With hundreds of thousands of new book titles released every year, the possibility of making a good choice to read on that next plane ride is a crapshoot. Back cover blurbs can be as transparent as real estate listings. Does a 1912 love story gone bad really deserve a historical novel classification? What are the risks of purchasing a debut mystery? What exactly does feminist mean in describing an author? How much subject information does a true biography require?
Our book club just finished a five hundred and eighty-six page novel that promised one thing and delivered a whole different story that none of us found enjoyable. After a brief discussion about why we were disappointed our talk turned to flawed character development, ponderous pacing and a weak ending. Finally we shared our experiences with making book choices. We’re all frugal individuals and avid readers, but all of us had set aside at least one title in the past two months, often on a pile of others that failed to deliver on their marketing buzz. Of course, some of those titles are in our cloud book piles eating up digital storage space instead of shelves and floors.
How to avoid that experience? Some book buyers rely on the recommendations of friends. Others go to social media for input. Independent booksellers know their stock and enjoy talking with buyers. Small publishers often have honest back blurbs known to those who favor certain niches. Reading reviews from more than one source can reveal delicious or unpleasant facts. With a smartphone, even airport buyers have access to information beyond the back cover.
You could choose to stick with a short list of favorite authors and selectively pick your way through similar writers. Even that approach will land a few stinkers. I know people who buy many 99-cent ebooks hoping at least one will be a find.
Busy lives, crowded airplanes, too few beach vacation days mean wrong choices waste something often more valuable than the book’s purchase price–time when we could have been enjoying a good read.