How Do You Choose A Book?

Observatory, Reading & Writing

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.

5 comments on “How Do You Choose A Book?”

  1. Lynsey says:

    Wow! Your bookshelves look worse than mine!

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Other people recommend books to me, I hear discussions/interviews on the radio or I already have read something of the author’s. I belong to a bookcrossing group and have books thrust at me, which is how I came to read Mr. Singh’s “Code Book”. That is not one I would normally read, but it turned out to be both entertaining and informative. The same person gave me Kafka’s “Castle” (not read yet) and “The Man Who Mistook…”. The group is taking a serious turn.

  3. admin says:

    ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ was adapted as a wonderful modern opera by Michael Nyman, and the author was, peculiarly, my doctor’s brother – small world.

  4. Lisa says:

    As a second-hand bookseller, I see dozens, nay, hundreds of books a day. I can’t help but judge by the cover. Most of what I read, I’ve stumbled across in my constant re-stocking jaunts or in the piles folks bring through my doors. Though, I do read a lot of books that I see reviewed favorably on the many book sites I visit almost daily.

    I skew heavily towards British paperbacks, too. So unless it’s particularly compelling, anything hardback or American gets left by the wayside.

  5. Mary says:

    The UK artwork on the cover of Bryant and May, attracted me…I’m so glad it did!

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