By Steve Weddle
Musta been when I was 15 or 16. We were piled into a school bus, heading to a track meet. Or a basketball game. I'd ended up without anything to read, though I think I probably had my OTASCO-version of a Walkman and a couple of Psychedelic Furs tapes. Or maybe one tape. You got TALK TALK TALK and what do you need, right?
So we stopped at a McDonald's in Bossier City and Coach handed out five dollar bills for us to get something to eat. I bought a bag of hamburgers and, while the other kids wasted time socializing, cool dude that I was, I eased across the parking to, imagine my luck, a little used bookstore. Great place to spend my left-over burger money, right?
Being in my mid-teens and super cool, I walked back to the bus with a Welcome Back, Kotter novel. I know. I can smell your jealousy from here.
Paperback. Probably twenty-five cents. A picture of the Sweathogs on the cover. Green with yellow font.
I haven't the slightest idea what the book was about. I do remember that it was first encounter with a certain word. Turns out one of the guys was "ogling" one of the girls. Then he "ogled" another one. I know, right? Some kinky stuff.
What drew me to the book was a familiar cast of characters. I dug the TV show and wanted more contact with the world there. So that's why I chose that book. Had I known it would open a world of people ogling the hell out of each other, I'd have picked it up sooner, of course.
My usual read was science-fiction. Harry Harrison. Isaac Asimov. I liked good characters. I liked the Stainless Steel Rat. I liked the Foundation series. Robots. Other planets.
Some occasional science-fantasy. Steve Brust. I liked dragons. Never found much use for unicorns.
So I was buying stories based on characters I liked. Usually series stuff. I find someone I like, I read everything I can about that character. But not from that author. At the time, I wouldn't have read any non-Stainless Steel Rat books by Harry Harrison. I don't know why. Sheesh. I was 15. I didn't know what "ogle" meant, you want me to know why I only read the Rat books? What do you people want from me?
Now I pick books based on recommendations. Whether I know the person in the flesh or on the Twitters, if someone has the same tastes I do, I'll read what they recommend. Shelfari. Good Reads. Facebooks.
We've also got some great book review sites online now, and whatever is left of the print reviews. I still read the London book review and the New York one, both still in print, as well as so many online.
And reviews at the online shops -- Amazons, Powell's, B&N -- and more. And the printed-out sheets of paper pasted up on bookshelves in bookstores.
So 25 years ago I was picking books by looking through the shelves for something familiar. Now I ask around for something new.
How do you pick your next book to read?