Saturday, December 14, 2019

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Good History Book

I've been thinking about sharing a few common sense tips for increasing your chances of getting a good history book for some time now. With the prices of published works rising every year it is important to spend one's money wisely by trying to get it right as often as possible when purchasing a book. So here goes:

1. Buy books from a familiar author. 
When I read a book and enjoy it, I try to find other works by that particular author, especially if they are on related topics. Authors typically write in a certain style and style usually carries over from book to book, at least some extent.

2. Read book reviews.
Book reviews come from many different sources these days. Blogs, academic journals, even online sellers all offer reviews. However, in my opinion, not all reviews are created equal. I personally prefer book reviews written by academics or subject experts. They have been asked to write the book review because they, more often than not, know the historiography of that book's subject matter. They know if the historical arguments contained in the book are sound or if the author misses the mark.

3. Buy books from recognized publishers.
Publishers have reputations at stake. They typically have editors and peer readers work with authors as works are being revised during the writing process to ensure that the book is as error free as possible. That is not to say that all errors (both factual and interpretive) get caught before going to print, however, the chances are reduced. Self published works and publishers with lower standards often skip this all important step, to the disgust of the reader.

4. Share and request recommendations.
I usually post the book that I am currently reading on Facebook. I then often follow up by sharing my thoughts about it. This allows many of my reading friends to see what I am working on and ask questions about it. Sharing is caring! During conversations, ask friends what they are reading. They probably want give their thoughts as much as you want to hear them.

5. Mine the bibliography of books you enjoy.
This is probably the least fool safe suggestion here. Historians may use just a small part of a book, perhaps for a quote, and then cite it. They might have not even cited the book, but used it in attempt to better understand the topic they are covering, thus landing it in their bibliography. However when one finds a title from an author's bibliography that looks intriguing and then does some investigative work by reading a few reviews it may well prove to be a quality addition to one's library.

6. Create an online wish list.
If you are a big book enthusiast, I encourage you to create an online wish list. Friends and family know that I am an avid reader who likes to receive books as gifts. Instead of gambling on buying a book for me, they can review my wish list on Amazon to see a list of books that I've already investigated and wish to add to my collection. That way, when you open that wrapping paper, you don't have to fake a smile and lie by saying, "I've been wanting to read this!"

Hopefully these six ideas will help you improve your chances of getting a good history book. There are so many good books out there, and some duds too, but wasting one's time and money on bad books is not something anyone wants to do.

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