Ten Books I Picked up on a Whim (Or Every Book I Ever Picked Up, Ever)

The thing about being a reader who has a (mostly neglected) book blog and a Twitter account where I follow all sorts of bookish accounts (book bloggers, critics, authors, publishers) is that it’s very, very difficult to avoid being influenced in some way when it comes to what I read. Everything on my TBR is something I’ve seen recommended somewhere else, however fleeting the recommendation might be. But almost everything I buy or pick up next is based on a whim (well, a whim based on a list). I rarely plan or schedule or commit (as evidenced by the blog) to anything except the very few authors whose books I will pre-order without question (Alice Munro, Tana French, Donna Tartt, and so on and so forth), and even the arrival of one of these titles doesn’t guarantee it will be my automatic choice for what to read next. Couple this tendency with my willingness to set any book aside that doesn’t grip me at the moment, and you can see, whim is where I live.

Let’s face it: I’m a freewheeling reader. Perhaps I should consider changing the blog name.

Instead of listing every book on my shelf (because that would be way more than 10), for today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), I thought I’d list the last ten books I bought, and the reason why (if I can remember it). Here goes:

Late One Night

Late One Night, Lee Martin. You may or may not have heard me sing the praises of Martin’s Pulitzer-nominated novel, The Bright Forever. Martin has a way with quiet moments in small-town America that renders them both universal and unforgettable.

Mongrels

Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones. Okay, I’m not even going to pretend that horror is up my alley, or that I’m very well-versed in werewolf tales much beyond An American Werewolf in London. I read Jones’s Not for Nothing back in 2014, and let’s just say he has a way with story that makes me think this will be one of those genre-busting books for hardcore horror and literary fiction fans alike.

Mr. Splitfoot

Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt. It was on my TBR, and it was on sale for $2.99 on Kindle. That said, I don’t purchase every book on my TBR that comes up for sale, and I have to say this one was going to end up in my hands one way or another. It just sounds too deliciously unusual to ignore.

Wilde Lake

Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman. I have at least three unread Laura Lippman titles that I could have picked up to read, but instead I had to have Wilde Lake. Why? I read an interview where she mentioned that someone at a reading asked a question about her choice to write the book in alternating first and third person. I’ve been thinking a lot about novelistic structure lately and was so intrigued I felt like I had to read it. Right. Now. So I bought it and I read it and I still don’t know the answer to that question….but this is probably the best Lippman I’ve read, maybe ever.

Into the Darkest Corner

Into the Darkest Corner, Elizabeth Haynes. One of you told me to check out Elizabeth Haynes. It was Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty, as a matter of fact! And this one was on sale and occasionally I do what I am told, so I bought it and will be checking it out. Eventually.

The Round House

The Round House, Louise Erdrich. I have been meaning to read this book for ages. Every time I read an interview with her, I am left with the feeling that I want to read all of her books. Maybe someday I will.

The Circular Staircase

The Circular Staircase, Mary Roberts Rinehart. Sarah Waters said this was one of her influences for writing The Little Stranger. Oh, when are we getting new Sarah Waters?

During the Reign of the Queen of Persia

During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, Joan Chase. Okay, rare instance where I cannot remember where I heard about a book, but it was one of those “I have to have this NOW” purchases through Better World Books. And of course I haven’t read it yet, but I hope to, very soon.

Wild Life

Wild Life, Molly Gloss. Because I loved The Jump-Off Creek, and also was interested in reading more books set in the American West just after I finished Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose.

The Last Child

The Last Child, John Hart. Um…I can’t remember why I bought this. Another used purchase from Better World Books. I have three of Hart’s titles on my TBR wishlist, so I picked one at random. Ta DAH!

So there you have it. What about you: do you plan your purchases? Is reading on a whim unusual for you?

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19 comments

  1. I do no plan purchases. They are very much on a whim. That said, I look at my massive TBR list and choose something.

    I have a hard time with this “on a whim” business. I guess that I don’t know exactly what constitutes a whim. If it’s something that I haven’t put on my TBR on Goodreads, that’s a whim. And that’s VERY rare for me. On the rare occasion I do that, it usually doesn’t turn out very well!

  2. Laila, I guess I think of a whim as anything unplanned. So if I have a gift card to buy books, I generally carefully decide what to buy–that’s planned. That happens once or twice a year. But most other times I just get a feeling that I NEED to read a particular book RIGHT NOW, so I’ll buy it (and yes, it’s generally on my TBR list, but that has more than 400 books on it, so…). Or I’ll see something on sale and buy it on impulse. Or I’ll be fighting my way through a novel and then suddenly think of different book that I already own, and I’ll pick that up instead and read it. That’s how it works for me, anyway! The funny thing is, it’s generally my planned purchases that turn out the worst, because those are the books that end up sitting on my shelf (or reader) while my whims carry me away.

  3. I often get that “want to read it right now” feeling, and go searching for it at the library (which is why I have so many library books to read all the time). But, if it’s not at the library, I put it on my to-buy wishlist and hope that the feeling fades. If it doesn’t, I end up buying it the next time I’m gifted an Indigo card, unless I can find it second-hand before then. Hunting for books is almost as fun as reading them. 🙂
    The only one on your list that I’ve read is The Last Child, several years ago. I remember it being hard to put down.

  4. Naomi, if I were a better person I would use the library for these whims. I feel like almost every book on my list is a “hope the feeling fades” book, with the exception of ones by favorite authors. And honestly, I should do a big purge, given that I can always re-add anything that pops back into my consciousness. I do specially love hunting for used books, and we just got a Half Price Books here so I am probably in big trouble.
    I’m happy to hear your endorsement for The Last Child!

  5. Cathy, I’ve only read The Beet Queen and Love Medicine, both of which I absolutely loved. Teresa at Shelf Love has a review of her new one, LaRose, but I noticed in the comments that several people said that A Plague of Doves was not their favorite.

  6. I think the advantage you could have is that you don’t have anything to compare it to? But then you wouldn’t want to be turned off by it, either!

  7. I virtually never buy books without a plan. I am not an impulse-buyer. Is Stephen Graham Jones — is Stephen Graham Jones the scariest author in the whole world? I read a few of his short stories and, just, there was an awful lot of cannibalism. Is that standard? For him? So much cannibalism?

  8. Jenny, ha! I cannot say if SGJ is the scariest author, nor can I speak to the cannibalism thing. Here’s the lowdown: we were in the same graduate program in English. He was unassuming, friendly, quiet, but he was also known around the department as The One Who Will Make It Big. I don’t know how much horror he was writing then, but his stories had a certain grit. Fast forward almost a couple of decades later, and I see an interview with SGJ on the Dzanc Books site. They were about to release his novel, Not for Nothing, which is pretty much straight up noir meets Larry McMurtry’s Thalia novels. I read that and I have been following him since then, but I’m not really into horror. I liked the description of Mongrels, so I picked it up.

  9. I have just come across your blog and am making my way through your posts. And adding several books to my TBR, thank you  I loved Into the Darkest Corner – a fantastic psychological thriller. And I have been wanting to read the Joan Chase for years after reading the first chapter in a collection of extracts. If you have read it yet, I would love to hear what you thought and if you’d recommend buying it.

  10. Bronwyn, sorry for the late response! Thank you for visiting and saying hello! I’m sorry to say I still haven’t read the Joan Chase, but it’s on my stack to read this summer. I’ve only heard the most wonderful things about it.

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