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If you’re looking for a good book to read-either for your own enjoyment or a book club suggestion-what’s one of the first things you do? You can ask a friend. But word-of-mouth recommendations depend to a large extent on personal taste. If you want a more reliable gauge, you’ll want to find book reviews.

Let’s say you’re at a bookstore and you’re holding a book in your hand. Invariably, you turn to the back cover where you find excerpts of mainstream media reviews. They’re glowing, of course- “Characters with heart!” “A non-stop page-turner!” “A major new voice in fiction!”

There might even be a quotation or two from well-known authors: “Characters with heart!” “A non-stop page-turner!” … and so on. Authors are frequently asked by their publishers to write favorably about new imprints on the trade list. Some authors have admitted they don’t actually read the books they’re asked to review (gasp!), but they’re willing to go along because…well, they’re generous people. And they want the same treatment for their own books.

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