Just because you don’t like a particular book doesn’t mean you don’t like reading. Millions of books in circulation means there is a book out there for you. It also means that whether you’re in a reading slump or feeling an uncharacteristic urge to pick up a book, finding your next book to read can be overwhelming. Here are two approaches.
IF: you would prefer to get recommendations from “what’s popular” or books that others are reading THEN: consider joining a book club (perk: if you stay for a year you’ll have read 12 books!), follow book bloggers, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest readers for a wide assortment of options.
IF: you prefer to judge a book for yourself based on whatever merits it brings to your attention THEN: write a book review.
Write a book review for a book that you read and loved—even if you have to dig back as far as childhood. “This was a great book because…..” or, “I loved this book because….” The key to the next book you find could be in your answer. Did you like one that kept you guessing? Did you like one that you associate with a difficult time in your life and the book came to you at just the right moment? What challenges are you facing now? Did you love an escape from reality battling dragons? Do you have a hobby that you want to get more “behind-the-scenes” with? Is there someone from history or a celebrity from today that you’re curious to know more about? Are you a questioner and want to find answers to a particular query that has been haunting you recently? Do you want a puzzle to solve? A character to know and love or hate? Guys & gals: this is where Google and Amazon and Goodreads can be great sources. You can type something in and see what recommendations appear.
Books can do a lot of things. They can be entertainment, escape, enrichment, exploration, or education. What do you feel like tapping into?
Two final words of advice on selecting books to read:
One, read books critically, but don’t interrupt them. I don’t mean critical in the judgmental sense; I use it to mean thoughtful and reflective. Just because it’s printed, doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because you’re reading it doesn’t mean you have to believe it. But don’t interrupt. I despair of our ability to do this anywhere anymore, but a book may just restore that opportunity. What does this mean? It means that when I was reading Ta-Neisi Coates’ Between the World and Me I had to stop several times and tell the white voices in my head to zip-it when they started to explain and excuse. When I did that I could better read-hear what was being said. Do not let critical reading interrupt the books you are reading. Tell whatever other voices are clamoring for your attention to knock it off.
Two, read diverse books. Read books set in different places. Read books by male and female authors. Read books by people of different races, nationalities, backgrounds, education, and religions. Read books that have content that you’re not comfortable with or don’t agree with. Read books on subjects you know nothing about. Read books that are old. Read books that are new. Read books that are short. Read long books.
These snippets of advice are not mutually exclusive. It is a singularly absurd arrogance to assume that because a person can refute one or two generally-recognized objections to her opinion that she has considered all angles. And while it is not necessary to know everything about any one subject before venturing an opinion, you will be infinitely more respected in your ideas—both by yourself and others—if you have poked and prodded them from different perspectives. By undertaking to be a thoughtful reader of a wide range of content you will tap the greatest reward of reading, in my opinion. Your ideas will enlarge with definition, your opinions will refine with perspective, and your curiosity will quicken with exposure.
There’s a book out there for you. And it will lead you to more books. But remember, books by their nature are designed to empower you. You have the choice to select which books you read. When you read them you have the power to choose how you will respond to their influence. Proceed with enthusiasm and intention.
How will you pick your next book?