Book subscription box founders Emma and Dave sitting together reading books

How We Choose the Very Best Non-Fiction Books

Our first week back after the Christmas break was spent doing a tax return (boo) and tackling the stack of Bookseller magazines that had been building up over the past few months.

It took a full week to finally get to the bottom of the pile and we've had a few thoughts along the way, which we thought we'd share.

Firstly, we've vowed never let the pile grow that big again.

What started out as a fun task, sitting with cups of tea and discovering lots of great new book titles, turned into an eye-spinning nightmare after a solid seven hours. Repeat from Monday through to Friday and there was a genuine cheer when we chucked the last issue into the recycling bin.

Secondly, the rate that new books get published is pretty mind-boggling.

Bearing in mind that we're only after non-fiction books, we don't tend to pick books that are more than two years old and we reject a ton of books that we know straight off the bat won't be ones we want to send our subscribers, we still ended up with over 850 books on our long list.

Thirdly, no publisher should ever describe something as "the new science of..." ever again. It's on ever other popular science cover.

Likewise, there seem to be a lot of people deciding to move to x place for a year and then writing a book about it. Most of those sport a linocut image of a landscape on the cover. That's not to say that some of those aren't great reads. But how can you tell which ones are great and which ones are boring when they all basically look the same?

Fourthly, why do publishers still bother with hardbacks?

Actually, we Googled this one because from this side of the business there doesn't seem a lot of point to them other than, presumably, they make the publishers more money because they cost more to buy and also, they've just always done it like that.

Which, surprise, surprise, is pretty much the reason.

The editor of The Bookseller answered this question in the Guardian a few years ago. Honestly, the answer made us both a bit irritable. If a publisher wants to show an author that they care about a book, they could just promote it harder, couldn't they?

And finally, why do books that have gorgeous covers in hardback all too often get published in paperback with a revised cover, and why are those revised covers never as good?

These are the questions that have troubled us this past week.

Anyway, we've now collected a stack of books from the library which look like good bets for our Spring 2023 box, theme to be announced very soon. We have a strong contender for one of the books and some great titles ready to be read.

We take the job of choosing books for our Drift + Focus book boxes very seriously. We read the dull ones, so you don't have to. If you'd like to get our next box delivered to your door, packed full of great non-fiction reading, subscribe now.

Bye for now!

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