How do you know what to read?

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I hate shopping.

Well, that’s not true – I like shopping for certain things like DVD’s, music, video games, gadgets – but groceries, clothing, toothpaste – I hate it.  Especially the toothpaste.  I mean, do we REALLY need a hundred different versions of Crest?

Anyway, what I want to know is this: How do you know what to read?

When I go to the bookstore, I browse; I walk through the stacks, I check out covers, publishers, cover  comments – that sort of thing, to see if I want to read something.

What’s really difficult for me, is reading something from an author I don’t know.  Recommendations from friends are great and they help a lot, but sometimes you’re just there, in the store, a whole section of scifi and fantasy goodness all around you and it’s all up to you!

I admit, publisher/imprint means a lot to me.  I know that I like books that have been written, for example, but authors of TOR/Forge, so I will check the spine.

I also judge a book by the cover.  Sometimes this bites me in the butt.  Take a look at a few books I’ve bought recently, some based soley on the covers:

I bought 'Haze' because I'm a fan of Modesitt, but book sorely disappointed me.

'Daughter of the Blood' looked like it could be a good one, but it's starting slow and I haven't picked it up in a long time.

I loved 'The Crown of Stars' series, so I bought this one solely because Kate Elliott wrote it.

I bought this book based on the cover and the fact there was a sequel, but after a few chapters, I put it down. It just didn't appeal to me.

So, as you can see – the covers on all of these books are appealing; some I bought because of their covers, some because of their authors.  In the case of one of my favorites, Modesitt, the book confused the hell out of me.  It was, in a word, boring – which is sad for so many reasons.  In the case of Kate Elliott, I bought Spirit Gate riding on the coat tails of her ‘Crown of Stars’ series that I loved,  but I haven’t cracked this one open yet because I know it’s going to be a huge investment and I don’t know that I can devote that time just now.  Later.

The other two books I purchased based on their covers and both fell flat for me.

So, my question to you is – how do you know what to read?  How do you pick a book?  How often do you hit and how often do you miss?

Nosey minds want to know…

~P

5 comments for “How do you know what to read?

  1. willouj
    April 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I have no idea what to read. I check the same way you do. Authors I've read, book covers, book descriptions, publisher. I almost hate to buy a new book without some kind of friend review. I got luck with The Wheel of Time, the Rhapsody series, and The Green Rider series. Other then that, I read pretty much what I'm given. I picked up a book once, once!, and couldn't get through the first chapter. I don't even remember what it was. It was a TOR publish too, which was a little let down. Anyway, I have the same problems, can't figure out a good way to buy books. I mostly rely on descriptions, then, if everything else looks good from there I'll get it.

    • April 6, 2010 at 6:14 pm

      I understand. And don't get me wrong, TOR publishes stuff I don't like too. Trying to remember the name of the book… David Drake! Lord of the Isles? I read it, but boy I didn't like it.

      ~P

  2. April 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I'm the same way. I get very nervous choosing a new book to read. I don't like to start something and have it turn out to be a dissapointment. I've gotten lucky plenty of times, and in the case of "Song of Ice and Fire" it was by a store clerk recommendation. I didn't know the guy, but he had such an apparent affinity for the WoT books (of which I was purchasing one at the time) that I thought, "Maybe he knows what I like."

    I think it all goes to wanting to read a certain kind of book. When we have read something enjoyable, we want to recreate that experience again, though we don't want it to be the same. Seeking that out can lead to dissapointment, and I have many times gone bookless for a while debating what to read next. This has also led to many re-reads of favorites. That said, it is very fulfilling when you read something you wouldn't have normally, only to find that it is INCREDIBLE. For instance with "Song of Ice & Fire" (isn't there a handy acronym to use? SoIF?) I wanted swords and sorcery. <to be continued…>

  3. April 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    <…continued, because I hit my word limit> Though entranced by the story and initially promised some supernatural presence, I began to wonder, "Where's the magic?" I'm certainly glad I didn't put it down. The politics of the series were something I had never read (Wheel of Time comes close at times), and certainly expanded my imagination.

    In answer to your question, as to how to better choose something new…I – have – no – idea. But if you figure it out, I bet you can use that to better sell your own books/stories. I suppose I do have one idea: Word-of-mouth. But we already knew THAT.

  4. Caroline
    April 7, 2010 at 3:39 am

    It’s ages since I read, or picked a book, or bought a book. I miss it, but I’m not ready to go back to it yet.

    Mostly I go on past experience of the author, publishing house, but if I’m looking to buy a book, I always open it. If the first page doesn’t make it impossible for me to leave the store then I dip a few chapters further in, see if it warms up. Like most purchases, if my gut tells me I can’t leave the shop without it, I buy it. If I can imagine myself walking out without it, then it goes back on the shelf.

    The other way I get books is second hand – often my mother or mother in law. They both like different genres than I prefer, so it’s a nice easy horizon opener.

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