In research, if a book is useful for your needs, pay attention to its "Works Cited", footnotes, or bibliography, etc. Why? Because this author you find so useful didn't invent his book all by himself. He used other resources which are potentially useful to you. Use his research, follow the trail, surf the citations from resource to resource to aid your research.
Here's my 2.0 twist. I also look the useful book up on Amazon.com. Not for the obvious "also bought" and "also searched" features. That data is too often muddied by gift purchases or tangential info-meandering. Instead, I search the Listmania. These lists are deliberately put together for a described purpose by people who offer up some idea about who they are via their profiles.
If the vagabond physicist/gardener put said useful book on a list called "Essential China for Travelling Smartypants", then I suddenly have a whole list of books from someone who I like or respect (in that special Internet way) to review for my trip.
And this is just one example. You can also mine Goodreads.com (all the good stuff is behind a (free) membership) or other social networking sites with book/info components.
My first read for this trip was Troost's Lost on Planet China. His brief bibliography also gave me:
- Mao: The Unkown Story - Chang & Halliday
- The Search for Modern China- Spence
- Mr. China - Clissold
The trick is to do this part quickly so I have plenty of time to actually read all the cool stuff I find.