How to Pick a Good Book…

…or at least how to do more than close your eyes and select at random.

So many books, so little time!

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What makes a book a good book? Of course, the entire process of making that decision is inherently subjective. Let’s present a hypothetical: you (the reader) are a fan of the comprehensive genre “horror”. Some of your favorite movies are Dawn of the DeadThe Shining and The Omen. You not only watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but you read the Buffy comic books written and published by Joss Whedon. You have also read many of the classic “horror” books—DraculaFrankensteinInterview with the VampireThe Shining (again), The Tell-Tale HeartThe Haunting of Hill House—your list is diverse and substantial. But now you want to read something new, whether there is an upcoming vacation or all of your college applications have been submitted, you have decided that you deserve a good book.

Will you like Twilight?

Is this for you?

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The answers are wide-ranging and inexact, and the logic behind the answer could be debated, but that is not the point. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how even a well-read individual with a predisposition to a particular genre could be misguided in a reading choice.

photo credit: lyk3_0n3_tym3 via photopin cc

We are not all so lucky to be biased towards any particular genre, and many of us muddle even deeper through the Land of Lost Readers. This is a general roadmap, not an exact GPS-generated directional route that can help you choose a good book. Hold fast to this guide during your initial ventures, or even more conveniently, download the WordPress app to your iPhone for easy access to the information presented below.

Tip #1: The Calarco Library LibGuides

Our reading-based LibGuides are a good place to get started. Check out the What’s New in the Library guide for the list of all fiction and non-fiction books that are new to the library. The Kindle LibGuide includes a list of titles loaded on our Kindles along with links to a motley collection of book awards lists. This latter point leads to Tip #2…

Tip #2: Book Award Lists

Each award has its own parameters and stipulations, but most “major” awards serve as reliable starting points. Here are the links to some of the most popular awards:

Tip #3: Blogs

Blogs are becoming regular pit stops for readers seeking book selection advice, and it goes without saying that we think you should use this one as a resource. Although the quantity of reader advisory blogs may initially seem overwhelming, you can develop your personal list of “go to” blogs by exploring several and visiting them regularly. Here are a few to get you started:

Tip #4: Review Sources

There are almost as many book review sources as there are blogs about books. Rather than list dozens of premier book review sources, I am only going to mention two: Kirkus Review and The New York Times, bedrocks in the intimidating world of formal book reviews.

Tip #5GoodReads.com 

Social networking for books—who wouldn’t want to explore this resource? When you sign up with GoodReads, you choose if you want to link your GoodReads profile to Facebook and Twitter. Linking can help find more friends on GoodReads, but it is not necessary. The avenues to finding a good book are varied—add friends to see their latest reads, rate books in order to get recommendations (must rate a minimum of 20), and find books to add to your shelves. The default bookshelves are Read, Currently Reading, and To Read. You can also add more shelves that are organized to fit your particular needs. Is there an app? Of course, but only for iPhones.

Calmly pick a book amidst the whirlwind of choices

photo credit: Casey David via photopin cc

Tip #6: Yourself

This tip should be obvious, but it is oftentimes elusive. Trust your instincts—sometimes a book grabbed at random off of a library or bookstore shelf (whether physically or on a tablet device) proves an excellent read. Pay attention to your “inner reader,” and listen to the people whose reading opinions you value. Sometimes the best resources for opinions are not found in critical reviews or auto-generated book recommendations, but amongst those whom you see everyday.

Walk through the fog with a friend, and you will find your way

 photo credit: Casey David via photopin cc

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