How Do We Decide Which Book to Read Next?

I have a pretty long list of “to read” books. I’ve downloaded heaps of samples to my Kindle, and I hope one day to get to them all.

So how do I choose which one to start next? Is there a pattern? Is there a science to it? A common trigger that gets me started?

At first I thought it might be friend recommendations.

I’ve read quite a few books recommended by my wife. Recently she told me to read The Humans by Matt Haig, which I did immediately (and loved it). But she’s also been telling me for years to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but I haven’t yet.

I ran into a friend the other day who asked me if I’d started reading All Our Wrong Todays yet. I hadn’t. He said I MUST read it, as it’s one of his all-time favorites. So I did, and he was right. But another good friend, who works for a publisher, sends me free bestsellers on occasion — and I haven’t read any of them.

So the friend recommendation trigger is part of it, but only some of the time.

What about appealing book covers or titles? Can a book cover or title be the spark that gets me to crack it open?

I remember getting into the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve because I was exploring the art of the series’ illustrator, David Frankland. The covers were beautiful, and the description of the stories sounded intriguing. I gobbled up all four books right away.

And when I heard about a book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie, how could I not read it? (It’s wonderful, by the way.) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Yes, please. Neverwhere? Let’s go there! All intriguing titles.

But some of my favorite books have had mediocre covers. Speaking of Neverwhere, the design on the latest version isn’t all that special. It conveys an accurate mood for the story, but does nothing to draw a newbie in. It’s generic.

And the titles of some of my favorite books aren’t even interesting. The Martian. The Humans. The Historian. The Road. All great books. But ho-hum titles.

So it’s definitely not always a cover or a title that triggers my interest, either.

How about reader reviews? Can Amazon or blogger reviews help me decide?

Maybe. Reviews help me decide which books to add to my reading list (or which ones not to). But I wouldn’t say they help me choose which one on my list to read next.

Does advertising push a book higher on my list? Rarely.

Surely libraries or bookstores can be influential? Library studies show that half the people who walk into a library are looking for a specific title or author. The other half are there to browse.

Bookstores have similar statistics. They report about 60% of books purchased in a store are bought on impulse.

So how do the browsers and impulse buyers decide? Cover designs? Titles? Back cover copy? Yes, yes, and yes.

I get the feeling that what it comes down to is, well, a feeling. The next book I read is whatever I feel like reading. It’s like deciding what to watch on Netflix. Some nights I’m in the mood for a comedy, others I want action. I’ll watch what feels right in the moment. Books, however, feel like a bigger decision because it’s way more than an hour or two of my time I’m talking about.

BTW, if you’re looking to discover new titles on your own, I suggest checking out Whichbook. It’s a site that recommends books to you based on a scale of your preferences. It’s very easy to use, and I’ve been impressed with the results.

How do YOU choose your next book? Leave your helpful comments below.

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