A wise-sounding adage claims you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’d like to respectfully disagree. If you take the time to look, in most cases, you probably can.
Choosing a good book, a piece of page turning fiction so good you just can’t put down, is not easy. There’s a lot of crap out there. You have to have a plan of attack, and follow it every time, if you want to cut down the chances of getting stuck with a loser.
Here are a few things to check for:
1. Is the book a bestseller?
Not all bestsellers are great books, but all great books are bestsellers. I heard this said a long time ago, not sure where, but I have found it to be generally true. There are some rare exceptions. There are books that on the whole are excellent, but that for whatever reason never quite break through.
But generally when a book reaches bestseller status, with some exceptions we’ll talk about later, the chances you found a winner are pretty good. Chuck it up to the wisdom of crowds. A large number of people have chosen to vote with their pocketbooks. We would do well to listen.
2. Is the book a first novel?
You would think, if a book were a first novel, the chances would be much higher that it would suck. Believe it or not, the opposite is usually true.
It is very tough for a new author to break out in the publishing business. If a book by a new author is being published in hard cover, and copies of it are plastered all over the bookstore, there’s a pretty good chance it’s good reading.
It’s a very expensive proposition for a publisher to take that sort of a chance on a new author. Most new authors only get to see their first efforts in paperback. If it is a first novel, and it has already reached bestseller status, this may be the book for you.
3. What does it say on the cover?
Depending on your reading speed, you may end up spending a considerable amount of time with your new purchase. It behooves you then, to spend a little time beforehand, reading what the publisher chose to print on the cover and the first couple of pages.
Does it sound like hype? If it does, it probably is. This is especially true when there are many comparisons to another popular, well known book. This just tells you the book doesn’t really stand on its own merits. Most likely, it’s just the work of another hack, trying to ride on the success of a better author.
4. Who is reviewing it and how enthusiastic are they?
The trick here is to skip the review and go straight to who the review is from. If all the reviews are from publications or people you have never heard of, feel free to skip the book. On the other hand, if you get pages of reviews from reputable publications, you may have a winner. But be careful you don’t get taken in by hype.
Sometimes a book is not selling as well as the publisher hoped, so they scour the earth for any reviews they can get and jam them in there. So you want some but not too many. And keep and eye out that the reviews are for the book you have in your hands. You may very well be reading reviews from an author’s previous work.
5. Is the book from a well known author?
Again this is counterintuitive. If the book is a runaway bestseller, but the author is a household name, watch out. Some authors are so well known, that they can put their names on anything and sell a mountain of copies.
Even if the book is from a well known author that you’ve read in the past and enjoy, and even if the cover is plastered with bestseller signs, you want to be careful. It is nearly impossible for even the best author to hit the ball out of the park every time. You may be taking a dog home.
These are a little harder to gauge, but once you get the hang of it you’ll get good at this.
The kiss of death, is the book from a well known author, an author whose books are usually bestsellers, that proclaims proudly on the cover “from the Bestselling author of”. All this means is that this book may be so bad that even the author’s reputation was not enough to propel it on its own to bestselling status.
6. Has it won any awards?
Awards can be a good indicator of a book’s true merit. But not always. It can be hard to tell. Once a book wins the Pulitzer, for example, many that follow this award will buy it, just because, and propel it to bestseller status.
Right after the award, many pinhead academic reviewers will come out of the woodwork. Everyone wants to be on the winning team, so the reviews are generally going to be positive.
In my experience following prize winners is usually an all or none proposition. You will either get an amazing book, or you will get stuck with some convoluted loser, so painful to read, you’ll give up after a couple of pages. There rarely is a happy medium.
7. Did you like that first paragraph?
Believe it or not this could be the best indicator, all things considered, that you have a winner on your hands. If you pick up that baby, crack the binder, and that first line just knocks you out of your socks, the rest of the book may be just as good.
In the end picking a good book is always a gamble. Follow these simple guidelines and you just may fall in love with reading all over again. But if you think all that is too much work, just come to http://coundtputitdown.com where we only review books that are worth reading.