A couple of years ago, when I first started reading a lot again, and reading more purposefully, I felt daunted by the prospect of finding books outside of what I normally read. I’d walk into the library, excited by all of the potential in the stacks filled with books, but had no clue how to walk over to the shelf and find a book that I’d enjoy reading. I’d wander through the aisles and pick up books that caught my eye, but end up walking out the door with only a couple books that I felt fairly confident that I would like.
How could I find books worth reading?
How could I know ahead of time if they would be worth my time to read?
While I wish that I could give you a clear, simple, 3-step answer, there isn’t really one available. But there are some guidelines and suggestions that I can give you to get you started that are based on what I did. I’m fairly methodical in how I approach my reading, which fits my personality. You might not be, but I hope there are still a couple of suggestions that will help push you to find your next book worth reading.
As a gentle reminder, if you’re not an avid reader yet, this might sound like a lot of options. But you don’t have to do them all, nor all at once. Pick one of them and start there.
Finding Your Next Book
- Follow a book blogger who seems to have similar likes/dislikes in books as you do, or who reads and reviews a wide array of types of books. This will mainly help you get a pulse on what books are being newly released, though there may be some bloggers like me who read and review both new(er) and old(er) books. I really enjoy Modern Mrs. Darcy, as I’ve mentioned many times before. But I’m also finding some others that I like, such as Beautiful Hope, Never Enough Novels, and Read. Eat. Repeat. You could start with these if you want, but you’ll probably branch out and find your own soon enough!
- Follow some readers and bookstores on Instagram. They post pictures of books that they’re reading and can spark ideas. For readers, I follow @james_trevino, @annebogel, @diversereads, @a_world_with_octobers, and a few others. For bookstores, I follow @bookmarksnc, @magiccitybooks, and @bookshelftville, among others.
- Find a book list. This one is not always helpful for me, because book lists like “100 books to read before you die” are often filled with classics which are not always worth my time to read or I just plain don’t like them. (Not all classics, but definitely a good chunk of them.) But, sometimes, when the other methods I usually use aren’t working for me, book lists can get me out of a spot where I just can’t find a book I want to read next.
- Choose a book challenge. Some people do well with goals, others not so much. It really helped me start reading again a couple of years ago to have some suggestions and an attainable goal. I found Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 12-book challenge helpful because it didn’t prescribe, but gave guiderails. For instance, rather than listing a specific title to read, it gave a category such as “Written before you were born” or “Outside of your genre comfort zone”. Obviously, the books in those categories differ depending on the person. And that’s the simple beauty of it.
- Start talking about books with your friends and family. Ask if they have a book recommendation for you or what they’ve read lately that’s good. You might be surprised at who in your life also reads books, and you’ll start to figure out who has similar preferences in books as you. You can give each other suggestions based on recent reads, and also talk about books that you’ve both read recently. It’s so much fun! And adds a great layer to conversations.
While I use all of these regularly to get ideas for my next books to read, or books to add to my TBR list, I get my best book ideas from talking with friends and family. They already know my tastes so they can help steer me in directions that I’d like to go – and in directions away from books that aren’t worth my reading hours.
Research Your Possibilities
After using these ways to find book ideas, I nearly always take it a step further and do some “research” on these books before choosing to start them. This is actually “something that good readers do”, as I tell my fifth graders, because readers understand the book better if they’ve “previewed” the book before starting it. But that’s hard to do when you’re not holding the book in your hands. So how do readers do that online?
- Read the book blurb and reader reviews on Goodreads
- Read reviews on Amazon
- Ask a friend for their opinion, if they’ve read it already
I like to read both good reviews and bad reviews, as long as they don’t spoil too much, because I prefer to have a good sense of what content is in the book before starting to read it. Does it have a lot of steamy scenes in the book? Are there LGBTQ people and relationships in the book? Does it have a lot of cuss words? Is it boring and yawn-inducing for too much of the book? Does it offer any hope, even if it has heavy emotional topics? Is this a book that I’ll read to escape into another world, or one that will take brainpower to ponder the topics that are covered? Am I in the mood for this book right now?
You might have your own questions and criteria that you look for before starting the book, but I’m guessing you have some. Find the answers to your most critical questions before you even start reading it, and that will help ensure that the book you decide to read next will be a satisfying one.
No matter how you find your next book worth reading, I hope this sparks some ideas for you!
What’s your favorite way to find books worth reading?