How do you choose the books you read?
To me, there are way too many good books, too little time (for values of “good” that are personal, not objective). I’m constantly running across a new book that sounds intriguing, but I’m only reading about 25 books a year. That means I somehow have to narrow down the list. A lot.
Here’s what a book has to go through before it gets into my hands.
1. I find out it exists. This usually happens through blogs such as The Whatever, Cheryl’s Mewsings, or The World SF Blog; from awards shortlists; from various best-of lists; and from (mostly online) friends or acquaintances. I find so many books this way that I don’t browse in bookstores anymore — when I go into a bookstore, I’m looking for something that’s already on my list.
2. The book languishes in my TBR overflow. The books I find in Step 1 go into a massive overflow list in my email or my RSS feed for future investigation. Lately, they’ve been stopping here because I haven’t had time to check them out further, but when I do…
3. I look up the book on Amazon (or Smashwords, or wherever). I read the “back” and then the first few pages. I’m getting increasingly picky about narrative voice, so the “first few pages” test is huge for me. If the opening grabs me, or if I’m still reading by the time I get to the end of the sample, it passes the test. I’ll read Amazon reviews for non-fiction, but for fiction I’m only interested in my own impressions.
4. The book goes onto my real TBR list. This is a list in a Word document — still ridiculously long, though. There’s a TBR shortlist in here as well, with 10 or so books on it. These are the ones that I’m going to pick up next.
5. Eventually, I buy it. Because I only read 20-25 books a year, and some of them are loaners and others are gifts and still others are ebooks in the public domain, I don’t need to stretch my budget by using the library. Instead, I use my dollars to support the industry I’m a part of. SF&F usually gets bought at my local genre indie bookstore, Bakka Phoenix. I have an ereader, but it’s not a Kindle, so I buy off Kobo (or Smashwords, for indie books) instead of Amazon.
6. The newly bought book languishes on my bookshelf. I limit myself to one shelf of unread books, but that’s still a year’s worth of reading, and some books stay there for longer. I tend not to save ebooks for later. Out of sight, out of mind for me, and tucked away on my ereader doesn’t have the same impact as taking up shelf space — so if I buy an ebook, I usually start it promptly.
7. Someday, if all the stars align, I read it. After all that, I very rarely quit a book — even if it’s not quite my cup of tea, I’ll read it to the end just to see (a) what happens and (b) what draws other readers to it.
There’s more to say about my reading habits and how I split my reading across genres, but that’s enough for now.
Your turn! How do you choose the books you read? Am I the only one with a long and convoluted system? Do you have a huge TBR list/shelf, or are you an impulse buyer…or both?