The electronic age has left us with so many books that “narrowing down” your choices seems impossible at times. When self-publishing first started, many of the books that came out were poorly written and poorly edited, driving someone like me crazy as I found every single typo. In the last year, I’ve revised my opinion of self-published work. Some of it is good, quite good. Just like even some books that have been published traditionally don’t appeal to me, for one reason or another. (Not long ago, I read a traditionally published book with typos. Not cool!)
Books, especially, can be extremely personal in what appeals. Some books do get widely popular, while others don’t, for whatever reason. I enjoyed some widely popular books that others love to hate (like Twilight), hated widely popular books that most people loved (like Girl on a Train), and went with popular opinion on others (Outlander… swoon…)
So how do you sort out what books you’ll actually like and which you won’t?
- Read the book jacket. Though, honestly, these are written by marketing departments, which means that they’re showing the book in the most interesting possible light. Though this can be a good place to start gauging interest, in the long run it’s not reliable.
- Read reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I usually go for the negative reviews, honestly. They tell me more about whether I’ll like the book or not. If most of the negative reviews are things like, “I didn’t like what this book was about,” I’m probably okay. If most of the reviews were things like, “There were typos, it was poorly written, and the main female character spends all her time fainting,” I’m out.*
- Find a trusted reviewer/ friend. The best way to find good books is to find people who share your tastes. I have two bookish friends who usually recommend books I’ll actually like. L and I share similar taste in dark YA and some types of fiction. We don’t always agree on suspense though. When L recommended Outlander to me, I knew I had to read it, and she was right. Ramona, over at While I Was Reading, is the other bookish friend who has great taste in books. If she likes it, I usually will too.
- Join a book club. These are everywhere: in person, online, on Facebook, through Meetup. If you love books, there is a book club out there for every level of social interaction. I belong to an online book group, which is an introvert’s delight. I can choose my level of social interaction and I never have to leave my house. It’s a win-win.
- Website recommendations. People have told me that if you like a book, you can type it into Amazon and get recommendations. I’ve never tried it, so I can’t vouch for how well it would match my taste. Here’s another interesting website that does that as well.
Leave a review
In the last two years, I’ve started using Goodreads to rate books I read. If I have something particular to say about it, I write a review.
I would encourage every reader to at least leave a star rating for books they read. Even if you hate it. I feel like recommendations of people who’ve actually read the book are far more useful than any book marketing campaign. If we all leave reviews, we can help one another. The more reviews, the better the info.
How do you find books you like? Do you leave reviews? What website do you use to track books?
*It’s not that I wouldn’t equally hate a book where the main male character spent all his time fainting; I would. It’s just that I’ve never once read a book where this happens.