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Old 10-02-2010, 12:20 AM   #1
DavidRM
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Anyone Else Practice "Random Reading"?

Over the past few years, how I pick (or don't pick) what to read has evolved considerably. Before this, I used to spend too long in bookstores and library aisles trying to make sure that some genre book would be something I'd like. And I'd be wrong just about as often as I was right.

Now, the 2 most important criterion for what I read are:
1. Free is good.
2. The book cannot be actively trying to get away from me.

This has freed me considerably. Now I can go into the library fiction aisle (maybe a genre aisle, maybe not), grab 2 books at random and take them home. Odds are I'll like one of them--and no time wasted worrying about it.

Because of this new approach, in the last 5-6 years I've read just about one of everything: classics of the 19th and 20th century literature, romance, sci-fi romance (which I didn't even know *existed* before I read one), police procedurals, true crime, crime, cozies, hard-boiled, hard sci-fi, epic fantasy, non-epic fantasy, YA, youth, horror, and more.

Oh, I also read books that I see mentioned in newspaper articles and blog posts that sound interesting (sometimes they even are), and generally will read anything a friend recommends (even if they later tell me that, no, they hadn't read The Devil Wears Prada, she just wanted to see if I would read it; I did).

I will read anything, pretty much. And I have. At random.

Anyone else do anything like this???

-David
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Old 10-02-2010, 12:28 AM   #2
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I envy your being one of those folks who can read "anything" - there are whole genres I avoid (sci-fi, fantasy, etc.). However, I do tend to follow up on books mentioned in articles, blogs and other places that sound interesting; I generally read descriptions/reviews before getting them from the library, but sometimes I realize they're just not for me early on. I have a long wishlist of my e-books from the library, some of which I might not like, but all seem at least slightly interesting.

I read a lot of non-fiction as I'm rather nerdy though. I'm not real keen on sports and animals, but open about many other subjects.

Now that you've tried The Devil Wears Prada, I'll recommend Bridget Jones' Diary, which I loved as an audiobook.
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Old 10-02-2010, 12:58 AM   #3
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Now that you've tried The Devil Wears Prada, I'll recommend Bridget Jones' Diary, which I loved as an audiobook.
I really enjoyed Bridget Jones' Diary. It was a fun read (the movie was OK; fun, but in a different way).

I'll match your chick-lit and raise you one non-ficton: Bounce by Matthew Syed, or The Black Swan by Nicholas Taleb.

-David
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Old 10-02-2010, 02:34 AM   #4
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If it got words printed or hand written I'll read it.
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Old 10-03-2010, 08:53 AM   #5
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Before I got an e-book reader, I used to browse the library for anything of potential interest. I might have been a little more selective than you, but generally I'll read a lot of different genres - but what I select, still depends on my mood and how challenging I want the book to be. And while I don't use the library much for fiction at the moment, I still "browse" across genres and general fiction when choosing books.
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Old 10-03-2010, 01:12 PM   #6
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I usually avoid newspaper articles and magazine reviews. I don't think I"ve ever read a negative review of any book in those things. And usually they're really pretentious and uninteresting as well.

I don't pick randomly, but once in a while I'll go out on a limb and check out a book that I'd heard of but knew little about.
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Old 10-03-2010, 02:36 PM   #7
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I usually avoid newspaper articles and magazine reviews.
I don't (or only very rarely; I don't remember the last one I read) read book reviews. But sometimes there are articles in the NY Times (for example) that talk about nonfiction books or reference those books. If the book sounds interesting, I'll see if the library has it and send in a request. That's how I read (and enjoyed) "Bounce" by Matthew Syed recently. And is how I've read most nonfiction for the past several years.

I don't recall using a similar approach for fiction, though. Not from newspapers, anyway.

-David
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Old 10-03-2010, 04:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidRM View Post
Over the past few years, how I pick (or don't pick) what to read has evolved considerably. Before this, I used to spend too long in bookstores and library aisles trying to make sure that some genre book would be something I'd like. And I'd be wrong just about as often as I was right.

Now, the 2 most important criterion for what I read are:
1. Free is good.
2. The book cannot be actively trying to get away from me.

This has freed me considerably. Now I can go into the library fiction aisle (maybe a genre aisle, maybe not), grab 2 books at random and take them home. Odds are I'll like one of them--and no time wasted worrying about it.

Because of this new approach, in the last 5-6 years I've read just about one of everything: classics of the 19th and 20th century literature, romance, sci-fi romance (which I didn't even know *existed* before I read one), police procedurals, true crime, crime, cozies, hard-boiled, hard sci-fi, epic fantasy, non-epic fantasy, YA, youth, horror, and more.

Oh, I also read books that I see mentioned in newspaper articles and blog posts that sound interesting (sometimes they even are), and generally will read anything a friend recommends (even if they later tell me that, no, they hadn't read The Devil Wears Prada, she just wanted to see if I would read it; I did).

I will read anything, pretty much. And I have. At random.

Anyone else do anything like this???

-David
I wish we could get rid of the whole genre thing. I even hate the word. It's so limiting.

I never thought of going to the library and picking books at random. That's an idea...

