Finding Good Books, Finding Free Books

I often get asked how I know what books are worth reading. I also often get asked how I get all the free books I receive and review. Sadly, doing these two things is often at odds. Many free books are not that good. But, let me give you some tips for each of these categories anyway. 

4 Way To Find Good Books

1. The Recommendation of a Friend/Person whose opinion you trust - literally nothing beats the recommendation of someone who knows you and whom you trust. This includes friends, authorities on the subject, and people who work at good book stores (like the Regent Book Store... ahh, the shameless plug :) A word of caution: not all your good friends are people like this. I have regularly failed at filtering "good" from "entertaining" in the past and thus passed on several bad book recommendations. 

2. Trace it back - This is the category for research. I put several things here. Reading books by authors you know you enjoy (duh), reading books that authors you enjoy themselves note that they enjoy and/or found good/useful, using bibliographies and footnotes, etc.  I "found" G.K. Chesterton because I followed up on C.S. Lewis mentioning "The Everlasting Man" as a great book. Chesterton is still one of my favorite authors.

3. The Recommendation of "The Cloud" - By this I mean things like 'people who liked this book also liked' or looking for similar authors and so on. Google it, amazon it, whatever.

4. Trial and Error - Yes, the hard truth is that many times you just have to read it and see. That is why getting free books is so nice; you only wasted your time when the book is terrible.

Steps to Finding Free Books:

1. Borrow them from those same people you thought of when you read number 1 on the last list.

2. Use the library...

3. If you still want more free books, like free books for review from the publishers, then here is what you need.
     a. Have a "platform" with an "audience" for your "reviews."  Look, the truth is that publishers are not really out to give you a free book. They are out to get you to give them free publicity. If giving you a free book means your mom, dad, cousin Bob, and great uncle Melvin will find out about it, but no one else will, then your not getting that free book. Start a blog, join library thing, get a facebook page, tweet about it, and so on. You need an active platform with a real audience. You don't have to be huge (as you all know, I am not!) but you have to have something.

     b. Look at publishers. Some, such as Thomas Nelson, have a dedicated website for bloggers to sign up for free books on (http://booksneeze.com/).  Others, such as Zondervan, utilize their own blogs to promote "blog tours" (http://engagingchurchblog.com/).  Still others don't have much that is promoted, but will happily send a free book your way once and a while if you ask about it specifically.

     c. Follow other blogs that offer blog tours.  Basically you just have to keep your eyes open for this one. It can be pretty random who does a blog tour and when. If you follow lots of bigger blogs on topics you are interested in, then you will find them once and a while.

     d. Find "blog review" type websites with material you are interested in and sign up. (like this one: http://theooze.com/topics/viralblogger/)

I hope that helps you in your quest for more books!

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