Not All Books Are Meant to Be Read. Here’s How to Pick the Right Ones

As a culture, we have become reverential of books and the written word. This is a great thing. A great book can challenge us, change the way we think, or tell us fantastic stories that stick with us. This is why I write, why I chose to study literature at university.

I believe prose is the greatest story telling form we have, and poetry the greatest method of self expression.

Yet, are reverence of books is such that many of us see it as a faultless medium, that a bad book will always be superior to a great film or great video game…just because…
Well like with everything, there are a lot of bad books out there, books certainly not worth your valuable time. Especially as books, being a long form medium, can take many hours to read, far more than, a film or documentary.

It has been estimated that on average people read about 4 books a year [1], with the more voracious readers, going through about 12. [2] Both of these numbers are surprisingly small. We may only read a few hundred books in our life times. Perhaps the reason for this is that people are just too busy to spend time on books. Our lives are consumed by work and responsibilities, that it can sometimes be difficult to put the necessary time in to truly enjoy a book.

Life is too short to spend reading bad books

Spending hours of your life on books you don’t enjoy is ultimately doing yourself a disservice and wasting valuable time that you could be spending in other pursuits, or simply reading a better book.

Now, there are countless articles online suggesting good books to read, this isn’t going to be one of those. Nor is this article isn’t going to be a list of bad books, I am way too unqualified and not nearly sufficiently well read to give that advice. Books rely on personal taste, which is inherently subjective. There will be books others love that you will hate, and there will be books you hate that others will love. Both views are right and both views are wrong, such is the way with taste.

What we need then is a list of potential categories, a checklist that people should consider to help work out what book you are likely to enjoy or find interesting, and what books might only waste your time.

How to tell if a book is for you

Generally we tend to buy the best sellers, after all, if millions of people are reading and buying the same book, then they can’t be wrong surely?
Well, often when a book is a best seller it means that its marketing budget has meant it has attracted a larger readership, it is not necessarily a sign of quality, as it only shows a book as been brought, not enjoyed.

Although there are countless books in the world, covering an infinite amount of subjects. So, before you decide on buying a book, you should consider why you want to read it, and what kind of book you want to read.

For example:

Are you looking for a book that might challenge the way you think? Encourage a mental paradigm shift? Then perhaps a book on philosophy is something you’d enjoy.

Are you looking to be entertained? Then perhaps check out a thriller, or even a piece of great literature.

Do you want to know more about the life of a successful or interesting section. Then look into biographies and autobiographies.

Are you looking to expand you knowledge? Then an interesting piece of non fiction such as history is something you’d be interested in.

Once you have narrowed down and have better ascertained what kind of book you are looking for, then here is a five step guide for finding the perfect book for you.

Five things to check to find the perfect book

Pre existing interest

Let’s imagine you just walked into a bookshop, you know you are going to buy something, but you don’t know what yet.
Firstly, consider what you like already, perhaps there is some great show on and you want to read the books its based on, or read more about the subject.

For the purposes of this, lets say you really like the series Game of Thrones, but you’ve already read the books and really enjoyed them. So you go to the fiction section. If you hadn’t you’d simply buy the books they are based on.

Author

You find the author George RR Martin, the writer of the original Game of Thrones novels, and go through his works. It makes sense that if you enjoyed one book by an author, there is a good chance you’d enjoy another.

But on this bookshelf, you’ve read all the books by him.

Subject

You stop to think what you like about Game of Thrones. For you, its the medieval setting, and political intrigue. Not so much fantasy, so you head towards the historical fiction setting.

Not knowing what books are worth reading, you decide to call a friend.

Recommendation

Your friend recommends a few titles, but you remember one time they recommended a movie once which you hated, so probably your tastes are too different. Instead you go online and search for books like Game of Thrones.

You come across a novel about the English Wars of the Roses, the conflict which loosely inspired the story of Game of Thrones. It seems interesting, but you need more.

Reviews

You search online for the book and notice that all the reviews for it are really positive. Some of the things said about the book seem interesting to you. So you decide to buy it and once you start reading, you know it’s a book you will enjoy.

There are so many bad books with good premises, so its always a good idea to check out reviews. Of course, some reviews you will disagree with, but if the majority of the reviews of the book are positive then its a good indication that the book is worth reading.

Reference

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