Tips on finding good books
Here I want to share with you some tips, if you like, from my experience on finding books. I have to say, firstly, that I am not entitled to be called a bookworm. My interest in books have only developed these past few years since I came to Singapore. The interest is still growing, and I hope I will not lose that interest. One thing that fueled my interest was the Christianity Today’s list of 100 most influential books in the 20th century. It has been my desire to be able to read every single book in the list.
In relation to what I have just said, the first tips in finding good books is of course, to seek recommendations from trustworthy sources. Christianity Today, I believe, is one such source. You can go to the website and see its book section. Another thing you can do before deciding to buy a book which you have already heard of the title, is to do a simple search at amazon. You can check the ratings and comments from the readers. This might not be that simple, though. Readers’ comments may differ, and you need to exercise judgement. Nevertheless, you get a feel by skimming through the comments and that will help you. It is better than basing your decision to buy a book on the fact that either it is located in the front section of the book store, people are buying it and so you feel you must buy it, too, or it has a nice glossy cover. Still another way of doing it is to see the often forgotten part of a book–the references. If you already read a good book, try to see what other books the book refers to. These are usually worthy to read also. It makes sense, isn’t it, that a good author shall refer the readers to other good books?
The second tips is about location–where to find a good book. I shall return to the 100 books list I mentioned above. I have found that the majority of those books are available in the libraries. In the local context I am referring to NIE, NUS, and NTU libraries. Good books are classics. While you could always find them in the book stores, those in the book stores are usually the republished editions. That means those books are not recently written. They keep being published because they are good. And here is where the libraries are useful. The libraries most probably are keeping the earlier editions for lending. Libraries are indeed the first place you need to go to to find good books without buying. The second is, of course, friends. So if you think you want to read the books I mention in this blog, please approach me. Books are not meant to stay on the bookshelf. They are meant to be read. If I happened to have those books, I will lend it to you. If you want to know what books I have, you can ask me. If you are interested in any of the books, you can borrow it from me. But of course, a word of caution, “Do unto others what you would like them do unto you.” So you know the rule. Take a good care of them as if they are your own. The second location I would recommend is the second-hand book stores, for why buy a new one if you can buy a second-hand one at a cheaper price? In the local context I am referring to the several book stores at Bras Basah Complex–in particular “Knowledge Book Centre” at level three (it has wide selections of books: novels, engineering, economics, philosophy, history, psychology, and religion) and one book store at level one (I forgot the name, but it has a great number of Christian books, and they are relatively newer than the ones at “Knowledge Book Centre”). But if you want to buy new books, you can always go to the bookstores. I usually go to SKS Book Store. It is a great place to find good Christian books, with wide selections of authors, publishers, and categories.
The third tips is to know some publishers’ names. This is because some publishers publish books with characteristics that you are unlikely to find in other publishers. For books written in Reformed perspective, two publishers are worth mentioning: “Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing” and “Banner of Truth Trust“. These two publish typically Reformed books. Especially from “Banner of Truth Trust” you can find many classic books, such as those written by the Puritans. Another publisher which I usually pay particular attention to is “Eerdmans“. Books published by “Eerdmans” are scholarly in nature. Therefore they are deep and specific. Recently SKS Book Store gave 20% discount for all “Eerdmans” books. Hopefully they will give 25-30% discount this Christmas. These three publishers are the ones I usually pay more attention to. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot get good books from other publishers. Apart from the publishers’ names, it is important to know some background of the authors. And try to remember the names of the authors. This is an important thing to do when you browse for books from other publishers. Some author tend to be acquainted with certain publishers, and therefore you know where to look for if you already knew the authors’ names.
That’s all about it that I can think of at the moment. Let us read good books, be edified, be humble enough to learn–for as we learn we know that there are more things we don’t really know, and this shall let us be more humble,–and be ready and generous to share what we have learnt, so that others will be blessed also as we have been.
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- November 12, 2005 / 16:21