by Rodney Carlstrom
As a reviewer, I don't have certain privileges, but as a reader I have all rights in the world. When it comes to reviewing, I usually – 95% of the time – stick to what I'm sent to read. But as a casual reader, I'm very picky about what I consume. I have the right to do so, and so do you!
You are leveraging your time for quality entertainment, unlike the average movie where you get a full story – and sometimes not even that – within an hour and a half. A book is different: you spend more time with the characters, the culture/environment; by the time you're done reading, you've invested so much time in the novel that you might as well have spent all day watching a full season of your favorite show.
For some these following four steps are going to sound very familiar, but they work. Unless you're picking up an author that you absolutely adore, or have heard good things about, chances are you're just looking for that next good read. This checklist will help you achieve that. I can't promise that it's fool-proof, but it's better than picking a book at random.
1. You've heard it before. Chances are you've probably uttered it more times than you care to admit: “Never judge a book by its cover.” It's a worn out, clichéd adage that has more validity to it than most people are willing to admit, especially in the publishing world. And here's why: depending on the publisher, whether they're small press or one of the bigger publishers, the author either has complete control of the cover, or none at all. Yes, the cover might look kick ass, but are you going to take the chance on something so trivial as a picture? Do you know for certain that the cover depicts accurately something within the pages of the book (character/scene)?
Every book has one. Covers are just eye candy for the masses. If they see something that intrigues them, they probably won't hesitate to pick it up. It's the same reason stores put all the chocolates, candies and sweets in the check-out lanes. It's an impulse buy. And unfortunately, that's how the majority of our culture reacts: on impulse. Don't be one of those people, instead go one step further...
2. Flip to the back of the book. Read the synopsis. Now granted, the sole job of the synopsis – and for that matter blurbs from other authors – is to catch your fancy. Smart writing that engages you and makes you think. Does it sound interesting? (Most times, this will be a yes...) If so, move to the next step.
3. Crack open the book. Read a little bit. Don't be afraid. I mean, isn't that why you're in the bookstore to begin with: to find a book to read? To spend quality time absorbed in a world that's not your own? If your answer is yes to either, then:
a. Start with the middle. Open the book and read. See if there's anything worth reading. Does the author's writing catch your fancy, or is there something in that brief glimpse that just doesn't sit right?
b. Now, do the same thing, only crack it open somewhere near the end...preferably three fourths of the way through it. Read. Ask yourself again: is there anything worth reading?
c. Finally, open the book to the very front, preferably the first page. Read (if you've got the time, try the first chapter). Ask yourself again: is there anything worth reading?
4. And finally, follow your gut instinct. Always. Because, somehow, somewhere, between gazing at the cover, reading the back synopsis (or blurb(s)), reading from the middle, the beginning and somewhere close to the end, you've already subconsciously decided. You might not realize it, but you have. Somewhere deep inside your mind, something snapped. Listen to your heart and gut, and one or both of them will pay off with a damn good read. Something you are not only going to remember, but something you won't be able to stop talking about, recommending and demanding your friends, loved ones, and even strangers read.
This might all seem obvious, but time and time again I'm surprised by the conversations I have with people who complain that they're picking up boring reads. Yes, you're going to pick up a book every once in a while that's going to suck big time, but those are risks that everyone takes.
Sometimes it takes the obvious to find that next good read...
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