When you’re selecting the next book you want to read, how do you decide? Undoubtedly, there will be a handful of folks who will suggest a bushel full of popular bestsellers for you, but do they really know your personal taste? Do you?
Maybe books on the current hot list just aren’t for you. For every Life of Pi, Water for Elephants, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there’s a hundred books that your friends have never heard of. Some of my favorite books were the ones I grabbed simply because the description on the book jacket seemed to resonate with me. Take some time to peruse the shelves at the St. George’s library, your public library, or even Chapters; look over the spines and pull a book with an interesting title, a unique font or colour.
Content aside, some authors can sell a book just from having their name on the cover (Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Maeve Binchy, James Patterson, etc.), but what about those who have zero name recognition? It doesn’t matter who the author is – – a book needs to speak for itself in order to find a reader.
Have you ever heard of Carlo Dellonte? Dan Franck? James Lasdun? Does it matter? Not really. The simple act of finding a book you’ve never heard of and discovering that you really enjoy it is the important thing.
Here are a few books that I took a chance on and they now sit proudly on my bookshelf at home, having been read a few times each:
The Coma  – by Alex Garland
The Hollow House  – by Carlo Dellonte
The Horned Man  – by James Lasdun
My Russian Love  – by Dan Franck
The Unnamed  – by Joshua Ferris
It’s interesting to me to see if a connection lies between all five titles. Since none of these came my way via recommendations or popular reviews, there must have been a reason for me to want to read them. If there was a certain “something” about each book, what was it?
Each of the above novels has a single main character, a man, who is lost in his own form of solitude and looking for redemption from past sins. Each book is heartbreaking in its own way and also quite dark and unsettling in nature. We follow the protagonist as he descends into his own personal form of madness and discover profound levels of emotion. Of course, each book is very different and each author has his own specific voice, but it’s interesting when a reader can find a common theme amongst his or her own favourite titles.
Do you have any favourite novels that couldn’t be classified as “popular”? What are they? How did you discover them? Is there an underlying theme that connects them to each other?