How to Find a Book Worth Reading
It seems like everybody and their brother is an author these days, doesn't it? If you go to online booksellers you are bombarded with endless options.
Here's an example. If I go to Amazon right now and look up books about time management I get over 60,000 results. If you tried to read all those books you would have no time left to manage. So at least that's one problem solved. But in all seriousness, this is a problem worth considering.
How do you decide what's worth reading and what's worth skipping over? Here are some of the techniques I use for myself.
Best Ways to Find a Good Book
Books or authors mentioned in books
Within their own books, authors will almost certainly mention at least one other author or specific book that they found value in. Usually this will be a topic you are interested in, since you are already reading a book about it. If you like the book you're reading, there's a good chance you will like the book or author being mentioned as well.
You need to keep an eye out for these because they rarely come in the form of formal recommendations. Usually it is just slipped in there in reference to a point the author is making or to mention how a certain author's work helped them. These are the golden nuggets hidden in books. If an author mentions a book while I'm reading I always make sure to write it down to look up later.
When authors release a new book they try and hit up as many podcasts as possible. This can be a great resource for finding ideas on what to read next. The caveat is that the author is going on the podcast to promote their own book. And on most podcasts, it's in the host's best interest to act like they liked the book, too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it is going to be a far less disinterested opinion of the book's value. If it's a podcast you listen to often, and you are relatively perceptive, your intuition will probably tell you if your favorite podcast host is being genuine about liking the book or not.
One of the tests I like to do if I am on the fence is to first go back and see if that author has any other appearances on the show. If they do, they probably have at least somewhat of an ongoing relationship with the host. If the host liked them enough to have them back on, this is a good sign.
If I'm still not sold, I will also check and see what other podcasts the author has been on. If they are on a number of podcasts you like to listen to, that increases the chances you will like the book (assuming you like the podcasts you listen to).
Listening to more than one podcast with that author, whether recent or from a couple years back, will give you a better sense of whether or not you think you would like their work. Of course, you can always check out the author's website, social media, etc. as well, but here I am just focusing on podcast-related tips.
This is a simple one: If you like a book chances are you will like other things by that author. Personally, there are some writing styles I really enjoy and others I don't. When I find an author who's book I enjoyed, I will happily read their other books, even if all the topics don't particularly pertain to me. If you enjoyed or gained a lot of value from a book, it is worth checking out what else that author has written.
Book Clubs and Groups
Reading a book in a more structured environment with others may or may not be for you.
If you enjoy getting together regularly with others, whether in person or online, book clubs are for you! Even if you are hesitant, there is no harm in trying. Check Meetup, Nextdoor, LinkedIn, or any information sharing platform at your workplace and see if you can find a book club that sounds fun to you.
If not, there are other groups online where people simply make recommendations or share their opinion about things they have read. The key to these groups is to find a group where members share similar interests to you. If you like reading books heavy on studies and experiments and your group likes reading about feel-good personal growth experiences, you won't be satisfied with the recommendations. The best thing to do is find a group where you can go back and see what others have recommended in the past and see what books are popular in the group. If their past recommendations line-up with books you would recommend yourself, you will probably find some great new reads.
If all else fails, there are always lists of most popular books. But be aware: trends are trendy until they're not. Just because a book is a best seller this week doesn't mean it's anything but hype. It very well could be the most life-changing book of all time. If so, it will still be around whenever you decide to read it. Reading trendy books can be great if you want to be "in the know" because everyone around you has read it and you don't want to be left out. If that's your motivation, more power to you. If the book is calling your name and you just can't pass it up, who am I to stop you. The thing to keep in mind is that many of these books have a short shelf life.
When I am looking for books to read on these lists, I usually stick to "all time" lists. For example, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is on just about every list out there, and it was written decades ago. If 30 years later people are still up-voting this book, it's reasonable to assume it must be worth reading. "Top 100" or similar lists can be very great resources to get ideas of what to read next, but take them with a grain of salt.
If you found an obscure book by an author you've never heard of that doesn't mean it's not a good book. Like I said at the beginning, everyone is writing books nowadays. Becoming a best-selling author doesn't necessarily happen based on the quality of a book. (For example, being famous helps a lot, even if your book is lousy.) This means you may run across some books that provide a lot of value that aren't widely known.
In my opinion, reviews are the most useful for the obscure book, and less useful for the bestselling, trendy book. The obscure book probably has far less reviews than the best-seller, so you can get a better sense of the overall feedback people gave and see if it fits what you are looking for. Reviews are a great option when other information about the book or author is limited.
It's okay to start a book and quit if you don't like it.
Don't get so caught up in picking the perfect book that you don't pick anything at all. Reading a book you dislike won't cause you any harm, I promise. So you waste a few hours being annoyed as you make it through the first couple chapters before giving up entirely. Oh well. If anything, you just did yourself a favor! Now you know you don't like that author, or you aren't actually interested in that topic, or whatever it is. Return the book if you want, donate it if you are feeling charitable, or just set it on fire and throw it in the garbage if it's really ruined your day. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. It's better to reading something, anything, than it is to not read at all because you are worried you won't make the right choice.
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