The Drafts Folder: How I Pick Books

Since I only do my Impressions post every other Wednesday, I thought I’d keep things interesting and dig into my drafts and random blog titles I’ve found written in my planner over the past couple of years. There are a lot of them, and I don’t even know what some of them were supposed to be about, so they’ll be alternating with the Impressions post until I’ve finished amusing myself with them. And maybe you, if I’m lucky.

Okay, 2020 me, are you kidding me? How I pick books? What were you thinking?!

I have no idea where I was going with that thought over 2 years ago. Which seems to be on par with the previous four Drafts Folder posts (an unspecified short story, yammerings on a favorite children’s book series, wonderings on who some lady is, and my apparent thoughts on writing kisses), so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

On a related note, I really ought to take more notes when I jot down post ideas.

Okay, well, I guess I can take a crack at this one. And maybe you can share how you pick books!

I mean, if you’re a regular NetGalley user, I guess it’s just a matter of basically hitting request or read now for just about everything. I have been guilty of this and it was…quickly overwhelming. That was mostly when I thought I’d be denied everything, so may as well request everything? I’ve learned better since then, but, still, so many tempting books…

Anyways, maybe a walk down memory lane might be helpful. After all, the way I’ve picked out books has changed over the past decades, and I have no idea to which method I might have been referring to. Might be interesting to take a look back anyways.

My earliest memories of looking for books was when I was really young and my mom would take my siblings and me to the local library. The children’s section was basically the second floor, so we would thunder up the stairs, ignoring my mom’s pleas to be quieter, and we would be unleashed on those poor books. I always had favorite subjects I looked for: flowers, fairies, story collections, and some miscellaneous nature here and there. If the cover looked colorful and appealing or the size was interesting, I wanted it. My favorite was a tall, narrow book of stories. My love of fantasy evidently started when I was very, very young.

At some point, my mom started taking me mostly to the local bookstore. We still went to the library, but the bookstore became our new favorite place. Maybe because we could walk there, or maybe because my mom’s lifelong dream was to have a library of her own. I quickly discovered my own joy in owning my own small library and would happily spend as many hours browsing the same shelves as I could eek out of my brother and sister. First, I haunted the children’s section until I’d read everything interesting. I was about 10 when there wasn’t anything left to hold my attention because I received the Nancy Drew books in the mail every month and everything else just sounded uninteresting. There wasn’t much fantasy there. Definitely no children of Greek gods or mythological creatures or, well, any of the fantasy children’s books out there today. No, they all had to do with growing up and when you have a mom telling you to stay a kids as long as possible, why on Earth would you read about growing up? The Teen section was a sad little section of sad little books. There were no dragons or fairies, so I went to my mom who introduced me to fantasy and got me away from teens dealing with their conflicting emotions, growing up, and sad little lives. Well, she introduced me to dragon books, at least. It was in a literary magazine for kids that I discovered Tamora Pierce and Patricia C. Wrede, and I read those books for a couple of years.

At some point, when I was in 8th grade, I needed more than what the mail, children’s section, and sad Teen section could offer. I found my way into the Science Fiction and Fantasy shelves, after trying out a couple of my mom’s books (Outlander‘s Claire and her husband will forever be rolling down a hill because I just couldn’t take it any longer). And a whole wide world, or, rather, worlds, opened up to me. Where to start? My mom suggested the Dragonriders of Pern, but I struggled with the first book and went looking for something else. I found a strange sort of rhythm eventually. It involved walking through that aisle and a bit over and over and over and over until certain covers and titles would start to stick out to me. Those, I took down and read a page from the beginning, middle, and near the end. If I was intrigued, I bought it.

Then there were the books that just annoyed me. By that I mean I got annoyed with how often I just kept seeing them because my eye was continually drawn to them. This is how I ended up reading The Wheel of Time series. This is also how I ended up reading The Sword of Truth series, but it failed to keep me interested after the fifth book even though I slogged through another book or so. There were countless books I picked up using this method, and it remained my tried and true way for years. At some point, though, it became whichever book was thickest was what I read. In 10th grade, even I got a little tired of having to go to the bookstore every other week to keep up with my reading, so I started looking for the biggest books I could find.

And then my husband got me my first Kindle several years later (I’m delighted to say it’s been over a decade and I’m only on my second one. I have small kids. This is a big deal.). I found the lists of free books on Amazon. Hey, I was a recent college grad who had graduated into a recession. There just wasn’t money for books and, when I moved in with my husband, I was too nervous driving around in the city to figure out where the local library was. So free books it was. I would go through the entire list every single day, looking at the covers and titles, reading the descriptions for the ones that looked interesting, and completely disregarding the reviews. At first, I kept it manageable. I only picked up a new book when I was finished with the first. But, more and more books caught my eye and I figured the book isn’t going to stay free forever, so may as well get them while they are. And that’s how I ended up with a ton of books I eventually lost interest in.

Then grad school happened, and new motherhood, and all I did was dig into what was already in my library. It took me a few years to get to the point where I’d exhausted it to the point where I had zero interest in what was left. That’s about when I started this blog up again, and when I started reading about NetGalley. And, well, anyone who uses or used NetGalley has a good idea of how that goes.

I hate the fact that I can’t get a sneak peek at the NetGalley books. I have to rely on the description to figure out if I really want to read it. It’s very hit and miss, and I really hate it. At first, I would request everything that looked mildly interesting because approval was very far from guaranteed. Eventually, though, I started being approved for almost everything I requested and, when I figured that out, I really had to start to be more careful about it!

How do I pick books now? With careful consideration. I have some favored authors and publishers. I also know what I tend to love and hate in books. I’ve also gotten quite good in reading between the lines of the descriptions so I can really figure out what might be on those pages. I imagine what it might actually be about, but several have turned out to be annoyingly misleading. I pay attention to the words and phrasing, the voice, and how it’s laid out. If it really piques my interest, I request it. If I find myself intrigued, but not truly feeling that I need to read it just yet, I put it on a list to get sometime in the future. Everything else I just pass on. Have there been books I wish I had requested? Sure, but not many. I’ll get to them eventually.

So that’s how I have and currently pick books. How do you decide what to read?

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3 thoughts on “The Drafts Folder: How I Pick Books

    1. Ah, that’s an interesting way to look at it! And, haha, never thought of bookstores in that way, but it makes complete sense. It’s like time warps once you walk through the door.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Eesh this is a hard question. I’m far more picky now than I used to be but I’m really not sure what draws me to a book and what turns me away from them anymore. I guess I now understand a little why agents have such a hard time saying exactly what they’re looking for. If a book strikes a spark in my imagination, I’ll try it, but I can’t say what the fuel actually is that my imagination enjoys. 🤔

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