How do you pick the books you read?

I maintain a To Read list in Goodreads, but I thought it would be interesting to hear exactly how a person hears about a particular book and decides he or she wants to read it.

Here are some of the ways I first hear about and decide I want to read a book:

(1) Amazon recommendations.
(2) Hearing about a book on the Straight Dope.
(3) Recommendations from friends.
(4) In non-fiction books, writers often reference other books, and I will sometimes pause my reading to go add the referenced book to my To Read list.
(5) Some book reviews will indicate that a book is similar to another book or author, and if I liked the first book then I’ll plan to read the similar book.
(6) And of course, once I find an author I like, I’ll make an effort to read other books they’ve written and keep an eye out for new releases from authors I like.
(7) Goodreads’ annual book awards

I pick a book to purchase if its in my area of interest or if it catches my eye (I’ll read pretty much anything if it looks, well, interesting). Sometimes I choose a book because I realise there is an area of knowledge I’m lacking in, for this reason I’ve bought and read a number of books on economics. And I can honestly say that this is has helped confirm my complete lack of understanding of economics.

Of books (and magazine articles, online articles etc) I have an Excel list that is now checks 6718 items long, I use a random number generator to choose my next book to read alternating on a fiction/factual basis.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Shadow of Shadows’ by Ted Allbeury, a fictionalised account of the George Blake story and a pretty good read. Next up is a PDF copy of the Sep-Oct 1983 issue of Air University Review.

Its kind of fun actually because you know what you’re going to be reading next.

This sounds horrible to me. I have this rather ritualistic way of choosing my next book, because it has to match my particular mood.

Oh also, I think it’s interesting you mention alternating fact and fiction, because I do the same, only I typically read a fiction and nonfiction book concurrently, so that I can alternate between them depending on whether I’m in the mood for fiction or nonfiction at the moment. Come to think of it, I’m pretty freaking moody.

I judge them by their covers.

Whatever catches my eye on the shelf at Goodwill. Mostly obscure history lately because my fiction backlog is mostly public domain works on my Kindle. G. K. Chesterton wrote a heck of a lot.

wind, how about (8) It’s part of a series? :slight_smile:

I get a lot of recommendations out of Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading threads that DzedNConfused maintains.

I also read the reviews at my library’s website before I place a hold. I really haven’t found that the Goodreads folks and I have much in common…frequently I’ll finish a book I didn’t think much of and get annoyed over there because everyone’s gushing over it.

I keep a list of names of authors I’ve enjoyed, and periodically do a search to see if they’re up to anything new.

I do judge books by their covers as well! So many times you can look at a book and see it’s just a ripoff of something popular because it uses the same font and artistic style on the cover.

Sometimes I develop a block against certain books because they’ve been talked about so much…if a review says a book is “the next Gone Girl” I’m probably going to skip it. I haven’t read Gone Girl either because I’m sick of hearing about it. And I’d probably like it!

Books are read in strict order according to when they are due back at the library. Except when a new Stephen King book comes out. Those are the only books I buy these days and I drop everything when my new King is delivered.

Each to their own. :slight_smile:

I was tired of trying to pick what book to read next so I thought I’d leave it up to chance. Though because its a book/artlcle etc I’d put on the list to read at some point I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it, however the older I get the less I’m willing to plough through a book that hasn’t grabbed me in the hope it will get better later, now I tend to toss a book fairly early in that case or scan through it just to see what happens.

Oh, I’m also slowly working my way through War and Peace, but it was a bit of a monster to pick up and read in one go so I’m reading a chapter at a time.

Unless the series has multiple authors, I think that would fall under (6).

Don’t know if **Johnny **is kidding but I actually do this sometimes. I won’t buy a book solely based on its cover but if the cover isn’t intriguing I probably won’t pick up.

What I find helpful on Goodreads is reading the lower-rated reviews to see why people didn’t like a book, because some things get my ire a lot more than others. For example, it irritates me when author’s try so hard to be hip that they start saying things like “this is nerdy - tee hee,” but I don’t usually mind a bit of a didactic tone. And I can usually stand a self-absorbed narrator, but can’t abide one with no backbone. Or I can often stand a nonlinear, kinda confusing plotline, as long as the plot doesn’t drag. The point I’m trying to make is if a review is well-written, I usually get some idea of whether or not I’d like the book even if I don’t think I’m like the reviewer.

