Well, I find myself in that most uncomfortable of situations. I don’t have a book to read. Yes, I’ve got loads of backed up books on my to-read list, and I live right down the street from a library and two bookstores. I’ve got so many possible books looming over me, glaring at me, threatening to collapse and crush my head if I don’t make a choice soon. How do I know which one to choose without the whole thing collapsing on my head? Well, that’s actually a rhetorical question. I know how to pick a book because I’m a magical book wizard with internet access. It may well be a long and arduous process, but I’m taking you along with me to learn a bunch of tricks for finding the perfect next book to pick up.
1. Goodreads. You’ve heard me praise it before. It’s like Facebook, but instead of sharing irrelevant Buzzfeed articles, you get to share books you read, want to read, and review just about any book you like. That’s my sort of social experience. It’s also a great at recommending texts for you to try. They do that old “If you like this genre, try these,” sort of predicting business but for, the most useful thing about Goodreads is the reviews of each book. If your friend has read and reviewed a book, you can look at their review or just look at the general, overall review by strangers.
Hearing a stranger’s honest and very often most earnest impressions of a book you might want to read or even have read is, for me, one of the most heartening, life affirming ways to spend time on the internet, like a reverse Youtube comment section. People have opinions, really thoroughly thought out and fascinating opinions about different books. Even the negative reviews tend to have a form of argument against the book more intricate than “dis gaaaaaaaaaay,” like the writer actually listened to their middle school writing and composition teachers about how to write essays and share ideas.
2. Search Engines. Yes, getting more general here. That fact is, there’s actually a number of random websites that can recommend another book for you to read. I’m not just talking about “new sci-fi books here” types of virtual libraries or lists though. There’s sites like What Should I Read Next, where you just type in the title of a book you liked and get a list of recommendations. As far as I could tell from testing it out, the lists are pretty sound stuff too. Saying I like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods brought up, among other things, a number of books by Terry Pratchett, and both those men are my spirit animals, spirit animals with highly complementary writing styles, so they check out.
3. The Cutting Edge. There’s also even more experimental online services like whichbook, a site that gives you sliders so you can indicate how happy vs sad, how funny versus serious, or how predictable versus unpredictable a boom you want to read. You give them the data, and they list a number of books that fit the mood and style you describe. The rush of power I got from moving the little sliders to adjust my needs then having a whole platter of books presented to me gave me a bit of a head rush. I felt like I should be wearing a fancy robe or something and have a little bell made to summon my servant, the internet. They even have links so you can buy or borrow the books you see. I’m not sure the world is ready for this kind of power, but oh does it feel marvelous. Muahahahahahahaha!
4. Library. Back to the more human, less world-domination-y side of things, you could go to your local library. Librarians are, of course, perfectly capable of giving you lists of recommended books upon request. It’s their job, and often enough a passion of theirs, to recommend cool new books to people. If your not the type to engage in difficult tasks like social interaction in a public place, with strangers even, then never fear. Any library is likely to have pre-made lists of recommendations or services similar to the online one’s I’ve discussed, where you can answer questions about your reading tastes and have a list of recommendations given to you. They were just as helpful as the more excitingly experimental online options, but the extra human touch kept me more grounded and less hungry for power.
5. The Book Chooses the Wizard, Mr. Potter. No, I don’t just mean go re-read Harry Potter, though that’s never a bad idea, I mean look inside yourself here. You can use all the fancy internets you like, talk to all the well meaning friends and librarians you choose, put to pick the perfect book, you got to listen to the inside of yer tummy, where everyone knows you digest books and words and stuff. Do you, perhaps, have a book that’s been calling out from your to-read pile louder than all the books you’ve had piled up for upwards of a year, just waiting for you? At the end of the day, if your not feeling a connection to the books all the advice and recommendation point you at, you’re the master of your own destiny. I looked at my to-read stack, trying to erase the feeling of guilt and resentment and just look at those books and finally read one of them. I then went to the library and checked out some random mystery book instead, because my gut gets confused under pressure, but the book’s pretty good so far!
There you have it. Next time you feel caught up in a flurry of book options, with no where to go, just remember there’s always a way, a specially tailored way even, for you to pick out that special book, and of course add even more titles to you giant to-read list.