I love books.
When I was a kid, I used to bring books to read at sleepovers.
I can recognize the sound a UPS truck makes from a mile away because they’ve delivered so many Amazon packages to my house.
When I travel, my backpack weighs 97 pounds because I stuff it so full of books.
But I have a problem.
So many books are available these days that it’s hard to pick one to read. And maybe you’ve had that problem before too. You go to Barnes & Noble and there’s just this ocean of options. So how do you choose which book to read? Here are the 10 things I look for when I buy a new nonfiction book:
1. The title
It’s next to impossible to cram an entire book into a title. Did they do a good job with this book, or does the title sound like a photocopy of every other book on the market right now? (Example of one I love: Start with Why .)
2. The Subtitle
What’s the promise of the book? What are they saying in the subtitle? Does it overpromise, “The story of how one cat saved an entire town and taught the world how to love again?” Is it as strong as the title?
3. Back cover description
Does it sound interesting? Does it say something that couldn’t be said on the back of another book because it’s so original? Is it emotionally manipulative? “This book will change your life in 4 seconds!”
What are other people I like saying about this book? Who else was willing to put their name on it? Does that endorser endorse every single book they put in front of him/her? Or do they rarely emerge from their own writing cave and endorse a book, which makes this endorsement a big deal?
5. The feel of the book
This is completely dumb, but how does the book feel in my hand? What type of paper did they use? Is it heavy? Does it feel right? (Insert mockery from Kindle owners right here.)
6. The length
Did the book need to be this long? Or, is the first chapter the whole idea and the rest of the book is just supporting material? Could it have been a magazine article instead of a book? Do I feel like they played with the font size to stretch out the page count?
7. The cover
Is the cover original? Or is it simply a stock photo like a million other stock photos of people looking wistful and hopeful, as if perhaps the contents of this book I am holding just changed their lives and would change mine as well despite my penchant for run on sentences? (Example of a good cover: Rework.)
Did a friend recommend the book to me? Was their recommendation positive but not so positive that they’ve put a tremendous amount of pressure on me to have a life-changing experience via this book. And if I don’t, we’ll have to have an awkward conversation?
9. Author’s life
Has the author accomplished something? It’s hard for me to buy a business/leadership/creative/marketing/Christian nonfiction book about a big idea if the only thing the author has accomplished is writing the book about the big idea. Have they lived the big idea? Are they pulling from real-life, true experiences or just theories? When Seth Godin writes about Tribes, for instance, you believe him because he’s built a huge Tribe. When Francis Chan writes about Crazy Love, you believe him because that’s how he’s living.
Can I sample the book first? Can I read the first chapter or the author’s blog to get a sense of what the book is really about? Is there a trailer I could watch to understand the heart of the book? (This is a big part of why we give away the first chapter of Quitter for free.)
Those are the 10 things I think about when buying a new non-fiction book.
How about you?
What do you look for in a new book?