So how long do you give a book before throwing in the towel?


Occasionally hearing about it. I usually grab one at the airport to pass the time on the flight. Mostly people have given me books. Sometimes I’ve been somewhere where there are books and I look at them and pull one out and start reading. So for me it’s mainly chance.

“Ooo! Shiny!”

True, I do still read the reviews for that reason. And because being annoyed is fun sometimes.

Oh very well then. :slight_smile:

I can’t.:frowning:
On my kindle the cover just isn’t detailed enough.

So instead I read all of a certain author. I just finished Djibouti, the only book of Elmore Leonard’s I hadn’t read, and he won’t be writing any more, unfortunately.:frowning:

My kindle recommendations are ok sometimes.

Kindle samples have been a godsend for me. I used to keep long lists of books I wanted to read, and also large piles of books that I’d purchased and hadn’t read yet. Now every book that I’m interested goes into the Samples folder on my Kindle.

Probably the number one way I hear about books I want to read is in the bibliographies/references of other books I’ve read, or as recommendations on Amazon based on what I’m reading. I tend to read clusters of books on a topic – I recently read four books about people being eaten by grizzly bears (kicked off with a book by an author recommended here on the Dope), and before that I read six books about people climbing K2. I just finished a book about South Pole exploration (The Worst Journey in the World – it’s going on my list of the best adventure books ever), and now I have a South Pole sample collection.

When I finish a book, I check the Samples folder to see what sounds interesting to read next. Once I’ve read the sample, I buy the book to continue reading, or decide it’s not for me and delete it.

I use Kindle samples extensively, too!! Only not quite the way you do. I will narrow down my To Read list to a list of maybe five books that I’d be interested in reading next, and I download samples of all five of them and read a little bit to see which one pulls me in the most, and that’s the one I buy next.

Me too. If I’m wandering around at the library and the cover/title looks interesting I’ll flip through it to see if it’s something I might want to read. I’m reading Greg Bear’s **City at the End of Time ** for just this reason.

This is complicated. When I go to the library I look through the New Books shelf and pick something interesting. I’m also getting classics that I’ve always meant to read - I just read Gilgamesh for this reason, have done some Mark Twain, and am going to get Ulysses.
I intend to start a list of books that are interesting from the NY Times Book Review, but haven’t yet.
But since I have over 1,000 unread books and magazines in my collection, that is most of my reading. I have run through all the unread books by one author (just did Sheckley) but now I’m doing a room at a time, starting with my bedroom. I’m working through my back log of Isaac Asimov’s SF Mag (up to 1995) while keeping up with current ones. I’ve read all the fiction and non-fiction books in my bookcase except for a big history of Venice. Then on to another room. Should take me 30 years, easy, if I avoid buying anything else.

Typically I pick fiction books like this (in priority order of reading/interest):

  1. Sequels to works I’ve already read and enjoyed.

  2. The novels underlying TV/film adaptations that I’ve enjoyed. For example, I watched the first season of “Game of Thrones”, and that prompted me to read the books . Same for James S.A. Corey’s “The Expanse” series- watched a few episodes, got interested and read the books.

  3. Recommendations from a few trusted friends whose opinions on what makes for a good book align very closely to mine.

  4. Works I haven’t read by authors I know I like. For example, one of these days I’m going to read the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell because I’ve generally enjoyed his novels.

  5. Books I read about on here, Reddit, Goodreads, etc… that sound interesting to me.

  6. Recommendations from people whose opinions on books aren’t as consistently reliable as those in #1

  7. Amazon/bookstore suggestions (“if you liked X, you may like”)

  8. Mentions of books in other media- like magazine articles that reference works of fiction.

  9. Random stuff I see in the bookstore or on Amazon.

actually it depends on what I’m in the mood for but its usually subject or genre and length

also plot/character description on the back or cover helps a lot

I’m a hugely fast reader so it its under 200 pages I’m done with it in an hour or so

but when I was in jr high I read a lot of those 500 page multi decade fame and fortune sagas of the ages simply because it would take a day or two to read …