Lots of people say they’d like to read more, but sometimes the process of finding new books can be daunting and bewildering. There are just so many of them – how can you work out which ones you’ll enjoy before you buy them? Who are these people who read a book every week and seem to enjoy most of them? Where are they getting their recommendations from? Here, I’m going to offer some pointers about ways to get high-quality book recommendations and be more intentional about your reading. If you follow these tips, you’ll always have something great to read next.
1. Join Goodreads
This might seem a bit intimidating to some people, what with Goodreads being full of hardcore book nerds, but you can always set up an anonymous profile (pseudonym, no photo) if you’re feeling shy.
Goodreads is truly one of the best places to get new book recommendations, either directly or indirectly. Once you’ve joined, building a network is easy and rewarding (more on this later).
2. Know which books you’ve enjoyed and, more importantly, why you enjoyed them
If you’ve been reading ‘passively’, ie, picking up any book that came along, trudging through it and then discarding it, then this is an important step. You’ll need to begin to work out exactly what it is that makes you love certain books so that you can try and find more of the same.
Goodreads can help with this – it’s easy to add all of the books that you’ve read and give them a rating out of five. Then you can sort by score and see what all of the high-ranking books have in common. Of course, you can also just do this with a pen and paper or a word document. Either way, get a list of books that you’ve loved and think about their attributes.
Perhaps some of them taught you something new, perhaps some had a great love story, maybe all of your favourites had a fast-paced plot. Knowing the kinds of books that really do it for you makes it easier to request recommendations from people and know what you’re looking for.
3. Follow people with similar interested to you on Goodreads
A good place to start is the ‘people’ section, which can be found here (to get there, go to ‘Community’ then ‘People’)
Here, you will find the top reviewers for your country and in the world, as well as the top readers, the top users and many more categories.
Do a bit of exploring – click on people’s profiles and see what kind of books they’re in to. There’s even a tool to let you compare books with other people and see how similar your tastes are (when on someone’s profile, click the ‘compare books’ button).
Follow or befriend people with similar tastes to you and you’ll get updates about new books they’ve read and loved as well as those they didn’t enjoy as much.
If you see a book that you fancy reading, just click the ‘Want to read’ button and it’ll be added to your to-be-read list.
4. Follow book blogs
There are lots of wonderful book blogs out there (including this one). Blogs will often have a mailing list you can join, but I find it easier to use an RSS feed aggregator to follow lots of blogs and podcasts at once. I use Feedly but there are others out there.
If you search for ‘RSS’ on the homepage of a blog, they’ll usually have a link (accompanied by the big orange logo) which will allow you to follow them.
Wonderful book blogs include: The Book Smugglers – (for mainly sci-fi and fantasy), The Indie View (for reviews of self-published books), The New York Times Review of Books (if you’re feeling super high-brow), Book Riot (for pretty much anything), Dana and the books (sci fi and young adult).
But there are many, many more out there – get exploring!
5. Ask your bookish friends for recommendations
Bookworms love nothing more than recommending books, so if you have any friends of family members who are big readers, ask them to make a list of recommendations. Everyone has different tastes so it’s good to be specific. As long as you know what you like, you can ask them to recommend a twisty crime thriller, or a great urban fantasy, or their favourite historical fiction.
The added bonus of this is that you get to discuss the book with them afterwards as well!
6. Use the Goodreads recommendation function
Goodreads isn’t the most user-friendly site in the world, and the design is kind of labyrinthine, but hidden away on there is an amazing book recommendations service.
The recommendation request form can be found here.
All you need to do is type in the kind of book you’d like to read and wait for the Goodreads community to pile in with great suggestions.
I’ve submitted three recommendation requests in the past and each one has garnered about 15 brilliant tailored recommendations.
Again, it’s best to be specific. Rather than saying ‘Please recommend me a good book’, say ‘Please recommend me a light-hearted and funny book for my holiday’ or ‘I’m in the mood for a dark and twisty page turner’.
I always find it’s best to sort by ‘newest’ rather than ‘fewest responses’ (the default).
If you think you can help with any requests then get recommending!
7. Amazon recommendations engine
Whatever your opinion on Amazon, it’s hard to deny that it’s recommendation algorithm is among the best in the world (more about that here).
If you log in to Amazon and rate some of your favourite books, the algorithm will get to work recommending book that other users with your tastes also enjoyed.
8. Listen to book podcasts
If you want to expand your to-read list and feel like you’re up-to-date on the literary world, then book podcasts are a great way to go. Listen to them in the gym, on long car journeys or while cooking dinner. Here are some of my favourites:
The Slate Audio Book Club, The Guardian Books podcast, Drunk Booksellers, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Books on the Nightstand (unfortunately now discontinued but there is a HUGE back catalogue to listen to)
9. Create a to-read list
Once you’ve completed the above points, you’re bound to have a long list of books you’re dying to read. It’s best to keep them all in one place and near at hand. I would recommend doing this on Goodreads, but you can always do it the old-fashioned way, like with this gorgeous British Library book journal.
With any luck, your new to-read list will be diverse with books to suit all kinds of moods. So now when you finish a book, you’ll never need to wonder what to read next.