Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

The Best Books? ~ Whose Opinion Do You Trust?

As time moves forward, humanity produces more books and the pace of production is increasing.

How do we find and choose what to read?

Many folks look at various lists of bestsellers; yet, the quality of the list depends on who compiled it.

In a previous post, Bestsellers…, I included a number of sub-lists—single volume, series, and regularly-updated books.

Since I now own a Kindle, I’ve been very interested in filling it with books I might, someday, read (or, re-read…).

I went searching and found many lists—I’ll list four:

Top Ten Books of All Time: “Norton Anthologies asked 125 writers to select their top 10”

10 Most Read Books In The World: “most read over the last fifty years”

Top Ten Books—Lists from Various Authors: “weighted and ranked”

100 Bestselling Books of all Time: there was no indication how the list was compiled

I could have listed more lists and they’re certainly easy to find.

I guess the point to be made is that your list isn’t my list—or—The New York Times might not be your best guide—or—carry a handful of salt while you search

What are your favorite ways to pick the books you read?

Have any particular lists to recommend?

Do you think publisher lists are better than reader lists?

And, what really does make a book worth recommending??
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14 responses to “The Best Books? ~ Whose Opinion Do You Trust?

  1. Simone Benedict April 24, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Good question, Alexander. I’ve always been a heavy-duty reader, but can’t claim a method to choosing what I read. Hmm.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 24, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Well, Simone, I didn’t mention it in the post but I’ve usually Browsed (whether in brick and mortar or digital store) and let my intuition choose


  2. jacobdp April 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    I pick by what other authors say about the book or author, browsing a bookstore and reading the first few paragraphs of the second chapter, or titles that capture my attention. Also interesting backcover descriptions, favoured authors, recommendations from friend’s with similar interests. Sometimes I just pick a random book.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      Well, jacob, those are all, imho, very good ways :-)


  3. Mollie Player April 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I read the first few pages and decide from there. Also, I read classics, just because they’re classics (unless partway in I hate them!).


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 24, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Good rule there on the Classics, Mollie :-)


  4. martinaseveckepohlen April 25, 2012 at 2:22 am

    I read the title, look at the cover, read the first few paragraphs of the first chapter and sometimes paragraphs on random pages well into the middle of the book. Recommendations from friends are often helpful. I’ve found real treasures that way, books I wouldn’t have opened had I seen them in a shop.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 25, 2012 at 4:55 am


      It sounds like you make a “rational” reading decision but leave a bit of room for your, and your friends’, intuition, eh??


      • martinaseveckepohlen April 25, 2012 at 8:05 am

        Well, maybe it seems rational … written down, it looks like something that takes time. At least decisions against a book are very quick. Choosing a book is a bit like choosing a partner (sometimes a book is for life)


        • Alexander M Zoltai April 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

          Thank you, Martina, for that elucidation :-)

          And, choosing a book for life is a wonderful conception


  5. dennisporetsky April 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I often read authors I value. Often times when Im out of topics to read, I’ll read interviews given by favorite authors, and find many great suggestions given. Often of works that have influenced them. It becomes a chain that keeps expanding and never ending.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm


      I like your idea of the Chain: Author>Interview>Author… :-)


  6. Andras October 3, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Hi Alexander!

    I normally use where I have a circle of like-minded people whose opinion I trust. I also read a lot of reviews written by people who read the book and took the time to share their thoughts.

    Thank you for including the “top ten best books of all time” picked by 125 writers. This is the only list from the mentioned four I would trust. New York Times for me never works unfortunately.


    • Alexander M Zoltai October 3, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Thanks for your insightful comments, Andras.

      And, thanks for the poetic last sentence:

      “New York Times for me
      never works unfortunately.” :-)


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