Tuesday, May 1, 2007

How to Find a Good Book

If you love to read, and care what you read, you have to find good books. But how do you find books that you will enjoy? There are a few different strategies that I use:

At the library, skim the new books area. Look at all the sections. Even if you don't usually read non-fiction, or mysteries, you may find something intriguing that you would never have found otherwise.

Read newspaper and magazine book reviews. Keep a list of books that sound interesting. Your list can be on paper, or start a wish list on Amazon. I have a public wish list for things I hope people will buy for me, and a private wish list for books that I want to read. I'll get a majority of them from the library, but it seems easier to keep a list on Amazon rather than typing things into a document or locating a scrap of paper.

NoveList is a great database that is available through libraries. I can access it from home through my local public library's website. NoveList offers annotated book lists on topics ranging from "Asian-American Literature" to "Beach Reads." My favorite NoveList feature is "Author Read-Alikes." If you like one of the 200 or so popular authors in this list, click on his or her name. You will get a list of books by other authors, with brief descriptions, and the reason they think you will like this other book. The suggestions can include both contemporary and older books. You can create a NoveList account and keep labeled lists of the books you are interested in.
I've used NoveList when I travel. For example, I typed in "New Orleans" as a keyword, and got a large list of novels that take place in New Orleans. I read several before my trip, and I felt like that gave me an idea of the history and mood of the city before I got there. Since I generally prefer fiction to non-fiction, this is more fun for me than reading travel guides and history books.

If you like reading older books, "BookLust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason" has a lot of great suggestions. Author Nancy Pearl is a librarian and book reviewer who has years of experience with steering people towards books they will enjoy. Her categories range from humorous takes on academia to Latin American literature. I found several new authors that I had never read before and was glad to discover.

Want to find all the books an author has written, or want to read a series in the correct order? The best-organized site I have found on the internet is www.fantasticfiction.co.uk. Search by author or by book title. When you search by author, you get a list of all that person's works arranged chronologically or by series. You often also get a brief biography, a list of awards, and sometimes you even get a list of books that author recommends that are written by others.

And of course, you must ask absolutely everyone what they are reading. Sometimes a random conversation with a stranger will point you towards a book that you never would have picked up, but absolutely love.

Please leave comments with other suggestions for finding books that you enjoy!

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Nancy Pearl's Book Lust is the best. I have been introduced to so many great books and authors thanks to her I even wrote a blog post about her.

Since 1997 I have been making my way through the Modern Library's Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century.