Let’s Discuss – Choosing New Books

I joined a challenge to have more book discussions on my blog without really knowing what that meant. I was sort of picturing the reviews I’ve been doing and wondering how to turn that into more of a discussion, so I waited a bit to see what others were posting for the challenge.

That does not seem to be what they meant at all. Discussions about reading and books in general. I can do that.

So today’s topic…How do you choose which books to read? And where do you find them? Come talk to me about it in the comments.

My Answer
I’m sorry to say I do quite often judge books by their cover. Titles, fonts, cover art, texture of the material…all of these have an impact on how excited I’ll be about the book…and a much bigger impact than they probably should have.

That’s not to say everything has to be shiny and new, or that I always look for books with the same style or elements. There are many combinations of the above that are attractive to me and likely to draw my attention. Old books with weathered pages and bent covers speak to my romanticized image of books as collected ancient knowledge and wisdom, and a beat-up copy just means it was well-read (and therefore, obviously, well worth the read). New books with soft matte covers and raised fonts grab on to my sensory/stim needs and don’t let go. Cover art of women being awesome and doing their thing will always make me want to at least check out a comic and see if it’s for me.

When searching online, those are much less important to the decision. I’m probably a much smarter shopper online, where I go in looking for a specific title or topic. In the case of the former, I’m usually looking because other people whose opinions I trust have been talking about it a lot. For the latter, I need (or want) to know more about something and in that case I look for the highest-reviewed items. In both cases I read the reviews before I decide to buy, maybe even head to Google to learn a bit more and see more detailed descriptions, and consider carefully whether I actually think the book will be interesting and/or useful to me based on those.

Very rarely do I follow up on a direct recommendation, especially from a friend. If I don’t like it I don’t want to have to answer “What did you think of it?” If I do like it I’m afraid I might have too much to say in the other direction and scare the other person away. But mostly I think I just don’t like being told what to do, and hearing someone talk about why they like something is much more likely to draw my interest than being told I have to read it first, spoilers be damned.

The good news is, these methods do tend to work for me. Even the covers thing. I’ve gotten fairly good at balancing my love of a cover with the descriptions on the back and a quick flip through the pages, since I can likely find similar covers on books I’ll like better. But I think there’s probably also some overlap there, like publishers are aiming for a particular demographic and know how to market to that demographic, so the books with similar covers are going to also have similar enough material that a lot of it is at least close to my areas of interest.

I can’t think of a time I’ve actually been disappointed in my choice of books, so that probably says something. There are just too many books! You need a way to narrow them down even if it goes directly against one of the first pieces of life advice you were ever given. 😉

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12 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss – Choosing New Books

  1. It depends.

    I have certain genres that I know that I love, like horror, mystery, suspense, etc. And so if I come across a post somewhere, one of those, ’37 New Horror Books To Keep You Up At Night’ (which is always a lie, I’m sorry, ya’ll aren’t that scary) I’ll check that list out and if anything catches my interest from their description then I’ll go look at the book on Amazon and read a bit more about it. If it’s still interesting, it goes on the every expanding TBR list.

    Non-fiction I always go looking for books in relation to things that have caught my attention. Mostly serial killers and religion. Nobody recommends me books in that area, since non-fiction, at least for me is a lot more iffy. I want to read what I want to read if it’s going to be real life and that’s that.

    I do take other peoples’ recommendations, though only from certain people. I know exactly two people who have recommended enough books that are out of my normal comfort zone that I loved that when they tell me about a new book I’ll listen. There’s still some hit or miss involved there, and on occasion we’ve just had to agree to disagree because they LOVED the book they recommended and I wanted to light it on fire.

    I’ve clearly gotten over not wanting to hurt their feelings by hating on a book that they loved.

    I’m not as much into the cover, though of course if I’m browsing in a physical store that’s one of the first things to catch the eye. I guess if it’s a really terrible cover I’m more likely to mock it and put it back down, but really good books can have really bad covers so it’s not as much of a deal.

    Comics…I tend to read more manga and that’s another one of those picking out what I like from wandering around bookstores more than anything else. DC and Marvel have both managed to annoy me again, so unless something spectacular happens to be going on or the cover is really excellent, I’m mostly ignoring them these days.

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    1. I think DC and Marvel will always annoy me. I still read some of them, but it’s because of the author/artist rather than the companies. I don’t care what’s going on in the Marvel or DC universes as a whole and have stubbornly refused to learn anything about what happened in Civil War II, but I’m going to keep reading the things my favorites creators are making to support them. Also stories that get away from typical action comic stuff like Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur. But I understand just being done with them, too.

      Why do you think you’re more willing to take suggestions in fiction? What about non-fiction makes you less flexible (or what about fiction makes you more flexible, if the non-suggestion-taking is more typical for you)?

      I want to go look for that kind of list post now. I don’t think I’ve seen many of them. Also, I love that you’re like “yawn, not scary” and I’d probably be making salt circles or something. (Because I’d only read supernatural horror if that. I do not need to read about people doing scary things, then I will not sleep for a week.)

