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A Librarian’s Guide to Choosing the Right Book for You!

Books have different “appeals.” This one has a very naturalistic style!

Read What You Like

Discovering Your Reading Tastes

  • Pacing: How quickly does the book move? Is it a page-turner, or will it take a month to finish as War and Peace did for me?
  • Characterization: How does the author treat the characters? Are they described so profoundly that the book could be a character study? Or are they just archetypal chess pieces in a complicated game?
  • Storyline: What is the orientation of the plot? Is it character-driven or action-oriented? Very complex? Inspirational? Absurd?
  • Frame and Tone: What is the mood of the book? Is it heartwarming? Thrilling? Dark? Philosophical? Quirky?
  • Style: How could the author’s writing style be described? Spare? Conversational? Poetic? Intricate?

Finding Your Genre

Photo by Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash

Narrowing Your Options

  • Read books by their covers! It’s okay. Librarians do it all the time. Go to a bookstore, library, or your favorite online shop and browse. Does a book’s cover art appeal to you? Perfect, now read the inside flap; what do you think of the plot description? If you like it, you’ve found your book!
  • Many libraries offer free access to a website called NoveList, a Readers’ Advisory librarian’s secret weapon! NoveList is a database of expert recommendations which includes lists of “read-alikes” (books that read like other books!) based on all sorts of appeals. My favorite thing about NoveList is their read-alike essays — short, insightful articles written by genre experts explaining an author’s (or a book) appeals and recommending others with similar appeals.
  • Another online resource I find helpful is Goodreads recommendations. Generally, I find automated recommendations lame (I’m looking at Amazon here), but Goodreads does a surprisingly fine job of serving exciting books based on specific shelves in one’s account. (Yes, I know Amazon owns Goodreads.)
  • Though I’ve steered you away from the other’s opinions, now that you’re comfortable with your tastes, check out popular awards for your genre, book blogs, and websites dedicated to the type of books you like.
  • Finally, ask a librarian! Not all librarians are good at Readers’ Advisory, but there’s usually at least one in every building that relishes talking about books. Tell them what you’d like and let them do their job. Hopefully, you’ll end up with a few choices you’ll enjoy!

Parting Words



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