Anyone who keeps up with this blog knows my feelings about the way bookstores are being run.
Time has not changed my opinion on the matter. However, it occurs to me that there are so many more ways to obtain books, and identify which ones are worth your while, apart from browsing in a bookstore.
Though I would still shop at Flourish and Blotts, given the chance.
And since I’m familiar with a few of the ins and outs of the book world, I think I can provide some illumination on this front, at least to those people who are struggling with the experience.
Find Books at Your Local Library
Sadly, lending out books is the only thing public libraries are good for these days.
But seriously, our library system is now in the biggest predicament it has ever been in, which is a pretty big deal when you consider that there has never been a time when our library system has not been in a predicament.
That said, libraries are still a reliable source of good books, and most libraries make the effort to stock the shelves with the best new releases, as well as timeless classics. But the one thing, more than anything else, that makes libraries useful in this age of search engines is that they house librarians.
And some of them don’t even require you to give up your soul.
I don’t know if you realize this, but librarians read a lot of books. And, though I am sure this news will shock you, they are also highly opinionated about everything they read.
As such, they make perfect filters when considering which books are worth your while. Most librarians are willing—eager, even—to share book recommendations. And it’s safe to say that they know what they’re talking about. After all, some of them have been doing their job for millennia.
Find Books on Book Blogs
As a matter of fact, they’re quite abundant. Oversaturated, even.
And the best ones are just a Google search away. Don’t know which ones to trust? Not a problem—look at a few of them until you find a blog that reviews some books you’ve already read. If their opinion of these books mostly matches up with yours, then they’re probably a good fit for your particular tastes and sensibilities.
If you’re still having trouble, remember to narrow down your search by genre (most blogs are genre-specific). You’re bound to find a good match somewhere. The internet is a virtually infinite search space, after all.
Find Books at Conferences and Expos
Events such as these are the front line in the battle to find good books. They are where the action is happening, where the bloggers and reviewers are going to make connections and see what’s out there. If you’re dedicated or desperate enough to find the newest and best stuff on the market, then you want to go where the professionals are going.
In this way, book conferences are more of a primary source of such information, rather than the secondary sources of professional and/or online book reviews.
But no source is more primary than the next one.
Find Books Locally
If you really want to show off…
If you want all your friends to think you’re some kind of connoisseur…
If you want to be the one other people get their book recommendations from…
Then all you have to do is get to know your local book scene—the authors who live in your own back yard.
You put in a water feature, and they just start moving in.
Because unless you live deep in the Everglades as part of some Cthulhu-worshiping cult, your hometown has a local author scene. And that’s where you’re going to get the exclusive tips that no one else on the internet has.
Of course, not all your local authors are going to be paragons. Unlike me, you may not live in Utah, where, for some astounding reason, nationally acclaimed authors grow on trees or are birthed, fully grown, from the dust of the Earth.
Better that you learn about it here than from one of the neighbor kids.
Getting involved with your local author scene may not lead you the the very best books, but it will yield books to which you have a personal connection and give you the fulfillment that comes thereby. And you’ll always have something authoritative to say when engaged in a conversation about local culture and flavor.
Still, There’s No Accounting for Taste
I always prefer to give straightforward answers, but there’s no way for me to tell you, in any direct way, which books you should be reading because I can’t know, beforehand, what books will speak to you.
Mr. Horne’s Book of Secrets is not a book blog. It is a blog about writing books, primarily. And I wouldn’t want to dictate to you what you should be reading when almost everything in the world is worth reading. There’s stuff you won’t like, and there’s stuff you won’t even understand, but even the worst books teach us all something. If nothing else, they serve as examples of what not to do.
However, if you follow the principles outlined in this post, it should never be hard to find something to read, whether it’s to discover what will become your most favorite book ever, or just to round off one little blind spot in your reading repertoire. And you’ll always have a leg up on your reading friends, because most people just read what their friends are reading (and miss out on a lot of good stuff that way).
So take a few chances and go to new lengths to see what is out there. You may help out some local authors on the way, or you may even become a contributor to a book blog.
Good luck, and have fun.
[This week’s tagline: “Where people come…for great tips.”]