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A few days ago I ransacked my shelves for a selection of books for a family member recovering from surgery.

The criteria: Pick books that A. would like.

I don’t know her very well, so that began round two of questioning.

Does she like mystery? Sci Fi? Distant Past or future? Novels? Short stories? Non fiction?

No, No, huh? Yes, Yes and Yes.

I don’t know about you but that narrowed it down a little, very little. But it also eliminated half of my books. I tend to find authors that I like and read everything they ever set pen to, then move on. So my exposure is deep but not very broad if that makes sense.

I’ve been reading a little of everything lately; poetry, plays, short stories, business law textbooks, and MBA level marketing, just for starters.

Hmm, Shakespeare?

No.

Chekhov? Pinter? Stoppard? Kleist? Rand? Tolstoy? Kafka? Joyce or Kipling?

Yeah! No!!!

I finally settled on current era fiction/non-fiction. Not to gooey, romantic, but with an intrigue or two for spice, set in exotic locations was a definite plus, with a hallmark ending. If not hallmark at least it didn’t end badly, no car crashes, maimed or dismembered main characters and No zombies! She’s recovering from surgery, what she needs is light, fluffy, fun, but with substance that she can sink her teeth into and enjoy like chocolate cheesecake without the calories and sugar hangover.

Given the limited options on my bookshelf, I chose Jodi Piccault, Cheryl Strayed “Wild”, “Under the Tuscan Sun” , and about half a dozen others. I think I did ok.

When someone asks you “read any good books lately?” My first reaction is “why would I read a bad book?” What I really mean is “what exactly is good? What does that mean to you?”

Margaret Atwood says there are 4 kinds of books, good ones that make money, good ones that no-one ever discovers, bad ones that make money, and bad ones that no-ones cares to discover.

Is this good? Read it and let me know.

Then you have to evaluate whether you know enough about the speaker to determine if your tastes and theirs run parallel, or counter-intuitively, or worse polar opposites.

If my daughter likes it, it’s almost a dead giveaway that I’ll toss it in the trash after the 13th page.

Bakers dozen rule.

If you can’t get my attention in 13 pages, if you can’t develop a premise or a character or plot, it’s not going to get better towards the end.

One exception. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, all I can say is WOW.

So out there in cyberspace, read any good books lately? If so what are they?

Winter break is coming and I’ll need a few good books to keep me snuggled in next to the fireplace.

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