Spot Horrible Books Before You Commit to Them


It’s no secret: there’s a lot of books out there, and no way to ever read them all. New books are published every single day, but how many of them are really worth your time?

It turns out the answer—though harsh—often times works to spare you a lot of misery and wasted time. This method, while not 100% effective, has dramatically increased the chances of me enjoying the books I invest my time into. It goes a little like this:

  • Go wherever you go to get books. That could be Amazon, another online retailer, or the sacred temples often called “Bookshops” you’ll need to physically transport to.
  • Find a book. Search in any genre you choose until you find a title that interests you. It could be a title that strikes your fancy, a cover, or any other number of details.
  • In physical bookstores, forego the temptation to flip over to the back of the book and read the blurb. Same goes for those hardcover inner-flaps. If it doesn’t get you over-hyped, it may spoil what lies between the covers. Instead, Opt to turn to the first page or open up the ebook sample.
  • Read the first page (not the title page smart ass, the page with the beginning of the story.) Does it grip you? Do you feel that you are intrigued or maybe falling in love? If not, put the book down. Close the digital sample. You need not move forward from there.
  • If your book passes the first page test than try the five page test. Still interested? In love? You probably have a book worth reading. If something feels lost to you, then there’s more searching to do..
  • Repeat and continue this process the next time you find yourself searching for the next best read.

You would be right in saying that assessing a book by its first few pages is harsh. Some stories do improve long after the beginning, and it’s entirely possible to be missing out on a story that is worth your time.

But you know something strange?

Using this strategy, I’ve found an uncanny correlation between the first impressions given by a book, and testimonials from friends and online reviews. A vast majority of the time when I find a book that turns me off within the first few pages or even paragraphs, it never ends up improving. The worst scenario is finding a book with a deceptive beginning that tricks you into thinking what’s ahead is going to be exciting and interesting, but fails to keep that promise. That doesn’t happen as often as you would think though.

This method works best for novels of course. Short story collections make it easy to move on to another piece, and rarely is an entire collection a waste of time. Regardless, the potential is there to read more books you’ll finish loving rather than hating.

How do you decide on your next reading choice? Any selection tips? Comment below, I’d love to hear them!

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