Jump to content


Photo

Taking a Chance on a Book


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,781 posts

Posted 13 February 2012 - 05:32 PM

Last week at the library I grabbed an audiobook copy of Joseph Heller's Catch-22. The book is a classic, but I don't know why. I don't know what the story's about. I think I read the back of the audiobook case, but I'm not sure it told me much. I don't remember.

I started playing disc 1 today, and wow -- I had NO IDEA what the story was about. I still don't know where the story's going. I had no idea that it starts the way it does, or is about the characters it's introduced.

I'm not sure what I'm getting into, but I like it that way. I'm tempted to go pull up a description on Wikipedia or Amazon -- it would only take a second. But I haven't done that since I checked out the audiobook, and I don't think I'll do that quite yet.

Have you ever just picked up a book and dived (dove?) in? Have you been burned doing this, or pleasantly surprised?

Edited by Christian, 13 February 2012 - 05:33 PM.


#2 Tyler

Tyler

    Hello, other adults!

  • Member
  • 6,160 posts

Posted 13 February 2012 - 06:04 PM

I really liked Watership Down, by Richard Adams, when I was younger. Once I was looking through my library's science fiction section and saw a book that I thought was by the same author (it just said Adams on the spine). The title of the book was The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I think I was still waiting for some talking rabbits to show up when I finished it. Of course, I eventually figured out that Douglas Adams and Richard Adams were different people, and that I liked reading both of them.

#3 Darren H

Darren H

    Member

  • Member
  • 2,346 posts

Posted 14 February 2012 - 08:24 AM

I'm a little obsessed with Patricia Highsmith right now because a couple months ago I decided on a whim to pick up a cheap used copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley. I was up late last night finishing another of her novels, The Blunderer, and at the moment I'm pretty well convinced she is one of the great American writers of the second half of the 20th century.

Catch-22, incidentally, is more responsible for my degrees in English than any other novel. I first read it in a sophomore-level American lit survey, which was exactly the right moment in my life for me to find it. It made me love books again.

#4 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

    "I like the quiet."

  • Member
  • 3,682 posts

Posted 14 February 2012 - 08:57 AM

I picked up Daniel Abraham's A Shadow in Summer based solely on the praise George R.R. Martin gave it. I knew nothing about the plot, or what sort of critical or commercial reception it's received. I just knew it was a book that you'd find in the fantasy section of a bookstore. (Which could be really good or really bad, but usually the latter.)

I ended up loving it. The novel was a drastic departure from the more Tolkien-influenced fantasy out there (which seems to be most fantasy). It relied more on subtle character development and conversation than action or magic or whatnot — in fact, there was very, very little action at all. I'm excited to read the rest of the series now.

#5 J. Henry Waugh

J. Henry Waugh

    A Real Reactionary

  • Member
  • 309 posts

Posted 14 February 2012 - 09:53 AM

I've checked out library books based on their cover/blurbs for years. My favorite discovery of someone I'd never heard of before is Ken Bruen.

#6 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

    "I like the quiet."

  • Member
  • 3,682 posts

Posted 14 February 2012 - 10:26 AM

I've checked out library books based on their cover/blurbs for years. My favorite discovery of someone I'd never heard of before is Ken Bruen.


When I worked at Borders, I did the same - but with buying (since we got a nice discount, and I had little clue how to wisely manage my resources back then). A few others I took a chance on:

Pete Dexter - Train (liked a lot)
Joseph O'Connor - Star of the Sea (adored)
Ed Conlon - Blue Blood (loved)
Alan Furst - Red Gold (liked a lot)

Got all of them because the cover caught my eye. Glad I picked them up.

#7 BethR

BethR

    Getting medieval on media

  • Member
  • 2,853 posts

Posted 14 February 2012 - 10:30 PM

A long time ago I picked out a book at the library called Queens' Play, probably on the title, since many library books lack dust-covers, and maybe because of the epigraph stating "The chapter headings are taken from the Brehon Laws," the 5th c. Irish legal tracts, although most of the novel is set in 16th c. France and England. The chapter titles that came out of these were priceless:

Part One: The Vulgar Lyre
"My son, that thou mayest know when the head of a king is upon a plebeian, and the head of a plebeian upon a king."
The Fork Is Chosen
I. Silent in the Boat
II. Dieppe: The Pitfalls and the Deer
III. Rouen: The Nut Without Fruit
IV. Rouen: Fine, Scientific Works Without Warning
V. Rouen: Fast Drivings for the Purpose of Killing
VI: Rouen: The Difficult and the Impossible


As the story unfolded, I realized I had no idea what was going on or who the protagonist was supposed to be--he was in disguise, and I couldn't figure out who he was or why he was doing anything, but I just couldn't put the book down because it was so beautifully written, suspenseful and intriguing. Somewhere in Part Two things started making sense, and eventually I discovered that this book was the second novel in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. After I finished it, I went back and started over with the first book, The Game of Kings, and read the whole series. Best historical novel discoveries ever.

I try to forget the bad ones, but recently my sister and I came across a novel in B&N called Searching for Pemberley by a Mary Simonsen. The blurb and enthusiastic reviews made it sound like a pleasant bit of Jane Austen-ite fluff. Instead, it turned out to be the most tedious pack of kitsch I've ever tried to read. I got about halfway through and just couldn't care enough to continue. The modern (1940s) characters were predictable yet poorly drawn, the "search" for the supposedly "real" counterparts of Austen's Pride & Prejudice characters was incredibly dull. Since there was no indication that Simonsen's "real story" had any basis in history, it was like reading a bland plot summary of P&P with the character & place names changed. Meanwhile, the 1940s story of a small-town American girl finding love in London during the blitz was so predictable that it wasn't worth finishing. So I stopped. This is what happens when fan-fiction gets out of control.

#8 Christian

Christian

    Member

  • Moderator
  • 10,781 posts

Posted 09 March 2012 - 10:58 AM

Catch-22, incidentally, is more responsible for my degrees in English than any other novel. I first read it in a sophomore-level American lit survey, which was exactly the right moment in my life for me to find it. It made me love books again.

Great book, the kind you finish and think, "I need to read that again, and soon."

Darren: I'm sure many trees have been felled for critiques or analysis of the novel. Any you'd recommend?

#9 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Thomist, Christian

  • Member
  • 3,077 posts

Posted 30 May 2012 - 12:43 PM

I've just been pleasantly surprised by Ernest Hemingway's short story collection, In Our Time. I was in a used bookstore in San Francisco during the weekend and decided (because of the film that just came out) to see if they had any Hemingway and there it was, a little book full of 4-5 page stories. I was halfway through the book by the time I purchased it and made it out of the bookstore.

#10 BethR

BethR

    Getting medieval on media

  • Member
  • 2,853 posts

Posted 31 May 2012 - 10:31 AM

I wrote: "This is what happens when fan-fiction gets out of control."
But I was wrong. THIS is what happens when fan-fic gets out of control. No comment.

Edited by BethR, 31 May 2012 - 10:32 AM.