Sometimes my friends and family ask me how I go about finding books to read. With so many options out there, any trip to Barnes and Noble or Amazon is going to involve choosing some books over others. It can be overwhelming to stare at shelf after shelf, so I’ve compiled a list of five tips for choosing what book to read next.
#1: Know Your Type
One thing I’ve found helpful over the years is identifying what type of books I like to read. This isn’t to say that I only read one genre or one author’s books, but I have a general concept in mind when I start browsing. It’s helpful to be able to flip through a book and know if it fits me and my personality. Here are my “types:”
Fiction: I enjoy literary novels with good character development and interesting conflicts. I don’t like fiction that is overly violent, explicit, or graphic. I don’t usually like fiction that is formulaic or so science-fiction based that I can’t understand what’s going on.
Nonfiction: I enjoy nonfiction books that are based in history or are written about individuals (biography, memoir).I also enjoy some science-based books, but I know my limits when it comes to reading about nuclear physics or string theory!
These are two overarching genres–fiction and nonfiction, but they’re really the basis for how I shop for books. If a book doesn’t fall within those specifications, it typically gets bumped to the bottom of the list. That doesn’t mean that I don’t read outside of those guidelines, but I use those guidelines as a foundation.
If you don’t want to sit down and write out your “type” of book, at least give it some thought–maybe you’ll save yourself from buying duds next time you’re shopping around on Amazon!
#2: Ask Your Friends
Friends and family members are a great source of inspiration. Often we choose friends because we have the same interests–or because our friends know how to challenge and inspire us. Chances are your “type” of book and your friend’s “type” might match up in some small way. Swapping books with friends is a great way to share ideas and amp up your conversation when you’re together! Some of my favorite books have been recommended to me by friends.
#3 Listen for Recommendations
There are book recommendations all around you–on the news, on the radio, in class, at the supermarket, in magazines. I keep a list of books that I hear people mention to check them out later. For example, one of my professors has recommended five or six books this semester. I don’t know that I’ll read them all, but it’s good information to have. In the same way, you might stumble across book recommendations on Twitter or Facebook-people are always tweeting about what they’re reading. You could even ask your local librarian to point you towards an interesting title. It might take a little digging and a little memory work, but you could stumble across a new favorite.
#4 Find Inspiration Online
If you’re up to the challenge, look online for recommendations–they come in all shapes and sizes. The website Goodreads allows you to track your reading and makes recommendations based on what you’ve read in the past. Amazon also makes suggestions based on your purchase history. I’ve found many a good book through those Amazon suggestions…:)
If you’re willing to dig a little deeper, check out blogs and other websites like Pinterest. You can find reading challenges like this one that tell you what types of books to read over the course of a year. I have a few helpful places listed on my Resources page, but there are plenty of other websites out there. The NYT Best Seller page has lists of every type of book you could imagine, and Amazon has its own equivalent. Lastly, consider reading award-winning books. It can be a hassle to Google each award individually, so this website lists top books in each award category.
#5: Visit a Bookstore
That’s right, a real, brick-and-mortar store, not one based in a warehouse somewhere! My bookstore of choice is Barnes and Noble, mainly because it’s easy to access and it has a good selection. This is probably the most overwhelming way to find books, because as soon as you enter the store you’re surrounded by that intoxicating book/coffee smell that makes willpower disappear.
One thing I’ve learned after years of visiting bookstores is to visit often, not necessarily to purchase often (But since I am a compulsive book buyer, this is clearly a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.”). The more you visit a bookstore, the more you will be able to see which books last and which don’t. Is there a book that’s been on the “Recommended” shelf for a while? Make a note and come back when you’re ready to read. Is there a new release that’s only available in hardcover? Wait a few weeks and maybe it will appear on the “New in Paperback” table. Pacing yourself also helps you see if you really want to read a book. If you come back to the store a month later and it still looks interesting, maybe it’s time to buy!
So there you have it–a few tips to help you get those reading goals going. I hope that your next book, however you find it, is a good one!