How Do You Choose A Book?
I’m drowning in books. The TV hasn’t been on in weeks – months – I’m reading four books at once and still can’t keep up. Why? Because I’m reviewing them as well as trying to keep on top of my chosen personal reading, and also researching my own novel. Press space is more limited than ever, and it’s simply not possible to cover more than a fraction of the books received.
Yesterday, I laid all the books I’d been sent in the last month on the floor. They covered the room from one end to the other. From these I had to pick two to review, and suddenly found myself turning in a publisher. I read the first chapter and parts of each book – as you’d browse in a shop – and was quickly able to decide which I wanted and why. The chuck-out stack quickly grew.
So here’s the problem. Most of us shop online for books – but we’re encouraged to conduct our book selection in a completely different way online – by choosing from reader reviews rather than what we can see. OK, Amazon has those ‘Look Inside!’ arrows, but they only show the first six or seven pages. But that’s not how I decide if a book is for me.
Which is why bookshops remain essential. You need to be able to choose a novel from something more than what other people have told you. A reader might give a book five stars, but if I open a page and see ‘She fell to the floor like a limp rag’ (from, I think, ‘Labyrinth’) I know it’s not for me.