Sunday, November 11, 2007

Choosing Books

Last night, I was packing for my trip to Charleston (which I've been referring to, about half the time, as a trip to Charlotte -- proving that I'm either horribly distracted or an utter Yankee. Or both, I guess), and had to make a lot of decisions.

I'm working a booth at a trade show -- how dressy should I be? (I packed suits, with some slight dress-down options.)

Unlike a SF con, there's no nightlife associated with this meeting -- what should I bring to entertain myself? (A new set of portable speakers for my iPod, this laptop, my long-neglected DS, a few DVDs.)

But the most important question was the one I started thinking about the night before -- what was I going to read while I was away?

Obviously, I piled up the magazines, especially the ones I don't save (and so could discard when I finish them).

But books were more of a question. I'm trying to read a comics/manga/similar book every day -- should I bring a stack of those? (I did, since I already had a laptop bag, a carry on bag, and my regular suitcase.)

And the big book question was...well, which big book to take. I wanted something hefty (so I wouldn't run out of pages quickly), but portable and durable. The perfect choice would have been a Library of America book, and I have three shelves of them, but...I wasn't in the mood for anything. (I almost took the first Philip Roth volume -- maybe the next trip.)

My first choice -- a test book, if you will -- is the one I dragged around on errands (and to my mother's for dinner) on Saturday, Lawrence Block's The Complete Mystery Stories. It's a huge omnibus published in trade paper in the UK in 1999, and I also have the (even huger, 13 stories longer, and hardcover) US version of a year later, Enough Rope. The plan was to read all the stories in Complete Mystery (which is more portable), and then, later, finish off the extra stories in Enough Rope. But, though I read the first story and liked it, I once again didn't feel like reading lots of short fiction. So back onto the pile it went.

Finally, late last night -- after considering and discarding literally dozens of books (it gets harder and harder to choose what to read next the more books you have), I finally thought of it -- I wanted to continue to plow through George Orwell's Essays, which I've been reading piecemeal for two or three years now. So I packed that.

But I thought "I'll be on a plane. What if the seat is small? I need a little book to read, in case I can't get the big book out, or it would be too unwieldy." So I also poked through my mass-markets, and picked Peter Robinson's The Hanging Valley (an early novel in his Alan Banks series)-- and that's what I read about half of on the plane down here.

Does anyone else in the world go through convolutions like that to figure out what book to read next, or am I uniquely neurotic?

4 comments:

Nadine said...

No, I do that all the time. I don't want the experience of picking up the book I brought and not enjoying it.

Robert Hutchinson said...

I'm nowhere near the level of book-reader you and much of your audience are, but I have to talk myself out of buying more books when I already have two or three sitting unread. Each extra book does seem to exponentially increase my indecision about what to tackle next.

Paul W said...

Hardly alone, Andrew.

I have a large backlog of unread books, and I used to try and "map out" the next seven books I planned to read. I've given up on that approach for a more "spur of the moment" one.

And with a fair number of books to read, that's difficult. I do have some "rules" to decide what my next book should be. However, especially if I am reading a thick book (The Bonehunters, by Erikson, right now), I will find myself wondering

"What is my next book?"

Marilee J. Layman said...

When I travel, I prefer short stories. I'm gradually working my way through the OMNI anthologies.

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