How Amazon Books editors make their selections
Al Woodworth, an Amazon Books editor, explains that editors are “trying to make sure that there’s a book for every kind of reader.”
Al Woodworth is a member of the Amazon Books editorial team that yesterday announced the selection of Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again as the best general interest science book of the year — so far.
After curating titles released from January through June this year, the Amazon Books editors selected the top 20 books of the year so far, and also made selections across several categories, including science.
Amazon Science asked Woodworth three questions about how the team made its selections, why they feel Stolen Focus stood out within the general-interest science category, and if there is a theme that emerged among this year’s list of best science books — so far.
How did the Amazon Books editorial team determine this year’s list of the best science books of the year – so far?A.
We read a lot of books! Our team has the honor of reading and recommending books to customers—whether through the Amazon Book Review, Amazon Book Clubs, and of course, through the Best Books of the Month, Best Books of the Year So Far, and Best Books of the Year programs. Since we’re reading and writing about books all of the time for Best Books of the Month, by the time we get to the halfway year mark, we have a pretty good handle on the ones that stood out. As a team, we debate, we champion the books we think customers will love, and then we make tough decisions to come up with our top 20.
Why do you consider Stolen Focus the best general interest science book so far this year? What makes this title stand out?A.
BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: From a debut novel to non-fiction to young adult stories that captivate readers of all ages, @AmazonBooks is revealing its list of the best books of the year so far — including several that make great Father’s Day gifts. pic.twitter.com/8gkgytub0P— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) June 15, 2022
There’s no arguing the fact that we have short attention spans—as individuals and collectively. Case in point, when I picked up Joann Hari’s Stolen Focus, I had music going, a quiche was in the oven, the windows were open to the city streets, and I was already thinking about how ironic my behavior was and the funny review I could share. But Hari's writing, his own personal journey of a three-month tech-detox, and his inquiry into the science behind why our focus is stolen, very quickly makes your mind settle and makes you truly think about the way our world works and the ramifications that short attention spans have on things like climate change. In other words, this book will steal your focus, but in the way that books— as he argues in his book— are meant to. They help you develop complex thoughts and explore ideas that are unknown; in other words, with attention comes empathy and drive to experience the world more fully. We couldn’t stop talking about this book, which is why we named it the best science book of the year so far.
Your team has chosen a broad range of titles. Is there a throughline, or theme that emerges from this list?A.
When we’re putting together our best-of lists—whether for the science category, or the overall top 20—we’re trying to make sure that there’s a book for every kind of reader. So, if you’re interested in the science behind how animals experience the world, look no further than the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ed Yong’s new book, An Immense World. If you’re looking to understand our human food system—and how precarious it is — Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino is fascinating, shocking, and a must-read. Or maybe you’re interested in the effects of nuclear disasters—check out Atoms and Ashes by Serhi Plokhy. Dinosaurs? The Last Day of Dinosaurs by Riley Black is not only entertaining but enlightening.Amazon yesterday announced its picks for 2022 Best Books of the Year So Far, including its top book within the general-interest science category, “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again”.