Choosing a Book to Read

I’m going off the beaten path a bit with this post (Not that we need a distraction! heh-heh) and talk about Books – specifically the Titles of books.

While I used to be an avid reader of both hardcopy and eBooks, I now tend to spend my days reading blogs.  This isn’t to say I don’t read anything else –I also visit online news sites and the occasional science-related website– but most of my time is spent reading opinions and perspectives that others have shared.

In other words, most of my days are spent behind a computer screen. Rarely do I sit down in a comfy chair and just … read.

Before I became a computer nerd, however, I signed up with Goodreads. As some of you may know, at the beginning of each month, they send an email listing new releases within the various genres. Since I prefer Sci-Fi (generally with apocalyptic/dystopian themes –not fantasy or other-worldly settings), I tend to ignore most of the titles listed under Romance, Non-Fiction, History & Biography (and obviously Children’s) and scroll to my preferred genre — just to see if there might be a book I can’t resist. 🙂

Unfortunately, based on some of the titles for January, I found very few that piqued my interest. A few examples listed under Science Fiction:

  • Persephone Station
  • We Could Be Heroes
  • The Preserve
  • Nophek Gloss
  • City of the Uncommon Thief

I don’t know about you, but none of these sound very “science-fiction-y.” In fact, IMO, they could be titles for any regular fiction or even a non-fiction book.

So I decided to narrow my search and tried looking under books with a Dystopian theme. Not much better:

  • Atwood Testaments
  • Lakewood
  • Blue Ticket
  • Riot Baby (???)
  • The Warehouse

Again, not one of these titles prompted me to read the description.

As I considered this in a bit more depth, I wondered if authors get so caught up in their own storylines that they forget to identify with their potential readers. No doubt they rely somewhat on the book’s description, but if the title is so non-descript (as some of these are), why would anyone bother to explore further?

What’s your take on this? Does the title of a book affect your desire to read it? What method do you use when choosing a book? Do you also find the titles of books in your favored genre sometimes go off the rails?

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70 thoughts on “Choosing a Book to Read

  1. I guess I go by authors more than titles. Often I’ll get a recommendation for a specific book, and if I really like it I’ll look for other titles by the same author. If I’m just browsing, it’s often in the non-fiction section, anyway. Goodreads is a help, since if I’m not sure about a book, I can look up the reviews, and find out from the people who liked it why they liked it. I also am reading fewer books and more blogs, and I really need to reverse that.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. None of those titles sound very inspiring.

    If I think back to pre-computer days, I used to browse the shelves of bookstores. So I could peek inside, and not just check the title. So maybe the titles were never that important.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I was just saying to my son how I missed browsing through stores, looking for books (& other items). Buying online is great if you already know what you want but there’s no sense of AHA when you find something accidentally. I haven’t been in a bookstore since I did last year’s Christmas shopping. The used book store where I used to do my business closed in March for good. Shops are closing all over the place. People blame “the internet” but you can’t buy items in a store that isn’t there anymore.

    I buy books online all the time now. I go to Thriftbooks.com or Biblio.com. I have to say, I enjoy seeing the packages in my mailbox. Brightens up my lonely life.

    Liked by 8 people

    • Another good place for online books is BetterWorld.com. They help fund literacy programs through a grants program, plus they donate books to those in need. They also recycle — no book ends up in a landfill.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Store browsing has a lot to offer. Many times I’ve gone to a store looking to a specific book, and also found something else of interest because it was by the same author or otherwise shelved in the same area. It’s almost impossible to get the same benefit online. Even with those “people who bought this also bought” prompts, it just doesn’t feel as easy as taking a possibly-interesting book off the shelf and flipping through it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Such as ….. Cooking 101. Lots of yummy things to do with *Cucumbers and Marrows by Felicity Goodbody. *published in hardback only by Slutty and Dribbler for the low, low price of $39,99.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I like intriguing titles, whether on books or blog posts (or even song titles). Of the examples you cited, only “City of the Uncommon Thief” sounds intriguing (if only to those who can’t read enough about Donald Trump). But I’m not a Sci-Fi fan, so even with a good title, a book has to be in a genre that interests me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Don’t judge a book by it’s title?
    Good point you make, but, would you say that The Handmaid’s Tale sounds like a dystopian/apocalyptic title?
    Or, right now i’m listening to The Fifth Season (a little behind, sure), and it’s absolutely enthralling. But you might not peg that as fantasy/sci fi. (Probably my favorite genre also.) Or how about Dune? Foundation? Etc. For every example I give, there’s an opposite exception, no doubt.
    I think those who reminisced over browsing the shelves – and that goes for libraries too! – are spot-on. Even the cover gives a little more information.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello George! Thank you for dropping in and sharing your thoughts.