But I do pick up books more or less by chance. A few times I went to the library looking for a specific author, didn't find them but ended up picking up another by an author that was close in alphabetical order to the one I was looking for. I also have a look at the librarian's recommendations (or the bookshop recommendations on the now rare occasions I visit a bookshop). And sometimes I read reviews in newspapers.

But I try never to pick up a book without reading a few lines at least from the content. I get angry reading a book I don't like, and angry is something I don't like getting (happens way too often already). So I try to take precautions, though it doesn't always work.
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Old 10-03-2010, 05:17 PM   #9
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...

I never thought of going to the library and picking books at random. That's an idea...
I remember that sometimes it felt like I could just walk down the aisles and hold out my arms, and books would jump down into them. Just picked out those that looked most likely to interest me. It's free after all and I could always just take the book back if I didn't like it.
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Old 10-03-2010, 05:21 PM   #10
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Before I got an e-book reader, I used to browse the library for anything of potential interest. I might have been a little more selective than you, but generally I'll read a lot of different genres - but what I select, still depends on my mood and how challenging I want the book to be. And while I don't use the library much for fiction at the moment, I still "browse" across genres and general fiction when choosing books.
That's pretty much how I used to to choose my books before I got an e-book reader. I still love browsing the libraries, but the libraries near my current home are sort of lacking. Now I browse Amazon and Goodreads reviews before choosing my books, I didn't do that much before.
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Old 10-03-2010, 06:14 PM   #11
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I do this all the time. At the library, I have a look at what's on both the display shelves (the librarians are usually pretty good about putting older books up as "featured"), and also the stuff that's neighbouring any books I'm specifically looking up.

If something about the title/cover/description/bare flipthrough appeals, I'll usually take it home to try out and if it doesn't work for me, back it goes.

Same with e-books, which is why I download practically all the free offerings which appear to be of reasonable writing quality and not totally turn-off subject matter.

I try them based on whether there's some sort of "hook" that ties into my favourite reading quirks (setting, theme, subject, etc.) or the description sounds interesting enough to give it a go. Sometimes it pays off and I've had a fairly decent to really good read, sometimes it doesn't and I'm out nothing more than time spent.

Mind you, it does help that I don't feel compelled (except in cases of extreme morbid curiosity) to finish every book I start, and will merrily abandon reading if the first few pages feel like a slog that's not going to pay off anytime soon.

I've found a fair amount of entertaining stuff this way, and my gem-to-decent-to-dud ratio is probably at 3:5:2.

Of course, this isn't entirely random, since I do a certain amount of pre-filtering based on my standard reading quirks. But I try not to exclude anything simply because I've never tried such a book before, and I've even read and enjoyed selected Christian Fiction and genre Romance, which aren't normally my style at all, due to the various promo freebies.

Although on a personal level, the sample dud ratio was higher for those categories in between the "good" ones I found.

And I do sometimes read and pay attention to reviews if they seem reasonable; I read a lot of genre fiction and non-fiction and a convincingly-written review from a credible venue has helped steer me towards some of my favourite works. But I don't give them any more weight than a strong recommendation pointing out that a book which has elements that sound like they interest me might handle them well/poorly.
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Old 10-03-2010, 07:04 PM   #12
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Mind you, it does help that I don't feel compelled (except in cases of extreme morbid curiosity) to finish every book I start, and will merrily abandon reading if the first few pages feel like a slog that's not going to pay off anytime soon.
I used to proudly state that I finished every book I started reading. (I can be proud of the oddest things.)

Now, though, I proclaim, "Life is too short to waste it on a bad book."

"Merrily abandon with extreme prejudice" is my modus operandi. You have a few pages. Maybe even a couple short chapters. If the book doesn't click with me by then, out it goes.

-David
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Old 10-04-2010, 01:55 AM   #13
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I just bailed on Murakami's Kafka on the Shore actually.

As far as Christian fiction goes, I did enjoy Charlene Baumbich's "Dearest Dorothy" series.
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Old 10-06-2010, 08:46 PM   #14
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I used to proudly state that I finished every book I started reading. (I can be proud of the oddest things.)

Now, though, I proclaim, "Life is too short to waste it on a bad book."

"Merrily abandon with extreme prejudice" is my modus operandi. You have a few pages. Maybe even a couple short chapters. If the book doesn't click with me by then, out it goes.

-David
Instantaneous entertainment or get out of here?

That certainly is a principle, but it also dismisses a lot of great literature.

I too have stopped reading bad/uninteresting novels to their dire end. But still a lot of books doesn't deliver instant gratification. They work in a different way. And in my opinion you have to come quite a long way in a story before you can actively dismiss it as not for you.
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Old 10-06-2010, 10:13 PM   #15
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Instantaneous entertainment or get out of here?

That certainly is a principle, but it also dismisses a lot of great literature.

I too have stopped reading bad/uninteresting novels to their dire end. But still a lot of books doesn't deliver instant gratification. They work in a different way. And in my opinion you have to come quite a long way in a story before you can actively dismiss it as not for you.
As someone who has read the entire unabridged version of "Les Miserable", I think I've earned the right to jetison a book if it falls down early and hard.

-David
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