How Do You Choose What Book to Read Next?

Girl in library











Nowadays, we readers have more choices than ever. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, classics or indie literature, paperbacks or e-books, there are countless titles out there that can enlighten and entertain us. But how do we choose what we read? Based on bestseller lists? On what the critics say? On our friends’ recommendations? Or just on the beauty of the cover? Should we make a conscious choice at all, or simply read any book that comes our way?

It’s a question worth pondering if your reading time is limited by the busyness of life, if you can’t just sink into your favorite armchair or lie snugly in bed all day with a good book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. And especially if you read not only for pleasure, but also to improve as a writer, to acquire new words, discover new voices, and explore new styles.

Now reading anything is better than not reading, I grant that, but I cannot help but feel that we get more from some books than from others and that some books help us improve our writing faster. We can always learn by bad example, it’s true, but we need plenty of good examples first for comparison.

The books we read have a major impact on our writing on multiple levels, from our vocabulary to our voice, style, sentence structure, and the prevailing themes and plots we develop.

We are what we eat, and we write what we read.

Rather than just read any book that chance tosses my way, I’d rather read something worthwhile, something that enlightens, amuses, or moves me, or otherwise triggers some other positive reaction, or at least helps me relax.

Some factors that influence my decision, in no particular order:

  • Author
  • Length
  • Popularity
  • Recommendations
  • Reviews
  • Price
  • Format

We have all stumbled upon a great book at least once. But we don’t just keep stumbling upon books all the time, do we? We have each devised some kind of book-buying (or book-borrowing) strategy, which is influenced by our reading experience and taste.

For my part, I prefer reading in English to reading in Romanian, my native language. I am fond of old books and stories – classics you can call them – books that have stood the test of time. I usually grab them online, from the public domain, and read them on my Kindle. English paperbacks are quite expensive here in Romania, and to order them from abroad means high shipping costs.

I like the past centuries to which the classics transport me, and their slowly unfolding plots, and their imperfect sentences and paragraphs, and the occasionally misplaced punctuation, and the over-elaborate sentences, the unnecessary adjectives, and the overall looseness of style that today would not survive the pen of any editor. All these remind me that great writing owes more to the imagination, the heart, and the sheer pleasure of playing with words than to the technicalities of language, and give me hope that I, a high-school drop-out from Romania, may one day write a great English book myself.

Now tell me, how do you choose what book to read next?

53 thoughts on “How Do You Choose What Book to Read Next?

    1. So if you don’t like a book you abandon it after chapter 3 or 4? Once I start reading a book, I can’t read another until I finish it. My conscience pricks me.

  1. Thanks for making me think about this! For now I’ve asked my Literature professor to recommend books by Eastern and Arab writers (I’m reading Chimamanda Adichi these days – excellent writer).
    I try to read books that have been given great reviews because I honestly don’t have the time to read everything that comes my way. I also try to read as much of the classics as I can because I feel like the stories stand out compared to the contemporary writings.

      1. So glad you asked!
        The Bastard of Istanbul/ Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
        Once in a Promised Land – Laila Halaby
        My Name is Red — Orhan Pamuk
        Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi

  2. I agree that one day you’ll write a great book. I disagree about the looseness of style that would not survive the pen of any editor. Looseness of style exists, but I’m not sure publishers still see editors as a necessary expense.

  3. I usually ask my step-mom for books LOL she has really good taste, but mostly reads off the New York Times best seller’s list. I also enjoy going back and reading books I remember enjoying, but don’t remember the details.

  4. Most of the time I go by authors that I enjoy and that depends upon the type of read I want, Crime, Mystery, Humour. I also like to read some indie books so I can review them if good and try to help the public see that Indies are just as good as those from the big publishers. The only drawback until recently was having to read them onn my desktop after a hard day on the computer.
    I hope you will write a book and share it with your friends to promote for you. It’s a wonderful feeling when you get that first copy in your hands.

    1. That’s nice of you, thinking about the indies I mean.

      I have already published an indie ebook myself, but I’m taking my time with my novel. The writing/creation stage is so enjoyable that I would like to prolong it forever.

  5. Authors rank #1 for me. When you buy a book, you’re not only buying the story but also the author’s personal brand. If I like the writer behind the words, I will fling money at them.

    Good luck with your great English novel! : )

    1. Same here. Hope you’re having fun with your adventures!

      Please let me know if you have FB Millie, as I’d like to keep in touch with you for future illustration projects. 🙂

  6. My, my, Boy With a Hat – you are now Vincent – and how you have changed. All grown up.
    I like it.

    I read mostly based on reviews that I have read, novels that have won awards, recommendations of friends, works by authors that I like, period pieces, and stylistic works that I think will add to my depth of writing.


