How Do You Choose What to Read Next?

Anyone who reads knows there is a huge industry out there trying to grab your attention. Big publishers wave their "golden" writers in front of your face with words like "gripping" and "must-read." Small presses try to get readers to their niche market by promising can't-put-'em-down books tailored to your tastes. And self-published writers beg you to sign up for their newsletters and blogs so you'll know when they get that next book ready.
Books are offered daily at great prices, even for free, with the hope that you'll love them so much you'll come back for more and more from that author or that publisher. You could download enough free books from BookBub or InstaFreebie that you'll never catch up on your TBR. Though most of them won't be worth your time, it's there, and it doesn't cost you a cent. I have friends who love the adventure of looking for pearls among the grains of sand.
Smart readers ignore the hype around books and choose for themselves what they want to read. They learn which publishers and authors they trust to offer them good books, but that won't be the same for everyone. They look at best-seller lists, but they also read the samples and the reviews (not that any one review should be your guide. It's one person's opinion, like that book your friend insisted you had to read that made you go "What?") Anyone who's read for decades can tell in a few pages whether a book will appeal to her tastes. I've long since stopped slogging through books I know I don't like just to be able to say I finished them. There are authors who've lost their chance to speak to me, too. If I didn't like one or two of their books, I'm sorry, but the chances are I won't like the rest, no matter how big their "brand" is. I've found that meeting authors can make me more or less likely to read their stuff. The author who sang to the audience and bragged about how much money she makes? Not reading her stuff. The mega-famous author who told us candidly that she worries the next book won't be good enough? I want to know she's succeeded with each new book, and so far, she always has.
Many of us count on book recommendations, but not only are we different from our friends, we want to read different things at different times. Books tell us about life, but we bring our lives into the books, fitting what's there to what we "know." Last year I read All the Light We Cannot See on a friend's recommendation, and while I liked it, I wouldn't put it in my All-Time Top 5, as she did. I recently read Kristen Hannah's The Nightingale, which covers the same era and geography. It spoke to me in ways the other did not, and though it tore at my heart, I loved every bit of it.
Two avid readers; vastly different opinions that demonstrate we choose books but they also choose us. Reading is a personal experience, but it's one we love to share. One of life's little oddities.



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