More than 1,000 books are printed every day in the world, and several thousand new religious titles come out each year. So how can you recognize jewels from junk when you’re looking for a book?
Here are a few tips:
Know the author. This is the most important tool you have. I’ll buy anything published by certain authors. But there are other authors I won’t read Learn from experience who’s good and who’s not. If you read something that’s bad, think twice before you read something else from that author. When you read something good, check out that author’s next book.
Read the cover and the jacket. Pay attention to the author’s credentials when you look at the jacket. It matters. Too many books have great titles, but nothing else. The author just felt like writing a book. Check out the author on the jacket cover. Try to discern if he or she has any experience concerning the book’s topic. Of course, sometimes you have to take the jacket copy with a grain a salt. Often it’s just hype and sales copy. But you need to at least review it.
Look at the table of contents. Pay attention to the chapter titles. Usually they’ll tell you quite a bit about the book’s contents. Take a look at the forward, too. It should give you a feel for not only the contents of the book but also the style – whether it’s a light or heavy read.
Check out the bibliography and the footnotes. Always check and see who is referenced in a book. You can tell a lot about a book just by who is quoted. If an author isn’t quoting anyone I care about, it tells me that the book will probably go in an unhelpful direction. If they’re quoting those I respect, I’ll pay attention to what the author is saying even if I’ve never heard of him or her.