My method for selecting books is a three step process. Step One: attractive cover. I know, I know, but that's the first thing that draws me to a book. If it passes step one, then we move on to Step Two: checking the stats. This includes, intriguing title, author recognition, and awards. I'm especially a sucker for Pulitzer Prize winning books. I think, at one point, I had the idea that I was going to plow through the whole list of Pulitzer winning novels. You know, they keep adding a new one every year... I'm a little behind. Step Three: captivating first page. Sometimes I read a sentence, sometimes a paragraph or maybe even the entire first page. It is at this point that I make my final decision.
So today, I found The Vanishing Moon, by Joseph Coulson. It's published by Archipelago Books and it's wider, proportionally, than most books are. The unusual proportions and warm gray cover caught my eye first. On the front is a Gustav Klimt painting titled Birch Forest. I'm not familiar with the author, but it did pass the "intriguing title" test.
So, I opened it..
The book opens with a poem by Li-Young Lee:
The moon from any window is one part
The part I can't see
is everything my sister keeps to herself.
This reminded me of a quote by Mark Twain: "Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." I've always found that quote interesting, and after reading the Lee poem, my curiosity was piqued. I flipped to the first page of the first chapter and started to read. The summer of 1931 was a season of dying trees. Had we talked to any of the farmers who lived nearby... it was at this point I decided to get the book.
I guess it's just a feeling, but I really liked it right away. Maybe it was because the author was immediately linking pivotal moments in the lives of the characters with seasons and nature and I find stories that create a parallel between the characters and other, bigger, possibly unrelated events to be interesting - especially when it's nature. Not because nature is pretty, but because it is so vast and beyond our control. It also took me instantly to summer, but in another era, and I like books that take me to another time or place - I guess all books are supposed to do that, but the farther the better, I guess is what I'm saying. And just the way the second sentence starts with "Had we talked...", created a good story teller voice and convinced me that this reflection (this story) was worth hearing. There was a pang of bittersweet recollection in just those few words. So, I'm in.
I've read to page 57 today, and added a new feature to my blog: Now Reading. If you have any book suggestions that you think I should add to my reading list, let me know!