      You make a good point — titles can be misleading. But that’s my point. Personally, I won’t investigate further if the title is funky and doesn’t at least offer a bit of intrigue. But then that’s me. Others have indicated they are more influenced by the author or reviews or (in the pre-Covid days) being able to browse in a bookstore or library.

      In any case, thank you for weighing in. I hope you’ll visit again.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. For Science Fiction I reread my favorite books/authors from the 50s, 60s, 70s: Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, James Blish, John Brunner, H. Beam Piper, Leigh Brackett, Spider Robinson, etc. etc. etc.
    Historical fiction I still love James A. Michener, in particular The Source–the book that finally made me an Atheist. Black Consciousness in South Africa is still my favorite non-fiction book, the transcript of Stephen Biko’s testimony at a trial in South Africa, and still the greatest How to run a successful revolution book I have ever read.
    Right now I am into cheap–read free–mysteries on Kindle. Yeah, I have left a lot of titles and authors out, but that’s only because I’m going senile, lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My public library has a large collection of e-books that I can check out on my Kindle. So far I have not purchased a single Kindle book, and always have lots to read. Plus, I have an older Kindle Paperwhite and if I put it on airplane mode, so that it’s not talking to the internet, it won’t return my library books until I reconnect. So I can check out a bunch at once, and then keep them as long as I need to.

      Liked by 2 people

          • I never knew libraries were hooked up with Kindle. Now I will have to register online at your library, and see what is possible. If it works,I will than, you. If not, I’ll have to find a bigger .I rarely.

            Like

        • Also most of the programs associated with e-book collections in libraries like Overdrive (Libby), Hoopla, Sora, etc. often have their own apps that you can read directly on. For example, I borrowed The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and just read directly on the Libby App on my phone, even though I could’ve sent it to my Kindle or Kindle app.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It’s been a while, but I was not impressed with ACoD. But I hope you enjoyed it, since you took the time to mention it.
            This is going way back, in a much different cultural/socal era, and I don’t know if it even available anymore (it might seem quite dated in today’s wotld) but one of the most enjoyable books I ever read in my life was, I think, EVERYMAN’S MILLIONAIRE. No idea now who wrote it
            I mentioned earlier the two books that most influenced my life–Biko and Michener–but this one I laughed out loud while reading.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. I usually choose books to read after running across reviews of them. It’s a rather scattershot process. I’m much more likely to seek out information about a book if it’s by an author I like. If a blogger with similar interests to mine posts a book review, I’ll definitely read it.

    I’m not sure how much information a title can convey. Classic novels from generations ago were often just named after the main character — Frankenstein, Dracula, David Copperfield, Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde, some of Shakespeare’s plays — back when those books were new to the world, such titles would have told you absolutely nothing about the content. Looking at some of the more modern novels on my own shelf, I see The Mote in God’s Eye, I Am Legend, The Andromeda Strain, Fantastic Voyage, The Caves of Steel, Household Gods, The Damnation Game, Planet of the Apes, The War of the Worlds — mostly quite evocative, but except for the last two, they don’t tell you much about “what it’s about”.

    Modern genre classifications aren’t all that helpful either. I object to treating science fiction and fantasy as the same genre. They’re completely different. That conflation means that a lot of what we’re sold as “science fiction” really isn’t, such as Star Wars, which has science-fiction-looking imagery but is full of stuff that’s basically magic. A book may be shelved under “science fiction” but be far from the real thing.

    If you like the apocalyptic/dystopian genre, have you ever read William Barton’s “When Heaven Fell”?

    None of the titles you list in your post would pique my interest at all, with the possible exception of “Persephone Station”, since a Greek mythological reference suggests the author might have interests paralleling mine. That’s a long shot, though.

    Non-fiction book titles tend to be more descriptive, but a title can do only so much. To take one purely at random, “Things I Never Learned in Sunday School” does fit the actual subject matter (little-known history of the Bible), but it could fit various other genres as well. I could even imagine that being the title of a porn collection.

