I really enjoy matching books to people, but I also think book recommendations are tricky things. Firstly, we all have such different tastes, and a book that one person says is terrible is often another person’s favorite. In addition, many people who talk about or write about books professionally are often hesitant to say they did not like a book, so book recommendation lists and shows end up being a list of books they love, which is great, but these can become overwhelming for me, adding too many books to my TBR list without highlighting the one or two books I might love given my preferences.
Good recommendations come when a recommender understanding the preferences and reading style of the recommendee, and when the recommendee trusts the recommender’s taste and understanding. However, many forums for book recommendations, from book displays in libraries and book shops to book recommendation podcasts or blogs cannot know each of their readers individually. They can be successful however, if the recommender is clear about what their personal preferences are. That way, a reader can take the recommendation in context. Ultimately, however, the best recommendations I have gotten are those from friends and family.
However, I think many of us seek recommendations from librarians and professional booksellers because these people have often read more, or are more familiar with what books are out there, and what the reader might like. I do this as well, and I want to talk some about some great avenues for finding out about new and interesting books.
I discovered this podcast earlier this year, and I really love it. Liberty and Rebecca mostly discuss newly released books, which may not be ideal for those who like to buy paperbacks, but that is not all they recommend. I particularly value the fact that they each are very vocal about their reading “wheelhouses”. Because of this, I am able to figure out where my reading interests intersect with their, and find the books that I will like among many that I am often not as interested in.
This podcast is pure fun. Thomas and Simon chat about books and book related subjects, and talk about both new releases and classics. I definitely don’t listen to every episode, but what I love about these two is that they are more than willing to say that they hate a book, or they have not finished one. I even find myself defensive at times when they knock a book I loved, but it makes me more aware of what they do and do not like, which makes it easier to judge whether or not I will be interested in a book they recommend.
This podcast is exactly what it sounds like. Every podcast starts with someone, often a writer or bookish person themselves, talking about three books they love, one book they hate (or didn’t enjoy), and what they are currently reading. Then the host, Anne, recommends three books she thinks they will love. There are some episodes where it becomes very clear that I do not share the same reading taste as the guest, but every episode makes me think more about who I am as a reader, what I love and hate, and what kind of books I want to be reading. Plus, sometimes the guest chooses three amazing books as their favorites, and I get three great recommendations.
If you haven’t found it yet, you should check out Book Riot now. This website has made a concerted effort in recent years to diversify the books they talk about and recommend, and therefore has become THE place to hear about good quality diverse books. Each week they release a newsletter with the best books coming out that week in hardcover and paperback. But their site has so much more for book-lovers of any kind. have lots more content and news for people who love just about any type of book from romance novels and comic books to literary fiction.
This is a wonderful site. It takes some time to set up a profile and start cataloging what books you have read, but once you are set up, good reads provides many different ways to get recommendation. You can check out the recommended books they suggest based off the books you have already rated, you can follow favorite friends or writers whose work you admire, or whose taste you trust, and you can also join groups of people who like similar books. Aside from that, I like that I can track my reading, and be reminded of books that I have read in the past.
I discovered this website recently, through another book podcast. What is really cool is that Sarah is testing a book recommendation service where you fill out a form with your reading preferences and preferred genres and she sends you an email with three suggested titles and links to her reviews. What I love about this is that she is upfront about her own reading patterns (literary fiction), and also that she asks for a Goodreads page, or something similar so she can make sure not to recommend a book you have already read.
The books she recommended to me are:
Darling Days by iO Tillet-Wright
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Shelter by Jung Yun
I was really happy with these recommendations. They all sounded fascinating, fit my criteria and challenge for this year, and were well described. I also hadn’t heard of a few of them, so they feel like discoveries. I am already almost done listening to The Woman Next Door, which I will talk about this weekend.
What are your thoughts about this? How do you choose what you read? Where do you get your recommendations? What makes you pick up a book when someone recommends it to you?