How do you choose your next read?

I’m not particularly faithful to any genre, be it fantasy, comedy, or sci-fi, although I do have a penchant for young adult and dystopic futures. After a short series of books that demanded that I read them1, I asked myself what they had in common… really. Although all four were young adult, one was a dystopic future, another a fantasy, another a sci-fi and, finally, a present day romantic/comedy/thriller. In common however, all four featured a surprising MC2: a philosophic zombie, a crazy descendent of Alice in Wonderland, a cyborg Cinderella, and a part-Asian, ass-kicking, funny/quirky teenage girl. Coincidentally, YA and dystopic futures nearly always feature a quirky/strong MC.

In retrospect, it shouldn’t be surprising that these ‘surprising’ characters are such a draw. What makes compelling fiction after all? Surprising details, surprising plot developments (not, jerky, what the … developments, but insightful, oh, right/wow! ones), surprising stories that reveal something, well, surprising.

For such an obvious insight, it has considerably helped my story planning and, indeed, has incited a merger of two MC’s (rather, one was dropped and the other took up the extra action!) — no longer will they be splitting the glory of the storyline. 

This may just be a passing phase for my browsing tastes, but I’d wager not.

Please share what moves you to pick a book from the many, many others. 

1. Recent finds: Warm Bodies, Splintered, Cinder and Maid for Me. Of those I’ve finished so far, Cinder was the only one to sustain that initial hook to the finish (I can’t wait for the sequel!). Warm Bodies was superbly written and the zombie narrator was philosophically hilarious, but the ending didn’t deliver. Maid for Me was super fun but not so well written in my opinion. Look for a more thorough review of Splintered after I finish reading it.
2. Main character


4 thoughts on “How do you choose your next read?

  1. A few to add to my reading list! I particularly like revisited classics – fun. 🙂

    Left to my own devices, I often fall into the trap of judging a book by its cover, and looking at it edge-wise to see how much of a time commitment I’m in for. I have a bunch of quick heuristics I apply to the cover and a quick skim:
    Apost’ro’phes or other ‘fantasy punctuation’ in the title – will not read.
    Extending the story of a television space opera, movie, or video game – will not read.
    Girl in a midriff-baring space-suit – will not read.
    Broody-looking goth girl held closely by a bodybuilder vampire – will not read
    Any word ending with ‘-pocalypse’ – will not read.
    Author’s name printed in sparkly embossed silver – will not read
    The wolf boyfriend rule: I’ll read anything with a girl who rides on or speaks with giant wolves, but as soon as that wolf turns into and handsome shirtless man, I’m out.

    Recommendations and reviews really help narrow down the choices. Once I’m committed, no matter how bad it is, I’ll usually try to slog through to the end, so I’m very careful about starting something new.

    1. Kudos to you for finishing what you start. I certainly can’t claim the same. Sometimes though, I’ll leave the book until it’s the right one for the moment and pick it up, often sans bookmark years later, find the spot no problem and continue.
      With that in mind though, you’re especially brave to start a book based on it’s cover. Surely you cull the masses by the cover test and then eliminate some more after reading the synopsis?
      The cover test is certainly a first test but that should really only give you genre. So you seem to have rules out all the romance crap from sci fi/fantasy but that’s about it. Maybe that’s all the ruling out you need to do?
      But really, no -pocalypse books? I’ll remember to have no lypses in my dystopic futures to come :). Fair enough though, even if it has an apocalypse, surely the title could improve on the obvious? Eg, The Road, The Stand, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 for a classic, etc etc.

    2. I suppose I should talk about positive indicators, too! I’m drawn to covers and descriptions featuring:
      Time travel, airships, swashbuckling, robots, retro spaceships, menacing monsters, capable-looking protagonists, exotic worlds, clever folktales, invention, bravery, exploration! Excitement!

      I’ve been reading a lot of adult fiction lately but now and then I come back to sci-fi and fantasy, the juxtaposition really exposes some of the writing weaknesses in genre work. I really appreciate authors that take care in giving their characters a chance to “be themselves” a little among all the biplane crashes and dinosaur chases.

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