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Ask the Readers: How Do You Find Your Next Book?

It’s never been easier to find book reviews, recommendations, and comparisons; tools which are more necessary than ever thanks to the increasing number of new titles on the market. This week we want to hear all about your techniques for picking your next book.

Whether you consult the New York Times best seller list, pore over Amazon book reviews, use a book suggestion engine, or just buy whatever the local book store has on the end-cap display that month, we want to hear about your system for finding new books.

Sound off in the comments with your technique (bonus points for including links to any services or sites you use) and then check back on Friday for the What You Said roundup to see how your fellow readers fill their book bags.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/12/12

Comments (35)

  1. sj

    Goodreads.com is quick and easy. yournextread.com is fun and helps a lot. But I gotta be honest, Amazon’s suggestions are probably the most useful to me.

  2. LadyFitzgerald

    I find mine mostly from recommendations by friends, from movies I’ve watched (curiosity about the book a movie comes from; often, the book is better), and from the numerous free classics I’ve downloaded (legally). Occasionally, I’ll buy a book based on TV or website recommendations.

  3. sfosparky

    Go the local branch of the public library and check out the New Books shelves.

    Alternatively, visit the library’s Web site and check out its New Titles pages.

    For readers of quality non-fiction, history, and biography, become a “bibliography surfer”. If you’ve read a good bit of non-fiction, check out the sources the author used when writing the book. Chances are you’ll find more good titles in the bibliography than you’ll ever have time to read.

  4. JAT

    I go to the library and pick an aisle. I decide ahead of time how far down the aisle I’ll go and which side I’ll choose from. Then I grab a book and see if it looks good. If it does, I’m done. If not, I’ll just keep grabbing til I find one.

  5. Jazviper

    I just post on my facebook asking for recommendations. People I haven’t spoken to in years have recommended some wonderful books to me just by doing this. I also just read pretty much anything io9.com says is good.

  6. nt0xik8ed

    i get up and go outside. some should try it. i go mostly to half price books and usually leave with around $50 in books every trip. exorcize people, get up once in a while. not everything revolves around planting your fat lazy as* at a computer !!!

  7. Scott

    I used to read only physical books, and mostly hardcover. What I would do is, look on the back cover or flap to find one-liners and “zingers” from other authors. You know, like, “Joe Blow spins an chair-grabbing heart wrenching classic! – Other Author”. Then, I’d go find some of Other Author’s books and read them. This helped me jump from David Baldacci to David Ellis, for example. It is much harder nowadays because I’m reading exclusively using my Kindle. So I would have to agree with others and say that Amazon’s ratings and reviews help me a lot.

  8. Thea

    I usually rely on recommendations either from friends or from book-sharing websites such as goodreads and shelfari. Other than that, I loiter my local book shops just browsing through the shelves for my next purchase, then if a title interests me, I write it down then look it up on the internet if it’s any good.

  9. Matt

    I usually look at the “Customers who viewed this also viewed” section when I’m looking at a book I’ve already read. Also, when I find a book that I have thoroughly enjoyed, I will usually then search out every title they have written and will then read those. Patricia Cornwell is my go-to author!

  10. kelltic

    I’m surprised so many folks have posted about relying on recommendations by others. I’ve never cared what other people think about books or movies.

    Book stores are my favorite places to visit. Too bad there are so few left. Once in B & N’s door, I maneuver past the front tables, where a display of best sellers blocks my path, and head for my favorite genre section. There, I spend an hour or two browsing. If the name, cover, and back blurbs, intrigue me, I read the first few paragraphs, then jump to a other chapters in the mid-section. If I like what I see, I buy the book.

    I own a kindle and I use somewhat the same method to purchase books for it. However, I don’t like using it near as much as reading a paper book. It’s so much easier to mark places I want to refer back to or to get back to a map or diagram. Writing in the margins just doesn’t work. I hate not having page numbers. When I’ve lost my place, it has been very difficult to find it again. I will never buy anything but fiction for a reading device. For everything else, it’s paper only.

  11. lesle

    One of the best questions, ever, on how-to geek!

  12. Dean

    I visit sites that have free ebooks. Sometimes familiar authors have offerings, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised, reading books from authors new to the task. Some are so good that I purchase further volumes later. I’ve amassed a 10,300 ebook library; so sometimes I just pick one from it that I’ve yet to read.

  13. Bill

    I like all of the above. We don’t have a book store anymore so I have to drive a long way for that. Consequently I rely mostly on the library and the online book finders, what should I read next is a good one.

  14. TheFu

    For scifi, see Hugo winning books https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel . Life is too short to read bad books. Sometimes that leads to an author with an entire series of books to enjoy. I really enjoy some of the scifi from the 40s and 50s. Wells stuff is always timeless too (and free). I’m less happy with Nebula winners https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula_Award_for_Best_Novel – different type of writers and not my personal taste.

    I also enjoy reading the books that were made into movies (usually bad movies). Someone though that the book was great enough to blow $50M-$300M on it. Sphere really was a great book, but please ignore the movie.

