Worth the investment?

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I’m interested in this list of “Best Reads of 2012” because it has been complied with the aid of the reviews of Amazon customers. This is both a good and a bad thing in my opinion. On the one hand, these opinions come from the real people reading these books, who have bought them and invested time in them not because it’s their job or because they are paid to do so. Picking up a novel and reading it from start to finish is a commitment, and a person who makes the effort to write a book review is really saying “Yes, this is worth the money and several hours/days/weeks of your time.” Or, alternatively, “No, don’t bother, there are much better things out there to invest your time and money in.” So I do think the opinions of these review writers should be valued.

However, coming up with such a list using reviews only isn’t very representative or always very reflective of good writing. Clearly a lot of people have read these six books and given good reviews. But does that make them the best books of 2012? The internet allows books to be instantly promoted and for word about them to spread very easily, meaning that books that perhaps aren’t very well written become surprise best sellers overnight. I think that sometimes books are only bought because they have such a high profile, and they are bought by people simple because they have heard so much about that one book in particular. They might not have read any other books released this year, and yet the one they have read gets a five star review. To me, the act of rating and reviewing novels is helped by having something to compare them with.

I’m not commenting specifically on the books in this list (I’ve only read one of them) – they may all be fantastically well written, and as I said, the reviews have come from real people who have taken the time to tell others why they too should pick up one of these titles and read. But I too have been caught up in the hype of certain books, the ones that everyone is talking about, and more than once I have regretted making that investment of time in something that just wasn’t worth it.

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