Saturday, August 31, 2013

What should I read next?

Earlier this year Nik introduced me to the Jasper Fforde “Thursday Next” series, where books are a commodity, policed by Literary Detectives, and Jurisfiction rules BookWorld. I’m up to the fourth book in the series and already looking forward to numbers five and six, but looking ahead, what will I read after these?

I picked up so many books on my last trip to Europe: titles and authors that aren’t readily available (and nearly as cheap!) in many US bookshops, especially secondhand: Colin Dexter, Josephine Tey, PG Wodehouse, etc. And I brought back a crapton of my childhood books from my Mom’s house this year, too, titles like The Indian in the Cupboard and Escape to Witch Mountain and The Cricket in Times Square.

But I’m really liking the quirky, funky, upbeat vibe that Fforde creates, especially for light summer reading. So what should I read next? Dilemma? Maybe not. 

There’s an app for that! Just input a title or author you really enjoy into, and the magic of the Internet produces a list! 

But how good is the list? Let’s give it a looksee:

Trial 1: I started with the first title in the Fforde series, The Eyre Affair. Here are the first 5 suggestions:
  1. Robert Rankin: The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse
  2. Connie Willis: Bellwether
  3. Andrew Lang, HJ Ford, and GP Jacomb Hood: The Blue Fairy Book
  4. Rosemary Rowe: The Legatus Mystery
  5. Connie Willis: Lincoln’s Dreams
Looks somewhat promising! I’ve heard of the first but haven’t read it. From the descriptive blurb: “a town where toys and nursery rhymes come to life and pursue human activities.” Perfect!

And two Connie Willis titles, neither that I’ve heard of. I’ve read – and really enjoyed – Willis’ time travel books, especially Doomsday Book. But I didn’t care at all for Passage a kind of medical thriller thing she wrote. Bellwether and Lincoln’s Dreams seem like maybes: don't think I'll go out of my way to look for them, but if I see them secondhand I'll pick them up.

The third is kind of a dud: not a bad book and nothing against fairy tales (at least "fairy" is spelled correctly, see below), but not what I’m looking for. 

The fourth is a complete unknown, but the blurb isn’t drawing me in: "investigative exploits of Libertus—former slave and amateur sleuth—this is ancient history with a murderous twist." Meh.

Conclusion: 3/5 stars. One definite, 2 maybes, 2 nahs.

Trial 2: Let’s try again. Another book I’ve read recently and absolutely adored is Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds. Let’s see what comes up with based on this title:
  1. Caitlin Kittredge: Soul Trade
  2. Seanan McGuire: Ashes of Honor
  3. Terri Windling et al.: The Essential Bordertown
  4. Mira Grant: Deadline
  5. Seanan McGuire: One Salt Sea
Wow, a list of completely new-to-me authors! After 3 minutes of Googling, though, I’m not drawn in. Descriptions for the McGuire/Grant (same author, different names) use the word “faerie” and the Windling book has elves. Blecch. (Yeah, it’s a personal bias and probably not quite rational, but I just can’t stand this word “faerie” and I’m not keen on elves.) 
Conclusion: Epic fail. 

Trial 3: Ok, one more and then I promise to stop. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch:
  1. Mary Wesley: The Camomile Lawn
  2. Charles Stross: Singularity Sky
  3. Terry Prachett (sic): Soul Music
  4. Gail Carriger: Soulless
  5. Richard Morgan: Woken Furies
60 second analysis because I'm starting to lose interest in this app: Wesley writes about wartime London, including “new-found comforts of sex” (thank you, Amazon) so adding it to the "maybe" list. The books by Stross and Morgan look to be futuristic-y space scifi, not really what I’m looking for. I’ve not read any Prachett or even Pratchett (amazing the near similarity of the authors’ names), but I have the first of the Discworld novels in my to-read pile already. The fourth on the list, Soulless, is a “comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.” Worth looking for, I think.

Conclusion: 3/5 stars

So overall, although is fun to play around with when you're killing time on the 'net, when it comes to book suggestions, I’ll stick with Nik. He never lets me down.

Graphic by Master isolated images at

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