Almost everything I read these days comes recommended from some respected source - the book review section of a newspaper or magazine, a fellow blogger, friends and colleagues. I used to occasionally pick up something I've never heard of, by an author I've never heard of, while browsing in a bookstore or library. Sometimes I was disappointed, but just as often I discovered a little treasure from which I learned a lot, received great enjoyment, or both. But with all the books I read based on the reviews and recommendations of others these days, I have little time, and seemingly little inclination, to go browsing for those undiscovered treasures. I wonder how much I've missed as a result.
The economist in me objects that using recommendations and reviews from respected sources helps to reduce search costs for useful and enjoyable books; proxies perform searches for me. To a great extent, I actually believe this. But no proxy is ever perfect because no two readers are likely to have precisely the same tastes across all literary genres. Goodness knows, I have sometimes been disappointed in books highly recommended by various reviewers, colleagues, or friends. It stands to reason that I might have been delighted by some books that they have panned, or simply have not noticed.
I think I need to spend some time just walking through the library stacks and leafing through a few books about which I have never heard.