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      1. I have a couple of favorite characters, so I still follow those books. But that’s honestly back to mostly Marvel these days. Because damn DC and their misuse of my personal favorite Robin. So like, I just picked up the latest trade of Ms Marvel, and I still follow Hawkeye, but that’s basically it.

        I think it’s because my tastes in fiction are broader. I have, of course, run into books that I flat out don’t like, but they’re generally few and far between. Even genres that I didn’t think I’d like, I’ve found authors or books that I do. Like romance. But non-fiction, well, I like what I like in very specific genres and I find anything outside of that extremely boring. So….that’s about that.

        I did forget to mention, I also follow a couple of different book related podcasts and if what they’re talking about sounds interesting I’ll look into that some more too. The main one is the Smart Bitches, Trashy Podcast. It comes from a ‘romance’ site, but it’s really about all sorts of books and tv and movies, not just romance.

        I can give you links to a couple of those lists, probably? I follow things like Buzzfeed and Bookriot on FB and they come out with random lists like that. My horror sense is broken, to be honest. If I ever do weird myself out it’s generally after listening to or watching stuff about serial killers or unsolved disappearances. Because people, to me, are much scarier than monsters.

        Also, ghosts. True ghost stories and cryptids. Sometimes my non-fiction tastes can be downright trashy, which is why I love the Kindle Unlimited thing so much. So many short, awful books that I can read without having to pay for them or keep their shame on my kindle.

        I know this post is all about recommendations and how you don’t really do them, but if you’re into ghost/monster type horror and visually engaging books, have you read House of Leaves? It’s one that you have to buy hardcopy of because the text is not just straight up text. More of a creepy, House on Haunted Hill kind of book as far as the scares go than anything super violent or jump-scare.

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      2. Have you seen the new-new Hawkeye at all? (The Kate Bishop series that’s on its second issue.) I just read both issues this week and I love it so much. I really like Kelly Thompson (the writer), though, and I bought it because it’s her even though I know nothing about the character. Not sure how it would read to a fan of either Hawkeye from previous works.

        The fiction/non-fiction explanation makes perfect sense when you say it like that. I have soooo much more non-fiction than fiction, but now that I think of it I don’t read it often. More skimming for specific information. It’s definitely easier to read fiction even if I’m not thrilled with it.

        My husband loved House of Leaves and told me to read it many, many times. The thing is, I have no doubt I’m going to like it. But it’s been very built up now and it would be very easy to fall short of the hype. So I’m not sure when I’ll actually get around to reading it, but it’s on the shelf waiting for me when I’m ready. Maybe that’ll go on the list next year if I wind up sticking to my challenges. (So far so good.)

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      3. I’ve seen scans of it online, but I don’t have a LCS and the BAM (the only bookstore in town) is pretty crap at ordering and stocking comics on a consistent basis. So I’ve switched to just buying the trades when they come out. I love Kate Bishop though, so the book is on my list. 🙂

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  2. Just read your tweet about this post on Twitter, what a fun idea. Let’s see, I find some of my books via Twitter reviews and recommendations from tweeters/ reviewers I like. I also read books recommended by offline friends. Book covers of “new to me” books are important as are the book blurbs and the sample I can read from the “look inside option” on Amazon, eye appeal, and my interest needs to be triggered along side a good opening hook.
    Great to read other people’s views too.

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    1. The “look inside” option is so important to me. It’s gotten to the point where if I’m looking at two books and only one of them has it, I just knock the other off the list without a second thought. I’ve been so spoiled, and now I have to be able to see! I can’t just *trust* that the book is good, show me what’s in it!

      Thanks for the comment! It’s nice to kind of meet you.

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  3. I choose books mostly based on the blurb and reviews, since reviews tell me what type of things people liked and disliked about the book, and I can then compare that to my own tastes and what I like and dislike. I also often use the preview on Amazon to check out the writing. Sometimes the first few pages seem good and then it goes downhill later -_- But sometimes I can immediately tell that the writing style is not for me or that it’s full of head hopping or it’s a POV I don’t like or something. I avoided a lot of books that way. I am drawn to pretty covers, so a pretty cover might solidify my decision if I’m on the fence about a book, but I’m pretty good about not being TOO swayed by covers 😛

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    1. That’s smart. I never actually use the previews to read the books, just the contents page. (Usually for academic books, so I’m more interested in the topics and don’t expect the writing style to matter much, and sometimes there’s lots of authors.) I should try it for fiction next time. Thanks!

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  4. oooohhhh this is a HARD question Zeph! I have gone through SO MANY different methods LOL! I guess this is what I’m doing now…
    1) Next book in a series I love
    2) My kids are reading it
    3) Will be a movie
    4) A VERY GOOD review from a book blogger I know has the same taste as mine
    5) Pending Netgalley ARCs

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