I slithered in to Partners & Crime one evening intent on catching up with some criminally minded authors and while I was hanging about I read the shelf talkers. (Shelf talkers are the little cards that 'talk' about the book. Mostly hand written, mostly by store employees, mostly in indie stores.).
I came across Michael Gruber's Tropic of Night. "It went from 'New in Store' to 'Best Reads of the Year'," said the shelf talker. I didn't require more persuasion than that. I bought it. The Maggies were right. It's an amazingly good book. I'm falling all over myself to read more from this guy.
I read a lot of books in a given year. You can see that from the list on the right, and clicking on my Library Thing listing. I think it's up to 40+ now and this is June. I buy MAYBE one in ten of those titles. I use the library, and publishers send me stuff. I pried open my wallet for Tropic of Night, and was glad I did.
What does this mean for you?
Check out the shelf talkers. Read the books bookstore people think are really good. Indie bookstore folks tend to read widely and know a lot about good writing, and about what kind of good writing actually sells books. I'm not suggesting you write "for the market" but I am suggesting reading the books recommended by people who actually sell them is a pretty good idea. I'm glad I followed by own advice on this one for sure!