There have been times that I’ve read a book because of the cover or due to curiosity or occasionally boredom and sometimes I just want to read something that is different from my usual fare, it’s a all bit ad hoc. At the moment I’m reading Life of Pi because of all the publicity for the film.
Often I try to make a connection from one book to another. I read Robinson Crusoe last year after a trail of connecting stories. It started a while back with The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’d found a newly published paperback in a second-hand shop and liked the design, I had read my way through Sherlock Holmes not long before and thought it would be interesting to read another Conan Doyle outside of Baker Street.
When I first received my Kindle I loaded it with free books, one of which was The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne, it’s from the same era as The Lost World and I thought it would another enjoyable boy’s own adventure. There is sequence in the book where they are growing corn; planting only a third or half of the seeds, and then cultivating the whole crop for seed, which reminded of Robinson Crusoe, so I went back to Daniel Defoe. I had read Robinson Crusoe maybe ten years earlier and found it heavy going. This time I found it a lot easier to get through and after I’d finished the first part decided to find an account of Alexander Selkirk.
Daniel Defoe lived near here and two streets away is a road named after him with blocks of flats named; Defoe; Flanders; and Selkirk. His story is one of those that you ‘know’ without ever actually reading and finding a definitive version was difficult. I ended up downloading a 19C children’s copy. From there went back to The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and then onto 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, linking back to The Mysterious Island. It was quite a journey.
1984 has led me to Brave New World and most memorably to We by Zamyatin, which neatly connected my Russian obsession with Orwell. It also influenced me to buy David Peace’s 1974, Anthony Burgess’s 1985, Arthur C Clarke’s 1984: Spring.
I read The Diary of a Murder by Lee Jackson, which is set in Victorian London, which led to The Whitechapel Murder Mystery by Rob Hamilton, a fictionalised account of the Ripper murders, which naturally led to various accounts and theories of the identity of Jack the Ripper. If I can throw my pennyworth in; we will never know, if the evidence existed to prove that one person or another was The Ripper, then that evidence no longer exists, but of course that’s just a theory.
Sometimes it’s as simple as seeking out other works by the same author or, if it’s a small publisher, other books with the same imprint. I spent a while looking up Serpent’s Tail books. Music provides inspiration as well. I read Atrocity Exhibition because of Joy Division; Yukio Mishima thanks to The Stranglers.
I’m not sure whether making connections keeps my literary diet varied or leads me down blind alleys, after Life of Pi…?