Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to decide what to read next

As I type this, I’m assuming you are a reader who already has a pile of books, thinking about what you should be reading next even though you still have a few hundred more pages to go in the book you’re reading now. I’m assuming you’re a member of a platform like GoodReads, you have a long list of books you want to check out, and yet you still keep finding new ones you want to read…

As Frank Zappa said, “So many books, so little time!” So, how do we choose what to read next?

I’m not one of those people who makes a weekly/monthly/annual list—I know new books I want to read will come up or a friend will suggest we read something together or some publisher/author will send me a review copy, etc. and I’ll never be able to stick to it. I do have a to-read list though, I have books that I want to go through within a year. But when it comes down to picking one up and getting lost in it, I usually have a hard time choosing. So here’s how I go by picking one:

  1. Availability: Depending on your location in the world, the book you want may not be available to you as quickly as you want it to. This is something I struggle a lot with living in Turkey, so I make sure to pick a book that I already have—I order the books from my to-read list when I can and only add them to my “choose from this” pile when I can physically hold them in my hand.
  2. The state of your brain: I’m not one of those readers who mostly stick to a single genre—except maybe for romance and erotica, I’ll pretty much read anything. This is a good thing because it gives me a lot to choose from. If my brain is tired, I’ll pick something that I think will be easy to read, i.e. a YA novel or a fantasy novel with lots of action. If my brain is functioning well and has energy, I’ll pick something that will challenge me—it can be a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, a non-fiction book with lots of information to process or a Pulitzer, Man Booker, etc. winner.
  3. The time you want to spend on it: I usually go through one book a week, based on a book having approximately 350-500 pages. When I have to read something, I can read pretty darn quickly thanks to a fast-reading technique mom had taught me a while ago. But when I read for pleasure, I like to take my time, reread passages I enjoy and all that. So, if you know your pace, pick accordingly. If you don’t have much time to spend on reading, pick a smaller book. That being said, check the book beforehand, read the excerpt and some reviews because just because a book is short doesn’t mean it’s easy to read.
  4. How long you’ve wanted to read it: If you’ve completed the first 3 steps and still have quite a few books to choose from, this fourth step might help. I usually go with the book I’ve wanted to read for the longest time or with one that’s been sitting on my shelf longer than the others. If you like, you can just do the opposite and go with the newest.
  5. Choose the one that makes you want to read more: Still haven’t picked one? That’s quite alright too. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping you don’t have too many choices left by this point. If I find myself in this place, here’s what I do: I line up the books I have to choose from. Pick one up, read the first few sentences. Turn to a random page, read/glance through a few sentences. Whatever I get sucked into, I’ll keep reading.
       If none of these work for you, you can check out this article about websites that can help you pick what to read next. I never really had any luck with them, but I'm putting it out there for those who might be interested.

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