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So many books, so little time

The number of books being published every year has exploded. Bowker reports that over three million books were published in the U.S. in 2010. The number of new print titles issued by U.S. publishers has grown from 215,777 in 2002 to 316,480 in 2010. And in 2010 more than 2.7 million “non-traditional” titles were also published, including self-published books, reprints of public domain works, and other print-on-demand books. In addition, hundreds of thousands of English-language books are published each year outside the U.S. The Ten Awful Truths - and the Ten Wonderful Truths - About Book Publshing, HuffPost June 5, 2012

One of this morning's radio stories was about the release of NPR's Book Concierge - 350 books their staff and critics really love.

I have a problem. So far this year (according to my Goodreads records), I have read 40 books including books I've listened to and one or two short kids' books. I will probably finish a couple books more before the end of the month. I don't feel bad about that reading record, but it is one heck of a long way from the 350 titles on NPR's recommended list and one hell of a long way from the nearly 3 million books published in the US alone each year.

So I don't have to narrow my reading selection to only the "good books," I have to select from a very long list of well-reviewed and worthy titles of both artistic and a social value. While book selection is very much a personal choice (unlike in classes that kill the love of reading), I have some strategies that help me choose books I will enjoy:

  1. I read favorite authors. (Mystery writers especially.)
  2. I re-read old favorites. (Working on Watership Down that I have not read since 1977 or so.)
  3. I read for needed information (travel books, etc.)
  4. I trust the recommendations of a very select groups of friends.
  5. I never feel guilty about giving up on a book that is not doing anything for me. (I like Nancy Pearl's advice of subtracting your age from 100 and giving a book that many pages to captivate you.)
  6. I read book reviews in the newspaper.
  7. I avoid any book with girl in the title out of principle. (except the Lisbeth Salandar books)

This is probably the most obvious and least creative list you've read this year, but it is what it is. I once had what I called The Lazy Person's Reading Plan when I tried to alternate between "snack reading" and "healthy reading" and I would like to claim I still honor this, but, well, life's too short not to read for enjoyment 100% of the time. 

The key is finding books, of course, that you both enjoy and are worth reading.

In the past, this was the role of the librarian. That role has changed. Librarians must now teach all of us how to wisely self-select among books, among genres, among formats. Amazon and Goodreads just don't cut it.

How do select what to read, my more wise and literate readers?

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Reader Comments (2)

Great - haven't read Watership Down either for many years and now it looks like I'll be searching for a copy. By the way - I am halfway through The Chronicles of Narnia again...

December 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Happy reading!


December 8, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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