Well, I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before, but I thought that I’d talk about choosing books to read. After all, there are literally millions of books out there and it is impossible to read everything that has ever been written. So, if you’re reading regularly, then you have to be selective.
However, whilst I’ll probably talk a bit about buying books, I also want to write this guide in a way that will also be useful if you just want to choose a book from the ones you already own or from a library etc… too. Plus, this guide is mainly aimed at people who are new to reading novels – since, if you’re an experienced reader, then you probably either know most of this stuff already or have worked out your own methods of choosing what to read next.
1) Try it out: I’ll start with the most obvious way of choosing a book. In other words, reading the first few pages of a book to see if it is something that you want to read more of.
Yes, this isn’t a perfect way to judge whether a book is worth reading (after all, some books only really get good after a few chapters or once you’ve got used to the writer’s style, and some books are only good at specific times in your life) but it’s a good first test and there’s no shame in putting aside a book that you’ve read a little bit of and looking for another one instead, if you’re going to get more out of another book.
After a while, you’ll get a knack for this kind of thing. For example, the novel I’m reading at the moment (“The Afterblight Chronicles: Kill Or Cure” by Rebecca Levine) wasn’t my initial choice of what to read next after I’d finished reading Clive Barker’s “The Damnation Game“. Originally, I’d planned to read an urban fantasy novel with an interesting title and a really cool-looking cover but, after reading the first few pages of it, I realised that I wasn’t really in the mood for it at the moment. So, I set it aside and went for a post-apocalyptic thriller novel instead.
So, although it takes a bit of practice and getting to know yourself, the best way to choose what to read next is simply to read the first part of a book and see if you want to read more of it. This is the best, and perhaps only, way to test out a book (and better than things like cover art, reviews etc..) that you are thinking of reading next.
2) Set rules: One good way to choose what to read next is to set yourself rules. However, these need to be rules that have a good practical reason behind them (so you’ll actually follow them) and should be made with the goal of increasing your own enjoyment. Making rules for the sake of showing off or anything like that won’t last for long and will result in a lot of bad book choices too. So, your rules actually have to mean something to you.
For example, when I got back into reading regularly a little over a year ago, I started by binge-reading eight thriller novels by Clive Cussler. By the end of the eighth one, I was so used to this author’s stories, writing style etc… that reading his books had gone from being exciting fun to being a dreary chore. Likewise, after reading the six main novels in Jocelynn Drake’s excellent “Dark Days” series within about a month, I found myself wishing that I’d spread these books out a bit more so that I didn’t feel the intense sense of loss that I did when the series was over.
So, I set myself some rules -in addition to my long-standing “If you enjoy it, read it. If you don’t, then don’t” rule – to avoid these problems.
To avoid getting bored with any one author, I initially started with a rule that I’d read a book by another author to the one I’d just finished reading and then, to avoid reading amazing book series too quickly, I also added a rule that I wouldn’t read more than one or two books by any particular author in the space of a month.
So, yes, making some rules can be useful for choosing what to read next. But, as I said earlier, you need to have a good practical reason for these rules because – if you don’t – you’ll either end up ignoring them or they will ruin your enjoyment of reading.
3) Serendipity: If you read a lot, then you’ve probably got a chaotic collection of unread books, including a few that you’ve forgotten about. If you haven’t got one of these, then look for a library or either a website or physical shop that sells second-hand books. The goal here is just to explore a collection of books until something catches your interest.
Earlier, I mentioned looking at second-hand books and this is important because these tend to contain a much greater variety of authors, genres etc… than shops selling the latest bestsellers do. They’re also cheaper too, which is good for building a personal library on a budget. Looking for interesting random books is a bit more difficult if you’re looking for second-hand books online – but things like going through several layers of recommendations (eg: “People who liked this book also liked…”) on sites that include them can give you something vaguely similar to it.
The advantage of doing this, rather than following a set reading list or anything like that (although these can be useful), is that it forces you to choose on the basis of quality. When you’re looking through a collection of random books then things like an author’s fame, awards etc… matter less than whether the book you’re looking at right now has an intriguing opening chapter, a fascinating blurb etc…
But, the key word here is “random”. So, this tends to work best when your book collection consists of chaotic piles of books (rather than neat shelves) or when looking through the shelves of a second-hand bookshop/charity shop.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