Many book bloggers out there will advise you to make an official “To Be Read” (TBR) list for the month/year and stick to it like a schedule. I’ve tried to plan out which books I’ll read when, but to me that takes all of the fun out of choosing my next book. Discovering a new, unexpected favorite, or rediscovering an old favorite is half the fun of my fifty book goal.
So, if you’re like me and you choose not to plan out your TBR each month, where do you go to find good books? With real stores, online booksellers, and countless options for buying used books, it can often be overwhelming to find a good book if you don’t have a list already written up of what you plan to read. Today I’m excited to share the first post in a three-post series about finding good books.
I’ve touched on this topic before in my post “Five Tips for Choosing your Next Book,” but I’m hoping that this series will be more in-depth and helpful if you’re just starting out on a reading goal. Today I’ll be focusing on bookstores and booksellers, with some tips on how to make the most out of your visit or online shopping trip. Next week I’ll share my tips for finding good Audiobooks, and I’ll wrap things up with tips for finding good book recommendations on social media.
So, let’s get started!
One of the many things I love about books is the way people react and form relationships with the books they’ve truly enjoyed. All of the recommendations I’ve listed below help you hold onto those reactions and relationships while searching for books. If you keep that in mind, maybe it won’t feel so much like you’re just feeding dollars into a giant industry.
Used Book Sales and Stores
I’ve written about my love for used book sales here on the blog before, and some of the same truths apply when you’re shopping at a used book store. Recently, a Half Price Books store opened in my neck of the woods, and it’s been great to duck in every now and then and check things out. The most unique thing about used book stores is that their inventory is always changing. You never know what you’ll find when you walk in. That can also translate as a bad thing–there’s a very good chance that the book you’re looking for won’t be there. Here are some quick tips for shopping used book stores:
- Used book stores are great places to buy those books you think you might love, but aren’t sure. There’s no pressure if you buy a $2 book and hate it, but if you spend $30 on a hardback edition, you’ll feel worse about letting that book slip through your fingers.
- Used book stores are also excellent for collecting things. I collect old Pelican Shakespeare editions, and every time I’m in the Half Price Books store, I check to see if they’ve had any new ones come in. Keep a list of titles you have and/or are currently searching for so that you don’t buy a duplicate.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you can’t find something. Used book stores will typically keep an inventory, but because their inventory keeps changing, that means the books’ locations on the shelves will also change. One week the mystery section might be tiny, and the next it might have expanded.
- Often selling books at a used book store will give you store credit to go back and buy more books! Win/Win!
Brick and Mortar Bookstores
My favorite is Barnes and Noble, but it’s also great to find the small, independent bookstores in your neighborhood and frequent them. With Amazon and other online retailers, it’s important to be sure you’re getting the best deal at a brick and mortar store, mainly because books can be very expensive. Here are just a couple of ideas for shopping your favorite neighborhood bookstore.
- Visit frequently and see which books stick. In the world of Internet advertising, a terrible book that you’ve viewed once might continue to be an advertisement placed in front of you. Actual bookstores move things around based on popularity and new releases, so if you’re in and out a lot, you can see which books are actually selling, and which have longevity. I saw The Boys in the Boat on the shelves at Barnes and Noble for well over a year before I finally purchased it, and it has become one of my top recommended books.
- Browsing is better at a real bookstore. Amazon might offer customer reviews and little synopses of books, but there’s nothing like holding a book, flipping through it, and reading the first few pages to see if it’s a good fit for you. Take your time. Grab a cup of coffee and slow down as you browse. This might just be how you stumble across The Best Book You’ve Ever Read.
- Watch your email for coupons to make the most out of your trip, or consider signing up for loyalty programs. Just watch out, because at stores like Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million you have to pay to be a part of their program.
Amazon and Online Retailers
Without a doubt, Amazon is where I purchase most of my books. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve stood inside a Barnes and Noble store looking at a book but unwilling to pay full price. Don’t tell the booksellers this, but I pulled out my phone, searched for the book on Amazon, noticed the price difference, and purchased it online before I even walked out of the bookstore. It’s easy, shipping is fast and reliable, and the selection is virtually endless. From textbooks to old editions, you can find books and so much more on Amazon. So, to make sure you’re doing more than scratching the surface, here are some tips for shopping on Amazon:
- Use Amazon’s helpful tips. At the bottom of a book page, there are helpful headings like “Frequently Bought With X…” and “Customers Who Bought X Also Bought Y.” These can be great places to find recommendations.
- Browse often and build up your recommendations page. It’s amazing (and a little scary) how well Amazon will be able to pick books you might enjoy. Here’s what my recommendations page looks like:
- If you click on any of the categories listed there, it will take you to a list of hundreds of titles you might enjoy. And that’s just six out of twenty topics listed for me!
- Download the Amazon App. It’s worth it to be able to browse right from your phone. The downside? All the self-control you’ll need to not buy something new every time fancy strikes!
- Use their book lists. Amazon separates books out into categories, so if you’re looking for a biography or a book on science, check out their category for that topic and search hundreds of books at once. This is especially helpful if you’re participating in the Book Fifty reading challenge and you have different types of books you’re looking for.
- Kindle Unlimited, at $9.99 per month, and Prime Reading are both intriguing to me, but not something I’ve tried yet. Do you use either? What do you think? Maybe later this year I’ll do the research and let you know what I think!
I hope that some of these tips will prove helpful as you search the shelves for your next book. Be sure to check back next week as I share some of my favorite Audible titles and tips for finding a great audiobook.
Keep Reading, and don’t forget to share your #Readmore17 posts on social media!