About twenty five years ago I decided I needed a new approach to selecting library books. I always went back to the same familiar authors or spent ages browsing and not choosing. What about all those other books I was missing, the ones with unappealing covers or author names I didn’t know?
I went to the beginning of the A section and took the first couple of books on the shelf. The next time I took the next few. I think that very first book was short stories by an Indian writer. Beautifully written and something I would never have chosen otherwise. I discovered the A section has many African and Indian authors. I came across Isabel Allende and Chinua Achebe to name but two acclaimed writers I would have missed.
When I hit several shelves of Asimov I decided I needed some rules. I wasn’t going to read every book by a single author and I’d skip an author I’d read before. I’d read more if I wanted to but I wasn’t allowed to skip a book I didn’t like the look of. I had to take it home and give it a try. If I came across a series I’d read them in order. It took me years to get through Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books. And he keeps writing more! Right next to Bernard of course, I came to Patricia Cornwell. I reached Janet Evanovich when One For the Money was the only Stephanie Plum on the shelf.
Wow, have I come across some fantastic books. And authors I loved who have since become very well known. Eg Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Louis De Bernieres. Also authors I should have read but hadn’t.
When I was in the late A/early B section a friend said I should be writing down what I’d read so I began keeping a notebook with a rating system from 1 to 10. Not many books score 10. None score less than about 3 because I give up. Those score U for Unfinished.
Flipping through my notebook for this post I see I scored Margaret Atwood 10 for Surfacing. Louis De Bernieres 10 for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. I really liked him.
Quite a lot score 9. I rate 8 as a good read with 9 as having just that little extra magic.
I come across runs of really good books by authors with the same surname or the same first few letters and then I’ll strike a patch of real duds.
I’ve read books by people famous in other fields. Actor Kirk Douglas has written a few mediocre novels as has TV personality Dick Clarke. Rupert Everett wrote a very camp story called Hello Darling, Are You working? Joan Collins wrote a book called Prime Time which is basically a soapy about Hollywood actresses and oddest of all, Uri Geller of spoon bending fame wrote Shawn, a sci fi book which I found very slow and didn’t finish.
I’ve read lots of books that have since been turned into movies and seen movies that seem oddly familiar because I’ve read the book. One example is The Missing starring Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones which I read back in 1998 as The Last Ride by Thomas Eidson. I remember that book. It made me cry. It scored 8 and I think the movie was a good rendition.
I was surprised to learn Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales was taken from a book I really enjoyed by Forrest Carter called Gone to Texas. Similarly Show Boat by Edna Ferber was a great read and a movie I didn’t realise was a book first.
I met some of the great blockbuster authors for the first time eg Michael Crichton, Nelson De Mille and John Grisham and discovered why they are so popular. I was introduced to Clive Cussler’s hero Dirk Pitt back in the early 1990’s. The next book on the shelf was black with no dustjacket so no clue as to the contents at all except the name. It was called Dragons and it was fantastic fun as are all the other Clive Cussler ripping yarns. When Sahara came out a few years ago with Matthew McConaughey, it wasn’t bad but didn’t really do larger than life Dirk Pitt justice.
I’ve only seen snippets of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin on TV. Nicholas Cage is so wrong for the role I couldn’t bring myself to see it, plus the book is so rich, full of such beautiful imagery and covers such a broad span of time, a movie couldn’t possibly do it justice.
On the other hand I think the opening scenes of Nicholas Evans The Horse Whisperer are absolutely true to the book but the ending of the movie is much better.
My library reading has slowed since I began writing but I’m still chugging my way through the shelves to the great amusement of my friends and family. Tell me what letter you think I’m up to now.
And share your favourite or not so favourite movie/ book transitions with us.
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