When was the last time you visited your local library? If you’re like me, it’s not so much how often you visit; really, it’s counting the days you stay away. Over the years, I’ve racked up more debt in library fees than speeding tickets (and I love speed as much as the next turbo car owner), but I’ve learned a few things in my years of scouring the shelves for the latest debut.

Not the least of which being that my reading glasses are much, much bigger than my literary appetite.

Reading: Pleasure vs. Productivity

Break your reading sessions into books for (1) play and (2) development is key. I could list off books and authors I enjoy the most in each category, but suffice it to say those titles all invoke a sense of curiosity and imagination in my mind. They keep me dreaming.

Books you read to develop yourself can fall into any category, really. Whatever subject it is that you study, the books you read to develop yourself—more precisely, that brain matter—are in a different class. You read them to spark the synapses and evoke thoughts.

Here’s the thing: you can do both!

You can read for pleasure and with purpose.

Internet: The World-Wide Well of Possibility

I’ve recently decided to become an editor and a book reviewer. Much the same in terms of job duties, the two positions require a similar material: a manuscript! Editors usually see a manuscript before it hits the shelves, but book reviewers do not necessarily only see the finished product. In these days of self-publication, error-ridden manuscripts are as rampant as “50 Shades of Grey” fan fiction.

I shudder at the thought.

Self-publication, however, is a trusted medium for newbie authors. They haven’t reached their J.K. Rowling moment (yet), but that doesn’t mean their tales don’t make the cut. Here’s the thing about self-publishing though: how are you going to spread the word about your book?

That’s where book reviewers come in. They’re the avid readers who can’t wait to get their hands on the next “Game of Thrones. Some of them (like me) might prefer your traditional mode of publication—tangible pages and that inexplicable book smell—but others are comfortable with curling up, Kindle in hand.

So, if you’re a lost literary soul tired of looking at the shelves and seeing your old favorites, here’s a way to find new ones. Find a website that offers free e-books for review, and join!

OnlineBookClub.org

Through this website, I’ve been exposed to authors who have that special flick in their wrist and those who cannot seem to imbibe their words with the necessary literary magic. Unique in that it offers new reviewers the chance to review books for free, while working towards becoming a paid reviewer, OnlineBookClub.org does offer some thought-provoking tomes for the book-starved.

Connecting with Authors

Being a published author in today’s day and age is not necessarily what it used to be. When cars first came out, only the rich and famous could own and/or drive them. To own a car was a privilege. I imagine book-writing started out that way as well. You had to not only know how to write but you had to have something worthwhile to say!

Nowadays, it seems every 1 in 5 people has probably written a book (or at least thought about it). What separates the detritus from the true novelists, however, is a dedication to the art. Readers know intuitively when an author has talent. They flock to their work and praise the prose they so love.

Through OnlineBookClub.org, I was able to connect with a few authors whose works I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve corresponded with a few of them on another great website, Goodreads.com. Every interaction I’ve had thus far has been rewarding and inviting.

Authors, just like readers, need to assuage that literary tic.

It Never Hurts to Ask (For those Good Reads)

After reading the first in her series, I contacted an author on Goodreads about the next installment. I mentioned I had reviewed her first work on OnlineBookClub.org and that I was interested in reading more. I wasn’t able to purchase her next book due to my budget, but I did offer a review on Goodreads, as well as on Amazon, in exchange for a copy of the sequel. With baited breath, I awaited her response.

Imagine my surprise when she accepted! She was thrilled that I had enjoyed her work and graciously attached a version of her second novel.

Fortified by my interaction with this kind author, I contacted another, this time in regards to his dragon series. He responded with the same enthusiasm and provided me PDFs of his work.

There are authors out there who just want to share their works, without gouging their readers’ pocketbooks.

Give Back, Today

Now, as much as there is scandal around Amazon reviews and being paid for something that should be given only in honesty, I do believe that a paid (non-Amazon) review can be unbiased.

To review books and act as gatekeepers is a reader’s basic duty, if not the very task of serious readers.

My advice, in this world of incredible languages, is to consider new outlets for sourcing books—either for pleasure reading or research—and always act in the manner most suited to giving back to the writing community. Have the integrity to recognize and laud a good book when you read it, and caution others against those who do not quite understand the value of language.

Because while ultimately anyone can write a book, not everyone tells a story the way it should be told. How can you tell the difference?

I’ll let you be the judge.

 

Rebecca Henderson holds a Master’s in German and a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Best expressing herself through the written word, she enjoys the smell of burning rubber and can recite the ABC’s of the automotive world upon command. Rebecca hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.

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