A bazaar crowded with random offerings. William Gibson/Henrik Ibsen. Zafon, Murakami, Van Gogh. A table of well-thumbed Louisa May Alcott. Shiny Urban Fantasy and an aromatic clutter of cookbooks.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about setting up a Book Jar for 2014. This is by way of being a status report.
Understand that my Book Jar was never meant to be my sole method of selecting reading material. I wanted a tool to help me through those times when the stacks of unread make my brain glaze over. And yes, the jar absolutely resolves that issue.
My very first plunge pulled out a slip with the Henry Green omnibus (Loving, Living, Party Going) that I bought during a self-improvement kicks and neglected to read for nearly a decade.
Aside: You will note that, for me, "self-improvement" doesn't mean finding out the colour of my parachute or losing 10 pounds in a fortnight through kale, pineapple and a daily run; it means reading books, not because the personality of the blurbs appeal to me, but because they are said to be elegantly written or else crammed full of facts or philosophies to which I ought to be exposed.
I can't say that I loved Green. However, one of the novels in that omnibus turned out to bolster my work with a book-in-progress that's been giving me some trouble. They're not alike, Green's book and mine (except perhaps in the way the Romanian is like Italian). Both books share a kind of root purpose, use of a refracted pov, and large bursts of dialogue. Green's book gave me the courage to stick with my instincts about my own, at a moment when that was exactly what I needed to keep moving forward. So I can now feel a bit superstitious about my jar!
But the jar isn't my primary way to select what to read next.
Once a month, a book is selected for me, by my book group. Inevitably, the next book I read after that will be as opposite to the book group selection as I can find (I imagine there's a wide contrary streak down the center of my brain).
Much of the time, I know exactly what I'm in the mood to read and select accordingly. For example, after filing my taxes, I craved a treat. I walked over to the stacks and there, gleaming atop one of them, was the recently arrived Dawn's Early Light, the latest in Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris' wholly delightful series about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. It was fun; but it left me still feeling "hungry." So I reached for another indulgence. I'd been saving Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World for just such a moment. The next morning, I was having such a good time that I hated for my subway ride to end. I've tried to make this last as long as possible, but I'll be reading the last few pages tomorrow morning. And then...Well, after traveling that wonderful impossible-to-pigeonhole roller coaster, I'm ready to veer off in a totally different direction. If nothing catches my eye, no worries -- I've got a great jar waiting to help me out!