10 Steps to Choosing the Best Books to Read

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10 Steps to Choosing the Best Books to Read

There’s an approximate 2.2m books published each year, 48,857 published already this year (as of Jan 8th), and according to Google back in August 2010 there was a total of 130 million books that have ever been published. That’s a lot of journeys. So how do you pick the best ones?

I wrote a blog about listening and someone responded with a simple comment that it’s easy (and enjoyable) to listen to someone you’ve chosen to listen to.  Likewise it’s easy to read and grow in understanding when you choose the right teachers (or authors).

So how do you go about effectively choosing the best books in any chosen subject area. This next year I am planning to read 104 books, and I want each one to be mind-blowing, exceptional and stimulating. I’ve read lots that have blown my mind away, and that I recommend on to people time and time again. But I’ve read many that I’ve put down after a few chapters, or got half way through, and although sections of them were interesting, I’ve never really recommended on much. Time is too precious to take a risk on something that ‘may’ be good. The process I recommend, is thorough and if you are looking for 5 good book recommendations it will take you less time than reading two average chapters. It’s set up in three stages.

Stage 1- Identify the niche you wish to read (Points 1- 2)

Stage 2- Seeking Experts Opinions (Points 3- 6)

Stage 3- Choosing the Book (Points 7- 10)

1. Identify the niche you want to read in, and your purpose for reading it. Write it as a compelling paragraph so that it motivates you to stick at it. 

I want to read 10 books on Psychology. I want to understand people more. If I know why people fail, give up, lose heart, communicate poorly, get defensive, have low self esteem, argue and live a mediocre life, I can offer empathy, support and if appropriate encourage them to adjust their thinking and behaviour. I can also catch myself if I show similar traits. Equally, if I know why people succeed, communicate well, stay motivated, influence others, show commitment, overcome adversity and have focus, then I can support those friends, team members, readers and associates who want to grow, and implement similar behaviours in my own life. It will give me a gift I can give to people everywhere, save me thousands of hours, prevent misunderstanding and disagreements, give me the understanding to build a strong term, help me to know myself better, help me have a stronger marriage, give me understanding that may save friends marriages, and provide me with multiple gifts I can give to people I meet each day.

2. Break the niche down further into topics. 

For my Psychology reading area, I’ve decided to break this down into the following topics that I know already interest me:

Communication, Leadership, Relationships, Transactional Analysis, Childhood Psychological Development.

I’m aware that my knowledge of Psychology isn’t as deep as it will become when I get going, so I will leave space for other topics that will seem far more interesting once I’ve started reading. If you are going to a subject completely blind, a quick search on Wikipedia will quickly help you identify areas you are interested in.

3. Identify 10 current thought leaders in this niche.

In my example just searching for ‘Best Psychological Books’ isn’t enough. Any ‘non expert’ could have put together a list to get web traffic. Sometimes the best thinkers aren’t always the best at search engine optimisation. I want to dig deeper and make sure I get life changing, stimulating books.

Therefore a simple google search for ‘Best Psychological Bloggers’ should lead you to someone who has done the hard work on identifying other good bloggers for you, and from them you get the best book recommendations. It is important at this time to trust this digital curator and that they themselves have knowledge on the niche. Read around their site and satisfy yourself that you have confidence that they have spent the time building up their knowledge. A simple test is the number of blog posts created, and the consistency of their writing. If they’ve lost steam and given up on their blog, it may not burn strong enough inside them.

How to Choose a Good Book To Read

4. Create a blog post if you have your own blog. Offer to guest blog for someone else you know, that writes relating to your subject if you don’t. Don’t over cook it- most professional looking blogs will be fine. 

I’d be writing the following post: ‘Top Ten Psychology Experts Recommend Top Ten Psychology Books.’ The final number and title will vary dependent on the number of experts and recommendations I get. You don’t need to be a good writer- in essence you’re making the results of your work available to other people in the form of a list. This acts as an incentive for the blogger to spend the time replying to you as they help you out and get a free backlink, and it also gives you a chance to thank the bloggers for their time and gather some other travellers looking for what you’re looking for.

