My thing-I-read-while-not-reading is well-divided nonfiction. The Girls who Went Away was ideal for that-- it's full of stopping points. This requirement comes from the fact that a lot of the time, I need a book to eat. It might be too late to start a novel, I might have only books I am not in the mood for, I might be desperate for anything that will help me sit still through a bowl of soup because it's a weekend and those are not great for eating, and there it is, the book on polio or Big Big Love or something biological and enormous.
What do you mean, too late to start a novel?
I'm generally an all-at-once reader, and I learned a few years ago that if I start a novel after dinner, I'm going to be up until one or two in the morning... in part because if I've started it after dinner, that means I didn't start it at dinner, which usually goes along with me putting off eating for a few hours while I figure out what to read and eat. Some books work better for me when I don't have time to forget what's going on or look at any of the plot logically.
For well-divided nonfiction, consider "Why the Lion Grew Its Mane" by Lewis Smith. It's basically a science RSS feed in coffee table book form... and it's in clearance at several Half Price Bookses.
816: You're not talking about LJ? Oh. Um...
817. (a) This could be a very long reply, because there are so many wonderful ones. And I need subcategories for the ones I loved when I was young, as opposed to the ones I love now that weren't around when I was young. (That is the lovely thing about parenting; you get exposed to a new generation of children's books.)
There are some books we have around the house that you might like, and for me they fit into both categories. 816 and 817.(a)sub B.
Cynthia Rylant wrote a series of six very short books called The Cobble Street Cousins. (2nd grade reading level, more or less.) And because they are short, and because they are everywhere in the house, they are perfect for "I don't know what to read next... oh, right. A Summer Party. That's always a nice one."
The series is genius. If you're paying attention, you can see that Rylant plants it squarely in the late 20th century (there are cars, and there is a very old neighbor who was friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, so she shows the girls her letters from Eleanor). But! There is nothing pop-cultureish to place the girls in any particular town or year. No computers. No Internet. No video games or TV shows or cell phones. (Though the lack of these things kinds of dates them as well.) You can easily imagine it happening "this year," whenever "this year" happens to be.
The protagonists are three pre-adolescent girls (two sisters and their first cousin). Their parents all dance for The Ballet, and are on a world tour for an entire year, so rather than drag the girls all over the world, they parked them with Aunt Lucy so they could go to school and have a normal life. The fact that a young unmarried aunt is happy to act as foster mom for an entire year to three girls AND has a large house with a perfectly cleaned-out attic that three girls can stay in? AND that none of the girls mind that they don't get to see their parents for a year, or that their parents didn't want to show them the world for even part of the year, but instead park them in a very small town? Well, it's fantasy. Shush.
Anyway! They are terribly comforting books, with young girls who are all cousins and bestest friends living in a very safe environment, baking cookies and learning to sew and putting on talent shows, all with the larger goal of fixing Aunt Lucy up with the nice botanist who had a crush on her from afar. And of course the last book is about the wedding...
Edited at 2012-02-20 04:45 pm (UTC)
I definitely do a), b), and c). I also do f) books on science or psychology written for a general audience that are likely to be fast-paced g) books on physical fitness h) cookbooks.
Oh, cookbooks! I love that category for this mood, and yet somehow I do not seem to accrue them by any means. How do you end up with cookbooks?
I used to get quite a lot of them from the library, although lately budget cuts have ensured that my local libraries are generally only open at times when it is not convenient for me to visit.
I get a lot cookbooks as gifts. My family knows that I like to read and I like to cook, and they seem to be more confident of their ability to pick a cookbook that I'll like than their ability to pick an SF novel that I'll like.
I also periodically listen to The Splendid Table podcast, and they interview quite a lot of cookbook authors. Whenever I catch an interview with someone who is particularly entertaining or whose food sounds particularly tasty, I make a note to look for the book in the bookstore. If it lives up to my first impression, I buy it.
You get cookbooks at the Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa twice-annual book sale. You are often well rewarded for digging through the "Organization" (read, church) collections, as that's also where the weird stuff winds up.
Like the one I have on how to cook treats for the outside birdies.
817.e) One book that I want to return to at some point is Reamde by Neal Stephenson, which I started in November but didn't finish before it was due back to the library. I haven't made it a priority to put it back into the hold queue, though I'd really like to know what happens next...
I read magazines I want to throw away because I don't want to read them. Contrasted with magazines I do want to read, which I don't read because I won't be throwing them away.
Oh thank ghod, I am not alone.
2012-02-21 12:38 am (UTC)
Things I read when I am trying to think of what I want to read is such a long list! Most of them fall into the category of "small pieces" or "things I have read before so often that I can pop in and out of the narrative like musing in a memory."
Two favorite options:
Poetry collections I have read before, especially multi-author ones
Fairy tales, mythology encyclopedias, and folklore dictionaries.
(f) Specific portions of beloved books which make me happy or thoughtful or *insert mood here*. The Battle of Helm's Deep. The rant about tonypandy in Tey's Daughter of Time. McPhee's Annals of the Former World. Mike Ford's comments on Making Light. Parts of various Pratchett books, likewise certain bit's of Gaiman's stuff... oooh and Good Omens at just about any page it falls open to on being picked up. Bits of Gaudy Night. Parts of various Georgette Heyer books.
You know. The stuff a person reads while thinking what they want to read.
(And, just discovered Annals is available as an ebook, 'scuse me while I go make a purchase.)
I'm afraid that these days, what I read when I'm trying to decide what to read is "Livejournal." But I do have "books I read when I'm waiting to buy the book I actually want to read," and "books I read when my wife has shared custody of the book I want to read." Mostly Bujold and Kirstein, who hold up favorably even in comparison with current obsessions.