I have been reading since the age of eleven- twelve. Reading helps me escape the reality and create my own bubble. Bookshops, book fairs, bookshelves, make me go weak on my knees. Needless to say, I have a good collection of books, which is constantly increasing.
Many of my friends ask me how do I buy good books. Well, to be honest, it takes years of practice to judge a book or to spot a good book at a first glance. Identifying a good book can be tricky, but I have a few well-tested tips and tricks which make things easy for me.
How do I buy good books?
1. I stick to timeless authors.
Those who are consistent with their literary work. They seldom disappoint me. When I am totally clueless about which book to buy, I decide to buy books by these authors. Because I love reading them and they are worth my money. Some of my timeless authors are, Haruki Murakami, Khalid Hosseini, Orhan Pamuk, Jhumpa Lahiri, Robin Sharma, Arundhati Roy, Amitabh Ghosh, Ruskin Bond, etc.
2. I read the reviews.
I take out some time before my book shopping sprees to read book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I generally read 5 reviews per book, to finally decide whether to buy or not. I recently ordered Jerry Pinto’s‘Emand the big Hoom’and ‘A book of light’ by reading Amazon reviews. Waiting excitedly for them to arrive!
3. I go to bookstores which have a wide range of collection.
The probability of coming across a good book is higher in a good bookstore than in an average one. So, I always choose my bookstore wisely. I spend a good time exploring the books category wise, discount wise, and author wise. I even read a few pages of the book, before deciding whether I should spend my money on it or not. Sometimes, when the owner of the store is well-read, I get some good recommendation too. Bonus tip- if you show loyalty to one Bookstore, you get awesome discounts. Trust me!
4. I ask well-read people about their favorites.
There are many good authors out there; who may live in a different country than yours, write in a language than yours, but their words appeal the souls nonetheless. It is impossible to know each one of them. So, I ask well-read people about their favorite authors. Many a time, they name authors that I haven’t heard before, they suggest me books I haven’t read or seen before. It’s definitely a great way to explore the literary world. Bonus tip- good authors always have great writers as their favorite. No doubt I came across gems like ‘Man’s search for meaning’, after having a conversation with an IIT Madras Prof.
5. I refer to booklists.
Every year Bill Gates, Obama and other famous people like them publish an annual reading list. Online bookstores publish their annual bestselling book lists. There are best books of the year lists. Then Man Booker selection lists or Pulitzer’s nomination lists, and lists of the other major literally award winners. These lists are easily available on Google. One can create their own list too. For example, a list of banned books, weird books, funny books, books to read in one’s lifetime, etc. This is how I came across a book like ‘Reluctant Fundamentalist’. I recently bought one of Bill Bryson’s booksNeither here nor there’ because, apparently, he is the funniest travel writer ever.
6. I ask for Book recommendations.
There are many readers in my circle. They are my instant and never failing go-to source for books. I know people who read more than me and they recommend me a lot of good books. I can rely on them because they know my likes and dislikes. I have few such people on my speed dial, just in case. One of my oldest reader BFF has been asking me to pick up ‘A man called Ove’. And, I can blindly trust it to be a great book.
7. I follow the Instagram accounts of fellow bookworms.
I passively participate in online forums or Facebook pages for bibliophiles. I stalk bookshelves of other people. I go through Amazon wishlist of my friends. I keep my eyes open to see what random people are reading on the metro, on flights, at cafes. Once I followed a girl inappropriately to find out what she was reading because the cover was too pretty (don’t try this, it never works. Instead, just ask politely). I mentally note down the books I like and read their reviews online, before buying them. I found ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ through an FB friend.
8. I judge a book by its publisher.
Always. A good publisher, in 90% of the cases, publishes good books. Most of the time it is safe to pick up new titles or new authors, published by a well-known publisher. Some of my favorite publishers are, Knopf, Faber and Faber, Graywolf, Mc Millian, HarperCollins, (and of course) Bloomsbury, etc. I never hesitate to buy their books, even if the author is unfamiliar to me. Promising and upcoming Indian publishers are Juggernaut, Zubaan, Aleph, Vintage, etc.
9. The most clichéd one.
I read blurbs. If it interests me, I read the first page of the book to see the writing style. If both seem satisfying I end up buying the book. I bought titles like Suki Kim’s ‘Without you, there is no us’, Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Mornings in Jenin’.
10. I decide by the book cover.
Years of book shopping have taught me that a book cover tells a lot about the content. When I look for something informative and serious to read, I go for standard book covers. The book design and cover picture should be subtle yet powerful. In such books, they rarely put too much color. I remember buying ‘The Art of Discarding’and ‘Happiest Kids in the world’ because their cover was too classy. On the other hand, if the covers are melodramatic with a splash of bright colors, chances are that book is a light read work of fiction. The more it looks like the publisher has invested money on a book cover, the more fulfilling the book will be.
Thank you for reading. Now, go buy those damn books!!!