book shelf

Book reviews serve two purposes for me: first, to help me find a book to read and second, to gain additional perspectives on a book I’ve already read.

We live in an amazing time and country where thousands of new book titles are published every week.  Since there are far more books I’d like to read than I have time for, I want to spend my limited reading time with books that I’ll find worthwhile. As a librarian I well-know that one person’s “this-book- changed-my-life” book is the next person’s “this-book- should-never- have-been- published” book. Thank goodness we have so many books to choose from!

So how does a reader sift through the mountains of available books to find their next great read? Here are a few strategies that I often see:

  1.  Stick with the authors you already know and love.
  2.  Pick a book from a list that has already been narrowed down to a handful of books, such as the New York Times bestseller list.
  3.  Use resources such as Novelist, Goodreads, Amazon (and librarians) for suggestions based on books you’ve already read and loved.
  4.  Get recommendations from friends or bloggers who enjoy the same books that you do.
  5.  Browse the shelves at a bookstore or library and judge the book by its cover!
  6.  Read book reviews.

In the next few months, my husband and I are planning to read as many science fiction and fantasy books first published in 2016 as possible in preparation for the 2017 Hugo awards. Out of my 100+ books I read annually, I usually only read 1 or 2 in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, so I’ll be carefully choosing the books I read for this project. Since I also have other reading projects and a book club to keep up with, I won’t be able to read as many as I’d like to.

To narrow down my options, I’ll use the above methods and read a lot of book reviews from professional reviewers and bloggers such as io9, Flavorwire, Kirkus, Book List, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

So, what do I want in a review?!

Before I read a book, I want to get a feel for the story and see if it is at all something I’d enjoy, but I actually want to know as little as possible about the characters and plot. I want to discover the story as I read it and have no idea what to expect. Even book jackets give away parts of the plot that aren’t revealed in the book until later in the story.

After I finish a book, I like to read reviews that discuss the characters in depth, analyze the book in all manners and spoilers are fine. It’s a way to kind of “discuss” a book I’ve read when I don’t know anyone else who’s recently read it.  As I read books for the Hugo, I’ll try to send in reviews that discuss the book in a way that will help someone decide if they actually want to read the book without giving away too much. After the awards I’d love to discuss the books, at least my favorites, in detail.

So, how do you choose your next book to read? How do you find books to read in a genre you’re not very familiar with? If you are reading books in anticipation of the 2017 Hugo awards, how do you find those books and decide which ones to actually read? When and why do you read book reviews and what do you want to learn from them? And, most importantly, which 2016 sci-fi/fantasy books are you raving about?

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