Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Help Me Find a Good Book to Read: 3 Places to Look, 2 to Avoid

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With the number of books that are getting published these days (somewhere around 200 to 300 thousand per year), every reader should be able to identify books that perfectly fit their unique reading tastes. I for one have a specific weakness for plot driven YA novels that feature a flair of romance, thriller-like writing, and a sci-fi concept and the medical/techno-thrillers that Michael Crichton did so well, and since there are so many books out there, why shouldn't I be able to read exactly that? Well, now I canand you can too. If you need help finding a good book, here's some great places to look:

Where to Find Good Books

Amazon's "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" Section

If you already have a favorite book and are frustrated because you can't find more like it, then this one should be a goldmine for you. Amazon keeps data of every book that every person ever bought through its site and comes up with statistics about which books are likely to appeal to similar audiences. Go onto Amazon, find the product page of a book you really enjoyed and scroll down. Just below the description you'll find a section titled "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" and a row of books. Usually, you'll find books by the same author, and books in the same series. Scroll over a bit, and you'll find all sorts of neat reads. What's great about this is you'll find suggestions you never even thought of looking for. I've found several books this way that have completely blown my mind, and I don't think I ever would have heard of them otherwise.

Blog Reviewers

There are thousands people out there who have blogs for the sole purpose of reviewing books and new releases. They usually have very specific tastes and feature tons of indie authors, so you'll get a fantastic cross-section of the hottest titles being released. They're often linked together, so you can usually hop from one blog to the next to get an idea of what's out there. My recommendation is to find a couple of blog reviewers who seem to have some sense about them and subscribe to their blog feeds. Within a week, I guarantee you'll be inundated with too many good books to choose from. Here's some great book blogs to start with:

Oops! I Read A Book Again
JC's Book Haven
The Phantom Paragrapher
YA Romantics
Readers In Wonderland
Ramblings of a Daydreamer

Amazon's Categories

Here's another method for finding books that uses Amazon's vast categorization scheme. Try this as an example. Get onto Amazon, in the drop down menu, select "Kindle Store" then search. A list of categories will appear on the right, from which you can select "Kindle ebooks." You can keep navigating down this list of categories, until you get to something like this:
  • Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Paranormal > Vampires
  • Now that's pretty specific, isn't it? That's the beauty of Amazon's categories. They're much more specific than the broad categories you'll find at the book store, so they're more powerful. You can even combine this with the first technique by going to a book you like, scrolling down to the bottom of the product page, and viewing the categories it's in.

What to Avoid

Brick and Mortar Bookstores

They're useless. There's a million books out there and they stock only a tiny selection of the most popular books in a one size fits all model. The brick and mortar bookstore is to books as the radio is to music. Sure, you'll stop in from time to time when passing through, but you would never think of basing your entire literary consumption on their canned selection. They have section labels that are much too broad like "Young Adult" and "Mystery", and you're supposed to go from there. Don't let big record labels (I mean traditional publishers) censor your unique tastes. Go online and search out the books that were written just for you.

Recommendations from Friends

I'm amazed at how many people read books recommended by their friends. I know this is going to cause outrage, but I'm saying it's a bad idea. People's tastes in books are like people's tastes in music, they're so unique that the chances your friend shares your taste in books is slim to none. My advice: spend just a little extra effort and seek out books you know you'll enjoy. Maybe you don't enjoy reading that much and maybe this is the reason why. Maybe you've been buying too many books your friends like. My advice: be unique, create a reading list that looks like NO ONE ELSE'S. You will then find reading to be an extra flavor in life that few experience.

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