As some of you may know, I’m a devoted reader of crime/mystery/detective books. Among their authors, Agatha Christie stands, for me, not only tallest, but somehow in … a class by herself. Of course the plots are devilish. But along with that — and despite that — her narration just has the most natural quality, with Humour at every turn. Before she was Agatha Christie, here is Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller …
My particular problem, however, is that … I have a MOST challenged memory, when it comes to keeping track of what is going on in a mystery book. So, like all Christies, the first time I read Lord Edgware Dies, I was just totally at sea.
I have just finished reading it again, for the second time. (Or perhaps the third?) In a way, it was even more fun, because I remembered enough not to feel completely flummoxed, yet still was fuzzy on a good part of the goings on.
Oh, here is how the book looked upon its American introduction, in magazine installments Dickens-style. Thirteen For Dinner (or for the book, Thirteen At Dinner) was the original American title. M. Poirot is so proud of les moustaches!
I have long been interested in giving variety to my reading choices, so over the years I have accumulated a repertoire of tools that would give me new ideas for books to delve into. In no special order,
Friends. Of course. But I always wish I had more people in my life who share my reading patterns. In our Internet age, Facebook has helped. (Strangely enough, I have not had much luck, in recent years, with online literary discussion groups.)
Publications I read. The New York Review of Books has been fruitful. The New York Times, not so much. (I have never had any great love for their Sunday Book Review section … though admittedly, I have not checked it out in quite a while.)
Public libraries. Especially the “new books”, “classics”, and “mystery” sections. Often these days, I will just note down a book of interest, and download it to my e-reader later, from another source.
Bookstores. They can also of course supply information — though some new-book vendors can succumb to the faddish in their stock. I used to haunt used-book shops. I still remember that fateful moment when a sales person at New Haven’s Paperback Trader made me aware of Ed McBain and his police procedurals …
Thrift shops. This also is past rather than present. But I am nostalgic for these funky storefronts that almost always had a couple of racks of books somewhere in the back …
“Greatest” lists. “Best novels of the twentieth century”, “Greatest police procedural writers”, etc. Easy to Google these, in various flavors.
Wikipedia articles, e.g. “Mystery fiction”, “Victorian literature”, etc, etc.
References to other writers, in novels I am currently reading. I think that often this is a way of paying homage. I believe I found Lindsey Davis’ series of ancient-Rome mysteries in this fashion.
Literary calendars. At least in printed form, this is a beast that unfortunately seems to have gone extinct some years ago. Perhaps this is related to the rise of the Internet, … but online versions have been hard to come by. (SUGGESTIONS WELCOME.)
One such defunct printed calendar was “On Writers and Writing”. An instance from a year long gone still survives on Amazon:
Every week, you could turn the page to read about a different author. To my liking, it emphasized “literary” writers, delving back into former decades and centuries. I might be reminded about a writer I had once enjoyed … or perhaps told of one who was unfamiliar to me.
My current choice for literary calendar is Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac”. Though I don’t consider myself as a bona-fide writer, this doesn’t deter me from my visits. 🙂 There is a new “page” to read every day. (Or, as you can see, to listen to instead if you wish.) Things always start with a poem:
Following this, there are a number of descriptive entries, tailored to the current date, e.g.
Unfortunately for my purposes, not all the entries are about writers, … though many of them are. If I see a name that intrigues me, I may follow up by reading the Wikipedia article on the given person. There is also the (happily online) Columbia Encyclopedia, with a succinct (and usually spoiler-free) account of the writer in question. Usually these sources are a help to me in deciding which of this author’s books I should start with. (Sometimes it will be the most celebrated one. But often I will choose the work written the earliest … especially if it is part of a series.)
Can anyone suggest other places to get reading ideas? For instance, are there any websites (or apps) that, if you input your reading tastes (Authors A, B, C), will suggest that you should try Author D?