Top ten tips for top ten readsBy Shelley Kenigsberg

Top ten tips for top ten reads
By Shelley Kenigsberg

As 2014 draws to a close you may notice (even be bombarded by) a particular kind of list emerging. It has to do with books. With those to read or buy as gifts or think about in some way. There are many and various sources for these lists: recommendations from a well respected critic, a favourite author, a best friend… and they usually get labelled the TOP TENs… 10 best reads of 2014, the 10 best romance, best literary fiction, best sci-fi, the ten that we wish we’d never started but stayed obedient to the ‘have-to-finish-the-book’ adage.

Because most of us don’t have enough time to read everything, we need to be discerning and allow for being ‘surprised by joy’ (as CS Lewis said) at the superb finds that may arrive.

So, these aren’t reading lists. It’s a list to make your own. I hope it saves valuable time so you can spend it reading, and that it helps you avoid tsundoku — the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other such unread books.

Of course, you’d definitely gain from getting hold of titles from 2014’s UWRF writers… but if you’re looking for more after that, here’s a way to start.

1.? Find your genres. Identify what you like to read (crime fiction, literary fiction, memoir/autobiography) and seek one in that genre that calls to you above all the others on a bookshelf (real or virtual).
2.? Expand your genres. Make a selection from a genre you think you’d NEVER read (crime fiction, literary fiction — you get the picture) and choose one to try. The more you work to open your reading mind and habits, the happier your reading life will be.
3.? Speak to family and friends about their recommendations. Try to elicit the specific element that thrilled or intrigued them (great plot, superbly drawn characters, action) and, if it appeals to you too, chances are you have another title for your growing reading pile.
4.? Search the internet. The international book club thrives online. You can read, buy, sample, revel in a staggeringly wide range of texts… and, with luck, will end up with another ‘must have’ book to lose yourself in.
5.? Check out the website of a favoured author. They will often link to or recommend other authors and their generosity of spirit/genuine encouragement can be a source of inspiration for your next read, too.
6.? Check out a trusted newspaper’s book reviews. Get to know the critics/reviewers and see if you can align your tastes with theirs. Makes future choices a breeze!
7.? Go for prizewinners (and more). Choose to read all the Asia Literary Prize (formerly Asia Man Booker) winners for the past 10 years. Or the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature or … the Pulitzers. And, particularly because there are so many different languages being written in in our Asia-Pacific region, go for translated works! The very impressive Icelandic writer, from UWRF 2014, Sjón, for starters. And don’t head for only the winners but consider all those on the shortlist.? It’s a great way to keep abreast of the books conversation.?
8.? Online reviews.? More and more websites(Amazon or Goodreads, for example) are, effectively, global book clubs. They do tend to the sales pitch of ‘if you liked that, you’ll like this’ but can, still, be a boon to deciding if a book is worth investing your time and energy into. And yes, discernment is vital; not every online reviewer knows their stuff. But the intelligent reviews are easy to spot. They’re the ones that don’t start: ‘Me and my gran, we loved this book’.
9.? Start with the film. Am I really recommending that? Well, sometimes, it’s a way into reading. Thousands of readers (adult and young adult) were drawn to all John Green’s books after having bawled their way through ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ movie. Sure, this idea might fuel the debate about whether films can ever be as good as books, etc.. but I’d also advise not buying the book snob route and just revelling in the world of stories and engaging characters! Get lost in the story… fall in love with ideas and great writing.
10. Let your ears do the reading. The world of audiobooks is emerging, too, as a superb bridge to books for those a little ‘time-poor’ but with the technology (a smartphone, other device?) to plug into a story. You can be transported, perhaps while… being transported? My love affair with audiobooks began in my daily (slow) commute to work in downtown Jakarta (last century!) when the dulcet Garrison Keillor beguiled me with his Lake Wobegone tales. You can easily find sites with thousands of titles.
11. What? There’s an 11. Well, truth be told, this is a way to encourage you to make categories of your own.

In any event, I hope you get a chance to enter one or more books for the most engaging and entertaining space of time it takes and, in turn be refreshed and, as is often the case, changed.

So… till 2015, I’m off and about to practice what I’ve been preaching … Happy New Reading to you all.

Shelley Kenigsberg is an editor and writer and runs workshops and retreats under the banner: Editing in Paradise.