5. Pick 20 of the best bloggers in your niche and contact them to see some books they’d recommend on the topic. Track the results.

From this curators site (and additional curators if needed), choose 10- 50 bloggers, dependent on how many books you’re planning to read. Do a Google Search for their name or their blogs name and ‘Best Books to Read.’ Find a blog post that recommends the best books to read. Add a comment (with a notification to be sent to you) saying something like:

‘If you were to recommend the two best Psychology books that explore good communication what would they be. I’m writing a blog post on calebstorkey.net that will be published in 10 days, and I’m gathering recommendations from experts in Psychology. You clearly know your stuff, and I’d love to include your recommendation for others to see. I’ll be linking back to your blog from your recommendation. Hope you can help me. Thanks a lot.

Follow them on Twitter, create and add them to a ‘Psychology’ list on Twitter and ask them the same question there.

6. Collect responses and create your blog post.

Create an email label, and with any email that comes in, thank them for it with a canned response (if you’re short on time) or personalised response (if you’re wanting to build a relationship with the author) and put it in your folder to come back to. Diarise 10 days later and then create the blog post with the list of best books. If any of the writers have included comments then include these as well. At the bottom of your post request for others to recommend them.  Send a second email with them all included as blind recipients, but then list each of their names and say a big thank you for responding to your previous email. Include a link and the fact that you’ve linked back to them to say thanks. Ask them if they feel any others have been missed or they’d like to add any further additions to do so in the comments. The likelihood is a number of them would click-through to see what their peers recommended.  This will hopefully spark off conversations between the different bloggers, as to the different recommendations they’ve made. (Naturally as they are experts within their field, they will know of each other and this is a mutual space for them to dialogue). Post the link to the list in other blog posts alongside the search term ‘Best Psychology Books to Read.’ Over the coming days and weeks, you may find further comments that further endorse existing books or recommend additional ones.

7. Check Amazon reviews and ratings.

Dependent on the number of books that you are looking to read, whittle this list down to 50% of that number. This can be done by identifying books that multiple people recommend. You want to have a look at Amazon ratings and reviews. Especially look at reviews that are over 3 years old as they are less likely to be gamed.

8. Download the first chapter of the best of these books onto the Kindle app.

You then need the Kindle app to download the first chapter (you can use the Kindle App on your phone, iPad or computer. You don’t need a Kindle to read with the app). See if you like it. Only read two pages and see how you feel about going on. Is it annoying to put it down and you want to keep going or are you a little nonplussed or feel like you ‘ought’ to read it. Has to ignite your passion and even though it’s only two pages, go for something which does grab you and scratch where you’re itching or where you want to itch. Be brutal- you can always come back, but go for ones that you’re excited about to keep you reading and get some quick wins and ‘Hurrahs’ on your pursuit of new knowledge.

Finding the Right Books to Read

9. Download them all on Kindle and see the number of highlighted comments.

If you’re time precious and have money to spare then purchase all the books that you like. Read the sections that others have highlighted. If you’re not impressed with the ‘best bits of the book’ then leave it there- the average bits wont be any better. If you are impressed than you can rest assured you’ve found a nugget. Otherwise you may want to read all the way to the end of the first free chapter and then purchase ones that you like by this stage.

10. Read and Enjoy.

Once you have read these books, you will find that you have other areas of the niche subject you wish to explore. These may be covered in the other books that were recommended to you by the experts, or you may want to follow the process again for discovering new books. Remember that often the best way to absorb and  take in information about the book is to share it with others, so consider doing a follow up blog post to the first one you created, providing the nuggets you picked up from the top books you decided to read. When you read with the intention to share you always read more attentively.

Alternatively…… you could ask a mate you respect for a recommendation?

What methods and approaches do you use when choosing books?