    Over time, I’ve learned of many extremely popular authors who I don’t like. That is just as important, so we don’t waste time on a book that sucks.

  15. bp294

    Like most commentators here, once I’ve heard about a title or author that might interest me, I rely very heavily on other readers’ comments on Amazon.com primarily, and other book-selling websites. I don’t slavishly follow what others say — besides there’s seldom a consensus — but judge those comments critically and skeptically, just as I would the opinions of people I was chatting with in a cocktail party or in a casual conversation with a stranger on a train or plane. Obviously, a preponderance of opinion does influence me. I’m from the Whole Earth Catalog generation, and love this informal, people-centered way of making book purchases. (BTW, I greatly prefer Kindle titles nowadays, but won’t buy any title in e-book format priced over $9.99; the point for me is not to be held hostage by the greedy book publishing industry.) That’s how I purchase books, I hear of them via C-Span and other media references, sometimes from the print media as well, but generally read in their online format. In short, I’m more or less a random-walk kind of reader and book buyer. Again, that feels empowering and “alternative” to me. Shopping online is really like going to some little used-book store in a corner of some backwater town, run by a kindly, committed book lover. As a side note, I embraced online book buying very early in the game. Scouring booksellers in stores and on the streets, both here in NYC and around the globe, used to be one of my most relaxing and absorbing pasttimes. But then, starting in the early 1980s and continuing up to, say, 9/11, a depressing climate of retail racism overtook most NYC bookstores — and other retail establishments as well. As a black male — being dark-skinned may have factored in as well — bookstores here became decidedly less friendly and really went out of their way to make you feel unwelcome and eventually proved to be downright hostile and assaultive. Brick-and-mortar book shopping became more problematic as I was seldom let alone; some way or another store owners or clerks found a way to intrude on my tranquility. First, I turned to the big booksellers and then to the internet, in both circumstances you’re virtually anonymous. (Yes, I have quite a different take on the movie “You’ve Got Mail”! Ironically enough, the little bookstore that was the inspiration for the movie, Shakespeare & Co. in NYC’s Upper West Side, was one of the worst offenders; and the Tom Hanks character was named after a real-life book editor with whom I had a very close acquaintance.) But this change in shopping habits jived well with my countercultural instincts: I could shop in bliss and at the same time operate off the grid, so to speak. So, in that sense alone, the web has been a kind of liberation for me!

  16. MaffiaGuy

    Personally I get lots of recommendations from friends and I usually dig into authors’ references that take me to read books that have the same topic. It’s a way to actually grasp (would I say ‘apprehend’?) something you want to know…

  17. Dave

    I usually pick up books from Pixel of Ink for free. If I find that I haven’t read any really good books (at least 4 stars) lately then I will grab a book from one of my favorite authors.

  18. Billy Murray

    Before most people had the internet I mostly relied on the recommendations of two of my best friends who were avid readers and they always found out what books were out which were completely original by visiting Glasgows book and comic shops and becoming friendly with the staff who due to the nature of their work they had a good knowledge of books that most people would probably hear about because they weren’t mainstream type of stories but got good reviews from writers or journalists who wrote mostly for the underground type of reader and even if the book or author weren’t really well know were very much admired from the alternative book industry

  19. Larry Ray

    I am retired and on a limited income. I enjoy downloading .mp3 and .wmv audio books from the state’s public library. However one must often wait several weeks on a hold list to be able to listen to a book.
    The public library’s kindle/ereader book selections are growing in number week by week while the audio book selection is not. I like the audio books for my Sony Walkman at the gym and simply can’t find enough selections or have to wait too long on hold lists to check out audio books.

    I simply am amazed at how people can pay so much for audio and kindle books from Amazon and other stores. I was hoping to learn other sources of free audio books other than the classics.

  20. Smartron

    My wife Kellie, is a coach who does “finals” on new coaches. What they are reading always seems to come up during this short time. Of course her clients are another excellent source of information. After all, her client did hire a coach so they must be thinking! Network isolation is an interesting question. You gotta ask yourself, is Social Networking really social, well, is it?

  21. anuku

    my hobby guides me picking what book to read and in addition to that i follow whatever random sound in my head tells me. i use book reviews services/sites only to confirm my choice.

  22. Dave

    I’ve read many of the comments, and “All of the Above” comes first to mind, as I find new books in a variety of ways. But place I’ve not seen mentioned: the Costco publication The Costco Connection, has a book section every issue, and I’ve first heard of some very good books there. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, is a notable example of such a find.

  23. JSilvers

    When it comes to books, I am a member of the Lead Pencil society – physical books preferred.

    I peruse the contents of Bookmarks magazine to compose a list of BooksToRead, The list is hand written on 3×5 cards and I keep it in my purse. I add to this list with comments from my various book clubs.

    Cruising the New Books aisles of the various libraries within 20 miles is my main recreation. I pick books matching my lists and other appealing titles, based on the inside blurbs. I also troll the local independent book stores, and Barnes&Noble. I am fortunate to live in the Phoenix area which allows me to checkout books from the libraries of several adjacent towns, and has several independent book stores selling new and used books.

