Life is too short to read bad books, which is why the Page 69 Test was created by Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan. The idea is that if you want to see whether you will like a book you should read the 69th page. If you like that page, you'll like the book. Have you tried this, and if so, did it work for you?
Charlotte Stretch, whose column in The Guardian gave me this idea, tried it with Five books she'd already read to see how it worked out. I have done the same with mixed results.
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Madame Charpentier is relating the details of a case, complete with a mysterious death, to Sherlock Holmes, who comments sarcastically "It's quite exciting...What happened next?"
Yes, that gives you a pretty good feel for the book.
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
Moist Von Lipwig is conversing with the Golem, Mr Pump. Not the most exciting portion of the novel, nor the funniest, but it does leave you wondering how Von Lipwig came to be Postmaster and why he apparently has a golem.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf.
Page 69 has a lot of very poetic description and rambling about the nature of love, which doesn't tell you much at all about what the book is about but gives you a very good idea what kind of writing stlye to expect.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Harry, Lupin and the Weasleys learn of the death of Mad Eye Moody.
So I suppose that gives you an idea that there's going to be death and sorrow in this volume.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
One of the characters is explaining how she lost all her limbs to an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection, and that what seem to be her real arms are actually amazingly good prosthetics, complete with her original freckles. This gives you an idea of the medical and bioethics themes in the book but doesn't tell you anything about the plot or the protagonist. I think it would be enough to tell me that I would like the book.
Will definitely give it a go. Would not have helped with James Lergessner's Cloudland. I wanted to read it to help with my volunteer job as a Brisbane Greeter. It was of little help and was very poorly edited. I almost gave up after the introduciotn, but soldiered on in the vain hope it would be of some use. Perhaps this does not help with non-fiction.
I'm VERY picky when it comes to books. I read Reviews, & if seems interesting to me, will get from Library. Then read info on back cover; if still interested, will get it. If not, hand back to a Librarian.