11 Ways to Discover Great Books

Stacks of books in daytime

It took me a while to realize that reading every book ever published was an impossible feat. With countless books out there, the challenge became how to choose the right ones. Here are 11 strategies I use to filter and discover books worth reading.

1. Explore Authors

Start by reading books from the same author. I’ve found that the author’s style matters more than the topic. A captivating writing style can draw you into a story or subject you might not have chosen otherwise.

2. Utilize Bibliographies

Bibliographies aren’t just for researchers; they’re valuable for discovering high-quality books on the same topic. Check the bibliography of non-fiction books to narrow down your options for a deeper dive into a subject.

3. Rely on Trusted Recommendations

Follow curated lists by trusted individuals. Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, etc all have famous lists of course. But you can search for even more. Fore example, I have followed Ryan Holiday’s lists for a very long time. I also explore best-of lists that come out during the holiday season from The Economist, newspapers, writers, etc that usually come out around the holidays. Collect intriguing titles and save them for later.

4. Browse In Person

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Nothing beats browsing library or bookstore shelves. Allow yourself the freedom to explore, and let interesting titles catch your eye. This method works well for fiction, where you can easily sample sections of a book.

5. Use Software like Novelist Plus

Novelist Plus, often bundled with library resources, functions like Netflix for books. It matches your preferences to recommend similar books, making it a powerful tool for finding your next novel.

6. Try Blinkist for Summaries

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Blinkist offers book summaries, helping you avoid fluff writing. It’s a subscription service, but the in-depth summaries can guide you to non-fiction books that genuinely pique your interest. Too often, a non-fiction book could have been a blog post…so I end up wasting hours reading fluff. But if I want more detail after reading a Blinkist summary, I know it’s a worthwhile read.

7. Harness the Amazon Algorithm

Despite cluttered sponsored results, Amazon’s algorithm provides a vast dataset on book preferences. Plug in a book you like to discover others enjoyed by readers with similar tastes. Though, honestly, I’ve been using their Editor picks more since they’ve really ramped up the sponsored listings.

8. Explore Award Winners

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Books that win awards tend to have timeless appeal. Look beyond recent prize winners and explore older accolades like Booker or Pulitzer prizes for equally compelling reads.

9. Leverage ChatGPT

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Engage ChatGPT to generate lists or continue existing ones based on your preferences. It’s a free and versatile tool for book recommendations. Here is an example prompt –

You are an expert book editor. I will give you some books that I like and a topic I’m interested in. You will provide a list of books that I would be interested in. I like Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods and Douglas Brinkley’s Rightful Heritage. I want to read more about interesting environmental history and places.

10. Explore College Syllabi

Deepen your understanding of a specific topic by exploring college syllabi online. Professors often assign the best books in their fields, making it a reliable source for quality reading recommendations. I use Open Syllabus to start digging around.

11. Use Google Books Advanced Search

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Google Books is an underrated resource. Use its advanced search function to find both fiction and non-fiction books that align with your interests.

That’s all! Read more books.

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