    I end up with a pile of books on my table, sorted by due date, then by contents, so I don’t read two books of the same kind sequentially. Books are added at the bottom and read from the top. I will resort the pile, just so long as I don’t keep a book past its due date. Of course, reading turns up a few duds; I give myself permission not to continue reading them.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  24. "gunner"

    i hit the “baen books” website for new, (and old) titles, read a couple of free sample chapters and if i like it i buy the book the paperback online.
    http://www.baen.com/library/

  25. Jay Gordon

    I enjoy book reviews in the New York Times. Is there anything better on a Sunday morning than the Times and a pot of really good coffee? Well, okay, there’s also the magic of Starbuck’s or any fine coffee shop.

    TLS (The Times Literary Supplement) from the London Times is an impressive source of information about fine books from around the world.

    Since I’ve bought hundreds of books from Amazon they often have an inspired view of what I’m likely to enjoy. (I should live long enough to read ‘em all!)

  26. John

    I rely on Book Page (online and paper version); Amazon.com; and the local library. Sometimes the local newspaper and sources such as NY Times, Newsweek or WSJ. Our library allows you to search/locate and have sent any book/music/digital download in the county’s system. I go through a lot of audio books (long commute) so I have to be on the lookout for good reads.

  27. ron dacosta

    @ Dean with 10,300 ebook library:
    Could you please provide a “few” links to download free e-books?? – thanks

    @Jason Fitzpatrick-author
    Could you please create an article dedicated to downloading free e-books?? – thanks
    ===== ron.dacosta@gmail.com

  28. SteveC

    Lots of different sources:

    http://www.goodreads.com/

    http://www.pixelofink.com/

    http://inkmesh.com/free-ebooks/?site=kindle

    My local library.

    Friends

    And, a lot more.

  29. MarTD

    To find books new to me, I like to head to the Large Print section of the local library. The books in that section are usually the books requested most often, or are most popular. I’ve found authors there I’d never read before. The library’s audio book selection online is outstanding and their recommendations of books I could be interested in is spot-on.

  30. took4ever

    I do look at the Best-Seller Lists in major newspapers and, sometimes find a good book.
    I watch Goodreads.com and have also found a few good books there.
    I have gotten the best books from the people that stay at our Bed & Breakfast here in Montana. I watch what they have sitting on the sofa or coffee table and ask them a bit about the book. I have found books in genres that I probably wouldn’t have looked into.
    I also get emails from some sites that give quotes and recaps from books. One is Entheos. I have gotten the most book ideas here as they have a life-improvement and life-perspective focus that is similar to mine.
    After I know what I’m looking for, I get all of my books from Audible because I live a distance form the nearest town and listen to my books in the car (ever since our daughter was young, “dad” seemed to fall asleep when reading books and that is still the case. So, I rely on someone else to read it to me.

  31. bedlamb

    Some of the foregoing.
    Probably the majority come from the “Buy Used Books” section of the public library. Paperbacks range from 25 cents to a dollar. Hardcovers from one to a few dollars.
    When I’ve finished a book, it goes to the recycle pile. These books go to the VA hospital, the local senior center, and some go back to the library.
    I live on a small income, and passing the books around is one way I think I can help others.

  32. jeorgekabbi

    i use amazon reader reviews to choose books. after i read the book i write my own review to benefit back the community.

  33. "gunner"

    @ bp294,
    i’m surprised, and disgusted that you experienced racism at a bookstore in this day and age. you’re obviously not a member of the “thug culture” your post marks you as intelligent, literate and educated, as does your visits to book stores. as an old conservative white guy i think that if we ever met in person i’d enjoy conversation with you about what books we have read, and learning what we gained from them. in my little piece of the world “colour” does not matter, what’s in the mind does.

  34. Lori Kaufman

    @ron dacosta

    See our article “The Best Websites for Finding, Downloading, Borrowing, Renting, and Purchasing eBooks” (http://www.howtogeek.com/118138/the-best-websites-for-finding-downloading-borrowing-renting-and-purchasing-ebooks/) for ideas on where to find free eBooks. That article also links to another one with more ideas.

    Especially look at BookBub, Freebooksy, eReaderIQ.com, and Free Par-TAY in that list. I’ve found some good free eBooks through the emails I receive from these free services.

    Hope that helps.

  35. Jerry Guinn

    To “Larry Ray” — I, too, am retired and on a limited income. For new authors, I would recommend that you visit http://www.ereaderiq.com and click on the “Free Kindle eBooks” tab. This service scans daily for new free ebooks through Amazon.com. You can select the genre (or combinations of genres) that you’re interested in and read the synopsis for each book. Clicking on the title takes you to the Amazon page where you can verify that the price is “$0.00″ and then download the title. There’s a lot of things that I’m not interested in, but I continue to find a few that have given me hours of reading enjoyment … all for free.

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