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How We Choose the Books to List & Feature on BookBrowse

What types of books do you cover?

As a guide to exceptional books, we focus on seeking out and recommending what we believe to be among the best and most interesting new releases.

Publishers tend to divide books into categories such as literary and mainstream, but we see books (and readers) on more of a spectrum. Feeding your mind is like feeding your body: Sometimes you're in the mood for a great heavy casserole of a book, while other times 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—in addition to having great writing and a strong story, we believe 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 books aren't defined by genre boundaries; for example, a novel can transport us to an unfamiliar place, a thriller can offer more than “page-turning” suspense, and thought-provoking non-fiction can entertain as it informs.

In short, we look for books that engage 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?

At BookBrowse, we are proud of our editorial independence. We don't sell books, so we have no obligation to focus primarily on established bestselling authors. We also keep a firm line between editorial and advertising.

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 receive many book submissions 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 thousands of books published each year, but we think that's just fine because nobody has the time to read about every book, let alone read all of them, which is why we focus on recommending books and not simply reviewing them.

Each of these books is added to BookBrowse along with useful information, such as the jacket synopsis, publisher name, genre, ISBN, page count and so on. Next, we search for as many early reviews as we can find, abbreviating each to the writer's essential opinion, so you don't have to wade through vast swathes of description and possible plot spoilers just to find out what people think of a book. Finally, we apply a consensus rating to each book.

How do you arrive at the consensus rating?

We 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 gives you the option to scan the ratings at a glance. However, no rating system can deliver the nuance of the full reviews, so we suggest you use our rating scale as a rough guide to each book, and not a definitive tool.

For more about our ratings system, 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 that doesn’t have enough reviews to form a rating (for example, occasionally a book will be embargoed ahead of sale or simply doesn't draw early review attention). If you're looking at books that publish more than about two weeks ahead of today, the chances are that most of them won't be rated because we apply ratings as close to publication as we can.

Do you include "author blurbs" in the rating?

We include reviews by other authors (sometimes known as "author blurbs"), but we do not factor them into the overall rating. This is because the "blurbs" are solicited by the publisher or author, and obviously they are only going to make positive comments public.

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, but most of the books we end up listing have an overall rating of 4+ stars. This is because we are only interested in listing the best of the best; so, while we might cover a book by a high-profile author that's getting less-than-glowing reviews, we're not generally going to use up valuable space telling you about mediocre books when there are so many excellent ones to talk about.

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

Of the 80-100 books listed on BookBrowse in a given month, we'll feature about a quarter that we think are particularly notable. Each of these features consists of a full-length review, "beyond the book" article, read-alike suggestions for similar books—plus other relevant information, which usually includes an excerpt and, when available, 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 a time so they have the opportunity to carefully look at the list and decide whether they are interested in reviewing one of the books. Once a reviewer chooses a book, a copy is sent to them to read. If the reviewer feels that they can give it an enthusiastic 4+ star rating, they write a full length review and "beyond the book" article for feature on BookBrowse. If they don't think it is up to expectations, we usually post a short review on the book's page but do not feature it.

This process of allowing the reviewers to make the final decision as to what is reviewed is different from that used by most publications, where books are simply assigned. 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 by 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 titles that may be of little personal relevance to them.

Can I review for BookBrowse?

Please see our reviewer application 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.