Some time in 2009, the FTC published guides governing endorsements and testimonials that may apply to me. While I do buy some books and review them, most of the reviews I post are for books I have received from the publisher with the expectation that I would read the book and post a review. Please note that I said "a review" and not "a positive review".
If you read my reviews, you'll notice that they're all pretty positive. There are multiple reasons for that, but I want to make it clear that other than the book being reviewed, I do not receive any kind of compensation from any of the publishers, or anyone associated with them, in exchange for a positive review. Note that I have, on occasion, asked for copies of a book to give away when doing a presentation at a developer conference. I don't see that as compensation because it doesn't benefit me so much as the people who get the free books.
There are two main reason my books reviews are positive is simple. The first is that I'm not vain enough to believe that if I don't like a book then it must be a bad book. The second reason is because before I ask for a review copy, I do some research. I'll look for the book on Amazon or Safari, or even in a real book store, and read a bit. If it looks interesting and I like the style then I'll ask the publisher for a review copy.
If I'm reviewing a book that's just come out then it's likely I've either read a previous book by the author, it's part of a series (like Head First) that's earned my trust, or it's a topic (like automated testing) that I'm deeply interested in and am willing to take a chance on the unknown.
In case you're wondering, I tend to like books that are technical without being dry. The author should present the information in a way that doesn't make me feel like they're looking down on me because I don't already understand whatever they've spent a decade mastering. Good examples include Presentation Zen, PragProg books like Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, and anything in the Head First series published by O'Reilly.
By the way, Addison Wesley sent me some books that are definitely top notch. I just posted a review for "Essential Skills for the Agile Developer", I'm writing the review for "Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests", and I'm reading "12 Essential Skills for Software Architects".
Setting up all those links reminds me, while I often provide links to Amazon, or a publisher's site, so you can easily buy the book being reviewed. They are for your convenience only. I don't get credited or compensated for purchases made by folks using those links.
In the spirit of full disclosure let me say that I once requested a book from a publisher and, after reading it, realized I couldn't give it a positive review. The book was a certification guide, but there were so many factual problems that I knew I could not recommend it to anyone. Instead I emailed the publisher a rather long list of the errors I found, let them know I could not publish a positive review, and offered to send the book back.
So, that's the story. Many of the books I review are sent to me at no cost, but with the expectation that I will read them and post my honest opinion. Some of them are books I bought and wanted to share with you. In either case the opinions I post are mine and are as objective as any opinion can be.