The problem with amazon, or, why you should use this website

How do you decide what to read?

What motivates you to invest your precious recreation time (not to mention your hard-earned dollars, if you don’t use a public library) in a particular book?

Is it the cover art?  The sensational blurb on the back?  Previous exposure to the author’s work?  A newspaper review?  A radio interview of the author?  A featured position on the rack at your favorite bookstore?

For most of us readers, all these things matter to some extent.  But those in the publishing and bookselling business know that the single best way to get someone to read a book is through a personal recommendation by someone the reader trusts.

When that happens for you, it can be wonderful.  A friend turns you on to a new novel–something you’d never have picked on your own–and you love it.  But what if your friends have very different taste from you?  Or they don’t have the time to find books beyond the bestseller lists?  Or what if they don’t read much at all?  To whom should you turn for advice?

The big online booksellers (such as amazon and Barnes & Noble) can help.  They post reader reviews, and these reviews can be useful.  But I find there are lots of problems with these reviews.  First, by the time you read the review, you’ve already crossed a major hurdle: you’ve found a book that might appeal to you.  What about all the titles you’ve never heard of?

Second, you don’t know whom to trust.  Some of the readers who post reviews have read extensively and can compare different books in the same genre.  Others are merely impressed by the first thing they come across.  Some may have very different taste from you.  For example, I personally can’t stand stories that contain portrayals of sadistic violence, but some thriller readers love chainsaw-wielding rapist serial killers.  And how about those star ratings?  What do they really mean?  How can you distinguish among books that are good, excellent, and truly great?

My goal is to be your trusted literary consultant, the book-reading friend you wish you had, in one specific genre: thriller fiction, in particular, thrillers with scientific, medical, or technical themes.  Why?  Because that’s what I like to read (and it also happens to be what I write).

I’ve read a lot of science and medical thrillers, both contemporary and classic, and I’ll tell you what I think of them.  Check out my reviews of books you’ve already read to see if you and I agree.  If we do agree, then please use my reviews to discover new authors, or new works by authors you already know.  If we don’t share the same opinion of a particular book, you can still use this site to find fresh titles in the genre–whether I recommend them or not.

And if you find my comments useful, please subscribe for quarterly emails to inform you about newly-posted reviews.

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