Thursday, March 28

Discover [where I find the books I read]

I try to establish myself as a resource for good literature, particularly non-fiction novels. I actively share my favorites, make referrals to perfect strangers, and enjoy assuring fellow book lovers that I have indeed read their favorite novel, have my own opinion, and would like to debate the merits/failures over coffee.

Sometimes I get asked where I find the books I read. There are many, many ways to discover great reads- I think the most important tip I can give is to just keep your eyes open and be willing to whip out a pad and pen when someone gets on the topic of great lit. There are, however, a few standard sources that I return to consistently that I'd like to share here. Yes, I'll continue to read and review the books I read (both positive and negative), but many aren't on topics I enjoy and thus I skip them, meaning you may never hear about an acclaimed sci-fi or mystery that I choose to pass over. If you look where I look, you may find things more in tune to your interest.

Book Brackets

There are many book brackets throughout the year that I look forward to- I encourage you to follow the bracket, but also to click around the sites that host them and see what else you can dig up, whether it be other reviews or past years of the same competition.

The Morning News Tournament of Books (brought to you by one of my favorite companies, field notes, which makes rugged and attractive paper memo books in the US of A)

Nobel Prize in Literature- not exactly a bracket, but there is an elimination period that is as thrilling as any March Madness (maybe)


Oh lists. How I love you. Give me a list of 100 books and consider me done for days. I print them out, I highlight and star ones I've read or want to read, I ruminate angrily on books I disliked that made said list, it literally consumes me.

The best lists? If you want to be in the know regarding every book your friends will hear about (if you're a young-to-middle-aged middle class white person like me), you need to check out Oprah's Book Club. Cliche? Perhaps, but I didn't mind getting a head start on The Help. Besides, O and I share an affinity for Wally Lamb and Toni Morrison. Respect. The only book from her list that I deeply disliked was We Were the Muvaney's, and I've loved many.

The main list I respect is The Random House Best 100 Novels (published in 1998, so don't expect to find Gone Girl), and Radcliffe's Rival 100 Best Novels. I trust anything coming out of Cambridge, and you should too.

You can check out the NYT Bestsellers, if you can handle a ton of James Patterson. Sometimes the masses lack class.

Powerhouse Websites

NPR Books. Live it, love it. I get a TON of my ideas here, as they have so many lists (yay lists!!): Best Books of 2011, 3 Books to Read Before the End of the World, books sorted by topic, books sorted by ratings, books sorted by author, books about xyz, book podcasts, mobile book app, EVERYTHING. You could get lost here for eternity. Really reminds me of how many books there are and the fact that I will never, ever be able to read them all (which is why I rarely read a book twice and why I rarely read a book I haven't read reviews for...there's just no time to go in blind, people).

Goodreads. I mean, their tag line is "meet your next favorite book", so you know you're in for something special. They have extensive lists, but beware: these books will be voted on by the goodreads community, which I have limited respect for. I mean, I'm one of them, and I put Harry Potter at 5 stars. You may be thinking, "um of course you did, he is 5-star material", and I agree; however, HP is the only young-adult-fantasy-novel that I would rate so highly, and I'm now constantly being recommended to "Percy something olympics", "circle of magic thing", etc etc that I have no interest in. And for every admirable HP lover, there's a despicable Twilight lover, so expect their "best books" and "must read" lists to be curated by your average American rather than professors, authors, editors, and industry insiders. I'm pretty sure 50 Shades of Gray won a Goodreads award or something. How uncultured.


And I don't just mean referrals from people. I mean referrals from Amazon, from your local library, etc. Almost everywhere I borrow/buy books from offers up a "if you liked this, you'll LOVE this!" list. On Amazon, take a look at the "others who bought this book bought:" area, as you'll be sure to find great books in the genre you like. Be careful, though- if you look at Jodi Piccault, you'll be inundated by her other novels or novels that are exactly the same. You may love them, sure, but you should pursue a book in a different style first. I for one prefer to vary my reading, so that I don't become immune or desensitized to writing styles, pacing, genres, narrators, and the like.

One last thing: don't pay for your books the first time you read them. Seriously. It's dumb. I'm all for supporting the system, but the public library is not napster. Use it, respect it. What are you going to do with a $16 book that you bought and disliked? Give it to a friend and waste their time as well? Or better yet, give it to a frenenemy? Donate it so poor people have to read shitty books? No, I say read as much as you can via the library and buy the books you love- that way, you'll have a collection of books worth re-reading, loaning/gifting, and recommending to your own circle of trust. If you feel the need to contribute financially, excellent emotion. Give to your public library.

Any other tips for where to find wonderful reads?

1 comment:

  1. I haven't reviewed in a while but this post was just screaming for a response.

    First, lists are good. I like them too, and I agree it's not worth it to start off on a book without knowing that someone liked it enough to put it on a fabulous book list or give it a 5 star rating. And I also agree with the inherent awesomeness that is libraries. Fun fact, if you don't connect your Kindle to Wifi you can keep ebook library rentals past the 2 week mark if you haven't quite had time to finish them yet.

    You lost me on Goodreads though. Almost every book I've ever looked up on there had positive ratings so it's impossible to pick between the really good ones and the popular for no good reason ones. Also, Percy Jackson is a fantastic young adult fantasy series! Certainly not on the caliber of Harry Potter (what is?), but definitely with some very similar elements.

    Hunger Games is awesome young adult lit too (I was surprised you didn't mention them. Maybe because Mockingjay was such a travesty of a series finale).

    Last note: finally got my 'hands' on the Gone Girl ebook from the library. As a result I didn't go to bed till close to 4 last night and am falling asleep at my desk at work. So intense.


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