Recently I was waiting underground for a train with a friend when we started a discussion about reading. First I told her about the books I was reading, a couple she’d never heard of, indeed that many of my friends have likely never heard of. Then she told me that she wasn’t much of a fiction reader. She said she wanted to read more, but she didn’t know where to look when it came to finding books. She said she usually turned to those first few tables we all come to in every bookstore, the ones that act as serving platters for the books that anyone and everyone could potentially be interested in reading. That’s a good place to start, I said. I said, read one of those books, and if you like it, read more by that author, or read other books from the same publisher.
But she wanted to know where else she could look when she wasn’t in the bookstore. She asked me where I find my books. And I started to tell her about the sites and the blogs and the podcasts I like, and I named off the places I turn to and the people and entities I follow on Twitter. The train came while I was talking and cut me off in the middle of a sentence, and when we got inside the car, I stopped talking about it. I felt like the information I was imparting was getting overwhelming and wouldn’t be of any use. Maybe she’d check out those sites I’d recommended, but then what would she do once she got there? Going to a site loaded with content for the first time is like being pulled into a conversation that you know nothing about and to which you have nothing to add.
In retrospect, that day on the train was pretty close to as good a starting place for my friend’s new exploration of fiction as any. She had shown great interest in what I had said at the station, and we certainly had the time during the train ride to converse further about what I was reading and what compelled me to read those books. Perhaps I could have told her more about the characters and plots. Perhaps I could have lent her the books right there, despite that I was in the middle of both. She could have read my copies, and I could have taken copies out from the library, and we could have discussed our reading experiences. But instead of any of that, we changed the subject there on the train.
Christopher Newgent is someone who isn’t changing the subject. In fact, when it comes to Christopher’s new book-promoting endeavor, Vouched Books, talking about books is the only subject.