How To Find A Book You’ll Enjoy
Have you ever heard someone rave about a book, you picked it up and got ultimately disappointed?
Have you ever read terrible reviews about a book, only to try to see how terrible it was and be pleasantly surprised how much you enjoyed the content?
I have a book buying habit. I admitted it when I moved to the US and discovered the power of Amazon. I used to feel terrible about it, but when I looked at it using this lens, it makes perfect sense:
If you think a book looks even remotely interesting, buy it.
Don’t even waste five seconds debating it. If you glean just one idea from the book, it makes it even more than worth the price. That idea could be the one that changes your life or simply challenges long-held beliefs you’ve always had. And those moments are invaluable to your development — Ramit Sethi
Any spare money I have goes into either books or tech gear.
I don’t do clothes, shoes, sneakers, etc. In fact, even my deodorant is bought on schedule because I would lose my marriage if I scrimped on that one.
*clears throat* You know that was a joke… right?
Back in Cameroon, I had a hard time finding books I could like — so whenever I did, it was a conversation between my next meal and my next book. Which is why I started visiting my friends around lunch time.
As my pocket change increased and I moved to a country where I could get a book immediately through kindle or in two days via Prime, I noticed an interesting pattern.
One, I started building a system to recognize books I’d like.
Two, this system had nothing to do with online reviews.
Don’t get me wrong, I think people who take the time to write book reviews do an amazing job. I find it hard to do them — or maybe I just haven’t put in the effort to do so. I’m more likely to do a video review than write one.
I picked books because I was swayed by online reviews and then the reality of the book would leave a sour taste. Next, I started by reading as many reviews as I could to fix that flaw. Didn’t work. Then, I moved to reading only the negative reviews : my goal was to get dissuaded to buy the book. I was actively looking for people to tell me the book was a terrible waste of my time and money.
This last stage happened because my wife couldn’t stand my sprawling mountain of books — a hill, actually — and I had to make the honorable decision of buying less books. Also, I noticed how much negative reviews made me feel after I’d read a book.
Online reviews failed me because more often than not, the reviewers were either not objective enough, or too well-read ( at least, more than I was), or completely emotional — as though they had a vendetta with the author or a story.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was a reviewer who hated a story I absolutely loved. Worse, it was a story by my friend in a collection edited in part by my friend (see YouTube review above), and a story I personally felt strong emotions about. The effrontery!
When I got to this point, I realized I couldn’t trust book recommendations from random humans. I decided to do the only thing that had worked for me.
1. Increase my odds of finding good books.
2. Decide by reading
How to Increase Your odds of Finding Good Books
Have a system. Mine?
If I cannot remember where I heard about a book, I ignore it.
Someone must recommend it — either someone I know, or someone I trust. Which is why a lot of my recommendations come from podcasts or articles online.
Isn’t this the same as online reviews?
Nope. A book review is clearly meant to provide a summary/overview of a book from a subjective perspective. A recommendation does the same by pointing out what the reader got from it. It could be a quote, an example, a perspective.
When someone recommends a book, they already know they have a bias and they simply use what worked for them in the book.
To increase my odds, when I find someone who speaks in a way that makes me feel wanting (e.g Naval Ravikant), I find a list of books he recommends.
Is there a correlations between books recommended by smarter people and my ability to be smarter?
I have no idea. I just feel that If I can immerse my toe in the ocean of their knowledge, I could increase my odds of being smarter.When a book gets recommended over and over, there has to be something about it. It has to have been sampled by many smart people and even if I don’t enjoy it, I could pick an idea that has been beneficial for all those people recommending it.
Remember, it’s all about increasing the odds. Only take book recommendations from people you trust.
Decide by reading
This is the part my wife hates. It requires either buying the book, or spending inordinate amounts of time sampling it. It may require living in a library too.
When I pick up a book, I smell it ( if no one is looking and it’s not visibly dusty), I read the front, the back, the blurb, the content, then a random page in the middle. All in that order. If nothing makes me go : Hmm, this is interesting, I don’t bother.
This hypothesis is based on the idea that you know what you like and what you would enjoy.
If you can’t trust others, at least, trust yourself.
Decide whether you will read a book based on your own bullshit filter. You have one. You may not have exercised it enough or maybe even suppressed it, but you have one. It’s the one you use when scanning articles online to decide if it’s worth the 7 minutes to read. It’s the one you use when a friend says a movie is amazing and you remember their taste is not geared towards what you’re looking for in movies.
This article happened because I found myself enjoying How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big by Dilbert Creator, Scott Adams. I had a great time reading this book. The author’s concepts were recommended by writers I trust and also discussed in Naval’s Podcast — especially Skill Stacking.
I had tried reading Win Bigly but never got past the middle.
I finished How To Fail, in three days. Then, went online to see what others were saying about it. That was a mistake.
You don’t have to make the same mistake.
- Increase your odds of finding good books by having a system that allows you to filter through the noise.
- If all else fails, scan all the books that pique your curiosity and decide for yourself if it’s worth the time and money investment.
You’re a better judge of your interests that anyone else.
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