    So I basically go by reviews, and by whether it’s an author I like, and occasionally recommendations by people I know. I probably miss a lot, but I do find a lot.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Your last paragraph is probably the best method. 😉

      Overall, I agree with your thoughts. It’s really a matter of taking the time to research. However, under most circumstances (minus a virus), people simply don’t want to take the time. Instead, they tend to go by others’ recommendations — which may or may not work out … ⤵

      No, I haven’t read When Heaven Fell, but did look it up. Sounds a bit too militaristic for me.

      P.S. The title of a porn collection??!?! 😬

      Like

      • P.S. The title of a porn collection??!?!

        Granted, that’s a bit of a stretch. I was being facetious.

        I’m a little surprised that people wouldn’t take more time to evaluate whether a book is worth reading, considering the time it takes to actually read it. Also, with the libraries off limits I have to actually pay for books (can’t read something book-length on a screen), so there’s that much more of an investment. Reviews are basically recommendations, but with reasons which give you more sense of whether to take the suggestion.

        When Heaven Fell struck me as something of an exercise in the author trying to see how much brutality and despair he can pound the reader over the head with in the course of a single novel. It is certainly “post-apocalyptic”, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love browsing in bookstores. Sci Fi and epic fantasy are my favorite genres too, Nan. Although, I do enjoy a good gothic romance. Mercedes Lackey is my favorite author.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Like Steve Ruis, I get the daily BookBub email. You can “follow” authors you like on BookBub, and they will alert you when their books go on sale. I’ve gotten a lot of good ebooks for $3 or less that way, more than I have time to read. But 98%+ of what they send is stuff I’m not interested in; you have to do a lot of winnowing to find the good ones.

    And I agree with those who say the title isn’t meaningful to me; I rely on reviews and recommendations. Clifford Simak is an older author I only discovered recently; he writes good sci-fi stories (sci-fi as opposed to “space opera”): “Way Station”, “Time and Again”, and others. I recently read Blake Crouch’s “Recursion” and now I want to read more of his books.

    A few that took more work to get through, but were well worth the journay: N. K. Jemison “The Fifth Season”. Dan Simmons “Hyperion” which uses a “Canterbury Tales”-style format that I enjoyed. I didn’t make it through Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” (Xenogenesis) series, and I want to try again.

    If you haven’t seen “Arrival” that is a wonderful movie. Amy Adams deserved an Oscar for that one IMO. The story comes from Ted Chiang’s “Story of your Life” (part of a collection he wrote) and it was also a good read. Avoid spoilers on this one! I was glad I saw the movie before reading the book. The ending was profoundly affecting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose titles aren’t always the best way to judge a book (kinda’ like judging things by its cover 😉), but when I’m just skimming a list, it’s what will prompt me to investigate further.

      Having said that, I must agree, titles can be misleading (as Infidel pointed out … even as related to my book 😮) so it’s probably a good idea to take the time and read the description. But regrettably, I’ve found even those can be misleading. *sigh*

      I guess it goes back to the “olden days” when you could browse in a bookstore or library and actually skim the contents of a book you’re interested in.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Most of us could have written your post. Just tweaking it a bit. We have a common interest in reading, but the selections are uncountable.
    I am now listening to audio books as don’t trust going to the library even though restrictions are in place.
    I need the text in front of me to follow. Somehow I get distracted if I don’t read along. Mostly nonfiction.
    I wish I had one of those Kindlely things. But I don’t so make do with the best I can.

    Liked by 1 person

            • Wow; this might be the first time I’m on the other side of the table.

              I’m a long-time Unix/FreeBSD/Linux user, who despises Windows, and only started using a Mac because at the time it was the Unixy platform with the broadest software development coverage. Usually I’m the one saying, “Sorry, that won’t work for me; I don’t have Windows.” 😀

              Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I downloaded the Kindle app to my 8″ tablet and it works great. The tablet is a perfect “holding” size and the type is easy to read. If I’m in any kind of “waiting room,” I’ll use my iPhone.

        Of course as with many electronic things, there are drawbacks. But the conveniences are pretty hard to ignore. 🙂

        Like

  11. Some titles are weird, I suppose. And those titles are boring!

    I’d say I probably notice title more than cover art, actually, but I’ve also learned that title tells precious little. It can guide one, but it can also mislead both directions. When it comes to deciding to read a book, my preferred method for the “Decision Making” part is to read the excerpt, and see what I feel I get from that. Blurbs are sometimes so off! I’ve seen quite a few interesting books with boring blurbs, and that happens the other way, too, but I’ll take the blurb into account a little. Obviously before the actual decision comes the finding, and that’s where titles definitely matter, in my opinion. Titles and cover art. And blurbs, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Frank Herbert’s Dune is about as un-presupposing a title one could get, yet remains one of the most iconic science fiction novels. The cover is intriguing (the edition I have) and this was what piqued my interest.

