For the most part, I’m a big reader. I fly through several books a week and month, and I’m always thinking about what I can read next. As a child, I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to read all of the books that I wanted to! In fact in Year Six at primary school, I even convinced my teacher to let me borrow one final batch of books over the summer, promising to return them in September. These days, not much has changed. Books are piled high on my bookcase, on my windowsill, on my desk, under my desk, inside my wardrobe, on Mum’s bookcases… You name it, and I’ve had to ‘borrow’ space to store my book collection. But that’s not to say I’m a hoarder for the sake of it. I’d like to think that my reading choices are well-considered, and I like to keep copies of books that I’ve read, especially if I’ve loved them. Sometimes I’ll donate them to a charity shop or send them to friends, but even looking at books on a shelf bring me lots of joy.
A question I’m often asked, especially as more and more of us turn to books for escapism in this busy digital age, is how I find books to read and what are my favourite bookish resources. So today, I thought I’d run through my personal bookish habits…
Why are you reading? What are you reading for?
I always think a good place to start is to consider why you are reading. Are you after a cosy title to lose yourself in after work? Do you want to broaden your horizons and learn about a social issue, a political movement, or the experiences of others? Perhaps you’re looking for a chilled book to sink your teeth into on holiday? I’m a bit of a tandem reader, meaning I tend to have a few books on the go, and they each serve a different purpose.
Once you’ve honed in on the sort of book you want to read, start browsing your bookshop’s shelves or digital shelves. Head to the bestsellers and read the blurbs: does anything jump out to you? I remember reading the blurb of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and instantly knowing it was a book for me. It covers human relationships, a perspective new to me (American, Black, dual-narrative), the prison system. And the same went for How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee, a historical fiction that looked at the lives of three woman in post-war Asia.
Getting used to reading blurbs is a great way to begin to work out what sort of themes you naturally gravitate towards. And never let anybody else define what you enjoy reading. If it’s YA that floats your boat, go wild and read all of the titles! On another note, I personally avoid reviews (except from Anika and Evie’s ones!) until after I’ve finished the book. I like to immerse myself in the work itself before forming my own opinion, and comparing it to what others think.
Goodreads is another brilliant tool for readers. I spent an afternoon one Sunday logging every book in my possession into my profile, and now the website/app generates plenty of recommendations for me. Of course this is largely algorithm-based, but I still think it is useful, particularly for the recommendations you get after finishing and reviewing or rating a book. What I also really like about Goodreads is that they publish regular features full of themed book recommendations. There are summer reading lists, Black Lives Matter non-fiction essentials, horror week favourites… The list goes on. Aside from being a great place to discover books and see what your friends are reading without constantly pestering them, it’s also a fun way to track your reading ‘progress’.
Become my Goodreads friend here!
Something I’m conscious of is that not everybody has the ability to buy or keep as many books that I do. I’ve explained why I do in a previous post, and I fully recognise both my privilege and how this choice in turn affects how I choose books. A brilliant resource for reading new books for ‘free’ is NetGalley, a book reviewing platform. Here, you can apply to review books before their publication in return for a review, and more often than not, they’re e-Books or PDFs, meaning you don’t have to worry about additional book storage. I’ve been lucky enough to read some amazing ARCs via NetGalley — The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley and If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha to name just two — and I thoroughly recommend signing up for an account if you haven’t already.
Connect with a range of book bloggers and bookstagrammers
How could I plough on with this post without mentioning the amazing creators we have in the community? I specifically wanted to nod to book bloggers and bookstagrammers because they’re cosily nestled in a part of the community that hasn’t been white-washed, unlike much of the publishing industry. I follow lots of wonderful book creators, and have found endless excellent recommendations from them. Below I’ve shared some of my favourites, who write amazing reviews and round-ups, and are always inclusive and diverse:
5 Book Bloggers to Follow and Support
5 Bookstagrammers to Follow and Support
Traversing your library or charity shops
Lastly, sometimes it’s even better to read outside of what you’d planned. I think often there’s a real danger in limiting yourself to reading what you find — or once found — to be entertaining, joyful or educational, because we’re always growing. And with hundreds of thousands of titles to pick from, it can be nice to let your environment select your next read. Take a chance on those library shelf recommendations, ask a librarian for their latest read, or wander into a charity shop. My local Cancer Research UK store sells five books for £1, and it’s a great way to venture into genres I wouldn’t usually read.
What is your number one top tip for finding a new book to read?