Time and time again, I see people asking on Social Media, “What is everybody reading right now?” It’s interesting to see this question posed because I am curious as to where the people who answer the question got their book suggestions from. Everyone must have their own, favorite way to find a new title.
In the age of the internet, access to best seller lists, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, just to name a few, have allowed us to look forward to something new and exciting. Apps like GoodReads have also made it a lot easier not just to keep track of the titles and authors we want to read, but become critics by allowing the reader to rate a book on a 5 point scale, write reviews, and even comment on each other’s profiles. With all of this going on, it’s fathoming to see how certain books are still able to find themselves climbing to the top of the popularity mountain. Titles like “A Fault In Our Stars”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, and The Hunger Games series generate a ton of attention. One could assume that the movie deals associated with these books would have a lot to do with it, which can be true. But why else do certain books find their way out of the shadows of everything else and state their claim as a modern day classic?
Over the years, I’ve decided upon what I’m going to read based on a lot of different sources. Here are a few.
Library Browsing. Before social media really became the mainstream way to find things to read, one of my favorite activities was to walk the isle of the local library and find something that looked good. There is no rhyme or reason to it. I’m sure there are things that factor in- the color of the cover, the title, other books I’ve read by the author, the length, paperback vs. hardback- all of which factor in to what I’m currently looking for. But strolling through the library has allowed me to land on some of my favorite and more influential books, including a happenstance opportunity where I found myself in the philosophy section and never looked back. Now, I tend to always take out a new Dharma book whenever I am visiting.
GoodReads. This seems to be the go-to of book apps. I have a love-hate relationship with GoodReads, although it has only been more recently that I’ve learned the habits that the app forms. It is so easy for people to post their opinions about something, it takes away the personal decision-making for yourself. I find myself looking at the ratings and the first three or four reviews and making my decision to read the book or put it back right then and there. There is something to be said for the art of finding a book and diving right in. Lately, I’ve been attempting to find other methods of sourcing my reading material, and after I add a few more reviews to my blog, you may start to notice that I don’t want to instate a ratings system. I want people to make up their mind on their own.
GoodReads does provide suggested reading lists and allows you to connect with people that share your interests. It is a great forum for discussion and there are a few readers on the site that I thoroughly enjoy looking forward to seeing what they have to say. However, I’ve discovered that most of what I like on the App are reviews that don’t necessarily give me a perfect example of what to expect- I enjoy the creativity that some readers have when it comes to reviewing a book.
College Reading Lists. This one is new for me. My Fiancée’s aunt messaged me one day with a link to a website that included the three required books that all incoming freshmen at Stanford had to read this summer. It just so happened that none of those books exceeded 400 pages and they were all available at my local library! Before I knew what I was doing, I had compiled a list of several books from different university reading lists from across the country, and ultimately made permanent plans for the rest of summer.
Situation and Intrigue. As a bartender, I have a lot of conversations with people over the course of a day. In the restaurant I work, there are no TVs. There is really bad internet connection. There is a Laundromat across the street. All of this adds up to two things- a lot of conversation and a lot of people killing time. Several times a day, someone will come into the bar by himself, book in hand, waiting for a dryer to finish. Or a day tourist will find herself looking for a cold one after browsing the shelves of the local book store. It’s occurrences like this that allow me to use my position to add to my list of “want to read” books.
Just yesterday, a lady came in, waiting for her husband, and had a copy of All The President’s Men in her hand. She told me how she hadn’t been able to put it down and that it read as if it had been written yesterday. All of a sudden, I’m looking to see if the library has a copy because I’m intrigued!
It’s instances like this one, conversations between a customer or a co-worker, a discussion that evolves from one thing to another, and all of a sudden you’re interested in learning more about a certain subject. “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix comes on the radio during your morning commute and it’s already settled- you want to see if there is a Hendrix biography floating around out there because you want to know why that song was written.
Other Books. The other day I was strolling through Old Fox Bookstore in Annapolis and I got my hands on a copy of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It was a slow read, but had a lot of the personality in a book that I am interested in- philosophical outlooks, travel, and alternative ways of seeing certain situations. Throughout the book, Pirsig makes references to other books he had read that had influenced him. I thought, “wow, this is a great way to find other things of the same topic.” I earmarked them and went through later to see if I could find copies of the books he had mentioned. It was as simple as that.
Do you have other methods? Do you share the same methods as me? Let me know!