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How We Choose the Books to List & Feature on BookBrowse

At BookBrowse we are proud of our editorial independence. We don't sell books which reduces the temptation we might otherwise have to focus on the bestselling authors (and any commission from links to booksellers is donated to charity). We also keep a firm line between editorial and advertising so that we are not put in the position of having to say nice things about a book because money has changed hands. This frees us to give coverage to noteworthy books from a wide range of genres irrespective of how well-known the author is or how large the promotional budget might be. As a guide to exceptional books we are not interested in trying to list every book under the sun, instead we focus on seeking out and recommending what we believe to be among the best and most interesting new books.

What types of books do you cover?
Many in publishing tend to define books into categories such as literary and mainstream; but we see books (and readers) on more of a spectrum because feeding your mind is like feeding your body, sometimes you're in the mood for a great heavy casserole of a book, sometimes something lighter is more appealing, so you'll find a range of styles and genres listed on BookBrowse. With that said there is a defining factor that we look for in a book and that is that in addition to great writing and a strong story, it should leave us mentally richer than when we started it - so that when we turn that last page we know something about the world or ourselves we didn't before. Such a book isn't defined by genre boundaries, for example it could be a novel that transports us to an unfamiliar place, or a thriller that offers more than 'page-turning' suspense, or thought-provoking non-fiction that entertains as it informs. In short, we look for books that engage, entertain and enlighten.

Over the course of the year we feature approximately one-third nonfiction to two-thirds fiction, but we don't quota for particular genres so the balance will vary week to week and from one season to another, just as it does in the publishing industry as a whole.

How do you choose the books?
In order to decide which books to cover we start with the publishers' seasonal catalogs about six months ahead of publication, carefully noting books of interest. Two to three months before publication we start to cross reference the books with the prepublication reviews from publishing industry magazines, and overseas reviews when relevant, taking note of books that are living up to expectations with great early reviews, rejecting others that aren't, and adding books that we missed in the catalogs. We also take note of the many book submissions made directly to BookBrowse.

The result is the 80-100 books that we list on BookBrowse in any given month. This is a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of books published each year, but we think that's just fine as nobody has the time to read about every book, let alone read all of them, which is why we focus on recommending books not simply reviewing them. Each of these books is added to BookBrowse along with useful information such as the book jacket synopsis, publisher name, genre, ISBN, page count and so on. Then we search for as many early reviews as we can find, abbreviating each review to the writer's essential opinion, so you don't have to wade through vast swathes of book description, often including plot spoilers, just to find out what people of a book. Then we apply a consensus rating to each book.

How do you arrive at the consensus rating?
We read and summarize the reviews from all the established media sources that we are able to find at the time. Then we apply an overall rating to each book based on these reviews. This has the advantage that you scan the consensus rating at a glance; however, obviously, any rating system, and certainly the overall consensus rating, cannot deliver the nuance of the full review. With this in mind, we suggest you use our rating scale as a rough guide to each book, and not a definitive tool.

Please explain your ratings system
For more about our ratings system please click here.

Why do I sometimes see books without a rating?
We only apply a consensus rating to a book if there are at least two reviews from recognized independent media sources. Because we are rating the books before publication (so you get to hear about them ahead of the crowd), from time to time there will be a book where there aren't enough reviews to form a rating (for example, occasionally a book will be embargoed ahead of sale or simply hasn't drawn early review attenion). If you're looking at books that publish more than about two weeks ahead of today, then the chances are you'll find that most of them won't be rated as we wait to update the reviews and apply a rating to as close to publication as we can.

Do you include "author blurbs" in the rating?

We will often include reviews by other authors (sometimes known as "author blurbs") but we don't factor these reviews into the overall rating. This is because the "blurbs" are solicited by the publisher and, by definition, they are only going to make the glowing ones available - thus to include these into the overall rating would unfairly benefit books with lots of author reviews.

Why are there so few books with poor ratings?

If you look at the reviews for a typical book you'll find a range of opinions, often including less than glowing reviews; but most of the books we end up listing have an overall rating of 4+ stars. This is because we can list only a tiny fraction of the books published each month so, while we might cover a book by a high profile author that's getting less than glowing reviews, as a rule we're not going to use up valuable space telling you about mediocre books when there are so many excellent books to talk about!

What is the difference between a listed book and a featured book?

From the 80-100 books listed on BookBrowse in a given month we'll feature about twenty that we think are particularly notable. Each of these features consists of a full-length review, "beyond the book" article, excerpt and read-alike suggestions to other similar books; plus other relevant information, when available, such as a reading guide and interview.

How do you decide which books to feature?
We pick the featured books by circulating a selection of the most interesting titles to our professional reviewers. We send the shortlist to one or two people at at time so they have time to carefully look at the list and decide which book they are interested in reviewing, rather than simply rushing to grab the first well-known author before someone else does. A copy of the book is then sent to the reviewer to read. If on completion the reviewer feels that they can give the book a solid 4+ star rating they will write a full length review and "beyond the book" article to be featured on BookBrowse. If they don't think it is up to expectations we will post a short review on the book's page but will not feature it.

This process of allowing the reviewers to make the final decision as to what is reviewed is different to that used by most magazines and newspapers who simply assign books. We believe our system has a number of advantages, including that editorial bias is considerably reduced as the final selection of books is made by a diverse group of experienced reviewers rather than one or two editorial chiefs, and reviewers pick the books that they feel are best suited to their interest and experience rather than being assigned books that maybe of little personal interest to them.

Can I review for BookBrowse?
See this page.

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.