A few weeks back, I posted about how we select the books we want to read now, next and never.
Because what good is a “To-Read” list if you don’t really want to read the books on it?
After my very well-intentioned husband took the aforementioned list to the library and returned with many of the books it contained, I discovered few were readable in the land of Mrs. Rebecca Klempner. Three offended my (admittedly rather sensitive) sensibilities so much that I immediately took them out to our van and left them there to be returned to the library. Ugh.
How do such books get on my “To-Read” list in the first place?
- I’ve previously enjoyed that author
- The summary sounded appealing (I’m a sucker for anything sci-fi, anything touching on anthropology, Jewish authors that don’t hate Chareidim, unreliable narrators, and cozies).
- Someone I respect raved about the book.
- It got referenced tangentially in conversation.
- I enjoyed reading an interview of the author.
- I know the author (not necessarily well).
- The book got 4 stars or more.
- The book won a prestigious prize.
Discovery: the most important reviews to look at on Goodreads are those of three stars or less.
4- or 5-star reviews mostly highlight the positive aspects of any book. Some of them are from people who differ in tastes from you. Other readers are so enthusiastic about the book, they will tell you almost anything in order to get you to read it. Some reviewers are just less astute (especially teenagers).
So, look at every review of 3 stars or less. Of course, you have to throw out every review that looks like it was written by a troll. How can you tell? These reviews usually reflect little actual detail of the book (you can’t tell if the person who wrote the review had actually read it before slamming it). “Poorly written” means nothing. “Dumb” or “Couldn’t finish” type comments aren’t helpful either. Ditch those.
You’ll be left with reviews with specific details about why various readers felt the book let them down.
Reader, know thyself!
Know your preferences as a reader. What do you like in books? What do you hate? If the reviews you read tell you the book contains anything you pretty much uniformly dislike in a book, ditch said book from your list.
My personal preferences are for books that contain:
- No “love” at first sight (unless later upended in the plot)
- No completely unnecessary foul language of the more offensive variety
- No extreme violence
- No graphic sex
- No molestation or extreme harm to children (that’s one of the things that set me off last night)
- No extreme stance of moral relativism (didn’t they live through the 20th century?)
- Nothing that will give me nightmares (I’m wimpy that way)
- Nothing that is longer than 250 pages and doesn’t appear tightly written (and tightly edited)
- No bad writing in the first 5 pages (so long Twilight!)
- No obnoxiously over-intellectual writing.
I realize that other people have other dislikes; these happen to be mine. Just write yours out.
Now, look at those 3-start-and-less reviews. Are any of your naughty no-nos singled out in the review? Don’t read those books. Don’t buy them. Don’t get them out of the library. It’ll be a waste of your time.
There is no shame in having different taste than your friends, relatives, or even mentors.
I pretty much know that half the books I read will be despised by my best friend (she hates mysteries), and I barely read anything written by her favorite author (mostly because of my no nightmare-inducing rule). This isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about efficiency and keep you happy in your reading adventures.
Which reviews or reviewers most influence your book selections? Please comment below.