A Fast & Easy Way to Choose What to Read Next

6 Aug

If you are looking for a fast and simple way to choose your next book, I recommend focusing on what is listed on the New York Times Paperback Trade Fiction Bestseller list.  This list has been in effect since September 2007 and it has been invaluable to me in finding something that will both popular AND satisfying without pouring over blogs and websites trying to make a good choice.

Here’s why:

While the NY Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List is always shown first and used by bookstores and libraries, I believe some books end up on it for reasons besides how superior the content is.  Authors that are well-known tend to be on the best seller list, regardless of how good one particular book of theirs might be.  Books that get heavy air time on TV, radio and the web usually show up there too.  My opinion is, basically, that just getting on this list is based on recognition (of the title or the author) and not necessarily on the quality of the subject matter.  Staying on this list, however, is a different story.  I do believe that duration on this list does indicate high-quality reading.  If a book stays on this list for a long, long time, it is very likely worth reading.  Any novelty about author recognition or press will have worn off and word of mouth (how most things sustain popularity) is what’s keeping the book on this list.  So that’s good, but there are only a few books that have the staying power here.

The books on the NY Times Paperback Mass-Market Fiction Bestseller List have the same issue.  There are items selling well that might not actually be good books!  The books on this list are there because of the re-marketing of these novels to match a movie coming out (ooh, there’s a famous person on the cover of this AND my U.S. Weekly!) and the fact that they are cheap and designed for impulse buys.  Sometimes these are books by authors that have recognition and sometimes there are originals on this list too, meaning they were published for the first time as a Mass-Market paperback.  None of this actually means the book is worth your time!

There are other bestseller lists, of course, such as those in other newspapers and those on the home pages of the most popular online bookstores.  These are okay, but they don’t separate types of fiction (Hardcover versus paperback) and their lists also include pre-order popularity which is purely recognition based.   You can, of course, weed through the lists here to find something but what is the point?

Which brings me to the NY Times Paperback Trade Fiction List.  Usually books on this list were published as hardcovers first, but that doesn’t mean they were on the Hardcover bestseller list.  For example, a new author might not have hit the popularity radar with enough force to make it on the hardcover list, but over time word has gotten around that a particular debut novel really has some bite, and people are buying it as a paperback long after it was originally put on store shelves.  There are books that were on the hardcover list first, which again means it is withstanding the test of time all the way though to its paperback printing.  And sometimes, there’s a book that is on both lists at the same time and that’s the best scenario of all.

The books on the Paperback Trade bestseller list are the ones being read by fiction enthusiasts, in book clubs, discussed in social circles and the ones I see come up over and over again on readers’ blogs.  Simply put, the books on this list are probably well worth it!

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