"How did you choose the book you read yesterday?" Walt asked this morning.
I could see it was a logical question. "Talk Before Sleep" (by Elizabeth Berg) did seem like kind of an odd choice, since most of what he sees me reading are mysteries or crime dramas. I started to explain how I came to choose that book and he said "that would make a good journal entry."
So here it is. How I choose the books I read at Logos each week.
I will repeat that when I began working at the used book store, I decided I would use the vast resources available to me and try to read a book every work day. I also decided that I would NOT read a book on my Kindle because I thought that was bad PR for a book store. I discovered that I could read a book of over 100 pages, and as my speed picked up, I could read a book of about 200 pages or a little over in my four hours at the store. I am in my third year volunteering at Logos and the books I have read in the three years have been as varied as those "my friend" buys when he comes in each week.
The very first book I read was about the Australian acubra hat, which I chose because...well...it was Australia and that subject interests me, and my friend Olivia had purchased an acubra had when she was there and was quite proud of it. I have read such varied titles as "Lucy" (a novel about a half woman/half ape), "California's Golden Age" (about classic buildings built in the 1930s), "The Pretty Women of Paris" (a guide to the prostitutes of Paris in the mid 1800s), "The Death of Manolete" (about the famous bullfighter, which I chose because the book I'd read the previous week was "My Reading Life" by Pat Conroy in which he detailed some of his favorite books and he RAVED about the Manolete book. We may have had differing opinions on it!), "Driving Mr. Albert" (about driving Albert Einstein's brain across the country), "Fried Eggs with Chopsticks" (a woman's tour across China), "A Town Like Alice" (Nevil Shute's classic novel), "More than Petticoats" (about famous women in California), "Heaven is for Real" (the little kid who died and went to heaven. Schlocky book! Worse of the lot.), "Cesar's Way" (Milan's dog training book), as well as several mysteries, travel journals, and books about animals.
To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised myself when I started compiling the above list, to see the diversity of the titles. When I don't feel like reading a book, I look through a cookbook. And while I used to buy books I didn't finish, now I just take them home and bring them back the next week. I still buy more than I should, though lately they are more children's books than adult books.
So how do I choose a book to read on my work day? I start by thinking of what genre I feel like reading. Nine times out of ten it's crime drama so I check that bookcase. It has to be a book of not more than 220 pages using a font that my eyes can handle. The Ellis Peters books (Cadfael mysteries), for example, are the right length but generally too small a print, though I did read one of them on one of my work days. Then I check the summary of the book and if it doesn't appeal to me, I'll move on to another genre.
Travel is usually the next genre I choose. There are some great books about living in Italy or England or the more exotic tales, like the one about traveling across China as a single woman (that book taught me I don't ever want to ride a bus from city to city in China!). They also don't sell quickly, so if I don't finish a book, I just put a bookmark in it and 99% of the time it's there when I go back the next week and I can pick up where I left off.
I sometimes check the California or San Francisco history section, may glance at SciFi/Fantasy, always check the music and theater section (though that is pretty skimpy) and look at the old book shelves. A lot of the "old books" are books I remember fondly from my childhood and adolescence, but most of them are now in too small a print for me, so though I may flip through them, I almost never choose one for my Thursday read. I was thrilled one day to find several Albert Peyson Terhune books on the shelf. I loved all of his books about collies and considered buying one...and then realized that these were books that I had given to Logos because they were duplicates of books I already had. Duhhh.
Sometimes I check out biographies, but invariably those are way too long for a one-day read, and I get into trouble because if it is a biography I think I'd like, I just buy it instead, so it's a good idea to stay away from biographies!
Yesterday I decided to check Contemporary Fiction, which I almost never do. I don't know why. I thought I might read a Maeve Binchy book. I do like her books, particularly the ones set in Ireland. There were two Binchy books on the shelf, neither of which was set in Ireland and both of which were too long for a one-day read, but next to the Binchy books was that little book by Elizabeth Berg. It was the quote from the book that hooked me: "Until that moment, I hadn't realized how much I'd been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to." The quote spoke to me so strongly. It was 209 pages long and I had finished all but the last 10 when Walt came to pick me up, so I finished it at home.
And that is how I came to choose the book I read this week.