How to Decide What to Read

I read a lot. Many of my friends ask me how I find the time, but truthfully I don’t think that’s the right question. You should ask yourself if you enjoy reading, because if you do you will find the time. I don’t watch as much television as I used to for example. I have a few choice shows, plus sports of course, but most evenings I’ll sit on the sofa and read.

Aside from finding the time to read, people always ask me how I find the books I read. That, my friends, is an art form! The fact is I am never at a loss for something to read because I keep a list of books I’ve run across that I’d like to read. You can do this with a simple word or excel file, or you can use a web-based tool like I do. I keep my list of to-reads on Goodreads, a wonderful free app that is sort of a social network for book worms. I have several “bookshelves” on Goodreads, including my “to-read” bookshelf, my “read” bookshelf and my “currently reading” bookshelf. Whenever I run across the title of a book that interests me I add it to my “to-read” list. Goodreads also helps connect you to other people who like to read, where you can share reviews and discuss books and authors. Another list I use is my nook wish list, which I use to keep track of books I may like to download and read on my nook.

But keeping track is one thing — how do I find out about all these books? Here are some tips:

  • The first place to look for good reading material is by looking for books by authors you already know you like. If you liked Franzen’s The Corrections, chances are you’re going to enjoy Freedom
  • There are tons of great websites specifically designed for book lovers. A few I keep up with include The Millions, the New York Times Books site, Arts & Letters Daily, and Salon.com Books.
  • My favorite bookstore is Powell’s, which is a chain in the Portland area. The employees at Powell’s recommend books online under Staff Picks. Find an employee who has similar tastes as you!
  • Keep your eyes open for books wherever you are on the web. Lots of times I’ll read about a new book on CNN.com, or The Daily Beast.
  • Use your smart phone to jot down a title you may find interesting while you’re flipping through a magazine at the doctor’s office or at a newsstand.
  • Check out all the award winners. Each year there are tons of awards handed out for books and Powell’s does a great job of keeping track for you. They have current winners and past winners listed nicely in their Award Winners section online. I just added A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan to my reading list after it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the other day.
  • Use the Literature Map to find authors you’ll like. This amazing website asks you to type in an author you like, then it suggests similar authors. How cool!

These are just some of the ways I find books to read. Now you may ask, with all these books on my “to-read” list how do I choose what to read next? Good question! That’s just a matter of mood. I just read a nonfiction book about food, so you can expect I’ll jump into some light fiction next. In fact, what am I doing blogging — I have to go decide what to read next!