    One of my favourites is the God of Tarot Trilogy by Piers Anthony, and with a title like this you just know my hand was drawn to the books like a magnet!

    In the early 80’s I read Stephen Donaldson’s fantasy series Chronicles of Thomas Covenant which was recommended to me by the mother of a friend who I was in conversation with at a house party. As fantasy is not a genre I normally read I was initially unenthusiastic, but the poor woman was so passionate about the books that after the first book was thrust into my hands I promised to read it. Within a dozen pages I was hooked and have been a lifelong fan since.

    While mooching in a local book store many moons ago I came across a book called Marrow. The title seemed odd for a science fiction novel, but the cover was great. The blurb hooked me and it has remained a firm favourite. I’ve re-read it several times. I even recommended it to John Z and he was so enamoured that he bought and read every other title by the same author!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate your comment, Ark, because you not only said “I like this book,” but explained why. As a result, I did my own research to see if any of the books might appeal to me. Regrettably, they are all a bit too fantasy-ridden for my tastes.

      But again, I do appreciate your share. And, as a result, I’m going to mention a couple of books I liked to give blog readers an idea of my own tastes.

      One is Extinction Code by James Prescott. It’s a 3-part series and I’ve only read Part 1 but it proved to be a style I enjoy. Also, a book I read quite some time back was Dark Matter, A Novel by Blake Crouch. (Surprisingly, I didn’t care for the TV series by the same name.) A book I started but haven’t quite finished is The Atlantis Gene — it’s also part of a series.

      As I mentioned in my post, I spend far too much time behind the computer screen. I really need to start walking away and spend some time in books!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dune and Marrow are totally Sci-Fi. Marrow is hard core and grounded in lots of science too.

        I read almost every evening. even if it’s just a page or two. Clears my head and makes the Zzzzzs more pleasant!

        Like

        • Yes, sci-fi but a bit too “far-out” for my tastes, I prefer Sci-Fi that has potentiality (if that makes sense). Story lines that involve “spacy” names and other planets just don’t appeal to me. Example re: Dune …

          From Wikipedia’s description: Duke Leto Atreides of the House Atreides, ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, is assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV to serve as fief ruler of the planet Arrakis.

          And also re: Marrow, a comment on Wikipedia: “Peter Tillman felt the novel had too many scientific errors to be true sci-fi and would be better classified as sci-fantasy.” Based on its description, I would agree.

          But see? We’ll all different. Someone else (perhaps Ron?) may investigate Marrow and find this book is right up his alley.

          Again, thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Going by those specs You’d probably enjoy Timescape by Gregory Benford.
            Set in the ”future” of 1998 it is about a group of scientists who try to help avoid an impending ecological disaster by attempting to send a message back in time to colleagues in 1963. Very sciencey and very topical all things considered.
            I read it a while back.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Just, for equal time: That Wikipedia entry for Dune is so out of touch with the main arc of the story as to be meaningless. I mean, I know Dune fairly well, and I don’t even know what that’s about. But you’re right, that sounds boring, like a history.
            So, almost like the cliche about the cover, judging a book by its Wikipedia entry is, um, bad.
            Cheers,

            Liked by 2 people

      • If you liked Extinction Code, you might also like Inherit the Stars (briefly described here). Mission of Gravity is also pretty good “hard” SF. The others listed would probably be less likely to appeal to you.

        Like

        • Yes, Inherit does sound like something I could get into based on your description. I shall check it out. And you’re correct … the others listed were less appealing.

          I haven’t read any of Philip K. Dick’s books but have seen a bit of his work on TV. I think I would like him. May have to do some research. 😉 Heck! I may actually get back into reading again!

