Today's post comes courtesy of a statement on this site. They say:
Why do I need The Staff Recommends?
Because deciding what to read is a difficult proposition. Each year, better than 175,000 books are published, and you’re going to read what, 10? 15? 50? Books can be pricey, a real investment of money and time—you can’t afford to choose poorly. Or, you’re going on vacation and packing space is limited. Do you want to be stuck with a dud? The Staff Recommends makes sure you’ll have a dud-free reading life.
There are a few problems with that statement. Yes, there are a lot of books published every year. No, I don't have time to read them all. Then again, unless they're employing one heck of a lot of readers, neither do they. They're only reading a small percentage of the books publihsed, and even then they're probably skip reading.
And they only read books that are sent to them by publishers. And the publisher send them, hoping to get them featured. And if they are featured, the publishers pony up. It's advertising, plain and simple.
Books are expensive. That much is true. But I have a few weapons that keep me from making "mistakes" when I purchase a book.
1) When I buy a book from a bookstore, I'll read at least a little of it in addition to the jacket blurb in order to see if it's something I'd like to read. If I can do this, I almost never end up with a "dud."
2) I find reviews on the web from fans who read books that are like the ones I read. I generally read several such reviews if I'm considering purchasing a book by an author I haven't read before. These reviews are not paid for. They're not advertising by publishers in any way, shape or form. They're from fans who have read the book and enjoyed it.
3) If I decide I'd like to read a book, unless I know absolutely that I want it on my shelf (like any book written by this author), I'll check the public library for it first. If I enjoy it enough to want to read it more than two or three times, and I have the money, I'll go and buy it.
4) I don't consider having a "dud free reading life" to be a realistic or desirable goal. Sometimes, I have to read something I don't like and analyze it in order to find out why I like what I like.
5) Last but not least, I find that while allowing someone other to myself dictate what I read does open me to a wider book selection that I might otherwise peruse, most of the "duds" I've read have been the recommendations of "experts," or alternatively wildly popular books. (DaVinci Code and Twilight come to mind...)
The moral of this little sermon is this: If you really want to avoid "dud" books altogether, don't read. If you want to widen your reading list, and are willing to take a few chances, instead of reading the recommendations of paid critics, enter your likes and dislikes into Stumble, and start looking for reviews of books on topics that interest you. I can guarantee that you'll find some good ones.