Monday, August 15, 2016

How Do You Choose Which Books To Read?

The consumption of knowledge seems to be my life’s pursuit. Along side that, I feel dedicated to sharing what I learn through my writings.  Experience in, knowledge obtained, advice and guidance out. That’s the formula.  Do something. Write about it.  Read about something.  Write about it.  Watch, read or talk about something.  Write about it.  Think or dream. Write about it.

I suspect you may feel the same way about your life.  This isn’t news to me – or you – but I was reminded of just how I am challenged by life when I entered a Barnes & Noble and suddenly realized there were so many books I wanted to read but little time to read them.  To confront one’s mortality is one thing, and that’s hard enough, but to realize you can’t do what you love and do best as often as you’d like to is hard to swallow.

I read a lot – a blend of newspapers, magazines, news from a variety of legit websites, and a number of books, for work or pleasure. But then I happen upon some of the displays at Barnes & Noble and realize that I want to read all kinds of non-fiction books, including The Big Picture:  On the Origin of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself ;Crippled America and How To Make America Great Again by Trump, How The Post Office Created America; House of Nails by Lenny Dykstra, National Geographic’s Science of Everything, and On the Origins of Sports: The Early History and Original Rules of Everybody’s Favorite Games.  

Those half-dozen titles were picked out within five minutes of casually walking the shelves.  Imagine what an hour of browsing could produce.  How can I get through these 1800 pages of books while also reading all of the other stuff I read? I can't!

When I was a late teenager and into my early 20’s I felt burdened by all of my genuine interests and a thirst for knowledge.  Curiosity is a beautiful thing – and I pursued it – but I was walking when I needed to fly to the moon.  I simply couldn’t keep up with what was available, discoverable, and desirable.  It’s gotten easier as I age because I realize so many books repeat one another or fall short of bringing anything new to the equation.  But it’s also gotten harder now with the Internet – so much information is available at my fingertips all of the time.  And there are more books in print than ever before.

When you are younger you expose yourself to everything and try things on for size. Over time you find which genres really move you and you then gravitate to them.  Once you can filter out all that you realize you don’t need or want to pursue, the mission gets easier, but still not easy because the desirable books still number many and outnumber many lifetimes.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book twice.  I always favor the new over a repeat, no matter how good the book is. I make an exception with theater.  The best play ever is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.  I’ve seen it nine times and am ready to go double-digits on it.

I’ll confess that even though I was an English major in college and love books, I often read Monarch or Cliff Notes instead of reading the classics assigned to me in high school and college. I actually found the analysis interesting and valued the ideas it synthesized.  I read many great books and often refer to them because their message holds relevance – 1984, Invisible Man, Lord of the Flies, Crime and Punishment, Metamorphosis, Hamlet – but I admit I haven’t read some of the big books like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn, though I caught up with them via movies, plays and Cliff Notes.

One of my favorite things to do in college was to read books that contained plot summaries for thousands of books -- and of movie and films. Not only was I primed for a game of Trivial Pursuit, but I was able to see there are a few dozen archetypes of stories out there -- and the rest of our pop culture productions are just variations of -- or deviations and derivations from -- them. It gave me comfort to know this, as if the possibilities of life were played out before me.

Choosing to read one book over many others is not exactly a choice.  We don’t even have time to fully evaluate our options. B&N displays only a certain number of titles out of the millions that exist.  I then looked at the covers of maybe 100 titles until I fixed on a handful to investigate.  Among those, I then snatched out a few that showed promise, based on cursory factors, like a catchy cover image, provocative title, or appealing table of contents. I suppose if I investigated fiction, the process would take even longer. I’d need to read the full jacket or back cover copy and then sample random pages to see if the quality and content of writing grabs me.

I suppose all parts of life are like this book-reading dilemma.  There are literally billions of women I could be with.  There are thousands of cities I could be visiting. There are tens of thousands of songs I could be downloading. There are so many clothing styles, fits, and brands that I could be wearing.  Exponential choice and variety rule this era. We no longer lament the absence of anything.  We suffer from the crushing weight of choice and opportunity.

We’ve become a decentralized world.  We listen to different music, watch different movies, eat different foods, read different blogs.  No two people are alike, and this is more so than ever.

Small case in point. At the beach this past weekend, I remarked to my wife that I didn’t see the same beach umbrella amongst the dozens near us nor did I see the same bathing suit on any two women out of hundreds.

If we don’t have a lot of time to read books – even if we spend hours a day at it – what do we choose to read and what do we use to make those choices?

·         How do we choose anything?

·         Awareness of options.
·         Time invested to weigh/explore those options
·         Cost comparison of options
·         Guessing at potential benefits
·         Making certain assumptions, based on perceptions, fears, misinformation and dozens of factors
·         Recommendations from others for whom we respect their tastes
·         Reviews from reliable sources
·         Our mood or emotional state
·         Our needs at the moment
·         Our desires right now
·         Past choices and how they fared
·         Our ability to gamble vs. risk averse personality
·         Our demographics – who we are

Barnes & Noble sells these little plaques that espouse sayings.  One of them says: “Enjoy the little things in life.  For some day you will realize they were the big things.”  Maybe this long post is one of those little things that are really big.  Or maybe it’s something that really is not a big deal at all…Look it’s a simple fact that time is precious and life only affords us so many books.  Choose wisely, but always choose books over anything else.

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016.

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