Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

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Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by The Wisp on Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:01 pm

I just bought myself a new Kindle for reading more philosophy and other assorted non-fiction, but since I have it I also want to get back into reading fiction. The problem is that I'm simultaneously feeling overwhelmed at the sheer number of books there are to choose from (how should I pick?) and feeling like I don't know how to find books I will actually enjoy reading.

When I was in high school I read a decent amount of fiction (independently of required reading for school). I wasn't a voracious reader by any means, but when I found a book I liked I devoured it, often going through a whole novel in a day or two. I probably read about a good 8-10  novels a year (including a handful of rereads). However, it has been over a year since I've read any novel, and I think the last time I read a novel all the way through was a reread. I can count the number of novels I've read/listened to all the way through for the first time since leaving high school on one hand. I probably would have read more but I wasn't sure how to actually find books I wanted to read. I'd often find books that looked good based on what I liked in the past, but then found myself bored 50 pages into it and never finishing it. I suppose I'm a picky reader (though I've never found a consistent answer to what qualities make a book one I'll enjoy).

So, I want to get back into reading fiction, but I'm not sure how find books I'll enjoy. I worry I'll spend $5-$10 on a book and then stop reading 50-100 pages in (which has happened to me many times before). When I look at Amazon pages of books I've liked in the past, most of the recommendations are of books by the same author, or books I've already read/tried reading.

I'm mostly interested in science fiction (mostly of the philosophical/political/psychological variety, and less of the space opera or "glorified science/engineering thought experiment" varieties), a little fantasy (though I'm even more picky here than with sci-fi, and am generally averse to high fantasy not written by Tolkein), Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy/Discworld-style comedies, and literary stuff (though I've read very little in the past). I like my books to have depth to them.

So, what strategies do you all use to find new books to read? How do determine if a new book is something you will like or not? If you're feeling "meh" about a book early on, do you push through and try to go further or put it down?
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by reboot on Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:16 pm

Try the public library. Most have e-books available and you can sample a variety of authors without buying. Once you find a few you like, you can think about buying some of their books.

As for picking something, the DNL open thread recently had some good books listed. You can also try GoodReads to get reviews and try a few out.
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by Werel on Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:29 pm

The Wisp wrote:So, what strategies do you all use to find new books to read?
You have access to a college library, so two magic words for you: interlibrary loan. It's free, you can get pretty much anything under the sun, and you're not even obligated to find space to keep the books once you're done. I have run my ILL office ragged in the last year. I should get them a fruit basket or something.

I realize you're asking specifically about finding Kindle books, so you might balk at borrowing paper copies, but you could borrow one book by an author with a long bibliography to see if you like their style, and then feel more confident about committing $5-10 for more of their ebooks.

The Wisp wrote:I'm mostly interested in science fiction (mostly of the philosophical/political/psychological variety, and less of the space opera or "glorified science/engineering thought experiment" varieties)

Can I throw out a few of my favorites in the sociocultural sci-fi canon for you? Smile I'm sure you've read most of these, but:

Embassytown, Mieville (you're into epistemology, yeah?); Childhood's End and The City and the Stars, Clarke; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein (you can gloss over the hard sci-fi bits, there's some palatable political quackpottery in there); The Demolished Man, Bester (spot-on about social media in 1952); The Gods Themselves, Asimov (his most tender book IMHO); The Mote in God's Eye, Nivens & Pournelle (a lot of tech shit to slog through, but the Crazy Eddie philosophy is still one of my very favorites); the whole Ursula K. Le Guin repertoire, obviously; Lives of the Monster Dogs, Bakis (cheesy? maybe a little, but still hits me right in the heart); City, Simak (I like all his weird melancholy arcadian sci-fi).
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by Wondering on Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:01 pm

I second reboot's recommendation of the public library for the Kindle. That's how I read a lot of romance novels. I can go through one romance novel a day since they're easy reads (well, before the baby I could), but there are so so many that are utter crap that I find the library is the best way to go through and read, and find new authors, without worrying about a monetary investment that turns out to be not worth it.

One good way I experiment with finding books I like that I've done with both romances and fantasy is to find anthologies. That way, you get a little taste of a lot of authors and can decide whose writing style and topics you like. Once I find an author I like, I usually read everything they've written.

Regarding high fantasy and Tolkien, I used to feel the same as you. But then I read high fantasy by women and found it had a different feel to it than high fantasy written by men. The male fantasy authors I've read seemed to me a lot like they were mimicking Tolkien and falling short (I mean, it's Tolkien. Mimicry is always going to fall short, right? Wink ). But the women authors I liked didn't feel as if they were just mimicking; theirs had a different feel to them. If you want to read high fantasy but haven't found stuff you've liked and you haven't tried women authors, maybe give that a shot?

