As consumers, when we go to buy things, most of us do a little research. We may talk to friends and family that own a particular product, but possibly the easiest thing is to take a quick stroll on the World Wide Web. Go to Consumer Reports’ website, check out reviews on Amazon, or simply Google the product of interest and see what pops up. Before parting with our money, we want to know what other people think, whether they’re experts or folks just like us; it either validates a good purchase, or makes us feel secure that we didn’t shell out for something that falls apart during the first five minutes of use.
So that brings me to the bestsellers lists. Respected publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek all feature a best-sellers list, letting their readers know what books are selling well, not necessarily which books that actually read well. There is a difference. How do you know that the books on those lists were actually enjoyed, recommended, and have valid takeaways? You don’t; those lists simply provide the measurable data that the books listed have sold the most.
But I’m not saying there aren’t good books on the best-seller lists; you just need to pay attention to them over a series of months to get a real feel for what books are staying steady on the lists (strong book sales are the most likely evidence that a book has good content) and which books are simply a flash in the pan. But who has time to track best-selling books on three different lists?
The bottom line: As a book buyer, you can’t just stop at the best-sellers list, you need to take that next step and get a second opinion in the form of a recommendation or review by a trusted source. Trust me on this, I should know.