Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Choosing books to read

As part of the Front Line program for information service librarians we are asked to to conduct brief interviews with library users asking them how they choose books to read. This, of course, prompted the question how do I choose books? Working in a public library obviously provides me with access to a wide range of reading material including new books entering the library collection. Obviously I cannot read them all so what causes me to select a book to read?

There are lots of ways to find out about books. Each weekend I read the Saturday and Sunday Age and note any titles or authors I might want to investigate. Book shops such as Readings and Readers Feast provide short reviews of a range of books available at their stores several times a year and I find these useful for introducing me to authors or topics I may not have previously considered. Television programs such as The First Tuesday Book Club and interviews on radio can lead me to wanting to read a particular book. Displays of books in book shops promote latest books by authors prompting me to sometimes place a reservation for a book. Films and television programs can encourage me to read a book. A recent example is reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret after seeing the film Hugo. Working in a library the patrons often recommend authors and/or titles of books they have enjoyed reading and some of the recommendations have led to books that I then read.

Books can be chosen on impulse. In the library I might pick up a book and borrow it after reading the blurb. However there are certain authors that I read whatever they publish. For other authors I may just read one or two books in a series. I try to read a wide range of books. Some I read because I know that they are popular and want to find out why. Books by Matthew Reilly that I tried recently is one example. I am also trying to catch up on a range of Australian publications. I recently read the books on the short list to establish the most popular book recently published in Victoria. A number of lists are available at present promoting Australian authors so I have many more authors to investigate. I also want to catch up on books written for young people. When I worked as a children's librarian many years ago I enjoyed reading books books written for children and teenagers. I need to catch up on some of the more recent material.

My reading patterns, particularly when choosing fiction, can depend on my mood. There are times when I will read a really novel in which I become totally involved in the plot and characters causing me to thinks about a range of issues and scenarios. At other times I just want some light reading to escape what is going on in the world and then Janet Evanovich's books may be chosen. I enjoy reading fantasy and also some crime novels provided that they are not too graphic in their depiction of violence. Some books can just be too intense.

Projects and other interests also affect my selection of reading material. When I was indexing the names on the 1891 Woman's Petition I read many books on the suffrage movement, particularly in Australia but also in Britain and New Zealand. My family history research causes me to select books about the countries where family members lived such as India during the time of the Raj, early convicts in Australia  or England during the Industrial Revolution, particularly the transitions in the woollen and cotton industry.

It is great having access to a wide range of books but sometimes I retreat to reading my comfort books - books that I have in my own collection that can be read again and again and enjoyed. Books by Jane Austen being one example.

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