How to Select a Book

A friend asked me recently what I was reading currently and how I chose my books. That got me thinking…how DO I chose books to read? With so many books on bookstore shelves, listed online, and catalogued in libraries, it can be difficult deciding which book to read…and there are always more books than I have time to read. I realised I had three ways of selecting books: a targeted approach, a general browsing approach, and a totally random approach.

A Worded Life: Writing and Editing ServicesHow to select a book – targeted approach:

This is about finding a book I know I will like or that will give me a shared interest with others in my social circle.

  • Favourite authors: Perhaps they have written books you have not read as yet.
  • Subject area or theme: In your local library, run a quick keyword search.
  • Genre: Run an online search for books in your preferred genre.
  • Hobbies and interests: Ask bookshop staff if there are any books dealing with these.
  • Recommendations: Join Goodreads and link with your friends to read their recommendations, reviews and ratings. Hold a book swap with a group of friends. Ask with your local librarian, bookshop staff, friends and colleagues for recommendations. Get active on social media, following book reviewers to discover new gems.
  • Book club: Join a book club – most local libraries can tell you about what is happening in your area.

How to select a book – browsing approach:

This approach is about finding something that speaks to me, it is about exploring the books and finding ones that I connect with enough to want to read them.

  • Title: Does it sound interesting, does it capture your attention?
  • Cover: Does it appeal to you, is it intriguing?
  • Blurb: Does it interest you enough to dig a bit deeper?
  • First page: even most online bookstores will give you access to sections of books. Does the first page hook you in?
  • Random section: open the book anywhere and read another page or so. Is the writing style engaging? Do you want to read further?

How to select a book – random approach:

This approach is about taking risks to find books outside what I would usually read. This works best in a bookstore or library – anywhere that has hard copies of books rather than online.

  • Random selection: walk into all sections of the store or library, not just those which you usually frequent, and pick up books at random – don’t even look at them, just run your hands across the shelves and pick a book out. When you have a decent stack of books, or your arms can no longer carry any more, find a quiet place to sit to investigate them further.
  • Don’t worry if the title and cover don’t interest you, this is all about taking a chance to discover something completely new to you.
  • Blurb: read the blurb and make two piles – maybe and yes. You don’t have to love what you find so far, just be open enough to be interested.
  • First page: Does the first page hook you in? Does it raise questions for you about the characters, setting or story? Adjust your maybe/yes piles accordingly, and add a no pile at this point.
  • Read a little further: If you are interested by the first page, read the first couple of pages. Does the story continue to engage you? Adjust your piles accordingly.
  • Random section: flip to anywhere in the book and read a page. Do you like the writing style? Adjust your piles accordingly.
  • Hopefully, you find some books and authors that are totally new to you. I am not always successful with this method, sometimes all of the books end up in my no pile, but it’s totally worth it for the times when I discover a new author or find I like a genre that I previously ruled out.

Still having trouble? Try these sites:

  • Which Book: is a website that generates a list of books based on your preference of certain factors like short/long, safe/disturbing, funny/serious.
  • What Should I Read Next: is an Amazon site that allows you to type in an author, title or keyword and it will suggest a range of books.
  • Your Next Read: again, this site allows you to type in author, title or keyword and will suggest a range of books.
  • Goodreads provide lists of which books to read based on its users’ information.

I would love to hear from you. What books are you reading? How do you choose the books you read?

Image Flying Books courtesy of Marilyn Sorensen/Pinterest

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