I saw this week that Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer for fiction. Miriam read it here for a recent book club and liked it a lot. It’s on my reading list, and has been for some time. I’m a fan of Egan’s, and she and I passed through the halls at The Tribeca Film Center many years ago when I was an intern there, even before she became a published writer. Then this morning I saw this article about what sounds like a fascinating new popular science book that explores an eight decade study of longevity. I’ve added it to my list as well.
It got me to thinking about what influences a person’s buying decisions when it comes to books and where they are learning about the books they want to read. Personally, I pull my reading list together based on many sources, including reviews, articles, bestseller lists, and word of mouth. But since I work in the publishing industry, it’s a different sort of research. I just ordered, for example, copies of Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, which won the National Book Award last year, as well as Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which was universally praised as one of the best books of 2010. For me, it’s not just about reading a good book, although that’s certainly a fringe benefit. It’s about researching the market and learning precisely what makes a book great. There are lessons to be learned from these examples that I can apply to projects I’m developing, and those I’m considering as well.
So, I’m curious to know more from our readers about their buying habits. A few questions:
Does anyone out there wait all year to see what the Pulitzer for fiction is and then buy it if you haven’t already read it? Or do you not care at all about the prestigious prize? Are there any other literary prizes that matter to you?
Do reviews sway you in a direction, and if so, from which publications? Do you swear by one reviewer over another whose taste you feel is in sync with your own? Do you wait each year for the annual best-of lists from the New York Times and others, and pick a handful from there?
Does the occasional ad on tv remind you to go out and buy the latest commercial blockbuster (I always find books ads so painfully awkward and not at all convincing)?
Or do you simply walk into a local bookstore and peruse the shelves? If that’s your preference, do you look at the new and noteworthy tables, the bestsellers, or the general fiction or nonfiction shelves by genre or category? Do you spend 10 minutes looking or 2 hours (and do you sometimes start a book in the store and put it back if it’s not working for you?)?
So many questions to think about what brings us to the books we read. Thanks in advance for the feedback. And whatever way you come to your choices, keep on buying books!