Friday, 20 November 2015

How do I Choose what to Read?

Choosing what to read can be a difficult process. Personally I don't stumble upon this problem too much as my TBR list is sky high, but there comes a point when one has to acknowledge that reading every single book ever published is impossible. Here are some suggestions on how to choose:

Just go to a Library!

My school library is pretty small compared to most, so this was quite straightforward. In my early high school years when I did not have many people to talk to at lunch time, I would spend the hour in the library searching through the fiction section until I found a book that had a snazzy cover and an intriguing blurb. If I did not take a book out on one day, I kept a mental tab on it's name, author and location within the library (it was easier than it sounds) so I could borrow it another day.

The problem with this is that not everyone has a good local library, and if you do, chances are it will be much larger than the one at my school so simply looking through all of the books would take forever.

Ask Friends for Recommendations

I no longer ask my friends for recommendations, but I used to a lot. It was my friend who introduced me to the 'Artemis Fowl' books that were the main obsession of my early teen years. It was the same friend who recommended me 'Clockwork Angel'. Sometimes friends will be super and recommend a book without me even needing to ask.

Yet after some time it occurred to me that some of my friends had terrible tastes in fiction! They would describe books I'd never even heard of in a very positive light, but I found upon going into reading with no other reason than a trust in their good judgement that our tastes couldn't be further apart. I realised after a while which friends I shared more bookish interests with, but also that I wanted some other external factors to influence my reading choices.

Book Reviews

Goodreads was my introduction to finding books I thought I was more likely to enjoy. Every book that Goodreads suggested, I would add to my growing to read list. Eventually I saw that I couldn't read all of these books - I'd never even seen or heard of most of them. And that was when I began to look at the reviews. Dedicated reviewers will tell you what they thought of the characters, structure and plot, and the top reviewers had to be top for a reason, right?. Although I would occasionally disagree with a reviewers opinion of a book I enjoyed, I learnt more about the contents of a book than a blurb or an friend would, with warnings for sensitive topics and no spoilers.

But of course, no review is a perfect reflection of how YOU will feel about a book. Maybe you will love the book that everyone loathes or find fault in the book everyone adores.

Read Similar Genres

If you know you like the historic element of 'To Kill a Mockingbird', then chances are you'd want to read other books set in that era covering similar themes. Just remember never to limit yourself to only one genre as you will never experience what other stories have to offer.

Reading What is Currently Popular

I read 'The Hunger Games' for this very reason. But Haruki Murakami wrote that "if you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." 

I understand what this statement wants to say, but never have I disagreed with anything more. Of course, only reading what is popular is limiting you from experiencing lesser known books. But the idea that doing the same as others reduces our individuality is insane! Twenty people could read the same book and take different things from it - experience different thoughts - different emotions! Plus if everyone is reading it and the concept appeals to you, I say go for it!

Here is my Criteria for Choosing What to Read

  1. It needs have an element that makes it stand out from other books I've read. 'Angelfall' was a good book, but it felt too similar to other things I have read in the past. Although it can be argued that 'Cinder' does not an entirely original story, for me it still comes under this category as it is a very unique spin on a fairytale (and I love a good twist in a story).
  2. The description needs to be amazing. The blurb of 'The Book Thief' is wonderfully straightforward, saying exactly what happens whilst also saying very little at all. And of course, throwing the word 'death' into the mix always makes a book stand out.
  3. I need to hear about it from more than one of the above sources. It may sound silly that I put so much weight on what others think about a book I have not even read, but if my friends and the reviewers and the bloggers say a book is so bad that it's insulting then I don't really want to waste my time on it. Plus reading what others are reading creates something to have conversations about.
  4. I have to be in the mood for that kind of story. If I've read loads of serious books in a row, or if I've been having a bad week, I might choose a light hearted, slower paced story to read.
  5. If the story is dragging and I'm past 200 pages (and it's not compulsory for school), put it aside. There are so many books I want to read and review, so if I am not invested in any part of a story that everyone says is amazing, there is still other things to read. I may come back to a book at a later date and find I love it, but there's no point still reading if it takes the fun out of it.

With all of these methods and my personal criteria, nothing will grantee you will only end up reading books you love. All I can tell you is that life is too short to be reading books you hate.

Do you have any other criteria in choosing what to read? Or am I just a fussy reader?

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