I love the feeling of finishing a great book, but with it comes the pressure of deciding what to read next. And with literally thousands of options out there, it’s easy to fall victim to choice paralysis. Instead of making a decision and jumping into your next read, you spend days agonizing over various titles, second guessing yourself, and ultimately, not reading anything at all.
It’s even more difficult if the book you’ve just finished reading was particularly engaging or powerful since naturally, you’ll want your next book to be just as good.
Life is short, and there are far too many books to get through them all. That’s why we want to make sure that we’re reading ones we’re actually going to enjoy. To make the process easier, I’ve put together some of my top tips for deciding what to read next, so you can spend more time reading the books you’ll love.
Tip 1: Identify Your Genres
Maybe you already have a favorite genre; perhaps you’re a murder mystery fan, or you’re hooked on horror. If that’s the case, you can skip ahead to Tip #2. But if, like many readers, you tend to flit from genre to genre without ever really nailing down a favorite, then read on.
Identifying your favorite genre is a great way of narrowing down your choices and making the process of deciding what book to read next much easier. The best way to find out which genres appeal to you most is to think about some of the most well known genres and identify the key attributes of each one.
For example, the fantasy genre tends to have descriptive plot lines, well-developed characters, and plenty of imaginative and otherworldly events. Thrillers tend to be fast-paced, edgy, and get your heart pumping. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules, but getting a general idea of what each genre encapsulates is a good starting point.
Try listing some of the most popular book genres you can think of and assign each one attributes. For a little help and inspiration, you can use this list from Wikipedia to guide you.
Once you have a completed list, it will be easier to see which genre appeals to you the most, and you can go from there.
It’s might also be helpful to think about the books you’ve loved in the past and see if you can notice a pattern in the genres. Perhaps you already have a go-to genre that you love to read, but you just haven’t really noticed it yet.
Tip 2. Identify Your Tastes
Genres are generally grouped together by theme, topic, settings, and common patterns, but it’s also important to think about the writing styles you’ve enjoyed in the past and the way the book speaks to you as a reader.
Think about pacing; do you love reading stories that take things slow and use plenty of descriptive language and imagery? Or do you prefer to go full throttle straight away and dive head first into the page turning action?
Consider the book’s characterization; do you prefer to read character studies where there are a few deeply developed characters that feel as you know them in real life? Or perhaps you enjoy stories told by relatable protagonists who behave as you imagine you might behave in the same situation?
When it comes to the storyline, would you rather read an action-packed plot filled with complex twists and turns, or perhaps one that shifts between various perspectives?
And what about the tone of a book? When you finish the last chapter, do you want to feel uplifted and inspired? Or are you more interested in shocks, thrills, and scares?
These are all helpful questions to ask yourself when you’re narrowing down your own tastes in literature.
Try to think back to your favorite books, and also don’t forget to consider movies that have appealed to you too, as these can be just as helpful in uncovering your preferences.
Once you’ve got a few more ideas about the attributes you like in a book, as well as the genres you prefer, you can use a site like whichbook to select your next reads. It allows you to search by mood and emotion, character and plot, and even race, age, and sexuality, so you can find the perfect book for you.
Tip 3. Read What You Like
This might sound obvious, but it’s really important to follow your own tastes when it comes to books, rather than going along with the masses and allowing yourself to be influenced by trends.
Sure, taking book recommendations from friends and family can be a great way to find your next title (see Tip #4), but don’t worry about whatever is fashionable right now or whatever “classics” the high brow crowd says we all need to read. If you know it’s not for you, then don’t waste your time trying to conform.
If you love chick-lit, then girl, go for it. If your love for animals means that you fly through the veterinarian fiction of James Herriot, then don’t let anyone stop you! It’s a wonderful thing to know what kind of books you like, and if they don’t fit the definition of “cool,” “refined,” or “sophisticated,” don’t sweat it! Remember you’re reading for your pleasure and not anyone else’s.
Tip 4. Ask Your Friends and Family
Taking recommendations from friends, family, and coworkers can be a great way to find your next read, especially if you tend to share similar tastes to begin with.
