Tuesday Tidbit: How I Choose Books & A Giveaway

This contest is now closed; thanks to everyone who participated! The winner is Justine 🙂 — Justine, I’ll contact you by email to let you know!

I once chose books very differently from how I do now. Four or five years ago, I used to go to the bookstore, to the “new fiction” section, and look for books whose titles I’d heard of or whose authors I knew. These were mostly women’s fiction, sometimes literary fiction, “trade” paperbacks, which are the bigger paperbacks. I didn’t like to know too much about a book before I read it, so instead of reading the back cover copy, I’d read the first page or two, and if I was engaged after that, I’d buy the book.

Since then, practically everything about my reading habits has changed. I now read almost exclusively romance, with selections from women’s fiction, literary fiction, and—this is the part I wouldn’t have believed if you’d told me five years ago—science fiction, to add variety. And the way I choose books has also changed radically. These days, most of my books fall into one of these categories:

Cover Waiting on You1) $.99 books on BookBub. I’m very picky about which of these I buy. If I’ve heard of the book or heard of the author, I’ll buy it at $.99. I probably buy about two of these a week, sometimes three. I just picked up Cora Cormack’s Losing It this way.

2) Books by people I know/have heard of that I’m curious about. I try to keep up to date on new/successful/bestselling writers, or writers I’ve met online or through other writer friends. Recent books I’ve read in this category include Sally Eggert’s In the Dark and Shari Slade’s The Opposite of Nothing, both of which I loved. I’ll read both authors again.

It’s actually, sadly, physically impossible for me to read books by everyone I encounter this way, so I often feel guilty about not having read a new friend’s book or checked out an author everyone is talking about.

3) Books I have to read for book club. As much as I resist these books, I’m glad they’re in my life, because they remind me that even books I wouldn’t have chosen for myself have something interesting to offer. I just finished The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I didn’t love it; in fact, I groused about it most of the way through. But I find myself talking about it a lot, especially, oddly enough, the material in the back of the book that was intended to provoke book club discussions. So, yeah, wouldn’t have chosen it, didn’t particularly love it, but feel smarter for having read it.

4) Free Kindle Prime book. Every month Amazon lets it Prime members choose one free about-to-be-released Kindle book. Last month mine was I Am Livia (women’s/lit about the wife of Octavius Caesar); this month it’s Marina Adair’s From the Moment We Met. These have been VERY hit or miss for me, but I have discovered some new authors–Catherine McKenzie, via her book Hidden, for example–that I will definitely seek out again.

5) Books by favorite, auto-read authors. Sometimes I just need a familiar old fix. These weekend I bought Kristan Higgins’ newest Blue Heron winery book, Waiting on You, and devoured it in a day.

6) Direct recommendations from trusted friends. For sci fi and lit/women’s fic especially, I want someone to tell me, “You’ll *love* this book” before I put in the time and effort. I have a sci-fri friend whose recommendations have been working really well for me–including Iain Banks and Hugh Howey. For lit/women’s fic, I like to wait ’til I’ve heard from several trusted reader friends that a book is worth the time.

Comment and tell me how you get most of your book recommendations. I’ll choose one randomly selected commenter to will win an ebook copy of Kristan Higgins’ Waiting on You. You must be 18+ to enter and able to receive an Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift (usually means US/Canada). Contest ends Thursday May 8, 11:59 p.m. PST.