  7. I usually stick to a series of books, that way I know how the writer thinks and who the characters are. Choosing the first in the series is rather daunting, but I start with the theme…horror, sci-fi, romance etc, then I choose the topic I fancy. Sometimes though I have done what they say not to and just picked the book with the most interesting cover :p

  8. Because I have to read a lot of academic articles and textbooks for my university course, I don’t get much opportunity to read for fun. That just means that when I do I try to pick something that I know in advance that I’ll like (so I don’t waste my precious reading time on something not worth it), so usually something by an author that I know well or in a series that I have read before. If I’m ever at a loss for what to read I’ll reread one of my many Terry Pratchett novels.

  9. I think that part of the fun about reading is determining your own opinion about a book. It’s almost like a gamble. Sure the back cover can tell you bits and pieces about the plot and reviews can tell you the popularity, but you will never be sure if it’s a good book into you read it. It’s all opinion based. What may be a good book for you may be a bad book for someone else. I also think there is something special in coming across a good book in a mix of okay books. It can make the experience of a good book into a great book.

  10. this is exactly how I feel, right now there are so many things that fascinate me, its like I have so much choices to make. Well nowadays I do authors, I make sure to have a bunch of books by a particular author and I read it all, not deviating until I am done and this has really been working out seeing as I am big on organising but my problem now is that reading and writing is supposed to be fun but lately it seems like an obligation and I need serious help with that. Reading and writing are two things that keep me sane and I don’t want to loose that.

  11. I tend to choose books based on what mood I am in. A book may be great, but if I’m not the mood for it, it’s not happening! I tend to read the first two pages and that tells me whether I can get stuck in or not.

  12. I love spending time in book stores, be it WH Smith or second hand or antique book shops. Admittedly, if I don’t look for anything in particular, I pick up books that caught my eye for its beautiful or curious cover. When the story described on the back also catches my curiosity, I’ll buy it. More often than not I’ve been lucky.

      1. thanks for this i’m trying to pick my next book, and i’ve decided it will be african literature, i also hope to become a published author in my second language – english

      2. I couldn’t put my finger on anything particular. It might be the look of being a treasure (I’m lucky to own a wonderfully old copy of The Jungle Book), something that looks like it simply has to tell you something. Whether or not that urge is expressed via colour or style does not matter then.

  13. Making money by writing is one of the best jobs in the world. I, myself want to make a career in writing. I try to read as many books and blogs as possible. Which is your favourite twerking book?

  14. I’ve taken to reading multiple books at a time. I’m always reading a fiction book, often at the same time I’m making my way through a non-fiction book, and recently I’ve taken to listening to audio books while I drive (which is often). I make my choice by author or friends’ recommendations.
    I confess that some of the classics can be tough for me to slog through. I typically have to read them in text format rather than listen in audio format, because the pacing of the audio versions makes them challenging to pay attention to.

    1. Despite leaning towards classics, Lucas, I understand struggling to slog through some of them. I’ll admit I’ve still never read Moby Dick!

  15. I don’t read enough. But when I do, I always go for classics. Or something that’s at least fifty years old. Most popular pieces are crap (pardon my French).

  16. Lately I have been trying to dabble into classics. I own, but have yet to read One Hundred Years of Solitude by the recently departed Gabriel García Márquez. But I find classics are somewhat difficult to get into though once I am a good portion of the way in, it’s more addicting than any other genre.

  17. I’m a bit of a weird one when it comes to picking my next book. After scanning a majority in the New Arrivals section of a book store/library, I walk away with the one that impressed me the most with, wait for it, its title. Currently, I am halfway through Ka by Roberto Calasso as a result of this action.

  18. My strategy is a little whacky. There are some authors I will always read (Helen Oyeyemi, Kurt Vonnegut, and more recently Toni Morrison. Also Junot Diaz!) Other times I but books if they’re relatively cheap and sound interesting. But for me, two things draw me to the book: the writing or the story. If I love the story but don’t like the story that much I will still buy it because the way it’s written is wonderful. Other times the writing is a bit “eh” but the story amazing.

  19. At a bookstore I can’t help judging a book by its cover, then I start reading the first page and if I want to read more I’ll buy it.
    When I’m not at a bookstore and I want to read I just look for the genre I want to read in, which is usually the genre I’m writing my current book in, and then order it! The waiting is the hardest part…

If you leave me a comment I will send you an invisible gift.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s