Margaret asked me how I choose books. Anyone else curious? Eh, I’ll tell you anyway. I have a very sophisticated method that involves ranking and graphs and sales numbers and no, none of that is true. I keep a list. Hardly rocket science, I know. My list is very long, but because of how I’ve built it, I’m pretty confident that I will like just about anything from that list that I choose to read. It’s not foolproof (many of my Hugo books were on my list already, and I didn’t like them all), but it’s usually a pretty good system.
How do I decide what goes on my list? Well, that’s a whole thing. First, the easy ones are every other book written by an author I like that I haven’t read yet. Everything else, pretty much, is based on a recommendation, and that’s where it gets tricky. Whose recommendations do you trust? The only way through that mess is trial and error, I think. I go with authors/writers whose writing I like. They’ll often have blog posts or regular articles or something listing books and authors they love, and I figure if I love them, and they love this other author, the chances are good that I will, too. That works more often than not (and authors I follow on Twitter tend to promote other authors they like, so the list continues to grow), but it’s not always great. There was this one blogger I used to read – he reviewed movies, and he and I liked the same ones. So when he listed books he’d read recently that he really liked, I figured I could trust that his taste and mine would be similar. I ordered three of them, basically sight unseen. Not a smart move. None of the three were bad, but they were most definitely not my style. So I learned not to trust that guy’s taste in books.
Book recommendations from friends and family are tougher, although I think I’m pretty lucky in that. Knowing their reading habits, I can’t think of a single friend or relative (of those likely to recommend stuff) I’d be wary of a recommendation from.
I don’t read a lot of book reviews (they tend to go too deep into a book, and I would like to read it first, thanks), but Tor.com puts out a LOT of reviews and articles and celebrations of books, old and new (all science fiction and fantasy), and I’ve been adding to my list a lot from their site.
If I’m buying a physical book from an actual store, and I have it in my hands, I almost always read the first few pages before I buy it. That plan took a book off my list just last week. I could do that with Kindle books (download the free sample), but I never think of it. I should do that.
Choosing the next book to read is a whole other thing, but at least I have plenty to choose from.