Following on from my review of Rayne Hall’s book about ways to increase your book sales I thought I might spend a few minutes reflecting on how I, as a reader, find new books to read.

What do I read?

You can see the details over on my Goodreads shelf, my 2014 Challenge was to read 50 books this year (numerically slightly down on last year, but 12 parts of John Scalzi‘s Human Division counted as 12 on goodreads when it was really just a single serialised novel (and I really enjoyed it).

So my reading is divided into three broad categories,

  • I read easy fiction for escape and enjoyment,
  • histories for a better understanding of why and how we got here, and
  • course related material for the Open University degree that I am doing.

Typically the heavier the degree module I’m on the less history gets read and the more the lighter fiction creeps in.

Recent Reading

Over the last year I’ve read a number of series, these have included Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London series (I started it from a comment recommending it made by Charlie Stross on his blog). The first one was put on my wishlist when I saw the comment, in the end I bought it second hand in paperback in the run up to Christmas. Because I really liked it the rest of the series were bought for the kindle and read standing on the train when I couldn’t get a seat to write. I only did this because their kindle price was below my threshold. I have the newest volume on pre-order in hardback, its due out in November and I expect to read it within a couple of weeks.

I also read Elizabeth Moon‘s Vatta’s War series. Again I saw a recommendation somewhere, I think it was a discussion of the Bechdel Test and someone listed some space opera with a female protagonist. Again no.1 went on the wishlist and was procured secondhand in paperback. The kindle prices were more than the used paperbacks so the rest of the series went onto my wishlist and arrived for Christmas and birthdays. I finally read the last one of these in September (after a long break). I’d read more of this, but I haven’t gone actively looking for similar stuff. Some of the reviews I read were mixed, and suggested that there were strong similarities between series and characters across other books by the Elizabeth Moon. This hasn’t put me off, I just haven’t had time to go looking for more.

There are a few authors where I automatically buy their next book, although not many. Iain Banks was one, although alas no more. Terry Pratchett is another, as is Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross and for now Ben Aaronovitch. When these guys release a book I usually have it on pre-order and it gets read shortly after it arrives. They get on the list by consistently producing books that I like. In the past David Eddings has been on it (I just don’t recall seeing anything new from him for a long while) and so was George Macdonald Fraser. John Scalzi is getting there too, as is Cory Doctorow.

The reason this list is so short though is because most of my reading isn’t fiction. It’s history, and I read this by period, and often following a specific thread. For example, I like to read first hand accounts of British servicemen. More recently what I have been collecting works on is SOE operations in France in 1942-44. So I’ve found all the books I can, read the bibliographies and looked for those too. Nearly all of these go on wishlists for Christmas/Birthday presents, especially the expensive or rare ones.

Where do I find new titles?

In no particular order

  • Recommendations from people I know/trust
  • randomly browsing in charity shops
  • Amazon’s kindle daily deals
  • requests to review books

A low price means that I will randomly pick things up and buy them if they look even vaguely interesting. I’ve discovered in almost two years of owning a kindle that there is a limit to the number of titles you can hold on it (200 titles, but it seems to be a database/display constraint rather than storage space).

If you read the blog you’ll have noticed that I review most of the books that I read. I also post those reviews both on and Goodreads. I currently have an Amazon reviewer rank of 4,759. This means that sometimes I get emails from people asking if I’ll review something in return for a free review copy. Mostly I say no, because generally they’ve offered me something I don’t want, but sometimes I get offered an interesting book. In those cases I always say yes.

Buying ebooks

I don’t like paying more than about £3 for a kindle edition. I appreciate the work still goes into it, but my value psychology (which is similar to most peoples in operation if not in numerical value) is that I cannot spend money on intangibles.

How about you? How do you find new books to read, and what prompts you to buy/not buy a given title?