Well, ever since I got back into reading regularly over a year ago, one of the rules I’ve set myself is to only read books that I actually enjoy.
Aside from the fact that reading is meant to be fun, one of the initial reasons for this was that I was terrified that I’d lose interest in reading if I tried to force myself to read books that didn’t make me actually want to read more of them. So, I got reasonably good at finding novels that I knew I’d enjoy reading (hence why there aren’t any one or two star book reviews on this site). And I thought that I’d share a few tips to help you find books that you will enjoy.
1) Know yourself: In order to find books that you’ll enjoy, you have to know what you enjoy. This sounds really obvious, but it is the most important thing you’ll need to do if you want to find enjoyable books. If you’re new to reading novels, then the best way to work out what books you’ll enjoy is to just look at what genres of films and TV shows you enjoy. There will be books in those genres too. Lots of them.
Genre is a great starting point for finding enjoyable books. For example, most of the books I review on here tend to fit into the sci-fi, horror, thriller, detective, historical and/or urban fantasy genres. By mostly sticking to these six genres that I enjoy, I’ve streamlined the process of finding enjoyable books quite a bit.
Plus, the more you read, the more details you learn about what you do and don’t enjoy in fiction – eg: styles of narration, sub-genres, emotional tone, story concepts, types of pacing etc… So, even if you occasionally stumble across a book that you don’t enjoy (and it’ll happen occasionally), then it will still help you to find books that you do enjoy, by letting you get to know yourself better. Speaking of which….
2) Abandon books you don’t enjoy!: You are under no obligation to finish every novel that you start reading. If a book seems to have no redeeming qualities, if it seriously annoys you, if it feels like a chore to read or if you find yourself regretting ever picking it up, then ditch it and find a better book!
There is nothing wrong with doing this. It is a good thing to do. Not only will you have saved yourself the time you’d have wasted with that book (which you can use to read a better book), but it’ll also teach you what to avoid in future and will also help to preserve your love of reading too. After all, you are the only person who can motivate yourself to read. This isn’t school, college or university – where you have to read a list of set texts. This is reading for fun. So, have fun.
If you started watching a TV series that you didn’t like, you’d change channel or choose another boxset after an episode or two. It’s no different with books. Seriously, one of the best ways to find enjoyable books is to get totally comfortable with the idea of ditching books that you don’t enjoy. Being able to just put them aside without a second thought, to work out why you didn’t enjoy them and then go off in search for another book that doesn’t make this mistake will result in a much better reading experience and a much higher ratio of enjoyable books to non-enjoyable books.
If it makes you feel better about doing this, then think of it as literary self-defence. By ditching books you don’t enjoy, you are protecting your enjoyment of reading.
3) Try new authors: If you’ve only got a couple of favourite authors, it can be easy to think that their books are the only good ones out there. This isn’t true. There are so many good books and authors out there that you’ll never actually be able to read all of them even if you tried. However, you probably haven’t even heard of most of them. So, how do you discover them?
Well, one way is to set yourself rules that push you to find new authors (and to keep your favourite ones interesting). When I got back into reading regularly a year or two, I started by binge-reading thriller novels by Clive Cussler. I really enjoyed these books. And I read about seven or eight of them in a single fortnight. By the end of this, I just couldn’t read another one. I’d seen so many of them so quickly that I’d become bored by them.
So, to prevent this from happening with my other favourite authors, I set myself a rule that every book I read had to be written by a different author to the previous book I’d read. This pushed me to actively look for authors I hadn’t read before. And, being on the lookout for new authors (rather than just sticking with a few that you know) is one of the best ways to discover loads of brilliant books.
Although this rule was a bit of a challenge to follow at first, it led to me discovering loads of amazing authors. My list of favourite authors increased quite a bit over the space of a year or so.
If I hadn’t set myself this rule, I wouldn’t have enjoyed awesome novels by Jodi Taylor, Jack O’ Connell, Tade Thompson, Alice Hoffman, Joe Haldemann, Becky Chambers, Weston Ochse, Sarah Lotz, Jocelynn Drake, Gary Brandner, Rebecca Levene, Jonathan Maberry, S.J. Parris, Neal Stephenson, Dana Fredsti, Robert Brockway, Joan D. Vinge, Dashiell Hammett, Tess Gerritsen etc…
So, if you’re stuck and can’t find a book that you enjoy, then it might be worth taking a look at authors that you’ve never heard of before. [Edit: Like with the article a few days ago, I prepared the first draft of this one several months ago. And, as such, I’ve now removed an exhortation to visit bookshops, libraries etc… since this is NOT a good idea, given the current pandemic. Sorry about this pre-publication change. Anyway, here’s the rest of this sentence…]… and you might end up finding a new favourite author (or ten) that you didn’t even know existed.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