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How do you select books?

Mani Ram
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Joined: Mar 11, 2002
Posts: 1140
I was thinking of asking this question for sometime. At last got reminded by this thread. Thanks Jason.
Which factor influences you the most in buying / selecting a book?
Is it the author? (buy all Tolkien's books)
Subject? (I might like "Rise and Fall of Third Reich" because I love history)
General Reviews? (Thomas Paul said this book is good. So let me get it)
Publisher? (O'Reilly books are great. Let me try this one too)
Personal Suggestion? (My friend & I have a same frequency. He likes it and he suggests it, so I might also like it)
Or anything else?
I have tried every method, and failed most of the times. It might be a great book, but for some reason I don't like it. I have wasted a lot of money and time in buying & reading books only to feel unsatisfied.
On the other hand, most of my favorite books are the ones which came to me accidentally!
How do you feel when you buy a book and find it disappointing? Any suggestions to select a good book.


Mani
Quaerendo Invenietis
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
All of the above are factors. What I like to do though is check out the reader reviews over at Amazon. The aggregate of the reader reviews generally gives a good sense about whether or not you will like the book. Of course this gets a little tougher for new books and the less popular titles, which might have not been reviewed by too many people. Additionally, I like to see how popular a book is at Amazon, sales-wise. This isn't a huge factor, but to me, if a lot of people are buying the book, there's got to be something of interest there (or it was over-hyped).
[ September 30, 2003: Message edited by: Jason Menard ]
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Are you talking about technical books only, or books in general?


Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Are you talking about technical books only, or books in general?

I know this question wasn't directed at me, but I use the same methods whatever the product (particularly if it's available at Amazon).
Mani Ram
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Joined: Mar 11, 2002
Posts: 1140
Originally posted by Jason Menard:
What I like to do though is check out the reader reviews over at Amazon....

That's a nice idea. But what about Non-English books? I prefer to read books written (or translated) in my native language (Tamil), and sadly we people don't have such luxury
Mani Ram
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Joined: Mar 11, 2002
Posts: 1140
Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Are you talking about technical books only, or books in general?

Since Jason said that this question is not for him, I assume that this is for me
I'm talking about books in general. Let it be technical, novels, biography, poetry or what ever it is. (Cheque books excuse).
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
I use the same methods whatever the product (particularly if it's available at Amazon).
There are probably similarities, yes... What's different for me, a publisher name has some weight in choosing tech. books and none for non-technical. Maybe I am just not as much accustomed with non-tech (actually, non-programming) publishers. Also, for non-tech. books I often use "explore similar items" feature on Amazon, to circle the whole group of books on certain thematic and then decide which I am more interested in by reading reviews.
Regarding recommendations, here is my favorite quote (I am probably posting it for the third time already, but as long as I've not been caught... )
"When I want to educate myself regarding a topic, my first step is to find a place where interested people congregate (it could be a mailing list, if I am doing my research in virtual mode) or a collection of useful documents. When I find people who impress me with their insights or who simply intrigue me with their points of view, I spend more time reading what they have to say and ask them for pointers to new material.
Most subtle, perhaps, is the way I discover new topics of importance by following what interests the people I respect. For instance, if I learn from someone's views in a particular software area and find that he's becoming obsessed over some piece of hardware, I decide that it's time to look into that hardware. I don't simply screen out this new information because it's different from the software area that we've always talked about."
Link.
But most important is practice, like with everything else. When I was younger, my reading was totally chaotic, and then some order emerged... Sometimes it's intuitive and not very well examined, so thank you for asking, now we can reflect on this process.
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Don't bother me now... I'm busy reflecting.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Moving this to Bunkhouse Porch.


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
Amazon Top 750 reviewer - Blog - Unresolved References - Book Review Blog
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Don't bother me now... I'm busy reflecting.
what did I say wrong again
Mani Ram
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 11, 2002
Posts: 1140
Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
When I was younger, my reading was totally chaotic, and then some order emerged

Same problem here, but haven't got the order right yet. Probably because I'm still young, and when I reach your age, things will get straight!
Mani Ram
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 11, 2002
Posts: 1140
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Moving this to Bunkhouse Porch.


How could you do this?
Hmmmm...okay I understand now. I shouldn't have mentioned your name in the my post with the comment I have tried every method, and failed most of the times. My fault
To Jason & Map: Thanks for the replies
To Thread: RIP
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Hmmm...
Well, for technical books it's been based on the following:
- Friends
I just bought "In search of Stupidity" only because Michael recommended it. I'vehad a number of people I trust and respect on the Ranch and from my offline life recommend books and I'll go with that.
- Books
Very often I see one book mention another, or a few others. If I liked this book, and this author though enough of these other books to mention them, then it follows that I should consider those books. Of course, I mostly read process / project management books, and this may make more sense than for technical.
- Authors / Publishers
There are some authors I like. There are also some publishers (Dorset House) where I generally think they produce very high quality books.
----
Non-techical books:
Mostly authors (Asimov, Bradbury).
----
Magazines:
I judge it totally by it's cover. Sure this doesn't work for books, but for magazines if the naked woman on the front is... oh um, wait, nevermind. The articles, I buy magazines because they have good articles. :-p
--Mark
Andres Gonzalez
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Joined: Nov 27, 2001
Posts: 1561
Hasn't this topic been discussed before? :roll:


I'm not going to be a Rock Star. I'm going to be a LEGEND! --Freddie Mercury
Frank Carver
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Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
Most of my reading these days is technical books for review. For that, my main criterion is actually publication date! The newer a book is, the more value there is in reviewing it. If I'm ever in a physical bookshop, aspects like size, color, back-cover text and contents page make quite a lot of difference.
I get to enjoy a lot of books that I would probably not have chosen using the criteria listed earlier, but I do get to read some books that count as just a waste of time.
For fiction books I go overwhelmingly by author; authors get added to my pool by personal recommendation by people I respect, authors leave the pool when they produce a couple of stinkers in a row.
Non-fiction books about non-computer topics I almost always get from bibliographies and reading lists associated with a course or topic of study. I'm always taking courses of one sort or another, and they always have book lists.


Read about me at frankcarver.me ~ Raspberry Alpha Omega ~ Frank's Punchbarrel Blog
Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
for technical books, topic (of course), publisher, author. If available reviews play a role as well (in particular if it's an author or publisher that's not on my hotlist).
For non-technical books, subject, author backcover text in that order (though there are some publishers I don't buy because of the generally poor quality printing and binding they produce which I consider a waste of money as I don't generally buy books to throw them away after a single reading).


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It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: How do you select books?