To choose your next book, a lot of you rely on Star Tribune reviews (thank you!), book club assignments, friendly and knowledgeable librarians and booksellers, and websites such as Goodreads.
But Jim Thompson of Bloomington relies on his cat.
“I have stacks and stacks of books to read,” he wrote in an e-mail. “If I really can’t make a decision, I will narrow it down to a few. I take those and spread them out on the floor in front of one of our cats. The first one that gets a good face rub will be my next read.”
He insists that he’s not kidding. “I discovered this by accident,” he said. “I had a bunch of books on the floor in front of me while I was trying to decide. Cat approached, sniffed a couple, rubbed her face on one, and that was how I chose my next read. I do think it has something to do with my scent on the books.”
In a column a few weeks ago, I wrote about Minneapolis author and teacher Jack El-Hai and his method of choosing his next read; it involved a random number generator and many shelves of books. This isn’t a competition, but if it were, Thompson might have the edge on El-Hai.
But many of you have creative methods.
Linda Paumen of Buffalo, Minn., has so many books she goes by copyright date; the oldest book is the next one she reads.
Bart Berlin of Shoreview finds an author he likes and just keeps going. “I usually choose my next book by reading all of the author’s works,” he wrote. “Many years ago, at 15, I think, I read ‘Shogun’ by James Clavell. My next book was simply to keep reading Clavell. This was a much better choice than when I was 13 and read ‘The Trial’ by Kafka followed by all of Kafka.”
Now, he is reading in alphabetical order. “Two books per letter. One by male and one by female.”
Minneapolis resident Hal Davis relies on geography, and his wife.
“I have three reading stations — dining room, bedroom, porch — with shelves near each,” he said. “I place the books on those shelves depending on mood: dining room for more immediate titles, bedroom for midrange interests, and the porch for leisurely long-term pursuits (a lot of history titles are there).”
That’s the geography part. Now for the wife part: “One day I was complaining about a book I had selected. My wife, Elizabeth Peterson, solved that problem. She removed it from my hands and replaced it with ‘Doc’ by Mary Doria Russell, which I loved immensely. Thereafter, Liz arranged the shelves so that I never quite know which will be the next book. It’s worked well. Once she noticed I was reading three biographies. That was quickly remedied with fiction at the dining room station.”
Meanwhile, Lara Willard of North St. Paul chooses books “using the McLuhan test, aka the 69 test. Turn to page 69, read it, and decide which book’s 69th page piques your interest or fits your mood best. I think it’s such a good indicator of the feel of a book.”
She also has a method for abandoning a boring book. “Subtract your age from 100, and that’s how many pages you should read before you give up on the story. If I’m thinking of abandoning a book, I just skip the middle third and see if it picks up again. If it still doesn’t, I read the last chapter. I always want to know the ending!”
As do we all.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks