There are so many books out there. How are we supposed to choose which ones to spend out time reading? There are so many unknowns, and so many splats. It's impossible to always be correct, but I've found two steps and several ways to go about each step to help me separate the trendy trash from the true art.
How do we begin this process?
The First Step is to be aware of all the options. The best way I've found to gather lots of options is to create a list of all the books that capture your interest. Yes, I happen to be one of those neurotic people who thinks lists are fun. It's not necessary, but it's fun and it ensures that you won't just completely forget about a book.
Goodreads.com is a fab place to do this (although notebooks work just fine, too).
Where can we find the books for our lists?
This is the easy part. There are endless places to hear about books. Goodreads is full of lists and book recommendations, and sometimes perusing the stacks is just what you need. However, several other popular blogs and websites also create book lists.
And of course, the virtual stacks are just one way to go. There's always the library, local indie bookstores, and B&N. Take a trip.
Friends and other people also sometimes recommend books. If they interest you, add them to your list.
These are all viable methods to find reading material.
Okay, so now that you've got a humongo list of books, what do you do? There's too many books in the world to be read.
Step Two is to narrow down the choices. I don't suggest doing this by eliminating books, but rather to find which books stand out from the pack.
There are several ways to narrow the choices. My favorite is word of mouth. Several authors and agents have published the opinion that grassroots word of mouth boost book sales beyond any other measure. If I hear about a book all over the place, from friends and strangers alike, it perks my interest.
Often, word of mouth is the way great books are spread, because people GUSH about them. Remember how in step one, I suggested getting book recommendations from friends, in order to build your list of options? Well, if you hear about it over and over, or from more than one person, there's usually a good reason for it.
A lot of times, if you've perused some stacks, and a friend praises a book you recognize, that recognition sticks with you. Recently, a friend of mine mentioned the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. I'd heard about the series on Goodreads, and the covers had caught my eye in the library. My friend's recommendation perked my interest. I read it, and loved it. And guess where my friend heard of the book? From a friend of hers!
If you hear a lot about a book, it probably deserves to be read. (Of course, sometimes popular opinion is wrong about books. I mean, right now an erotica book that began as Twilight fan-fiction has blown up the best-sellers lists. It is a risk.)
Sometimes statistics help, too. If you see that a library book has 200 holds, it might be a good option to check out. I've found a couple books that way, including The Hunger Games. Yes, before it was a phenomenon, I found it in the library catalog. (The second book was on the YALSA Teens' Top Ten list. When I saw its popularity on the library catalogue, I figured I'd better check it out.)
Awards are always something to look out for too. If it got an award, though, it has some literary merit, at the very least.
And there's always "the author test." If you've read and enjoyed books by an author before, then you may like other books by them as well. That's how I found The Scorpio Races, The Song of the Lioness series, and A Ring of Endless Light.
But I can't even really say that I only choose books by these criteria. Sometimes, I just pick one up that looks interesting, and it captures me without my full consent. I say, "Wait, I have several other books in line before you! You're cutting them ALL!" But the mystery is there, and I'm hooked. This happened with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. If you saw the book, you'd understand ;)
It all comes down to what you find interesting, in the end, but I hope these methods help you choose some great reads! If they do, pleasepleaseplease tell me. I'd love to hear about it.
Photo Credit: By Smithsonian Institution. Found on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/2941512342/