What Do I Read Next?

One of the most frequent questions I get as a bookseller is a variation on “What should I read next?”

(It’s not the top question. That’s “Do you have a book?” followed by “Where’s the bathroom?”)

It’s actually a fun part of bookselling, helping someone who knows they love a certain book or kind of book find something new and exciting to read.

Except there are a lot of books/genres I don’t know anything about.

Unfortunately I can’t log into something like Shelfari from work (not allowed to log into anything from any work computer). I can go to Google and hope the power of the internet (and/or Amazon’s suggested other books) will bail me out, but there are a few really fantastic websites that can help more quickly. And quick is important – nobody wants to stand around while I putter on the internet trying to figure out what kind of book they want.

These are my go-to websites (depending on the query):

  • What Should I Read Next? – Yes, this actually exists as a website. Enter a title or author and get a list of suggestions of other authors and titles that you might check out. This is my major lookup, especially if someone has read EVERTHING by a certain author or authors.
  • Fantastic Fiction – a great listing of author biographies, lists of titles by each author, and author suggestions. While it’s no guarantee that your favorite author will suggest books that you’ll like, it’s a neat reference and they tend to stay within genres.
  • Wikipedia – If all you need is a list of a series in order, Wiki is likely your quickest lookup. Many series aren’t written book 1 through book 10, and often Wikipedia will have a list both in chronological publishing order and in “plot” order.
  • GoodReads – books by title, author, ISBN, and genre and often with reviews. While the majority of social options aren’t available on GoodReads without signing in to an account, you can read the reviews there without it, and they list new releases by genre.

So the next time you finish a really great book and want to read something similarly awesome, these resources may be able to bail you out – especially if you’re online shopping (or on your phone at the bookstore).

Or, you know, ask a bookseller. That’s what we’re for! (But we do appreciate if you have more than just “I saw a book over there, it had a blue cover, do you still have it?”)

Behold, the Power of Facebook

I am not a Facebook apologist.

I frequently am frustrated with it, check it mostly to delete invitations to parties from friends I’ve not seen in 12 years and who live halfway across the country and to block applications from sending me junk mail. No, I don’t want to play Mafia Farm Pets with you. Sorry. But even I have to admit there are some things that Facebook does well – amazingly well, in fact.

Here, have a cookie and some tea, and let me tell you a story.

When I was a little bitty girl, about 6 years old, my parents “inherited” a piano from my grandparents, who had found it in the basement of one of my grandfather’s churches.

It wasn’t a new piano – in fact, it was a pretty old piano. But it was in good shape, and I wanted lessons, and they needed a tuner. Through some happenstance of fate, the newspaper, a phonebook, and who knows what else (the internet didn’t really exist back then, and we didn’t have a computer anyway), they found a young man who was studying piano performance at … some university nearby, and his father happened to be a piano tuner.

I don’t really remember his father (other than a few mental images of him waist-deep in our piano), but Misha (the late-teenaged kid) came to our house once a week or so for the next 4(ish) years, to give me piano lessons.

He was, by all accounts, a superb teacher.

I remember never feeling like he was talking down to me, and that he had me start composing music from the very first time I sat down at the piano (I still have some of those compositions? and to be quite honest, they’re better than some of the stuff I did in Music Theory I in college). I was too short to reach the pedals, so I played sitting on an old wooden chair with two phonebooks and an encyclopedia set on top. In the winter, he’d come in from the cold, and banish me to the kitchen to run my hands under hot water from the sink until they were warm enough to play. While he waited, he would improvise on various jazz tunes and whatever else popped into his head. I don’t know if I ever heard him play “classical” music other than what I was learning.

Thinking back, I probably did, but it was the jazz I remembered.

Around the time I was 10 or so, I decided I wanted to play the clarinet in the band at school, and was asked to choose between clarinet and piano for lessons. I chose clarinet. Then we moved to Texas, where I continued to play woodwinds, but still tinkering on the piano until High School, where I played in the Jazz Band. I wasn’t the best pianist, but I had fun, and I loved the music.

Every now and again I’d wonder how things had gone for him, considering that he’d been a pretty amazing musician and was playing in clubs even back then.  But Misha’s last name was, to a 6 year old, nearly unpronounceable thanks to the haze of fuzzy memories, and as such, I could barely remember it properly, let alone figure out how to spell it. I tried a few times to see if I could find him, but Google wasn’t that good, and… well, I was guessing wildly at a Russian last name.

Fast forward to this weekend, visiting my parents for my mom’s birthday.

Mom has a huge old box of music, inherited along with the piano, and in it are the books I used learning as a little kid. I went through them, having a happy walk down memory lane at the sight of songs like Grasshoppers Jumping and 10 Little Indians. I got to the end, and there in the back, on my little “Certificate of Merit” for completing the first book in the series, he’d signed his name as my teacher (as well as doodled all over it).

Misha Piatigorsky

I went to Google.

Turns out, our assumption that he’d make it as a musician weren’t far off. You can hear Misha Piatigorsky in a few different clubs in New York, listen to his stuff on Rhapsody, or buy his music.  But Google isn’t the theme of the post. Google let me know he really did still exist, and that he’d been successful.

The power of Facebook is in connecting people.

So thanks, Facebook, for allowing me to say thank you, 15 (or so) years later, to the guy whose fault it probably is that I’m still hanging on to the music.

Or at least, I can blame him for getting me started.

Lack of Competition

Let me preface this story by saying that both Comcast (for cable/internet) and AT&T (for wired land phone lines) have no competition in our area if you want *cable* TV and a dial tone that is a LAND line, not a VOIP/digital phone.

Yesterday was the official day of internet/phone hookups. It did not, in fact, go well.

Mr. Sleazy Comcast Guy showed up right at his little appt window, and was gone by 3pm. (1pm raid time). We have working internet – solely because I got lucky and had brought my laptop with me to have something to do while I waited – but no cable, because we didn’t have a TV there – nobody told us we had to have a TV there, even when I told the appointment making person that it was a vacant home – and since there wasn’t a TV they could check, they won’t leave a box.

Since, you see, it might be broken. And they don’t charge for *service* calls to a broken box, but they WILL charge me a full second installation fee to come and plug in a stupid box once I get the TV at the house.

Anyway

My “appointment” with the phone company to get our land line hooked up – which is required by the security company to have our alarm system working – was 8am to 8pm. yeah. 12 hours. So I told them in really BIG YELLING LETTERS that they needed to call me first, since the house is vacant, and I can’t guarantee someone will be there to let them in.

And then I sat at the house from 8am until 8:30pm.

Nobody called. Nobody showed up.

So I called them this morning?

“Oh, we’re sorry, they were there sometime during the day and just flipped the switch at the street. Since there was a previous line there, we just assume that the jacks all still work and just activate it.”

Didn’t call. Didn’t leave a note. Didn’t even ring the (deleted) doorbell. I have no idea if it works – we don’t even LIVE THERE YET, so I don’t have our phone moved over there. The nice lady on the phone ran a line diagnostic and says it works, but since everything else in the house is broken, that means I get to take a phone around to every jack and plug it in and see which ones work and which don’t.

Not to mention the very weird bundle of wires sticking out of the wall that are supposedly some kind of ancient telephone hook up that I was told to ask our phone technician to test and fix.

I am, in fact, FURIOUS.

(Oh – and she said they would call the phone at the house and give me a survey. apparently she missed the part about NOT LIVING THERE YET.)