Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where to Find Great Reads....

All of the "best of" year-end booklists that I've been reading have made me consider where I found my year's favorite titles.  Granted, many of my favorites have been review copies, but they were sent with the understanding of what kinds of books I like in advance (literary fiction, translated works, poetry, etc). Graywolf Press, Archipelago, Aquila Polonica, and Melville House especially seem to put out really great stuff that I love. So, beyond those, where have the best books been found?  And what hasn't worked?

A big winner for finding unique titles...visit the blog roll to the right to find some great reading.  Much of what I've purchased has come by means of recommendation from these other bloggers who enjoy non-mainstream titles.  Lisa's Other Bookshelf is a great example...Also, the blogs for Open Letter and the Quarterly Conversation consistently discuss titles of note.  FriendFeed is also a great way to combine feeds from different blogs and get a weekly update.

Updates on Goodreads: More helpful than LibraryThing's recommendations, the Update feed on Goodreads is really cool to see what your friends are reading. Besides blogs, this is my main place to find a great title...I'm always happy to see what Irene, Erma, Daisy, Lisa, Tara, and Chrissie are reading!

The New Yorker and Rain Taxi seem to be the only print magazines that feature titles that look interesting...definite win!  Rain Taxi features smaller presses usually, and even the ads are helpful to discover new reading avenues.

While I just had to have subscriptions to the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books,  I probably won't resubscribe.  These look scholarly but too often feature political titles or the usual suspects, maybe only one or two books out of each issue appeals to my off-the-grid tastes.  They do have advertisements from university presses that list interesting titles...and of course, the personals sections aren't to be missed. But to pay that kind of money and only read the personals, nahhh.  Not worth it.

Bookmarks magazine has to be the worst of all...there's not even personal ads to laugh over.  All the magazine does is compile the reviews of other media outlets, summarizes them, and regurgitate pages of the same books all the time.  Over a year, I haven't found a single title that looked interesting in this magazine.  Book Pages, however, can be found free at most libraries and is far more comprehensive.

Retail sellers:  Barnes and Noble often doesn't have titles that I'm looking for, and that goes for the website and the local store.  My local Borders has a great layout but way too much merchandise and too little in the way of literary fiction.  When you go in for a classic, and can't find it, you know they're not going to have a book from GLAS or Object Press.  And while seems to be bashed as the online bully, at least they continually have the books I want.  Small press or big, it's there.  Not to be ignored either is that they often help me in finding similar titles.  I go to the site looking for one and end up with five.  With the 2-day prime membership, it's almost instant bookie I can throw in a toy for the kid and never have to leave the house.  

Newspapers:  the Sunday NYTimes and LA Times are both helpful but their coverage is limited.  And it keeps shrinking!  Often they are dissecting the same titles as every other outlet (Freedom?).  I will still keep up with the LA Times, if only to look for the elusive perfect book via the obituaries section....I have it on good authority (you know who you are!) that the obits is the place for great books!

Databases:  Looking at articles on Proquest or the Literary Reference Center usually results in searches with similar authors or titles offered.  One search can yield a bunch of great results.  I find Infomine to be kind of worthless....

SO, how did YOU find your favorite books of 2010???  Leave a comment...


  1. Amy -

    I also use book awards, e.g. Edgars and Daggers for crime fiction. I have gone back as far as 20 years looking for titles that I may have missed. Such awards have also led me to series that are consistently top notch.

    I also use Amazon for a lot of research. When I find I book that is truly exceptional, I check out the Amazon reader reviews (when I remember) because the reviewers often mention similar books that they enjoyed as much or more so. Also Amazon in its description for a particular book will list other books that people have bought who purchased the subject book, as well as other works by the same author.

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

    Ken in McLean, VA.

  2. I find a lot of my favorite books through similar sources, particularly publishers and blogs that focus on translated fiction, and those never-ending Goodreads updates. I also occasionally get ideas from the New York Times Book Review but they often lag behind bloggers. Like you, I would read more of the New York Review of Books if there were less political commentary, but a friend subscribes and we do a magazine swap, so that works well for me!

    Beyond what you mention, I'm lucky to have an independent bookstore close by that hosts readings and sells an eclectic selection of books. I also find stacks and stacks of books every year at the Friends of the Library book sale. It's great! I love asking people what they're reading, too, because I never know what I'll hear and learn...

  3. Thanks so much, Amy, for including Aquila Polonica in your list of small presses whose titles you like!

    I agree with your mixed feelings re the NYRB. But no one compares lots of titles on the same subject or does a major takedown on a book better!

    Amazingly enough, I've found some wonderful, offbeat titles via Twitter. Then there's the good old-fashioned method of getting lost among the shelves of my local library.

    Also been introduced to new writers via your blog! So, thanks! And happy new year!

  4. I used to love reading the New York Review of Books; I had a subscription for a few years, mostly in college, and just don't have the time to read it anymore. It's so great though. As far as where I get my reads, mostly from browsing bookstores and often from blogs. But I have a lot of interests of my own and a lot of great bookstores around so I rarely need suggestions!