What Shall I Read Next?

Elizabeth Bluemle - December 9, 2013

For the first time in 2013, I have a free pass to read whatever I want. The funny thing about being a bookseller is that, while one gets to read, one also has to read. By that I mean booksellers must read almost constantly, and often must read all manner of books we might not otherwise pick up guided by personal preference. We read broadly so that we may make intelligent orders for the upcoming season and know which titles we will and won’t be especially recommending to a wide variety of customers.
The very thing that propels us toward bookselling is, in a sense, elusive once we become booksellers. There is something to be said for the pleasure of a book one reads for no other reason than personal interest. This year’s Pig-Tales (our store’s annual newsletter/catalog, now hot off the press) features 166 titles published in 2013, 70 of which I reviewed. In addition to those 70 books are countless titles I read and wasn’t able to include. All this is by way of saying, I have read a LOT of books this year, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I was reading with purpose. Reading was part of my work. 
For the next three weeks, I get to read whatever I want, with no pressure, no thought of sales meetings or review writing (or blog posts). I can just  READ. Most of this reading will happen during January vacation, but I will sneak some in even during these crazy days of holiday retail sales. And I haven’t decided yet what exactly I want to read.
Some years, I go on a reading jag by theme; I went on an Everest/K2 spree one year. Another year, it was the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. Maybe I’ll read some mysteries, which I rarely find time to do. Maybe I’ll see what Elizabeth Peters is up to; haven’t read one of her mysteries in quite a while but had loved Amelia Peabody and Emerson through a January spell once. Perhaps I’ll finally get around to Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White; I could be in a gothic mood….
I may even re-read! Re-reading books is a luxury the bookseller can seldom afford, so it is almost an illicit pleasure, the ultimate self-indulgence. I might read The Tempest again, or Charlotte’s Web, or My Family and Other Animals. Or Elizabeth Bishop!
Or I may choose something so few of my customers would be interested in that it is almost entirely a private act. Some wildly experimental fiction, perhaps, or something utterly dense and difficult that someone trusted has said is worth the work.
And I may read marvelous books recommended to me, fiction and nonfiction that friends and colleagues hold dear, that I have somehow missed along the way. And so I turn to you, ShelfTalker readers and ask, What shall I read next? What can I not live a moment more without discovering? 
Thank you in advance for sharing your best-of-the-best, from this year or not, with me and with each other.

16 thoughts on “What Shall I Read Next?

  1. pauline klein

    Light in the Ruins by Bohajlian and Rust by Julis Mars. Both are excellent and stayed with me for a long time.

  2. valerie hobbs

    This is probably not the lightest book for the season (!) but Unbroken by Hillebrand had me mesmerized for days.
    Also Rainbow Rowell is a gem. Eleanor and Park, if you haven’t already read it, and Fangirl.

  3. Christie

    If you do feel like reading some mysteries, I’d recommend the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. There are 10 of them (the latest came out this year) and they do need to be read in order, but the London setting in the 1920s and early ’30s and the characters are well worth spending some extended time with.

  4. Eleanor (Ellie) Miller

    Oh, Elizabth, I’m so sorry (!) to have to tell you that Barbara Mertz aka Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters died on August 8th of this year. She was a beautiful, gracious lady whose books brightened so many hours for me too. I was also blessed in knowing her personally…not all that recently or all that well…but what little time we did spend together when we Merry Met at the ABA or various conventions was GOLDEN. Something that comforted me when I heard the news was this note which I found on her website. Let me share it here too: “…She had put up a very tough battle against cancer for over a decade, in a style worthy of Amelia. She died as she told everyone she wanted to – unexpectedly, in her sleep. Shortly before her death, she had written a line to be posted on this webpage: ‘At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.’ “

  5. Carol Chittenden

    If you’re in the mood for serious, dark, but, surprising and occasionally funny fiction, I’d recommend Brewster, by Mark Slouka. So glad I took the time for it — and it could cross over as YA, as the two main characters are high school boys in a small town, dealing with some tough stuff.

  6. James S.

    “The Affinity Bridge” by George Mann – the first of the Newberry and Hobbs Investigations series. A wonderful mix of Victorian mystery and fantasy steampunk. If you like this one, I’d also recommend “Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl” by David Barnett.

  7. Eleanor (Ellie) Miller

    A more cheerful addenda to my previous post: the really BIG surprise book for me this year was Stephen King’s “Joyland” which IMHO is a total departure from his usual fiction which, quite frankly, I no longer enjoy nor read. This is more a really fascinating coming-of-age tale with some supernatural overtones and an endearing protragonist set against an intriguing small-town carnival background. What I’d call a must-read for book-lovers, especially anyone who enjoys Dan Brownish conspiracy-type plotting would be Robin Sloan’s “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore”. ABSOLUTELY second Christie’s recommendation of the ‘Maisie Dobb’s mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear. Catherine Cookson Award-winning (for “Marianna”) Susanna Kearsley is a Canadian author whose paranormal romances stand head-and-shoulders above most of what’s on the market today. I would recommend “The Shadowy Horses” which combines archeology/history and clairvoyance with heart-warming romance as a ‘starter’ read. Finally, if you enjoy urban fantasy at all, again IMHO you can’t do better than Nancy A. Collins fascinating Golgotham novels set in an alternate New York (start with “Right Hand Magic”) or Seanan McGuire’s October ‘Toby’ Daye’s exploration of Faerie in the Bay Area (start with “Rosemary and Rue”). ENJOY your busman’s holiday!

  8. Nancy Silverrod

    Hild by Nicola Griffith, a meaty historical novel set in Britain in the 600s, based on the life of Saint Hilda of Whitby; The Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, a novel about what happens when parents put their heads in the sand regarding the fact that their oldest child was born with an intersex condition; and The Golden Boy by Tana Sullivan, a young adult novel about an albino boy in Tanzania.

  9. SuzzyPC

    I just finished “How the Light Gets In” by Louise Penny. Wonderful! & Perfect for the beginning of the winter season. I’m with Carol C on “Brewster”. If you like Dorothy Parker “Farewell, Dorothy Parker” by Ellen Meister is fun and full of quips. One of my favourites this year was “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. Absolutely wonderful!
    Happy reading!

  10. Joan

    I’m just on the last 100 pages of Woman in White! I’m reading it because I’ve read Nora Ephron refer to it in at least two different places. Its excellent; a real history lesson on women’s issues and the Victorian era. And though its long, and dense enough to rank as one of the more serious relationships of my life, I will be sad when its done.
    I do hope you choose to read it! And please let me know what you think if you do!

  11. robyn

    the golem and the jinni by helen wecker. wonderful! the rosie project by graeme simsion was a cute, easy read. the one and only ivan by katherine applegate. superb! last girlfriend on earth by simon rich (short stories and i don’t even like short stories). enjoy!

  12. Linda Marshall

    I loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I felt like I was in a dream state while reading it. Right now I’m reading The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. It’s a hilarious case of mistaken identity when a little boy named Henry is mistaken for a little girl named Onion by John Brown of Harpers Ferry fame.

  13. Timothy Tocher

    Have you read Alice Munro’s collection, DEAR LIFE? The stories are excellent, though many have depressing themes or endings. The latest John LeCarre (can’t recall the title) is also very good.
    Enjoy your free reading!


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