The Art of Choosing “Good” Books

A friend recently messaged me with a question. He had grown frustrated with reading because he found that most of the books he was picking up weren’t fulfilling or satisfying. Even if he managed to read one all the way through to the end, he was left wanting. He messaged me and asked, “How do you pick out good books?”

It’s a valid question. Picking a good book can be harder than it seems. After all, “good book” is a relative term. It all depends on our personal preferences and on what we believe qualifies a book as worthy of that classification. The truth is that there is no guarantee the next book we read will live up to our expectations, but we can improve our odds by refining our choices and being open to possibility.

Whether you’re an avid reader or are just getting started, here are a few tips on choosing a “good” book to read next.

Think about what you like (and don’t like).
What aspects of your recent reads have been unsatisfying? What are you craving that you aren’t getting? Do you like historical fiction or thrillers or family dramas? Do you prefer fast-paced plots or stories with lots of description? Knowing what you like or what you do not like will make it easier to choose books that you’ll have an enjoyable experience reading. It will also make it easier for you to request recommendations if you can share your preferences with others.

If you haven’t figured out yet what you do and don’t like, don’t worry! The more you read, the closer you’ll get to that answer. Plus, it means you have a wider variety of books to choose from, more so than those who are set in their reading ways. In the meantime, think about what sounds interesting and go with it.

Be honest about your reading mood.  
Maybe you already have a bunch of books lined up to read, but none of them are hitting the mark for you. Are you choosing books that align with your reading mood? Are you reading a serious novel when you’d rather read something lighthearted?

For me, deciphering what I’m interested in reading from book to book is challenging. Sometimes I have to take a break between books to think about what I’m really in the mood to read next. Otherwise, I risk reading something that doesn’t keep my full attention, and I miss out on a good experience.

If you feel like reading something dark and somber, do it! If you’re in the mood for a cozy mystery, go for it! Don’t force yourself to read something that you aren’t committed to fully. Think about it and be honest with yourself about your reading mood, and you’ll enjoy your “good” book choices much more.

Browse at the bookstore.  
Have you been reading only e-books or listening to audiobooks? Maybe you are too removed from the books you are reading and simply need to feel more engaged. Hold the books in your hands. Read the synopses. Admire the creative covers. What speaks to you? Make a connection with the next book you are going to read.

Browsing the endless shelves of books can be daunting, which is why I love going to Barnes and Noble and browsing the display tables. The selections are based on things like “New in Paperback,” “New and Noteworthy Fiction,” and “Recommended Reading.” I discover all sorts of great books of all different genres at those tables. There is also a section reserved for bestsellers, and though there is still no guarantee, a bestseller is a solid indicator that lots of other people anticipate this book to be a “good” one.

Get recommendations from the pros.  
Are you looking for something specific and having a tough time finding it? Maybe you read a really amazing book and you’ve struggled to read anything since then that compares. I struggled to find good books that aligned with what I like to read until I started listening to the Book Riot podcasts. “Get Booked” is a book recommendation podcast based on questions submitted by listeners. “All the Books,” which is about weekly new releases, is another good one. Now my list of books to read has around 200 titles! The show runners read most of the books they recommend and thus suggest only the ones they think are “good.”

Also, if you haven’t already, join Goodreads.com. The network of readers there is vast. You can read user reviews and find out the most popular books on the site. You can also input your reading preferences and the site will give you book recommendations based on your favorites!

Ask friends and family for suggestions.  
If you aren’t sure what you like or are simply stuck in a reading rut, ask your friends and family for suggestions. In my experience readers love to give book recommendations, myself included. Tell them about what you liked and didn’t like about your recent reading choices. Find out what books they like and why or ask if they have any favorite authors. Be open to their suggestions, and if any of the books sound interesting, give them a try!

There are so many “good,” great, amazing books out there! Thinking about what you like, seeking out recommendations, and choosing books with subject matter and genres that truly capture your attention are the keys to ensuring a more exciting and fulfilling reading experience.

Happy reading!

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4 thoughts on “The Art of Choosing “Good” Books

  1. Great post! Another potential method could be to consult the names of authors who have written recommendations for the covers of books you like – usually, the publishers choose authors of a similar genre or style to the book in question. It can be a hit-and-miss tactic, though, especially if publishers are trying to associate a book with a big-name author (John Green gets a mention on the cover of just about every new YA book that’s published nowadays…)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Goodreads has been an absolute lifesaver to my reading slumps. When I’m in the mood for a book to help me escape reality, or maybe something more productive, I always check out my TBR on Goodreads before hitting the bookstore. Sometimes browsing in the bookshop is just so overwhelming and I find myself buying pretty covers instead of actually buying a book for it’s content!
    Great post, thanks for sharing!
    Happy reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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