To coin an old phrase the following may appear to be ‘teaching grandma to suck eggs.’ In other words telling people something they already know and perhaps better than the writer. Nevertheless, a few, especially those new to the topic, may find some of the following information helpful.
Note: The origins of the above phrase are not known. There is a suggestion it comes from a 1707 translation of a Spanish author’s quote. But no one really appears to know.
In these days when there is a plethora of self-published books it is increasingly difficult for readers to find their next reads, or at least, ones they feel they can trust to be of reasonable quality. Added to that is the fact, with so many books in the market, it may take a reader considerable time to plough through all the options. Time, as most will acknowledge, is at a premium for the majority in these days of undisputed busyness. Hopefully, the following thoughts, ideas and suggestions will assist in reducing a reader’s book searching time.
It does not take much brainstorming to realise there are now multiple avenues for discovering books. Consequently, this discussion will be broken down into identifiable resource categories: Internet; Social Media; Websites/Blogs; Online Retailers; Bestseller Lists; Traditional.
As the internet now tends to be the first ‘go to’ for the majority of citizens, this option will be considered first. Most will be familiar with the available search facilities.
Specific Search Terms
A reader may utilise a number of different categories when searching for a book to read. For example: Genre; Topic; Author; Similar Book Title; etc. Entering any of these in a browser search bar will bring results but there are some limitations to note:
Genre: To obtain sensible results the search term needs to be comprehensive. Simply entering ‘Adventure’, ‘Memoir’ etc. on their own will return a number of results not related to books. To limit the information to books, the phrase should be enhanced with the addition of ‘Book(s)’ e.g. ‘Adventure Books’, ‘Memoir Books’ and so on.
Topic: The same principle as identified under ‘Genre’ above applies e.g. searching ‘Car Maintenance’ will return information that includes car maintenance companies and websites. To limit the result to books on the subject the term should be extended to include ‘books’.
Author: Author name only in a browser search bar will usually limit the result to their website and/or blog url and a list of their books. Of course, this may be what the reader is looking for but sometimes they may be using the name to find other books in the same genre.
Similar Book Title: For example, if a reader has enjoyed a previous book in a given genre, they may decide to use the title to find similar books. However, searching a specific title usually returns information related to that specific book only.
General Search Terms
Phrases such as ‘Finding books to read’, ‘How to find books to read’ will provide extensive lists of book websites, blogs, companies, recommendation sites, social media sites, etc. However, in the majority of instances, these are not limited to specific genres, topics, authors, etc. Consequently, there is no real saving of search time. In fact, it will probably increase it as the reader would need to look at each, or at least, a selection, of the results.
Within Google, and presumably other browsers, it is possible to search actual text whether known or perceived e.g. ‘as the knife went in’, ‘his fist struck’. However, users should be aware the search is usually conducted using the individual words or a combination e.g. ‘fist’, ‘struck’, ‘fist struck’. Consequently, definitions and meanings for the individual words will be included in the result along with books where the word/phrase appears in their title or content.
Several social media sites such as Facebook; Google Plus; Goodreads etc. Have groups and communities (together referred to as ‘groups’ hereafter) dedicated to specific interests. Books are no exception.
Note: It has been assumed most readers of this article will be familiar with the social media sites mentioned and therefore links have not been provided.
There are groups dedicated to books in general within which members may share whatever interests them about books. On the other hand many groups, well most, are more specific. Some are all about reviews (members may add, or comment upon, a book review). Some are genre specific e.g. in Facebook there are groups limited to memoir. There are also book club groups where a reader may discover reviews and recommendations. Depending upon how it has been set up a reader may either simply visit a group to see what has been posted within it, or, as is more usual, either ‘follow’ or ‘join’ the group. Most of these groups should provide the reader with a wealth of recommendations and ideas. Readers may also like to consider groups principally dedicated to authors rather than books because inevitably books (published or about to be published) will be mentioned.
Naturally, readers should consider reviews however, they should note: Reading is a subjective experience. What one person likes another may hate. There is also the aspect that some people do not really know how to format a review and that some may have been influenced by the person being a friend or relative of the author. Where they exist, a cross section of reviews will usually prove valuable for gaining an idea of the book’s content and quality though, as said, these should not be unconditionally relied upon.
Twitter and other similar social media sites may also prove useful. A search of different terms and names will bring up a list of Twitter accounts and tweets which may provide further information about the sort of book a reader is looking for. Again, there are some accounts dedicated to specific genre and authors but some are also mixed.
Note: Readers need to be careful about being distracted by the considerable number of related and unrelated tweets: remember the originating idea is to reduce book searching time.
There are many websites and blogs dedicated to books especially reviews. It may prove worthwhile to check, where there is one, the bloggers review policy: these should give a clear idea of the type of book the reviewer favours. These websites and blogs will usually show up in book related search results.
Amazon; iBooks (iTunes); Google Play; Barnes & Noble; Kobo; Smashwords; etc. all have genre, author, title, ISBN, etc. search facilities. Those books fully meeting the search criteria will be displayed first with other, sometimes apparently unrelated, titles following. It must be acknowledged these searches are useful. There is also the advantage, particularly with Amazon, that similar books and other books purchased by the readers of that searched are also displayed, giving the user further options to consider.
Note: Even Microsoft Store now has a book section.
Some suggest readers not take too much notice of bestseller lists, wherever they appear, because a book may have only ended up in one due to extensive and aggressive marketing. Of course, this does not mean the book is not good but it may overshadow other good titles that did not make it into the list. It has to be said, the advice appears a little draconian: it would still seem sensible to at least give bestsellers a quick consideration.
Many, if not most, readers will acknowledge, even in these days of digitisation, they still enjoy the sensation (touch, aroma, sight) of a physical book. They will also still enjoy the pleasure of:
- Browsing bricks and mortar book shop shelves (new, secondhand, charity);
- Visiting libraries;
- Looking though friends and relatives book collections;
- Friends (actual and online) and family recommendations;
- Perusing newspaper, magazine and poster book advertisements.
Avid readers are always on the look out for new books to read. However, they do not have endless time in which to look for them. The advent of the internet has enabled the process to be speeded up if the reader follows some basic principles.
No matter where looking there are some general search categories that may be utilised e.g. Genre; Topic; Author; etc. The limitations mentioned elsewhere should be born in mind.
Social Media groups and online retailer lists may prove useful and provide unexpected alternatives.
Reviews and bestseller lists should be considered circumspectly.
People should not forget the enjoyment of browsing: physical book shops; friends book shelves; libraries; etc.
There is always something new to learn and readers are recommended to consider ‘something new’ e.g. a book in a completely different genre or on a different topic to that normally read. They may find themselves surprised.