Today’s Daily Prompt: “How do you pick what blogs or books to read? What’s the one thing that will get you to pick up a book or click on a link every single time?”
Picking books is a task both difficult and easy.
I find it easy to pick some books, they are the books by authors I have already read and trust to deliver something worth reading. If David Weber publishes a new book I know I will probably enjoy it. There are also older authors whose works I am slowly working through, Philip K Dick is the most common of those at the moment.
There are also times when I feel the need to go back to an old friend, when Austen, Hardy or Tolkein call to me. These are like a holiday, a rest from the work, the intellectual effort of understanding a new book.
Then it gets hard. Finding new authors to enjoy is difficult. I often lower the cost of testing the waters by having a look in a second hand bookshop. I also subscribe to the free sample edition of ‘Fantasy & Science Fiction’ magazine.
Non-fiction books are another problem entirely. For me non-fiction falls into two categories; the books I read for pleasure and those I read for “study”, though my study is for pleasure and self-learning rather than formal education.
The ones for pleasure are chosen from recommendations and reviews in a small number of sites I trust such as New Scientist, the Guardian and Brain Pickings. One of these sites will mention a book and it will pique my interest. It then gets added to my Amazon Wish List and every so often I’ll buy a few books off the list. “Guns, Germs And Steel” is the perfect example of this sort of book.
Choosing the ones for learning is hard. As an example take “A Short History of Philosophy” by Solomon and Higgins. If you ask a philosopher for a recommendation on a history of philosophy it’s almost certain that they will point you to Copleston’s nine volume history, the definitive work. Of course I didn’t want to read nine volumes to start my exploration of philosophy so that was out. A search on Amazon led me to a book by Warburton and the Solomon and Higgins. Reading the reviews on both it was obvious that the latter was deeper and probably offered better coverage of Eastern philosophy. A Google search found a couple of reviews by mere mortals such as myself and they said the sort of things I was looking for. It turns out that it’s an excellent book and it’s teaching me a great deal about philosophy.
This is how I find books for my learning. It was similar searches that lead me to “The Golden Bough” and Joseph Campbell when I wanted to learn about mythology. Doing the research is key when looking for a good self-study text.
Finding good blogs is a different story entirely. To start, the cost of adding a blog to my reading list is incredibly low since I read them all using an RSS reader (the Feedly website on my Mac and Mr Reader on the iPad).
I generally find new blogs by link. If one of the blogs I read and enjoy keeps on linking to posts I like on another blog then it will get added to the list.
I also look at the recommendations of the RSS reader, Feedly has found one or two good blogs in highly specific areas such as Mac technical or Lego blogs.
This leaves me with an incredibly long list of blogs I read. At the moment Feedly has around 200 blogs in my list though perhaps only fifty or so post regularly and it would not surprise me if as many as one in ten are actually dead and no longer posting.
By the way, if you aren’t using an RSS reader to check out your favourite blogs on a regular basis then you’re wasting your time and energy. I highly recommend using one, at the moment I’d recommend you start with Feedly.