So Where Do You Find Those Books You Review?

Someone asked this question on a recent post, and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this directly.  Finding books that interest me has never been a problem, in one sense. Finding time to read all the books I’m interested in is probably the challenge–and keeping up with other important things in life. But learning about my sources might be interesting for others, so here goes:

1. My most tried and true way of finding books is simply the local second hand bookstore (in our case, Half Price Books, of which there are several outlets in my home town). Often I do not go there looking for a particular book. My usual practice is that I have several sections (science, fiction, history, and religion) in which I particularly look. I also check out the bargain section–I’ve made some great finds of books I was interested in that I picked up for a song.

2. Of course, these trips are supplemented from time to time with library book sales and visits to other book stores.

3. I also attend some conferences related to my work. There is often a book table with books related to the conference theme and our broader work. Many of the academically oriented books, and those on higher education come from these book tables.

4. The organization I work with has a publishing house, InterVarsity Press. You may notice that a fair number of the books reviewed here come from them. We have the option to purchase new releases at a steep discount, and receive complimentary copies of some books related to collegiate ministry. I read these books because they deal with issues I’m interested in, often quite well. When that’s not the case, I feel free to say so. I am paying for most of those books, even if they are at discount!

5. Some of my books are e-books and I learn of these through three sources: Amazon via their Kindle Daily Deal emails, BookBub, which also emails about daily deals, and NetGalley, which is a website where bona fide book reviewers (in print or on blogs) can request e-galleys of new releases in exchange for posting reviews not only on their own sites but on NetGalley’s site, which provides feedback to publishers. Big danger here is that in the ease of downloading to a reader, you will acquire far more than you can read.

6. I follow reviews of others on Goodreads, in Books and Culture, the New York Times Book Review, First Things, and other periodicals that include reviews. Hearts and Minds Books “Booknotes” is another great source. I often look more at reviews than articles in some journals. Then I keep an eye out for a good deal on the books I’m interested in.

7. One of the things I’ve begun doing is requesting review copies of books I’m interested in reading and reviewing. Review copies are furnished at no cost but involve the commitment to read and review the book often within a 30 to 60 day period, send a copy of the review to the publisher that they can re-post, and to post a review on commercial media like Amazon. So you need to be a legit reviewer with a review platform like a blog. I suggest being sparing in your requests so that you can honor your commitment to review the book in a timely fashion.

8. Occasionally a book will be an “assigned” reading for work purposes. My usual reaction is, “Oh boy–I can even justify reading as a work-related activity!

9. Every so often, I stop by our local library. They have a section with their new acquisitions and this is one more way to learn about recent publications in areas of interest.

10. Finally, there are those books friends suggest or even give you and tell you you “HAVE” to read. I will if I’m interested. My son is a source of a number of these, and thankfully, he knows enough about my propensities to buy stuff that I actually AM interested in!

So there it is. Those are some of the ways I find out about books, and find the books I review. As I said, this has never been a problem in my “bookish” world. But maybe some of these ideas will connect you with new sources of learning about good books. Hopefully, it doesn’t open up new avenues of temptation!


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