While importing the image sin Lightroom you can select option " Add" and it will basically import all the images previews in Lightroom without changing the original destination.
Let us know if that helps.
Do I create new folders and only import the photos I am most interested in?
In the import dialog box, you can view the thumbnails of the photos and check the ones you want to import (and don't check the ones you don't want). No need to create new folders for Lightroom's benefit, it seems like unnecessary work to do; although you may certainly do so if you want to. Use the ADD option at import.
As a matter of philosophy, I import ALL (that's 100%, no exception) of my photos into Lightroom if I have decided to keep them, and the ones I don't want are gone from my hard disk immediately (these are usually too over/unedexposed or too blurry for any use). It seems to me that you have your tasks backwards, you want to decide if you are going to keep these photos or not, get rid of the ones you decide you don't want, and then import the rest into Lightroom.
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In the import dialog window just click the Add option at the top and leave them where they are on the external. If you like you can first organize them into folders if they aren't already.
Then once all of them are imported into the LR catalog file you can go through them and delete the ones you don't want.
I certainly would not chose the Copy or Move options.
The LR Catalog file is just a database file that references where the images are stored. So there is no point in copying or moving them from where they are now. Especially if you are going to leave them on the external drive.
Adding them to the catalog will take some time but if you chose to copy or move them that will take tons more time and double the hard drive spaced they take up, with the Copy option, and for a period of time if the Move option is selected. Every file will get Copied first then the original deleted.