Monday, July 30, 2012

Get By With Little Help With My Friends

I love to read. That should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog. Books make me happy (maybe a little too happy because I have too many of them). There is something relaxing and refreshing about reading a good book. A feeling I’d love to repeat as often as possible.

I have to admit, however, since Borders closed, I have found that my book reading has become a lot more hesitant. Hesitant in that sometimes I just don’t know what’s good. There are many new books out there. I would like to be fairly certain that a book is worth my time to it before I invest in it. And yes, I know I can read sample chapters of books online, but there was something about going into Borders, browsing the shelves and seeing what struck my fancy. Borders was my primary way of finding good books.

Okay. Borders sob story is over. 

But having said that, I had to develop a new way of selecting books. Actually, it’s not really a new way. For me, it’s the best way: relational word of mouth. I have found that I rely on the other readers in my life to help me select books.

Some of you might be thinking, what about book reviews? I would say that is the last method I use to select a book (funny because I write them reviews). I use reviews to tip the scale in favor or against. For instance, when I’m browsing books, the back cover blurb is the most important thing to me. If I already familiar with the author and the blurb hooks me, I’ll get the book (Sometimes, if I really like an author, I just buy the book without even reading the blurb).

Now if I like what I see on the back cover, but I don’t know the author, I will read the first chapter. If I like the first chapter, I’m sold. If I’m still on the fence after reading the first chapter, then I’ll check the reviews. I check the one star reviews first and then the four star reviews. I find five star reviews the least helpful because their normally gushy love fests proclaiming the wonderfulness of the book without giving any concrete evidence why.

But, if one of my reader friends recommends a book, depending on who the friend is, I skip that whole process. I’ll get the book sight unseen. For instance, a woman in my knitting group was reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I asked her if it was good and clean, and since we’ve know each other for over a year now, I knew she understood what I meant by “clean.” She said yes because it’s told from the perspective of a child. That was enough for me. I added to my list of books to read (it’s a long list, trust me).

I would love to go back to the days of hanging out in Borders for hours, browsing for books, but those days are gone. Now, I get by with a little help from my friends.

How do you select books? What is your preferred method? How much to do book reviews from strangers weigh in your decision to buy a book? How much does recommendations from friends influence you?

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