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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by Guest on Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:07 pm

The Wisp wrote:
I'm mostly interested in science fiction (mostly of the philosophical/political/psychological variety, and less of the space opera or "glorified science/engineering thought experiment" varieties), a little fantasy (though I'm even more picky here than with sci-fi, and am generally averse to high fantasy not written by Tolkein), Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy/Discworld-style comedies, and literary stuff (though I've read very little in the past). I like my books to have depth to them.


Harland Ellison is pretty good at philosophical/psychological stuff, though he mostly wrote short stories. If you haven't read Huxley's Brave New World, I definitely recommend it, it was one of my favorite books in high school. Camus wrote a lot of philosophical books, but not a whole lot of sci-fi stuff, his most notable book would be The Stranger.

Kurt Vonnegut's work is pretty satirical and philosophical in nature and has some sci-fi elements to it, most notably Slaughterhouse Five, because if time travel ain't sci-fi then IDK what is.

I'm not much one for philosophical stuff because a lot of it goes over my head.

I can recommend also Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton, they're science fiction in the sense that he writes about actual science.

Uhhh, that's all I got really. I can also recommend the godfather of Cyberpunk, Neuromancer by William Gibson. Which is in all honesty, one of my favorite books of all time which I forgot how cool it was until I re-read it on a trip to Haiti last year.

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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:12 pm

Some libraries, especially college libraries, are also equipped to handle e-book "loans".

I use my library a bit, but these days I feel like I've already read every canonical classic that really interests me, and my library often doesn't have too much of the new stuff. So I go to an actual bookstore to look for authors I don't recognize. Generally I'll read the foreword if there is one, and the first few pages, to see if I'm hooked by the premise or anticipation. If I'm still on the fence, I'll flip to some random pages in the middle to see if the events being described at that point make me curious. If I'm still on the fence, I don't spend the money. Razz

Anthologies are good, too, to give you a sense of multiple authors' tastes and style. Just bear in mind that some writers are far better at short stories than full novels, and vice versa.
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by The Wisp on Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:42 pm

Thanks for all the recommendations!

By the way, the kindle just inspired me to find more fiction, I'm open to finding free paper books if that's the least costly way to get books! I prefer Kindle because it is light-weight and convenient, but I'll always take a free paper book over a not-free Kindle book.
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by UristMcBunny on Fri Jan 02, 2015 6:08 pm

I always say you can't go wrong with short fiction anthologies by a range of authors - you get a taste of a good variety of writers and a decent selection of stories, and can pick out your favourites to look up more work from.  Web-based fiction magazines are great for this, too - places like tor.com you can read high quality short sci-fi for free. (And I have to recommend the Mammoth Best New SF anthologies that come out every year - absolutely fantastic cream-of-the-crop stuff).


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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by Caffeinated on Fri Jan 02, 2015 6:43 pm

I have a couple recommendations as far as finding good sci fi and fantasy. First, check out the list of works nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the Locus. All three of those awards will tend to steer you toward the cream of the current crop of sci fi and fantasy. And second, I have a couple personal recommendations of books: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (first in a series, one of my favorite books ever, fourth book is coming out some time this year I think), and Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie (came out last year and won a ton of awards, and the second book in the series just came out last month).

Edit: Also! If you want a bunch of fiction to read in ebook form for one low price, consider buying a supporting membership to the World Science Fiction Convention (better known as WorldCon). It tends to run about $50 (it varies from year to year) and gives you voting rights on the Hugo Awards for that year. As part of the package, the publishers have started allowing the con to send its members ebooks of the nominated works so you can read them before you vote on them. So you get not only novels but also novellas, novelettes, short stories, and a variety of other stuff.
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by waxingjaney on Fri Jan 02, 2015 10:01 pm

Werel wrote:quackpottery
Heh, that's a good way to put it.
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Re: Getting (back) into reading fiction, how to find books that you'll actually like

Post by Lemminkainen on Sat Jan 03, 2015 2:15 am

Werel wrote:
The Wisp wrote:So, what strategies do you all use to find new books to read?
You have access to a college library, so two magic words for you: interlibrary loan. It's free, you can get pretty much anything under the sun, and you're not even obligated to find space to keep the books once you're done. I have run my ILL office ragged in the last year. I should get them a fruit basket or something.

I realize you're asking specifically about finding Kindle books, so you might balk at borrowing paper copies, but you could borrow one book by an author with a long bibliography to see if you like their style, and then feel more confident about committing $5-10 for more of their ebooks.

Oh hell yes, this. As for specific recs, Liu Cixin's "Three Body Problem," recently translated into English, seems like it might be up your alley. Also, if you haven't checked them out, Neal Stephenson's Anathem and The Diamond Age (the latter of which is my favorite of his novels) sound like they might fit.

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