How much time do you spend with a book before deciding whether you’re going to read it? For what fraction of books can you skim the dust jackets, read the reviews, and decide immediately that they’re not going to make your reading list?
While I find it quite easy to determine what to put on my reading list (even if I don’t end up reading everything on the list), it’s much more difficult for me to articulate an explanation for my choices. Every rule of thumb I can think of to describe my preferences entails so many exceptions that the rules altogether lack power. If I were, say, Henry E. Huntington, and had the means to build an extensive library collection, I would have a hard time moving beyond item-by-item selection and committing to a standing order.
Oh, how I wish I had that problem!