How Not to Choose a Book


I was recently in a bookstore perusing the new fiction and overheard a conversation nearby. A mom was weighing 2 books in her hands and said to her son, “These are about the same price. Let’s get the thicker one.” I thought that might not be the best criteria for choosing a book. So I started to make a mental list of how not to choose a book and realized that I do many of these:

1.It has a cool cover that I would enjoy gazing at.

I have sometimes had good luck with this technique though. The Story Of Beautiful Girl

(hardcover version) by Rachel Simon and The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson are two good examples.

2.It has a lot of pages and I want to get my money’s worth.

I don’t think I’ve done this.

3.It doesn’t have many pages and will fit in my suitcase.

I may have done this.

4. It sounds intellectual and I want to look smart reading in public.

In point of fact: The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz

5. I heard about it on NPR and I think I probably should read it in case I need something interesting to talk about at a party.

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a good example. Who am I kidding? I’m an introvert. I don’t go to parties anyway.

How do you choose a book? Do you read the first line and see if it “hooks” you? Do you do some prep work ahead of time and look at reviews on Amazon? Do you follow a friend’s recommendation? Do you (gasp) read the ending first? What’s your technique?


6 responses »

  1. I have picked a book based on the cover. Not because the cover was particularly appealing in an aesthetic sense, but because I just had a feeling about it. It’s the strangest thing, but sometimes I have a gut feeling about a book and will buy it without even reading the back cover. Often it works out.
    More usual than that, I will buy a book based on the author or publishing company. For example, I love Tin house Publishing and have read many of their books. Although the books vary greatly with themes and styles, I seem to enjoy everything that they publish. I discovered them at the LA Times Festival of Books many years ago and now I walk up to their booth, scoop up all that new and buy it without bothering to look at what I’m buying.

    Other than that, I do take to heart book reviews (magazines, on podcasts, Goodreads, Blogs, Amazon, et…) and I browse in bookstores. When I browse, I will often read the back cover and the first couple of paragraphs…never the ending! Never!

  2. I like recommendation but it doesn’t always mean I like the book. Covers are good but I need to read the back or something that will give me a clue as to what I am getting into.

  3. I used to rely on recommendations from my daughter but after “Zoo” that method may have to be tweeked……;)

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