Choosing Your Next Book or Movie--How Can You?

Choosing your next book, movie or TV show was less of a problem when there were only 3 or 4 television stations, studios put out only 85 films a year, and publishing houses turned out, what, 1000 books a year? Now, we have hundreds of channels, literally millions of new books each year and I-don't-know-how-many movies with Amazon, Netflix and the rest throwing in. Consequently, we now have everyone telling us what to read/watch/digest next. It used to just be Consumer Reports and the NYT Bestseller List. Now you have thousands of book blogs, youtube channels, Rotten Tomatoes, emails in your inbox, Goodreads' ratings, God knows, everyone has a blog (look at me), Angie's List, Yelp, etc. There are more sources that review materials and tell us what to do than there were sources 20 years ago.

I'm not saying the old times were better. But with tons of free books thrown at me every day, or all of Hollywood available for $1.63, going to the movies or choosing the next book has become a research project! Who can I believe when every day I get 60 people hawking their books, movies or TV shows--and all of them are "great"? 

I tend to fall back into pack mentality: if everyone is reading The Girl on the Train, maybe there's something to it. (And there is.) My friend says, read Cutting for Stone. Okay, I'll try it. That method's imperfect too I found after having the movie, Saw, recommended to me. So, now I watch the trailers, go to websites or Amazon to read first chapters, lean on friends whose taste match mine, or keep reading an author until s/he disappoints. These days, I no longer have any compunction jettisoning a book or ejecting a DVD when the first portion has proven unworthy. God knows, I've even made mistakes trusting Tom Hanks. 

The thing is, no matter how many disappointments, no matter how overwhelming the job to choose wisely is, I continue to look for the next Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor & Park, classic Bourne movie or Breaking Bad because that rare work of art that can transport me, exhilarate me and make me understand myself and the human condition a little differently is worth the trouble.