How to Use Amazon Reviews to Pick Better Books to Read

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Thousands of books are published every week. Most of them are crap. Here’s how you can avoid the crap and find better books to read.

The world’s largest collection of great book reviews is on Amazon. That’s no surprise. Use those reviews to pick more good books and avoid the crappy ones.

Here are six tips to help you avoid awful books and find more good ones.


Reviews show up on Amazon as soon as a book is published, sometimes even before. Mostly, they’re from friends and family of the author. They think the author is swell, and they say the author’s book is great. Sometimes, the “reviewers” include distant cousins and the family dentist.

These reviews are almost always useless. Several reviewers haven’t read the book. They’re responding to an author’s request for help with a launch.

Wait until the hype cycle dies down before you consider buying a book. That usually takes at least four to six weeks.

Don’t Consider A Book with Less Than 50 Reviews and High Rankings

If a book is good, usually word of mouth takes hold. More and more people read the book. Many of them write reviews.

I look for books that have at least 50 reviews. Of those 50 reviews, most should be positive. A ranking of four stars or more is the minimum.

Consider Reviews Labeled “Verified Purchase”

“Verified purchase” means that the reviewer has actually purchased the book from Amazon. People who buy the book have some skin in the game. They’re more likely to tell you what’s good and bad about the book.

Read the Three-Star Reviews

In my experience, most four- and five-star reviewers only tell you what’s good about the book. Most one- and two-star reviewers tell you what they dislike. Often, what they dislike has nothing to do with the contents of the book.

Three-star reviewers are the ones who are most likely to tell you the good and the bad. They’ll help you make a reasoned assessment of whether a book is right for you.

Ignore One- and Two-Sentence Reviews

One- and two-sentence reviews won’t help you assess the real quality of a book. They’ll usually tell you that the author thinks the book is great or awful, but not why. Benefit from the insight of other readers wrote more-detailed reviews.

Things That Matter to You

You know what you like in a book. Maybe you like a fast pace. Maybe not. Maybe you dislike books with a lot of statistical support, or maybe those are just the books you find most interesting.  Whatever it is, be sensitive to your likes and dislikes. Give special weight to reviews that address your concerns.


Wait to consider a book until the hype cycle has turned down.

Don’t consider a book with less than 50 reviews and high ratings.

Only consider reviews labeled “verified purchase.”

Spend your time on three-star reviews.

Don’t pay attention to one- and two-sentence reviews.

Pay special attention to reviewers who discuss things that matter to you.

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