          Like

          • Just a warning, Nan, what you see on video or film is seldom what you will find in a PKD book. He is by far my favorite author, but he produced so many words there is much that is mediocre to go along with even more that is great.
            Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is one of my favorites of his, but the protagonist is a wimp compared to the movie version. He really liked writing common people thrust into incredibly uncommon situations. Hero-types are seldom found in his books. My other very best favourite is A Maze of Death, which has so many turns it takes a while to realize what is going on. Sheer joy, for me.
            Clifford D. Simak was another good author, mentioned above by Brent, who I had forgotten all about.
            Jack L. Chalker, Midnight at the Well of Souls, was a wonderful first publication (I never found anything older) but his publisher demanded it become a series, and though okay I felt they never lived up to the promise Midnight showed.
            No one has mentioned Douglas Adam’s five book trilogy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, what you might expect from someone friends with the Monty Python gang. Thoroughly enjoyable.
            Stephen R.R. Donaldson, mentioned above (Thomas Covenant series) I found to be very verbose. The stories were okay, but I had to force myself to read them.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks for the feedback, rawgod. I realize visual interpretations of written material rarely match, but they at least provide an idea of a storyline. 🙂

              Actually, no author produces 100% enjoyable material. Even Mr. S. King or Mr. D. Koontz or Ms. P. Cornwell or Ms. M. Atwood (just to mention a few) have hiccups every so often.

              I think it’s like anything else … one has to winnow out the boring and/or distasteful and keep searching for the “good stuff.”

              Like

            • Did you know Dean R. Koontz started out as a science fiction writer. His first novel was Star Quest, an intergalactic war novel. There were a couple more, and the next thing I heard of him he was into horror mysteries, kind of.
              Another writer who started out in science fiction was David Gerrold, When H.A.R.L.I.E was one, the first supercomputer novel I ever read.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I haven’t read anything by Koontz for several years, but IMO, several of his older writings did border on science fiction. Not so much the “other-worldly” aspect but more the “maybe…probably not…but maybe” genre. However, I do think his writing changed fairly dramatically at some point and is partly why I stopped reading his books. One of my favorites, which I would tend to call “sci-fi” was Watchers … about the smart dog. Really liked that one!

              Like

            • Oh, and did I ever tell you, Margaret Atwood was my Prof in a university English half-course when I was a mature student in Winnipeg, circa 1972. I got an A++ in her course, the first one she had ever given out.

              Liked by 1 person

  13. Reading for pleasure? Reading for purpose?
    I would not suggest a blind date.

    When I went looking for ‘anything’ written by Democritus I discovered some good sources for print and digital books. Good Reads. Thriftbooks. Amazon. Project Guttenberg. Logos.

    I fell into the hands of Stephen Greenblatt for about a year. I heard an interview in which he discussed his book, “Tyrean, Shakespeare on Politics” and his involvement with Shakespeare’s work.

    Project Guttenberg has a program that invites volunteers to take part in preparing books for converting to e-books. They have a lot of books that are in the public domain free for downloading.

    I never found anything written by Democritus but I found a book in which he was quoted by some of the later philosophers. I found that none of his work exists anymore, but I enjoyed the search.

    Mortimer Adler described readers as being in a great conversation with all authors as far back as the written word has been recorded. Britannica sold a set of books called “The Great Conversation” just to prove him right. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I loathe e-books, titles mean nothing. Nothing compares to meandering through a book store, turning pages of actual paper and scanning random paragraphs. I browse for books the same way I shop for watermelon – pick it up, examine its unique properties, compare snippets of reference and and ask myself if its worth eating.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I like to read but doing so takes up precious time so I never pick a book based solely on the title. I usually first become interested because a friend has recommended it or I’ve read a positive review that piques my interest. But even that isn’t enough. I’ll seek the title out on Goodreads and go through several reviews there, reading both positive and negative reviews. If I read a negative review, I might then see what books that person actually likes. If they’ve given high ratings to several books that don’t interest me, I realize we aren’t into the same things and disregard their negative critique. Anyway, you get the idea. I might put a title on a list of want-to-reads but still not get to it until one day, someone else recommends it, I rediscover it and finally take the plunge.

    I’m not recommending my methods, just telling you what works for me. No matter how you go about choosing, one thing I do recommend is allowing yourself to move on if you start a book and find that you aren’t enjoying it. There are sooo many titles out there. No need to waste time on something that isn’t engaging your interest. If you have a reasonable public library, you won’t need to spend a dime trying out even those books with lackluster titles.

    Good luck.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope I didn’t give the impression that I choose books solely on title! But it is the title that often determines whether I want to investigate further.

      Usually my final decision is based on both the description and the reviews. Personal recommendations are helpful and may point me in a direction I wouldn’t ordinarily go, but they’re not a sure thing.

      I think it pretty much boils down to personal tastes/interests and what “grabs” us at that particular moment in time.

      BTW, I found a book through BookBub that I can barely put down! It’s been a VERY long time that a storyline has grabbed me and held on. 😄 I’m loving it!

      Liked by 1 person

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