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  • How do you know if a book is good?

    Let's say you are walking through the bookstore and you see a book on a subject that sounds interesting, but you have never heard of the author before. How do you know if the book is any good?

    These days I am not as trusting of books as I once was. People write books for all sorts of reasons and you cannot always be certain they are actually factual and accurate in what they write. Aside from whether they are actually a good writer or not.

    I generally don't trust the journalistic reviews on the back cover for a variety of reasons, especially since a lot of them are taken out of context and you don't know really what the reviewer said.

    If the book is reviewed on the cover by someone I do know and respect I will accept their review. But if not what then?

    Obviously if I am at home surfing Amazon it is easy to research a book and determine if it is any good. Also if I have my palm and can google it, sometimes it is not hard to find out. But what about that accidental book find that you can't google or research the author?

    I am wondering if people here have a system they use to try and determine if a book is any good on the fly?
    Last edited by Miss Saigon; 13 Apr 09, 01:13.


  • #2
    I usually read books with good reviews or is popular.Now if I find I book on an interesting subject I'll read a page or two in it to see if it's a good read or not. That's my 2 cents.
    2013 I'm going into West Point if it kills me. 2017 (or 2012 depending on West Point) I'm joining the Airborne if it kills me and it actually might.

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    • #3
      I employ a three prong approach to selecting a book.

      Step one: Read certain reviews and ratings on Amazon. I try to find someone who has read some other books that I have read and read their reviews (time consuming,I know). If their reviews jibe with my own opinion,I will give their reviews more credence.

      Step two: I look for some journalistic reviews and appraisals. But I only look on media sources I trust such as Wall Street Journal, The Economist,etc.

      Step three: I look to see if an author I respect has expressed an opinion on the work. If an author such as Niall Ferguson,Adrian Goldsworthy or Kevin Kiley express an favorable opinion,I will give it a shot.

      Hope this helps.
      If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks,glory would become the prey of mediocre minds. Napoleon

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      • #4
        Step four: See who wrote the Forward.

        then there is always.

        Step five:

        Read the book and tell us your opinion.
        "Ask not what your country can do for you"

        Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

        you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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        • #5
          Depends on the subject. I generally never buy books on the fly but if it deals with a subject I'm very familiar with I just need to flip through the pages to see if I will like it or not, kind of a gut feeling you develop after a while. Its not 100% accurate of course but works well for me. If its about something I know very little about, I generally ask on ACG first

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          • #6
            Get it from the library and if it's good then buy it.
            "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is spongy and bruised"
            Zap Brannigan. Futurama

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            • #7
              Author.

              If I know him I'll have an opinion on him (either from previews books or positions he filled prior to writing this book-wer'e talking history and such of course, not novels in this case)

              If I don't know him there will usually be a short biography of him on the back or on the foreword, I'll check it out and see if he is relevant.

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              • #8
                If YOU like the book.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LtCol View Post
                  If YOU like the book.
                  I disagree.

                  A book can be very well written and entertaining, yet just plain wrong. Or the credentials of the Author could be in question like those of Joseph Ellis.

                  Which is why I asked the question in the first place.

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                  • #10
                    I do several things to judge a book quickly:

                    I glance at the introduction and/or preface:

                    I look at the table of contents

                    I look for pictures, visual aides because I feel almost any non-fiction book should have them, and if the visual aides aren't good the book usually is not

                    I read a few paragraphs somewhere in the book probably based on the table of contents.

                    I've found I can't always go by the author's biography; sometimes I have been misled by this.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by lakechampainer View Post
                      I do several things to judge a book quickly:

                      I glance at the introduction and/or preface:

                      I look at the table of contents

                      I look for pictures, visual aides because I feel almost any non-fiction book should have them, and if the visual aides aren't good the book usually is not

                      I read a few paragraphs somewhere in the book probably based on the table of contents.

                      I've found I can't always go by the author's biography; sometimes I have been misled by this.
                      With a non fiction book, read the first chapter and if your eyes did not glaze over it will probably be worth reading!
                      'By Horse by Tram'.


                      I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                      " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
                        With a non fiction book, read the first chapter and if your eyes did not glaze over it will probably be worth reading!

                        The whole chapter?

                        They must be a pretty tolerant bunch in your local book shop!
                        HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                        "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
                          The whole chapter?

                          They must be a pretty tolerant bunch in your local book shop!
                          Actually, here in the US they are. They have coffee shops in the book stores and Wifi. They actually encourage people to sit and read in the store. I actually read "Steel my Soldier's heart" entirely over a period of a few days sitting in a Barne's and Noble Book store.

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                          • #14
                            It's simply never easy.

                            I have likely a depressing number of books in my library that have been known to be found wanting over time as facts became better known.
                            But at the time the book was considered very popular.

                            I have some wargames that suffered the same fate too.

                            I only know of one method, you have to read the damn book, and measure it against its peers.

                            The jacket won't say much, the author's name is no absolute assurance either.
                            Life is change. Built models for decades.
                            Not sure anyone here actually knows the real me.
                            I didn't for a long time either.

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                            • #15
                              Firstly, you're talking about non-fiction, mostly. Right?

                              Still, like you, those review excerpts on the jacket and first pages are bogus because they edit them extremely and also, they get other author's to endorse these books through some type of gratuity, same-publisher, etc. and th-e-n-n-n they take that autor's endorsement and edit that to make it sound good. So, I gloss over those reviews and pay very little attention to them. They make for good examples of effective marketing though. So they're worth a little something.

                              Sounds to me like you're talking about researching facts and credentials.

                              Aha!

                              Personally, I buy very few books on impulse thesedays. Usually I do so much "leisure" research on my own as part of my "hobby/interest" that I just find things out here and there, and truthfully I don't even like to invest in much non-fiction (unless it's a how-to/DIY reference.) nowadays because of the...proliferance (whew!)...of information at different sites on the web.

                              I have increased the amount of reading I do in the past several years and have quenched my "thrist" about many topics that have interested me.

                              However as an aside...I do like to "exorcise" my obssessive- acquisitivenes at the thrift store and the 2nd-hand bookstore every now and then. 25-50 cents for paperbacks. $1.00 for hardbacks. And occasionally they even have a sale. Can't beat that with a stick.

                              And of course, I get my tax dollar's worth out of the local public library.

                              MS have you ever heard of E. R. Hamilton Books? They have a website.

                              Most of their books are discounted but not all. You should check them out. The topics are comprehensive.

                              And btw...they're called "smartphones" now.
                              Life is precious, but also cheap. For without war, there is no peace. GS ~ A Soldier's Ghost. A Warrior's Soul.

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