams alumni listserver. Amanda Eyre Ward, a Williams alum, was going to be reading from her new book. I couldn't make the reading (I really try not to do things that require me to trek too far out on the Green Line), but I looked her up at the library and idly checked out her first book, Sleep Toward Heaven. It was really quite a good book--simple, but true, and personal. She did a great job of creating three characters, and also of tying them together without (mostly) being heavy-handed about it.

This method is often hit-or-miss. It includes things like books that are reviewed on Slate, books that are mentioned in the reviews of other books, books that we read for book club, or that were considered for book club but discarded, or books I see on my friends' shelves, or on display at the bookstore. There are a lot of duds in this pile, though I think I'm a pretty good judge of what I'm going to enjoy at this point.

I've also gotten comfortable with stopping after 50 pages if I really don't like it. I'm getting older, my time is too valuable to waste. That's been a very liberating thing--I rarely have to regret picking a book up, because it never wastes more of my time than it's worth. Fifty pages of wasted time is worth experiencing a cautionary example.

For example, I'd stop reading The Epicure's Lament, if I didn't feel this dragging obligation of Book Club. Urg--another story.

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