If you’re lucky enough to know anyone especially bookish, you could ask them for some more in-depth advice, based on what you found out about your personal preferences in Tip #1 and #2.
Tip 5: Double Up on Books
This tip won’t work for everyone. Personally, I’m more of a one book at a time kind of reader, but I know plenty of friends who love to have two, maybe even three books on the go at once. They’ll read several chapters of one, then jump straight into another, keeping them both on the go simultaneously.
If you know this way of reading works for you, then why limit yourself to just one choice? You can have the best of both worlds.
Tip 6: Branch out and Experiment
If you tend to choose the same type of books every time, then this tip is definitely for you. From time to time, it’s a good idea to dip your toes in the water of a new style or genre; who knows, maybe you’re a closet sci-fi fan, but after struggling through the War of the Worlds in high school, you’ve never delved into the genre again.
Giving an unlikely book a chance might surprise you. And if you do end up hating it, don’t worry; there’s no shame in starting a book you don’t finish; life is far too short to read books you don’t enjoy.
Tip 7: Read a Book by its Cover!
I know, it goes against everything we’ve ever been taught. And I’m by no means suggesting you choose every new book with this method, but from time to time, it can be a great way to make a quick decision when you’re paralyzed by choices.
Do you have a lineup of 5 finalists, but you can’t choose between them? In this case, picking the one with the cover that most appeals to you will at least help you make a decision so you can start reading rather than procrastinating.
I also love heading to the bookstore or library and simply browsing the shelves. If there’s a book cover that really stands out to me, I pick it off the shelf. Then, I read the blurb on the back or inside the flap to get a better idea of what it’s about. If I’m still interested, it’s a winner!
Tip 8. Head Online
There are tons of resources out there that can help you find the perfect next book based on your tastes and preferences. Here are a few places to start:
NoveList is a fantastic organization that works alongside libraries to support their readers and their communities. If your library is involved, ask the librarian to help log you onto NoveList’s “Read-Alikes” section. This is a whole database full of books that read like other books. There are countless articles by experts in the literary field who break down the various appeals and plot features of a book. They then compare it with other books and make recommendations for similar reads with matching appeals and plot features.
If your library doesn’t have NoveList, you can still ask your librarian for advice. They’ll likely love the opportunity to talk about books with you and might come up with some great recommendations based on your preferences.
Goodreads is the daddy of all internet based reading resources. If you sign up for an account with them, you can log your recent reads, rate them, and you’ll receive surprisingly good recommendations for your next books.
Also, if you’re stuck, check out their selection of Top 100 lists. Working your way through these is a great place to start if you’re short of inspiration.
- Other Book Recommendation Sites
There are quite a few websites out there that will help you identify books you might enjoy, based on your ratings for previous books you’ve read and your own personal tastes and preferences. A couple of great ones are whichbook.net, which I mentioned earlier, and whatshouldireadnext.com.
- Social Media
Another good way to gather lots of recommendations at one time is to head over to your social media pages and ask your friends, family, and wider circle of acquaintances what their favorite books of all time are.
Most people will jump at the chance to share their number one reads with you, and you’re likely to find something that ticks the boxes for your next book.
Tip 9. Join a Book Club
Once you’re a fully-fledged member of a book club, you’ll never have to agonize over what book to read next again. You’ll have a built-in reading list, plus plenty of new friends to discuss each book with.
Most book clubs tend to meet every six weeks or so, which means even if you do finish reading a little sooner, you won’t have long to wait before it’s time to start the next title.
If you live in a city, there are likely some already established book clubs that you can request to join. Or why not start your own book club, and invite friends, family, and colleagues to join? You can take it in turns to choose the next book, taking the pressure off you, at least most of the time!
Book clubs also encourage you to keep up a regular reading practice, and they’re also a great way to make new friends.
If committing to an in-person book club isn’t your thing, you can also join countless online book clubs. Some charge a small fee, and some are completely free, but all of them will ensure that you’re never stuck on the question “what do I read next?”
Choosing your next book can be overwhelming. There are thousands of books in each genre, and narrowing it down to something you’ll really enjoy can be tricky. Next time you’re stuck on what to read next, try out these nine tips so you can get back to what you love; reading!
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