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Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Discussion: How Do You Decide What To Read Next?

Working in the public library with leisure readers, it is our job to help our patrons to choose what they will read next.  This entire blog is focused on giving you strategies on how to accomplish this in the most efficient and effective manner.

A few recent articles got me thinking about how I pick which books I am going to read next.  Of course this led me to asking all of you...the professionals, exactly how you pick the books you are going to read.

Digital Book World featured this article by a "power reader," someone who reads hundreds of books a year.  She was specifically referring to how she finds ebook recommendations, but I think the idea holds for print too.  From the post:
I find it very hard to browse online — if I knew what book I wanted, then Amazon was the place to go, but what could I do if all I knew was that I wanted another book? And this happens often; I read genre fiction almost exclusively, mainly romances, and I read them fast: somewhere between 300 and 400 a year, if I could afford it, and if I could find that many novels I want to read.
The solution could come in the form of the book recommendation websites — websites devoted to finding me the perfect book based on my interests. But, as with everything on the Internet, it can feel like there is an overwhelming amount of them. So, let us assume I just finished one of my favorite regency romances. I would like to find a new book in a similar style. How can I find my next book?
To answer this question, I examined a number of book discovery platforms, rating them on a scale of one-to-five for my needs, one being workable at best and five being exactly what I want. The top ten are given with commentary in alphabetical order; those I did not like as much I simply rated.
(A caveat: many of these platforms have functionality other than recommending books, such as social networking. I am rating these based solely on the functionality, breadth, and usability of their book recommendation functions. Anything else was not be factored in.)
The author looked at over 20 platforms.  She talks about what she found and why she preferred some over others. If nothing else, this post will give you new tools for yourself and your patrons to discover new books.
But also, as I mentioned above, it really got me to think critically about how I pick books for myself.  As I have mentioned on the blog before, applying new tools and idea to yourself and your own reading, is often the best way to see if you can help others using the same methods.

It is also always a good idea to break down your processes with patrons and think about them idependent of the person in front of you. We need to make sure our methods, that lay the foundation for our work, are sound. Thinking about them in terms of ourselves, the reader we know best, is a great way to evaluate our tools and processes.

So, how do I pick the books I want to read for myself.  I think I have 2 main tools:
  • Professional Reviews and Articles:  Since I read, either in print or digitally, a professional review or book industry report daily, I am constantly scanning them both for collection development AND personal reading.  When I see something that appeals to me personally I either put it on hold for myself or add it to my "planning to read" shelf on Shelfari.
  • Word of Mouth: Still the most popular tool for our patrons, recommendations from others is a key way I identify books I want to read for myself as well. Talking to patrons and fellow library staff about books they have enjoyed, especially when it comes to backlist titles, is one of my favorite ways to find new reads. Many of the book recommendation engines that the article discusses are another way for people who are not around readers (I know I am lucky to be surrounded by them every day) to get a "word of mouth" experience.
What about you?

For today's Monday Discussion, I ask you, the professional book suggester, to tell me how you suggest books for yourself.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.


Kimberly said...

Like Becky, reviews and word of mouth have a big influence on my personal reading choices, but I am also influenced by "newly released in a series" or "newly released by a favored author." In this case, the recommendation is past experience directly related to the next choice.

The other part of the question, though, is if I have a stack of books on the nightstand or a handful of titles on the eBook reader, which do I read first? My priorities are assigned titles for my employer; titles needing to be read for the next book group; and finally, which book expires or whose check-out date is approaching next. At least this method keeps my indecision to a minimal level.

Becky said...

Good point Kim. I guess I was thinking about those I purely wanted to read for fun because as you mention, sometimes I have to read certain books for work.

John, BPL RA said...

When picking books for myself it isn't difficult: years of working in the library have led me to the creation of a long list of titles that "I've been meaning to read" that I draw from, slowly but surely. I might finish it one day. Perhaps when I'm an old man!

Betty said...

Since where I sit directly faces the New Books section, you would think that's how I pick my next read. Nope. I'm addicted to Book Reporter and Library Journal and Good Reads and any other librarian-type publication that comes to my email.

That's why I have 269 books on my Goodreads To Read list. As a matter of fact, that's about how many movies I have on my Netflix queue.

At least I don't put all the books I'd like to read on reserve any more. That got a little unwieldy.

Donna said...

I have about 15 mystery series I'm following so any new "next in the series" is on my list. I follow book blogs and library blogs and pick up recommendations there. I stopped adding books to my Goodreads "to read" list because there were so many that they just got buried. Just looking at what comes across the desk through circulation brings many new things to light.