Friday, January 14, 2022

Chaos Theory: How to Choose Your Book by Mood


After posting a snappy piece on the complications of planning a reading year, I stumbled upon more innovative methods of choosing books and facilitating their reading.  Enjoy!

1.  Do you crave a salad or salted caramels?

In the salad category:  George Eliot's Romola.  I tried this several times before I finally fell under the spell of Eliot's intelligent historical novel.  I loved it, but will probably not reread. A more challenging "salad":  Vasily Grossman's Soviet novel, Life and Fate, which reduced me to tears and sent me in search of chocolate.  To quote from the book description: "Life and Fate is an epic tale of a country told through the fate of a single family, the Shaposhnikovs. As the battle of Stalingrad looms, Grossman's characters must work out their destinies in a world torn apart by ideological tyranny."

 In  the salted caramel category:  anything by Angela Thirkell, the mysteries of Elly Griffiths, Chekhov's plays and short stories, middlebrow novels by Dorothy Whipple, all of Jane Austen and the Brontes, art books, and tell-all memoirs. (I had to slap my hand to keep from buying a memoir of Natalie Wood by her sister, who speculates that Natalie's death was not an accident.) 

2.  There is nothing like a book about a bookstore to give you ideas about what to read next. In Louise Erdrich's charming new novel, The Sentence, set in the bookstore Erdrich owns in real life in Minneapolis, the narrator, Tookie, keeps a Lazy Stack and a Hard Stack by her bed.  She explains,


The Hard Stack... included Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, two works by Svetlana Alexievich, and other books on species loss, viruses, antibiotic resistance, and how to prepare dried food.  These were the books I would avoid reading until some wellspring of mental energy was uncapped....  On top of my lazy stack was Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, which I was reading again because I liked Rebecca - bad Rebecca - better than the goody-goody shrinking narrator....
A cloth book jacket Nancy sent me.

3.  What if you want to read an old paperback with acidic paper that hurts yourhands? Try cloth book covers.  Nancy, the wonderful blogger known as Silver Season or Silver Threads, sent me a cloth book jacket designed to cover small mass-market paperbacks.  Without this book cover, I could not possibly have read my tattered paperback, Marry in Haste by Jane Aiken Hodge, or Trio by Dorothy Baker, a book that peeled in my hands.  Thank you, Nancy!  We do miss her.  She died in January, 2020.

Ave atque vale, Nancy!  - Catullus

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