How to choose a good book when there are so many options

How to choose a good book when there are so many options

In Expert Tips, For the Love of Reading, Inspiration & Culture by Julia Malacoff

How to choose a good book when there are so many options

With so many book choices out there (Scribd offers over a million), it can be incredibly difficult to narrow your next read (or listen) down to just one book. Hence, your ever-growing To-Be-Read list. Luckily, there are some tricks you can use to make the decision less daunting — to take the pressure off, remember it’s OK to juggle a few books at a time. Here’s how book industry insiders choose their next read.

1. Take a cue from famous book clubs and podcasts. 

There’s a reason revered book recommenders are so popular, according to L.R. Dorn, author of The Anatomy of Desire. Consider starting with Oprah’s or Reese Witherspoon’s picks, or find a bookstagrammer who has tastes similar to yours. Podcasts can also be a great resource; Dorn recommends The New York Times Book Review Podcast, The Book Riot Podcast, and A Good Read.

2. See if your favorite authors have written anything new.

This is a solid option if you already have go-to authors you know you can rely on. Similarly, if you enjoyed a book by a certain author, check to see what else they’ve written in the past, suggests Finola Austin, author of Bronte's Mistress.

Another approach is to see what your preferred authors are getting into themselves. “I like to poke around and see what my favorite authors are reading for inspiration,” says Rachel Kempster Barry, an author and 20-year publishing industry veteran. “Read interviews (or listen to podcasts) with authors you love. What inspires them might hook you.” Kempster Barry herself likes to check in with Roxane Gay for recommendations. “I have loved every book that she has recommended.”

3. Diversify within genres you know you like. 

“I like to encourage readers to look at the diversity in their book selection,” says Carly Heath, an author and “BookTuber.” “If you’ve been reading a lot of psychological thrillers by white authors and you want to try a new book in that genre, make an effort to find a BIPOC author in that genre.”

4. Deep dive into reviews and recommendations.

“One thing you can do when you’re deciding whether to purchase a book is check out who has reviewed it,” suggests Gregg Behrco-author of When You Wonder, You're Learning. “Click on their names and see what else they’ve reviewed. Do the other books they’ve enjoyed sound like books that you might enjoy? Do they dislike books that don’t sound very appealing?” Also, Scribd offers reading recommendations curated by in-house editors like Best New Books on Scribd that are constantly updated. After a while, you’ll find readers and editors with similar tastes, and it’ll be easier to narrow your book options based on their reviews.

5. Read the blurbs. 

“The quickest, most direct way to know if a book will ring your genre bell is to check the blurbs,” Dorn notes. If a book has been “blurbed” by a Scribd editor or an author you know you like — particularly if they specialize in the same genre — chances are you’ll enjoy the book.

6. Utilize Facebook genre groups. 

“There are Facebook groups for just about everything these days,” says Sheri Cobb South, author of The John Pickett Mystery Series. As a romance author herself, Cobb South belongs to several Facebook groups dedicated to the genre that have brought new authors and books to her attention. “Over time, you’ll find that certain books tend to come up in group conversations again and again, and if a book is recommended by a group member whose tastes seem to align with yours (something else you’ll discover over time), then that book is probably a pretty good bet.”

7. Experiment smartly with something new.

Maybe you’ve exhausted psychological thrillersfamily dramas, or 20th-century biographies for the time being, and feel ready to venture in a different direction. “When diving into a new category or genre, pick books that have overlap with something you know you already like,” Austin recommends. “For instance, if you normally read romance, why not pick a novel in a different genre, but one which has a strong romantic subplot? If you're a nonfiction reader with an interest in science, maybe science-fiction would appeal. If you normally read historical fiction, perhaps you'd like a history book about a period you've enjoyed as the setting of a novel.”

8. Sit with your to-read list. 

“I used to be an impulse book buyer — as soon as I read a synopsis or a review that caught my eye, I’d go out and get it as fast as I could,” says Ryan RydzewskiBehr’s co-author. “But eventually, I realized that books that sound ‘must have’ on Monday might sound mundane by Friday.” Just like in love, you have to let the infatuation fade before you can see things clearly, he says. Now, Rydzewski looks at what’s been on his To-Be-Read list for weeks or months before actually making a decision on what to read next. “In that sense, choosing a book is like starting a relationship. Trust your instincts, but don’t commit right away. If it still feels right after that initial rush of desire, then you’re probably on the right path.”

9. Join a book club. 

If it’s simply too stressful or overwhelming to be the one choosing, consider joining a book club, Austin suggests. Then, the decision is made for you!

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About the Author: Julia Malacoff

Julia is a freelance writer and editor who holds a BA in Art History from Wellesley College, and is also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. Her work experience includes writing, reporting, and editing for top publications, including Shape, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, as well as leading brands like Nike, Aveeno, and Precision Nutrition. She lives in London with her husband and two cocker spaniels. An avid reader, you can find her devouring her book club's latest pick — or anything by Zadie Smith, Blake Crouch, and Jeffrey Eugenides.
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