Occasionally someone will ask me how I choose what to read. It’s a hard question to answer, because there’s no overriding pattern to my choices.
One book group meets once a month, the other every other month. That makes about eighteen books that are chosen for me, unless I’ve suggested our assigned book myself. Most of these are recent fiction, mixed with some current non-fiction.
People recommend books to me, of course. I’m reading The Overstory, a novel by Richard Powers, because my sister not only told me about it but handed me a copy. I read The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars because a book group friend told me about it. And sometimes friends have themselves written books. I’ve recently finished Looking for True by Tricia Springstubb (and then wrapped it up for my great-niece) and The Cottage in Omena by Charles Andrew Oberndorf, local writers whom I know. Former Clevelander Kristin Ohlson’s Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World is waiting on my desk.
I avoid reading reviews until I’ve already read the book, but I frequently see titles that interest me in magazines or on the news, or hear about on the radio. If a favorite writer, such Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, or Annie Dillard writes a book, I request it immediately. I guess I like books by “Anns,” no matter the spelling. I sought out Ramadan Ramsay, one of my favorites from last year, because I fondly remembered Louis Edwards’s 1991 novel, Ten Seconds.
Often, I pick up something at the library that grabs my attention. My dad liked Donald Westlake, and when I saw his book Get Real propped up on a library display recently, I checked it out and brought it home.
My current reading is even more serendipitous. I peeked into our neighborhood Little Free Library a few weeks ago and found Fashion Climbing, a 2019 memoir by Bill Cunningham. I didn’t even know Bill Cunningham had written a memoir. But then, no one did, until his manuscript was found in his apartment after his death in 2016.
This delightful book has prompted me to request a collection of his pictures, Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography, and also Bill Cunningham Was There: Spring Flings + Summer Soirées by John Kurdewan–a chain of books inspired by the first. (My husband says I get obsessed.)
This afternoon I rewatched the moving 2011 documentary called Bill Cunningham New York. You don’t have to be interested in Bill Cunningham, New York, fashion, or even photography to enjoy this film. Gentle and well-made, it captures a fascinating person (and a good person) who loved his work and his city. I love this movie.
I’m enjoying Fashion Climbing a great deal but wouldn’t recommend it as highly as the doc. You do require some interest in Bill, NYC, fashion, etc., to stay engaged. He had some great adventures as a hat designer and fashion writer, and (little did I know) as a GI in Europe in the 1950s. Watch the movie first, and then decide.
How do you choose your books? Is your answer as convoluted as mine?
And oh, yes. Happy New Year.