Along with all of that, I do have my own quirky, never fail (so far) strategy. I look for titles that include the word book, or reading, bookshop, library, readers, etc. You get the idea - books about books. I think it all started with “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katrina Bivald. It’s a great book, in which Sara, who has recently lost her bookshop job, travels from Sweden to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet her fellow bookworm pen pal, only to learn that Amy has died. The isolated farm community takes in Sara, and as she begins to learn their history, their hopes and their heartaches, she recommends books to them.
This method often leads to other books. “The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek” by Kim Michele Richardson introduces readers to the Packhorse Library system that was established in Kentucky during the 1930s and to the “blue people” of Kentucky, who were carriers of a genetic trait that led to methemoglobinemia - poorly oxygenated blood, which caused their skin to be blue. This book led me to another book that centers around Kentucky’s Packhorse Library system, JoJo Moyes’ “The Giver of Star.” Both books involve intrigue, love, and friendship, while “Bookwoman” also explores prejudice.
Sometimes this method leads to entire series of books. I came across a book entitled “Lost Books and Old Bones.” It turned out to be the third book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series by Paige Shelton. These are cozy mysteries following the amateur sleuthing of Delaney, who left Kansas for a job at an Edinburgh bookshop called the Cracked Spine. If you like a mystery, these are enchanting. Also look for “The Cracked Spine,” “Of Books and Bagpipes,” and a novella entitled “A Christmas Tartan.” Speaking of Scottish bookshops, as owner of Scotland’s largest second-hand bookstore, Shaun Bythell’s observations in “Seven Kinds of People You Meet in Bookshops” are thoroughly entertaining! While most of the personalities catalogued are specific to bookshops, anyone who has owned or worked in an independent retail setting will immediately recognize some people. I’m looking forward to reading his other books, “The Diary of a Bookseller” and “Confessions of a Bookseller,” as well as adding a visit to Wigtown, Scotland, to my bucket list.
Another bookish series begins with the title “The Library at the Edge of the World.” This series, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, takes place in the fictional Finfarran Peninsula of Ireland and follows the librarian, Hannah, who returns home following an ugly divorce. Throughout the series, Hannah not only turns the library around, but also herself. “Library” is a charming book, followed by “Summer at the Garden Cafe,” “Mistletoe Matchmaker,” and “The Transatlantic Book Club.”
Like Hannah, we’ve probably all felt the need to turn our lives around at some point. What if, between life and death, there was a library filled with all of the thousands of stories we might have had based on the different choices we could have made throughout our lives, and all we had to do to live a different life was to choose a book? That is the premise of “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. This is one of the most ingenuous storylines I have ever read. It’s both entertaining and profound. It does deal with deep topics including mental health, family issues, and suicide, but it is so worth reading.
If you can’t decide what to read next, I suggest trying books about books.
by Nancy Carstens