How do you decide what book to read next?

Joshua Kim’s article in Inside Higher Ed made me consider this question. Here is the answer Kim provides:

I always go first to nytimes.com/books . A good review attached to a subject that I’m interested in, or an author that I like, will almost always result in a purchase (as an Amazon Audible audiobook or a Kindle e-book). A middling or bad review – no sale. Sometimes I’ll do a Google search for “book review (book title)” – and read reviews from other sites – but rarely. If the book is reviewed on IHE, then I’m definitely buying. This book selection process has been seriously disrupted by the NYTimes paywall. Sure, it is easy to get around (just do a Google search with the headline of the article you want to read) – but this is an extra and unpleasant step.

I find this account very curious because it is so different from how I buy books. For me, the main – and I’d say the only – source of reading suggestions is the Amazon. I’ve spent so much time and money there that Amazon really knows me well and always recommends books that will interest me. I’m very familiar with Amazon’s structure and the different ways one can search for reading matter on it. I now try to avoid the site as much as possible because it’s hard for me to leave it without a purchase.

It’s strange to me that Joshua Kim relies on the NYTimes so much for his choice of books to read. I dislike NYTimes and discontinued my Kindle subscription to NYTimes Book Review because, for the most part, the books it reviewed were part of what I refer to as “reading for housewives”: cheesy, overly sentimental fare of the tearjerker variety. The reviews were always dedicated to retelling the plot in as much detail as possible, which is something that even the least bright among the Amazon reviewers know not to do.

In my opinion, Amazon reviews are always going to be more reliable than the ones that appear in print media for the same reason that independent bloggers will eventually destroy traditional newspapers. Amazon reviewers and bloggers can only rely on their own hard work and the reputation they manage to build for themselves among their readers. The NYTimes, however, can manage its affairs right into the ground and then rely upon somebody to bail it out. Besides, there is absolutely no reason to believe that newspaper journalists will offer their honest opinion about books. They don’t seem to offer honest opinions about anything else, so why trust them on this subject?

And how do you decide what book to read next?

P.S. If this passionate diatribe on what might seem like a pretty trivial subject surprised you, I have to confess that I’m one of Amazon’s popular reviewers.

>Kindle Singles

>

Very rarely do I criticize anything that has to do with the Kindle. I love it and I wouldn’t be without it for any amount of money. However, this new invention by Amazon called Kindle Singles is annoying. Amazon’s attempts to push it on faithful customers who have no interest in this weird format are even more annoying.
Kindle Singles are short essays (30 pages or so) on a variety of topics, each one of which is more idiotic than the next. Why would I want to read the story of somebody whose only claim to fame is that his father didn’t manage to make money as an Amway employee? Or a weird “love story of a teenager hunted by a diabolical voice?”
Of course, people should read whatever rubbish they want in any silly format that suits them. What I find irksome, though, is that now the entire e-books page of the Kindle store is filled with these Kindle Singles that are interspersed with regular books. Also, Amazon keeps recommending them to me, even though I have no idea what in my buying history could have suggested that I might like either the content or the format.
I’m in a crabby mood today. If you are looking for the definition of the word “cantankerous,” come meet me.