I wish I had more time to read, but I need to divide my free time into many different mediums (TV, movies, reading, games, music and podcasts). When I do make time to read, I tend to stick to certain authors I know and am familiar with because I want to ensure that I'm enjoying what I'm reading. Here's an example: With Anne Rice's new Lestat novel coming out, I'll be picking that book up without a doubt. It's been a long time since I've read a Rice novel and I'm really looking forward to it.
The problem with sticking with my favorite authors is that I might not get to read much. Imagine if I only read George R. R. Martin's books? I'd be waiting a long, long time for his next book. Over time, I've tried a few techniques to help me discover new authors. If you're open-minded, there are a few tips to help you discover your next author love.
Serendipity and You
I had picked up the Twilight books before anyone in my circle knew about them and before they had exploded into popularity. But how did I do that? It all happened back in 2005. I remember being on a plane to Atlanta for a work conference and I was listening to a podcast about fantasy books. The hosts of the show mentioned how much they loved Jacqueline Carey's work. I had loaded up the podcast on my iPod because I had really enjoyed the Kushiel's Legacy series. After the hosts ran their interview with Jacqueline Carey, they then went on to recommend theTwilight series. They didn't go into any details about what the books were about and I remember ordering the books from my hotel room from Amazon and figured that I'd have Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse to read once I returned home. The funny thing is that I assumed that the Twilight series would also be edgy and were written in the same vein as Carey's work. The Kushiel's Legacy series has some rather intense sex scenes and I believe is a great example of incorporating sexual themes into a fantasy world in a natural way.
What I didn't know is that Meyer's Twilight would go on to be a worldwide hit and that I had stumbled upon it by accident. I still recall looking at the cover of the Twilight books and having no clue what they were about. If I didn't take a risk, I would not have discovered Meyer's books until much later and I'm happy that I did read the first three books before they became popular. My expectations were lower and I enjoyed the story though some of the characters did annoy me. But in the end, the Twilight series gave me lots to think and write about and caused me to even argue in favor of Meyer's works and how she portrays women.
Follow the Herd
Unfortunately, when Collins' The Hunger Games came out, I missed the boat on that series. By the time the book had bubbled up into my consciousness, I was too busy working on my first Cinderella's Secret Diaries series novel and had no time to read with work, family life and writing. My wife read the book first and I held off on reading it because I didn't want to make time to read the series. When I did read the books, I can honestly say that I enjoyed them a lot, but they didn't have the emotional heft that the Twilight series had for me. Maybe it was because I had stumbled upon Meyer's books and discovered them more naturally, but being told that The Hunger Games was fantastic just built up my expectations too much. Eventually, I did catch up and read through the series quickly and enjoyed the books.
The point is that there are times in which word of mouth can be helpful in broadening my horizons in what I'm reading. Over the years, that's how I discovered Life of Pi and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. If I wasn't open to trying something new, then I would never have discovered such great books. By talking to friends and family, that's how I discovered some great books. I don't normally try a new author because of advertising (sorry marketers), but want to have a contextual understanding of why I should read a book and not because a company's doing a promotion.
Pick a Nebula or Hugo Winner
I just started a new tradition two years ago and I think it's pretty fun. I look at the Hugo and Nebula award recent winners and pick a novel to read while on vacation. I buy the print version of the book so that if I'm sitting on the beach I won't mind if the book gets sand in it or if it gets wet. I find this is a great way for me to see what books are successful in the sci-fi and fantasy genres and forces me to stop and read.
Two years ago I picked up Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 and I loved it. Robinson's book was something that I just didn't know about. No one in my circle of friends had read it and I've been focusing so much on young adult fantasy lately that it was such a refreshing read, delving into an entirely new world that was hundreds of years in the future. Since my experiment worked so well, I picked Anne Leckie's Ancillary Justice this year, and although I didn't like it as much as 2312, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, I would never have come across the book if I hadn't opened my mind up to new authors.
Discovering new books to read is such a complicated process in today's crazy and busy world. I don't have a lot of time and don't know many people who still read on a regular basis. With limited time, I like to focus on books written by authors who are proven to me, but that also limits how I can grow as a reader. These three tips are simple, easy to implement and just might get you cheating on your favorite author. But don't worry, I won't tell.
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Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.