It’s no secret that I love to read, though I’m sure my students wish I would shut up about books. Every year, for years and years now, I have read through at least fifty-two new books (usually more, #humblebrag). That doesn’t even include all the comics and graphic novels I read. It’s rare for me not to be working my way through several books, and I often travel with a book everywhere I go, just in case I find some down time. If I go too long without really getting to read, it fills my heart with a deep sadness.
If anyone were to check out my home library or to go through our Goodreads account, they would find a rather eclectic collection of books. Sure there would be obvious trends and patterns: more fiction than nonfiction, plenty of “classics” and popular choices, a number of book series, lots of pretty covers, etc.; but they would still be hard pressed not to note the wide variety of books.
So, how do I decide which books I’ll be reading? How do books enter my life? It’s not like Pokemon where I’m just walking through some tall grass and a book jumps out, waiting to be caught and read.
One of my favorite ways to find books is by running into them in their natural habitats: bookstores and libraries. There’s nothing like browsing through a large collection of books just waiting to be picked from. I never know what I might find and I never know what might catch my eye this time.
Sometimes books are put into displays that draw me in. Other times it’s simply a chance to look at new releases. Often, I like just walking along shelves pulling books out randomly until something feels just right or grabs my interest enough. This is of course when a good cover, a strong title, or an interesting premise doesn’t hurt.
It’s hard for me not to go into a book establishment and not leave with a few somethings. It’s gotten even worse now that I have a son who I want to shower with books.
I especially like when there are staff recommendation sections. Which leads me to…
I love a good book recommendation. Books that are suggested to me tend to shoot up higher on my to-read list than most others. When someone shares a book they liked, they really are opening themselves up to you. Whenever I recommend a book, I’m always a mix of joy that someone else is going to experience a book I liked but also nerves about whether or not they’ll like it too. If they think the book is dumb, will they think I’m dumb too? One year, I received nothing but people’s favorite books for my birthday. It was great and really gave me some strong insights into the people in my life.
Recommendations from friends and coworkers are great. I also sometimes snoop on my friends’ books on social media or Goodreads. I count those as indirect recommendations.
Before I got married, I would include “if you have a good book recommendation” under my “talk to me if…” section on my online dating profile. Not every date was great, but I sure got a lot of solid reading material.
*If you have a book you’d like to recommend to me, please don’t hesitate to share.
The Chance Encounter
Sometimes I really do just cross paths with a book. I’m the nosy guy who will totally eye what a stranger is reading or immediately spy on any book that happens to have been left around. I’ll often take a quick note or snap a photo of an unaccompanied book in order to remember it later. My phone contains many pictures of books that caught my attention that I want to remember later. Some of those pictures stay buried, but others I stumble across again, which then can lead to me actually reading the book as well.
Over the years, I have been part of several book clubs. Currently, I’ve been part of one group that has been meeting once a month for almost seven years. Our rule for picking books is that they must be something that none of us, including the picker, have ever read before. With several people of different tastes and preferences selecting books and everyone taking a gamble on what they hope will be a worthwhile read, I get a lot of exposure to books outside my normal comfort zone and range of options. I can’t say they’re all winners, but I have been turned on to a number of good books this way and sometimes a not-so-great experience is still fun when you share it with others.
Attempting to find book club books that others will hopefully like is usually a pretty fun challenge. Often that search leads me to the internet…
And the Award Goes to…
Recently, I’ve started paying a bit more attention to award winners, both the big, fancy awards and the fan-vote types that different websites run every year. This is a good way to ensure that I’ll probably be picking something up that I know will be quality (though nothing is ever guaranteed) or at least well-liked. This can help me stay on top of current books that are supposedly good. This also creates a safer way to step into genres I’m not as familiar with or help guarantee that I’m seeing the best a certain genre supposedly has to offer.
Sometimes others online curate best-of lists of books for different types of readers, from different years, or for different purposes (book clubs, personal, education, beach reads, etc.). I’m not afraid to learn from the work of others.
Guess Who’s Back, Back Again
The book equivalent of comfort food is going back to authors you already enjoyed or continuing in a series you’ve started. It’s all about getting more of what you know you like. I’m not always the best at immediately snatching up books by authors I like or grabbing the next book in a series, but I usually get around to them once I remember they exist or someone points out those books are out there.
Targeted ads are great for bringing up series and authors that you might want to visit again. Speaking of which…
Target (Ad) Locked!
I tend to scroll right past ads on social media and spam is quickly deleted from my email. However, what seems to get me almost every time are ads for books. I can’t help but take at least a small peek. When Amazon sends me emails with books I might like, I open them almost every time. That doesn’t mean I always buy something, but after looking at enough books, there’s always going to be something that eventually catches my eye. Buying myself a book is one of my favorite ways to treat myself, but I’m also no stranger to throwing something on my wishlist with the hope that I’ll end up getting it for my birthday or Christmas.
Amazon First Read
Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of Amazon’s First Reads program. Every month they give me a credit to get a ebook version of a small selection of books. They actually offer a good variety of genres and styles each month. I’ve only tried a few First Reads so far, but they’ve all at least been decent.
Traditionally, I’m not much of an ebook person, but lately I’ve been willing to expand the type of reading that I’m willing to indulge in. That leads me to…
Can you hear me now?
Audiobooks… I have not always been kind to audiobooks. Lately, I have been more open to the audiobook format due to how busy life has become. While the majority of my reading is still done with my eyes (physical texts and ebooks), I have begun allowing audiobooks into my routine as well.
This allowance has opened me up to Audible and the many books it suggests. More importantly, I have access to a library of “free” audiobooks included with Audible membership. Being a bit of a cheapskate at times, I tend to go for the included books before turning to ones I would have to use a credit or pay for myself.
This habit has let me enjoy some older classics and some more obscure titles because those tend to be the freebies. I work hard for money, so I try to part with it only so easily.
On that though, have I told you about my job?
Being an English teacher means that reading is part of my job. There are certain books that I’ve worked with over and over again: Othello, Antigone, The Things They Carried, and The Giver. However, sometimes the required curriculum changes or I get to shake up my choices a little. That means I have to read something new in order to actually be able to teach it. Yay justifying my reading as part of my job responsibilities!
Also, since I’m taking some librarian courses right now, I have been required to keep some reading logs that must meet certain criteria. Thus, I have an excuse to read and a reason to try out different types of books. Homework doesn’t always seem so bad when some reading is involved.
You Gotta Get with My Friends
One of my favorite tricks for finding a book I think I’ll end up liking is going to Amazon, Goodreads, or a similar site and looking at the “related products” or “people also enjoyed” sections. This often feels like a shortcut to a worthwhile text. Sometimes the pairings are odd, but usually I can find books of similar themes, style, or topic this way. This strategy doesn’t help me branch out too much, but there is nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone some. Reading is a great way to grow and expand your horizons, but it should also be about enjoyment.
The Wrap Up:
Well, that pretty much sums it all up. There are many ways that books wiggle into my life and onto my stack to be read. With that said, I should probably stop talking about reading and actually go do some.
Happy reading, everybody, and let me know if you have any good suggestions for me!