How Do You Find Books To Read?

BlogHer Original Post

A question I eventually get asked after people find out how much I read is, "How do you find books to read?" It's a question I struggle with answering, because there's no simple answer. There are a whole bunch of answers, because I pull books into my life from all different directions.

Almost every way that I add books to my to be read list stems from one thing: I pay attention. It is really that easy. I look for books when I'm out in the world. Yes, I am that nosy person on the bus who looks at the cover of the book you are reading. I squint and try to read the spine of the book sticking out of your purse at the coffee shop. When a book is mentioned on the radio or the news, my ears prick up (I've found my way to some very good books via public radio).

I read a lot of blogs, and they are responsible for most of the books I read. I try to keep a wide range of book blogs in my feed reader, because I like variety in my reading. Some of the bloggers I read are very literary, some are not. Some are very focused on young adult literature, others on fantasy. I follow a lot of book lovers on Twitter, too, and sometimes we get into conversations about books before any of us have ever read them. Nothing thrills our hearts quite like the anticipation of the release of a great-sounding book.

Young woman sitting on the floor in a library holding a book

I browse at the bookstore and in libraries. I used to carry around a little notepad with me, so that when I saw the title of a book I liked at the bookstore, I could make a note and add it to my library list later. Now I pull out my iPhone and take a quick snap of the book cover. There's been a time or two where I've taken a picture of a whole section of a non-fiction shelf when I found a topic that really interested me.

I don't browse at the library nearly as much as I used to. The volume of books that I've been requesting from my library keeps me up to my knees in books, and keeping up with those is hard enough without adding more to the pile. I always stop and look at the express shelf, though -- because even if I am not going to pick something up, I can always add it to my list later. Or sometimes a book that I'm on a long waiting list for will appear in the express collection, and I can nab it months earlier than I expected to (and that always feels like winning a mini-lottery).

I listen to people. This could probably be filed under paying attention, but sometimes it's not. Plenty of people tell me that I should read a book they liked. I don't always like them, but people who know me and know what I like to read have led me to some very good books.

I look at lists, though not generally the best-sellers lists. There's nothing wrong with those lists, but I prefer more personal lists. Every year toward the end of the year, many bloggers post their "best books of the year" list. It's usually followed by a post about a book they are looking forward to in the next year. Those are usually some great lists to mine for suggestions.

I pay attention to book prizes. It's pretty unlikely that I'm going to read all the Man Booker nominees, but you never know, someday I might read at least one of them. A lot of the awards I follow most closely are Canadian, such as the Giller Prize or the Charles Taylor Prize. There are prizes out there for just about every genre and geographical region you can think of -- all you have to do is search for them.

And sometimes in a fit of madness I'll go on to my library's web site and browse through all the new acquisitions. I start with the books on order and then go to the new releases. I'm really just going by title, author and sometimes the cover image. It's a guessing game. I've picked up bad books this way and I've picked up some really great books this way.

That's how I find the books that I read. How do you find yours?

PS: Have you donated a book yet? Take a few seconds and go to this post to tell me which book changed your life. With every comment, BlogHer and Bookrenter will donate a book to a child in need.

See also:

2pattesque on selecting books.
ANZ Litlovers Litblog talks about literature maps.
BiblioEva shares her system for how she finds books to read.
Karen Krueger discusses finding books worth reading when you take your writing seriously.

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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