Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Tips…to find good books.
If you’re a serious reader, how do you find recommendations beyond reviews of what’s just been published?
1. My friend Jesse Kornbluth runs a fantastic site, Head Butler, crammed with recommendations for books, music, movies, and products. The site has steered me to a lot of great reading, like Maupassant’s Bel-Ami and Maugham’s Cakes and Ale.
2. Persephone Books reprints forgotten classics of the 20th century (mostly novels), and their list is dependably terrific. The lengthy book descriptions on their website are a big help if you feel like reading a certain kind of book—about the lives of three cousins, say, or about a village during World War II. The books are beautiful, too—dove-grey with gorgeous endpapers and matching bookmark.
3. I love the magazine The Week, especially the weekly “The Book List,” where a different author recommends six books. The Week also provides an “Also of interest…” round-up each week: “great works in new packages” or “books about baseball.”
4. Slightly Foxed is a wonderful British quarterly about books that have survived the test of time. (“Slightly foxed” describes a volume discolored by age.) Each issue is a collection of very short, charming essays by writers on their favorite books. I always end up with a good list—that’s how I discovered Angela Thirkell. (A Slightly Foxed subscription also makes a great gift for bookish friends.)
5. Keep a running list of books you want to read, and be sure to include a note on why you want to read them, because you will surely forget.
6. Push people for recommendations, and add the suggestions to your running list. This is particularly helpful if you want to venture past your usual fare.
7. Nabokov, I think, said that “All good reading is re-reading.” For the last few years, I’ve been re-reading the classics that I read when I was too young to appreciate them properly, like War and Peace, Moby Dick, and Great Expectations. And you know what? They’re GREAT. War and Peace is as addictive as Stephen King’s The Stand (a book I stayed home from work to finish).
8. I’ve never had good luck with the lists people post on Amazon, but the reader reviews of individual books are often useful.
Remember: whether you’re going on vacation, to the dentist, or on the subway, always take more reading material than you expect to finish.