Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where I Get My Book Recommendations

There are a few people in my life (my mom, mostly), who always ask me, "How do you find all those books on your to-read list? Where do you hear about these books?"

My question is, how do you go through life and not hear about books? But I guess not everyone has a to-read list with 307 current entries on it.

In case anyone who actually reads this blog struggles with the problem of not knowing what to read next (doubtful, I work from the assumption that all my readers are intelligent, bookish people with their own lengthy to-read lists), below I've listed some of my favorite resources for where I glean my book recommendations.

Friends and Family

Let's start with the obvious. We all get book recommendations from our friends and family. No one knows you better than these people, and hopefully they are mostly a collection of people you love and admire, so why wouldn't you want to read the books they love? I love it the most when someone is excited enough about a book they're reading that they can't wait to tell me about it, but if you're in a reading slump, feel free to speak up and ask first. There's no better conversation starter than, "Have you read any good books lately?" Just don't forget to write those recommendations down, which brings me to the next resource, where I keep my online to-read list:


There is much to love (and a little to hate) about this online mishmash of books and social media. I get tons of my book recs from the people I've friended or follow on Goodreads. I've friended or follow a range of people I'm not necessarily close to in real life (a few old college professors, other book bloggers, women from old book clubs), but who review all their books religiously. I love perusing their reviews weekly and adding their favorites to my to-read list. This is less a chance for me to stay connected and more an opportunity to voyeuristically stalk their reading lives. There are a few bookish friends I have in real life who I wish would use Goodreads to track their books just so I could see what they read in between our conversations. If you are interested in building a solid to-read list, I recommend using Goodreads and curating a good selection of bookish friends or following heavy reviewers on there.

But beyond the social media aspect of getting recs from friends who use the site, Goodreads also offers a book recommendation application, where they use books you've read to recommend books their algorithm predicts you'll enjoy. It's far from a perfect service (they've recommended a bunch of books based on my "Did-Not-Finish" shelf, and I want to tell them, yeah, I didn't finish those books for a reason), but it's fun to peruse the recs occasionally. Apparently there are a few websites that provide this type of book-recommending-based-on-an-algorithm service, but word on the street is that Goodreads is the best. (Forever and always).

A further note on Goodreads, I always vet any book recommendation I get, regardless of the source, by checking the ratings and top listed reviews of that book on Goodreads. If it's a book I've never heard of before, but I see that 10,000 people on top of my mom have given it 4+ rating, I'm more likely to add it to my to-read list. That being said, sometimes really stupid books have high ratings, and sometimes really good books have low ratings. You shouldn't always trust the crowd mentality.

Book Blogs and Websites

Beyond Goodreads, there is a vast and endless bookish internet where you can glean tons of book recommendations. But I know from hours of personal experience how hard it can be to navigate the seemingly infinite number of book blogs out there. It can take some serious surfing time to find and filter book blogs that share similar tastes with you and will therefore lead to excellent recommendations. I once accidentally started following a book blog that was completely devoted to Janet Oke books, and while I have nothing against Janet Oke, I did not want to be following that blog. I've also discovered that I don't enjoy blogs that are completely devoted to reviewing arcs, or too devoted to one genre. To help others navigate and avoid the travesty of wasting any time on a Janet Oke book blog, below I've listed five of my own recent favorite bookish blogs where I glean the majority of my recommendations.

1. Modern Mrs. Darcy - I wouldn't say my tastes exactly overlap with Anne Bogel's, the woman behind Modern Mrs. Darcy, but my goodness this woman reads an astonishing number of books, has an uncanny knack for personal recommendations, and has the kind of reputation for taste that I would call Kathleen Kelly-esque (if she likes it, it sells, period). Also, the summer reading guide that she puts out every year is pretty phenomenal.

2. River City Reading - Shannon happens to be both a teacher and voracious reader, a combination I find highly trustworthy. Pretty much every book she reads ends up on my to-read list. She is on top of the contemporary adult fiction and non-fiction markets, actually follows publishing houses, and knows the latest and greatest in bookish news. She also introduced me to this fabulous phenomenon known as the Tournament of Books, a March Madness bracket-type competition for literary fiction releases of the previous year. I've found the archives of this Tournament to be a great resource for book recs in the contemporary and literary fiction genres (the judges' comments are fabulous for vetting books), and I'm very much looking forward to following the Tournament next spring.

3. Books Speak Volumes - Leah Mosher also has very similar reading tastes as me, and she has absolutely convinced me that I have to read Haruki Murakami as soon as possible. She does weekly as well as monthly reading updates, and is also pretty savvy in the contemporary literary fiction markets, but with a good mix of classics as well. I love her reviews.

4. Shaina Reads - Shaina's reading list is pretty similar to the previous two blogs, but I enjoy her fun writing style and take on bookish things. However, she only read her first Austen novel this month! I find that a bit hard to believe, but at least she liked it.

5. Sunlit Pages - Amy is the only person on this list that I actually know and definitely consider a friend (we met through our blogs, were virtual friends for a couple of years, and then finally met in real life just last month on my trip to Utah! And she's definitely just as lovely in real life as she is on her blog). Amy and I have very similar tastes (except for her unfortunate aversion to sci-fi/fantasy). I love her reviews for non-fiction, contemporary fiction, classics, and especially children's literature. She has four boys she reads to regularly, and when my boys are old enough I will probably just copy and paste her read-aloud list when deciding what books to read to them. She also recently posted her own list of book-blog recommendations (which I was honored to be a part of), and I can already tell some of those blogs are going to become new favorites of mine (check it out).

Now, this is not a comprehensive list of all the book blogs I follow, but these are the blogs where recently I've been getting most of my recommendations. If you'll notice, most of them tend to be heavy on the contemporary literary fiction, because this is a genre where I feel like I need advice. I follow many other blogs for children's literature, picture books, YA books, and other genres, but the ones above are where I get most of my recs for my personal to-read list.

I will also say that there are tons of other sources on the internet for finding book recommendations. There are magazine-type websites (Book Riot is a favorite), YouTube book review channels, book podcasts, Instagram accounts (called Bookstagrams), not to mention more traditional sources like the New York Times bestseller lists or other news source lists. However, I've only dabbled with most of these resources. I like to stick closer to home, people I know (or at least feel like I know through their blogs) and trust. In general, the places listed above are where I get my book recs.

Where do you get your book recommendations? Any blogs/websites/other sources I should know about?


  1. Aw, thank you so much for the link-up! What a happy surprise. :) I too take many of my reading cues from Leah and Shannon, hence the similarity! Those ladies know what they're talking about.

    As for where I get my recs, I'm surprised by how many gems I've found through the Goodreads recommendation engine. You're right that GR isn't perfect, but some of my more recent favorites (Doomsday Book by Connie Willis comes to mind) came from their lists. In terms of non-fiction, I tend to find new books in the endnotes/bibliographies of non-fic I'm already reading!

    1. Yes, Leah and Shannon do know their stuff, but I like the personality of your blog and reviews, so I had to include you. Also, bibliographies in non-fic is a brilliant source for recs! I've had that thought before, but haven't been very good about actually adding the ones I'm interested in to my to-read list.

  2. Ooo, thanks for this! I haven't heard of many of these blogs and if there's anything I love reading, it's articles about books and reading!

  3. Thanks for the shout-out and your super nice words. It's been fun to get to know you virtually; it was even more fun to meet you in real life. Here's to more of both in the future!!!