nonfiction · not a review

What Should I Read Next?

It is Friday night. It has been a long week and you just want to relax. So, you turn on Netflix and you flip through the options, maybe start one or two, and find nothing that captures your interest? The frustration begins to build. So, you head over to Amazon Prime or maybe even shows you have saved for just this occasion and again, nothing feels right. Meanwhile, you have spend two hours looking and zero minutes. This is me for the last 10 days with my books.

Sometimes after reading a really great series or a new author I come out of the book’s world in a daze. Nothing seems as good as the book I have just finished. Usually this malaise or withdrawal lasts a day or two and I am back in my book-packed saddle. Occasionally, I sink into a true funk and I cannot find anything to suit my mood. I write you now from this dark place. I need a good book!

So, how do we figure out what to read next? I have a whole bookshelf of books yet to be read. I have an enormous stack of library books (photo below) that I requested and wanted but none feel quite right.  What do I do!?! Well, I actually own two great books designed to help me answer the question, “What should I read next?”

top10Books, Over 100 Top 10 Lists by Fid and Sue Backhouse is a compilation of lists broken into six major categories.  World of Books, Compelling Characters, Out of this World (Sci-Fi), Relativity (humans and their relationships), Imagine That (kids and teens) and Page Turners are the major categories. As a list lover this book is soothing in its organization. As a book lover I appreciate the breadth of choices. There are over 1000 books and the authors acknowledge the subjectivity of their lists. I would love to have a book club meeting about this book just to discuss some of the inclusions and exclusions. I would also like to break one of my cardinal rules and write in this book – just check away at all the ones I have read.

1001BooksHallie Ephron, Ph.D is a prolific writer from a writing family and her book 1001 Books for Every Mood is my go-to when I cannot seem to find something to read. Do you want a book that will make you laugh? She has solid suggestions. What about a book to celebrate friends or one to celebrate the seasons? Covered! This book really does have something for whatever mood you are in and I really appreciate the ranking system that includes twelve different bits of information ranging from the literary merit to whether the book was family friendly or made into a movie. This book is out of print but if you see it, grab it.

After thumbing through these books and finding nothing to sate my literary thirst I turn to the internet for answers. Can the Book Seer help me? This website is hilarious and sometimes I just like to plug in books to see what I will get back. Book Seer will give you recommendations from Amazon and it used to give you recommendations from LibraryThing.

I enjoy Book Seer mostly as a little game to see if I agree with the website’s answers. Book Seer is brought to the world by Apt Studio and their blog post about the Book Seer’s analytics is a fascinating look into the mind of a person in need of a book. It is a fun place to start and I have found books this way.

If not, maybe Whichbook can help me! Whichbook is another wonderful website that allows you to use toggles to limit the searches so that you can get a (1) really happy book that is also (2) unexpected and (3) short.  Or, you can have an (1) easy (2) optimistic (3) scary book.  You can also change the toggles to search by character, plot or setting. Whichbooks has what they call “W” lists as well and you can read through their lists or guests lists and create your own.

I have found that Whichbook gives me a much more varied result to my queries than other websites. You can also read a little excerpt from the book, get parallels or books that are very similar or even use a book as a jumping off point to find more books. The toggles take some getting used to but I enjoy them and this is a website I turn to frequently for ideas.

And, of course, there is Goodreads. Goodreads was my first book-based website crush.  “It’s like Facebook for people that like to read!” I cried. I can see what my friends are reading and give and take suggestions! Authors on Goodreads will talk to me through the magic of the internet! This is amazing!!

But, then my crush talked to me and ruined it. Goodreads is great but it can be overwhelming. I never remember to plug in the books I have read. I am just not great at consistently using it. It is not hard to use, it is just my fault for not following through. The real deathblow for our relationship came when I got a smartphone and found out that I could scan books into my list. Then I was a woman on a mission. That mission seems to be: Make as long a to-be-read list as possible.

And here is my actual problem. I have loads of things to read. I am rich in books. I just need to suck it up and take my Mother’s advice. “Give it three chapters,” she would tell me. If I wasn’t immersed after that I could put the book down.

Like skimming through titles on Netflix I just keep reading the first 10 pages of a book and then tossing it aside. I need to jump into the story with both feet and take my hand off the remote (or, in this case, the next book).  Only then do I stand a chance of really entering into the world the author was trying to create. When I have finished reading this stack of books and the ones on my bookshelves then I can ask, “What Should I Read Next?”

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