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How to Choose What to Read Next: A Complete Guide

 
By Jane Bertin. Updated: June 3, 2018
How to Choose What to Read Next: A Complete Guide

No matter whether we are avid readers or we turn to books as a desperate resort for a long journey, there is a question that haunts us all: "What should I read next?"

Sure, you probably have a favorite author whose catalogue you can take inspiration from, or a genre that's a winning bet. However, reading is an investment of time and probably money, so you should find the perfect balance between a sure hit and finding fresh voices and experiences. Here at OneHowTo you'll find the best guide on how to choose what to read next. Sit tight!

Steps to follow:
1

The first thing to do once you're ready to move on from the last book you read - and that can take some time if it was particularly good or moving - is to ask around for recommendations.

  • Ask your friends and family what to read next, especially those who are unrepentant bookworms. They know you and your reading habits, so they'll know what's the best book for you.
  • Librarians are not there only to show you around the place; they're actually giant book-lovers themselves. Go to your local library and find a librarian that seems close to your age or style - they're dying to gush about their favorites! The same goes for language and literature teachers. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask, since they'll probably feel flattered by your trust.
  • Take a look at book blogs. In this day and age, there are thousands of them; you'll be able to find the one that most matches your tastes from the other blogs they follow, their general aesthetics and their lists of favorites. There are plenty of well-designed literature blogs that offer cool flowcharts and newsletters to help their audience choose what to read next.
  • If you're devoted to books, you'll probably have a favorite publishing house. There are plenty of specialist publishers you can discover; for instance, Virago Press and Persephone Books focus on women writers. Check out their catalogue and subscribe to their newsletter to stay up to date.
  • Don't forget literary magazines, like the New Yorker, Ploughshares or The Paris Review. While usually more artsy and high-brow, they always publish and review truly excellent stories.
  • Go to an independent bookstore rather than a big chain. Sure, they might not have everything, but they'll have curated a selection with care. Ask whoever's there for their favorites if you feel a similar vibe. You might have found your literary soulmate!
  • Join Goodreads. This social media site is heaven online for book lovers; you can see what your friends are reading, recommend books to each other, write reviews, challenge yourself, and make endless lists.
2

What do you read for? Is it purely for entertainment, to be swept away by epic stories and emotions, to keep up with the Art Scene?

No matter what you've answered, it's a good idea to choose what to read next according to bestseller lists. After all, you're probably interested in keeping up! Even if you're not a fan of mainstream big hits, bestseller lists are a good way to find trends and follow the buzz. There are also lists for specific genres, like YA fiction, or local authors.

There are also plenty of literary awards, most of them for particular genres. There are the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Man Booker International Prize, of course, but also the Newbery and Carnegie Medals for children's literature, the Crime Writers' Association awards for mystery, the RITA for romance, the Hugo, Nebula and Locus for sci-fi and fantasy, and so on. Take a look at the latest winners and shortlists within your favorite genre - you'll find quality for sure!

On the other hand, you can deliberately choose a genre you never go for. Sci-fi lover? Try a murder mystery! Biography fan? Consider a wild romance! If that's too much of a stretch, you'll surely find books right at the crossroads between genres. Yes, space forensics and narrations of real people's love life are a thing.

You can also choose what to read next by following another marketing strategy: Judge a book by its cover. Really. This isn't a fool-proof method, but covers are chosen to transmit the general aesthetics and feel of the book. From the cover, you'll be able to tell if a book is playful, showy, pretentious or whimsical at first glance.

3

If you don't care that much about following trends, it's always a good time to go back to your high school required reading or read that classic book you've always meant to read. Make use of a long winter holiday to finally read Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights - if the wind is howling outside, all the better -, or pick up Victor Hugo's Les Misérables for that endless train commute while munching on a stolen piece of bread.

Of course, there are many valid criticisms to standard "all-time classics" and "required reading" lists. In short, they're too often dominated by white, male authors. If you want to brush up your general culture without staying exclusively within the norm, take a look at LGBT or Postcolonial classics. Stay sharp.

4

There are plenty of websites beyond Goodreads that will help you choose what to read next. Sites like Opening the Book, What Should I Read Next or Just The Right Book offer recommendations after taking a short test or typing in your favorites.

However, this means that you'll stay within the areas you've already explored. Dare to go further!

5

There are other interesting methods in order to decide what to read now. Some of them are quite obvious:

  • Go to your To Read pile and pick the one on top. Or the one buried at the bottom. Just like that.
  • Did you see a good movie recently? It's likely an adaptation from a literary work. Look for the original text and dive in!

However, some of them are a bit wilder. Or as wild as reading can be:

  • Go to a bookstore and read the first page of the books that catch your eye. You'll get a sense of the theme and writing style. If you read e-books, you can download samples for free.
  • Don't decide: Read various books at once, and pick whatever fits your mood better each time.
  • Choose what to read according to the season. There are plenty of "beach reads" sections in stores, as well as Christmas or Halloween anthologies. However, it can be more abstract. Take a look at when and where is the book set and decide accordingly. A tip - crime novels are especially good in the fall.
  • Write titles on scraps of paper and put them in a jar. Choose one blindly, as if you were planning a Secret Santa. There you have it!

Crazy, right? This has been a complete guide on how to choose what to read next. Why not recommend your favorite books in the comments section?

How to Choose What to Read Next: A Complete Guide - Step 5

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