Monday, August 13, 2012

A Sure-Fire Read


I have started at least five books in the last week. Books I know I would usually like. But none of them have worked for me.

One problem I sometimes have is when the book begins by dropping me into the middle of a scene and I have to scramble to figure out who everyone is and what is going on. I like to ease into a book with one character to cling to--at least at first.

If the writing on a page looks too dense, I am also put off. I need paragraphs, dialogue, white space and a narrative mix. Am I fussy? Probably.

What is the most sure-fire book you might recommend for someone having trouble finding the right thing to read? What book can no one resist?

25 comments:

Joe Barone said...

I agree about the size of the type, the leading (space between lines), and having paragraphs. Few books work for me if the printing doesn't make them inviting to read--especially as I grow older.

People preference in books is such an individual thing. I hesitate to recommend books. I just tell people about the books I like and why I like them in hopes I've given enough of a sense of the book that they can decide for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I'd say read the first page or two. If it grabs you, as it did me, great. If not try something else.

Owen Parry, Faded Coat of Blue
Josh Bazell, Beat the Reaper
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
Jamie Freveletti, Running From the Devil
Shirley Jackson, Life Among the Savages
Ken Grimwood, Replay


Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't read the Parry or the Freveletti. Gosh, Shirley Jackson was great, wasn't she?

Anonymous said...

The Freveletti is the perfect answer to those who don't think women can write thrillers. Let me know if you want it and I'll send you the first paperback.

I also agree with you about the look of a book. If I open a huge book and see densely packed paragraphs with no white space, little if any dialogue and 50 page chapters, the odds are I will pick something else. I prefer short (or at least shorter) chapters.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and congratulations to Meghan on the NYT Book Review rave review.


Jeff M.

George said...

I think Jeff meant "Megan." Nice review in the NYTBR yesterday! I hope DARE ME sells a zillion copies! My go-to fiction that never disappoints is John Mortimer's Rumpole books.

Anonymous said...

Yes, my brain doesn't work as fast as my fingers all too often. And I never seem to proofread until after I post.

Thanks, George.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, guys. I hope so too.
In the past my go to writers were O'Nan, Munro, and a bunch of crime writers. But I have gone to that well too often.

F.T. Bradley said...

I'm that way too: if the paragraphs are too dense, I start to fade...

If I find myself unable to finish several novels, I usually read short story collections (yours is a favorite, as are Elmore Leonard's and some of King's and Oates').

Sometimes, you just need a reading break.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Maybe that is is. A reading break...but what do I do at lunch then. Or before I go to sleep.
And thanks, Fleur.

Gerard said...

Anything by Gischler but PISTOL POETS and GO-GO are my favorites.

Charles Gramlich said...

The density of the prose doesn't bother me, but it definitely needs to hook me early. One thing that often turns me off is a bunch of dialogue right off the bat. I like some description to center me in the story, and then a mix of different kinds of things thereafter.

Anonymous said...

Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block both believed in starting the story in the middle, then going back to the beginning to explain how the protagonist got into the predicament he is in. Check out any of Block's Evan Tanner books. He'll start out in jail, for instance, then takes a couple of chapters to go back and show the reader how he got there. It works.



Jeff M.

Chris said...

Does it have to be fiction, Patti?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not at all, Chris.

Cap'n Bob said...

The Maltese Falcon or Farewell, My Lovely are both great books and easy to read, IMHO.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I agree. Love them both.

Brian Busby said...

John Glassco's Memoirs of Montparnasse, Patti... but then you knew I'd say that. Predictable, yes, but I know no one who has been disappointed.

Of course Memoirs is non-fiction (or presents itself as such). If it's fiction you're looking for, I suggest Mordecai Richler's unjustly ignoredCocksure.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was able to get COCKSURE from a Michigan library but did not get a chance to read it before the due date came. Will look for both locally.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Our own university has the memoirs. Next trip in.

Anonymous said...

Oh, if we're talking non fiction:

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Leonard Maltin, 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen
Charles Osgood, Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack: A Boyhood Year During WWII
Calvin Trillin, About Alice
Debra Ginsberg, Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress
and most recently, a book I found very moving:
Harvey Araton, Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry and Baseball's Greatest Gift


Jeff M.

Deb said...

On the non-fiction side, I just finished MRS. ROBINSON'S DISGRACE by Kate Summerscale and found it to be a quick and interesting read. It's about one of the first divorces permitted in England after the establishment of the Divorce Court in the mid-1850s. Mrs. Robinson had an affair with a local doctor (a charge he denied) and wrote about it in her diary. Her husband found the diary. You can guess what happens next...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think I read another of her books a few years' back, which was very good.

John said...

Summerscale is good. SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER was a serendiptous discovery for me two years ago.

In non-fiction I'm also drawn to the odd and arcane. (What a surprise!)


COLD: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD's FROZEN PLACES - Bill Streever
History, science and storytelling all about cold weather and how it affects human and animals thorughout the world. Utterly fascinating! Really.

THE LOST CITY OF Z - David Grann
Better than any adventure fiction anyone has ever written. True story of Percy Fawcett's grueling lifelong search for a South American lost civilization.

ZOOBIQUITY - Barbara Natterson-Horowitz & Kathryn Bowers
Cardiologist discovers through working with veterinarians ways to help treat humans by studying the same diseases in the animal world.

As for ficiton: One of the most intriguing books I read earlier this year was BOXER BEETLE by Ned Beauman. Couldn't stop reading. Most original and strangest book I've read in a long time. Funny, suspenseful, weird, sick -- everything I love about fiction.
Maybe the only book that mixes entomology and Nazi war memorabilia collecting in one story.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Berger's novel, Killing Time