Choosing What To Read Next



It’s a question I get asked a lot; how do you wade through all the book covers and titles to find something you really want to read, especially when it might possibly mean laying out cash on something you don’t enjoy?

First, I set myself a book budget. I pick a subject I’d like to read about, and one I maybe could be persuaded to read about. Then I head for a good bookstore rather than choosing online, but it needs to be one with thoughtfully chosen stock – either an independent shop or a great big flagship like Foyles. Not all Waterstones are the same – there are two near me, one of which never has anything I want, while the other always holds surprises.

I’m prepared to chuck a surprise book into the mix. I check the price on Kindle; there may be an offer on the title that’s a third of the print version. About titles, I go half-and-half, one new book plus one older novel. Sometimes I’ll try a writer I’ve never read before but about whom I’ve heard good things, so I take recommendations from people I trust.

Sometimes it’s worth trying a genre you never normally touch. If you’ve never read SF, try a classic first, perhaps ‘Dandelion Wine’ by Ray Bradbury. If you’re thinking about crime, look at the subdivisions – I’m catching up on my US authors at the moment; crime novels seem to be the particular forte of writers who live in states like Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and California.

I give big crime bestsellers a bash but am frequently disappointed. I disliked Anthony Horowitz’s ‘Magpie Murders’ and found Paula Hawkins’ ‘Into The Water’ incomprehensible, so I tend to avoid heavily promoted books unless they have direct appeal, and pick subjects that interest me. The last five titles I bought (all of which I enjoyed/ am enjoying) were;

‘The Human Flies’ – Hans Olav Lahlum

‘A Very British Scandal’ – John Preston

‘Dodgers’ – Bill Beverly

‘Ghosts of Spain’ – Giles Tremlett

‘His Bloody Project’ – Graeme Macrae Burnet

Generally, there’s no pattern behind my choices, though. I can be swayed by subject, author, description or a cool cover depending on my mood – and there are times when you just have to buy a book, even though you’re not short of things to read.

If I really enjoy something I’ve bought more cheaply on Kindle, I often buy it again as a keeper. I think I’m probably a publisher’s dream purchaser, although much of what I buy can be legitimately claimed as a business expense!

12 comments on “Choosing What To Read Next”

  1. Rachel Green says:

    I had the fortune to come across Andrew Cartmel recently. “The Vinyl Detective” was most enjoyable.

  2. Steveb says:

    Just to prove my lack of taste… I have never forgotten this book cover. I bought the book – an enjoyable fantasy romp – purely on the cover

    Anyway the point is – a cover really can sell a book.


  3. Vivienne says:

    Maybe I’m really sad but I have about 22 lists I’m working through as well as books I own but are unread and then a set of B&M and other Fowler works.

  4. Jan says:

    Best you join a library Chris save you all this bother.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Bet you he has a library card, but I don’t know that I would want to lend him e-books given his history with e-devices.

  6. Roger says:

    Given the problems CF has getting through the books he buys, what would happen with a library card?
    On the other hand, the London Library is very good for old academic texts and the BL – by having just about every book ever published in the UK, but making you wait a couple of hours between ordering a book and getting hold of it to read indoors – is an excellent trainer in deferred gratification.

  7. admin says:

    I have a library card, Jan – for the greatest library in the world…the British Library.

  8. Jo W says:

    It beats me exactly where you find the time to read,Chris. You always seem to be so busy.

  9. brooke says:

    How often are you over-budget?! Library cards are very useful things; especially with overdrive.

  10. Jan says:

    To my shame have not paid a visit to the new library up at the X. Loved the old place isn’t it strange now when u go into the central open space Goethe museum to think what it once was?
    Mind you the authorities solemnly promised the central Disneyworld n it be visible from the surrounding squares yet it is.

  11. Jan says:

    Should read at the museum and where this spell check got Disneyworld from I don’t know the central glass dome- that greenish tinted structure

  12. PJ says:

    IMr. Fowler,

    I very much enjoy reading your books and look forward to each new installment in the careening careers of Bryant and May. The Land memos are hilarious, but, really, too outrageously witty to come from Land. I think it’s obvious that when writing them he is undergoing mind control by Bryant.

    Yours truly,


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