How to Find Good Books to Read

Posted by Donald Latumahina 17 Comments

Do you love to read? I definitely do, especially non-fiction. I don’t read as much as I want but I enjoy my reading time. It’s great to learn about new things in the world and new ways to improve my life.

titleWhen it comes to reading, one important problem is how to find good books to read. After all, the goal of reading is to get as much value as possible. Don’t read just for the sake of reading. Read to somehow improve the quality of your life. That’s why it’s essential to find books that are worth your time.

To find good books, here are two steps I do:

  1. Find interesting books that might be worth reading
  2. Make sure that the books are indeed worth reading

Let’s look at them one by one.

9 Ways to Find Interesting Books to Read

Here are nine ways to find interesting books to read:

1. Check Amazon’s lists

Amazon has many book lists through which you can find interesting books. You can start with Bestsellers to see the current best sellers and Hot New Releases to see the popular new books.

But don’t stop there. Many good books never appear in these global lists, not because they aren’t good but because they appeal to smaller group of people. For example, if you are interested in agriculture then you are unlikely to find any book in those lists. For that reason, you should also explore topic-specific lists. Here, for instance, are the best-seller lists for Management, Science, and Gastronomy.

Checking Amazon lists is something I do regularly. I create a bookmark folder in my browser that contains all the lists I want to check. Then, about once a week, I open the folder and scan the lists. By doing this, not only can I find interesting books to read but also I can keep myself updated with the world of books.

2. Find books that are related to a book you like

In addition to the lists, Amazon has a nice feature which helps you find other books you might like given a book you like. Just visit the Amazon page of your favorite book and look at the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought section. There is a good chance that you will find something interesting there.

3. See Amazon’s recommendations

One more useful feature from Amazon is its personalized recommendations. To see them, log in to your Amazon account and visit Recommended for You page. There you will find books that Amazon thinks you might like. To increase the quality of the recommendations, you should actively rate the books you’ve read. The more information you give to the system, the better it can learn about your taste and the better its recommendations would be.

4. Use What Should I Read Next

What Should I Read Next does what its name says: it gives you recommendations about what books you should read next. Give it the details (title, author, or ISBN) of a book you like and the system will give you a list of books it recommends.

5. Follow interesting people at Goodreads

The web is becoming increasingly social and the world of books is no exception. There are book-centered social sites out there where you can find and follow interesting people. One popular site is Goodreads. If you know someone whose reading list is interesting, you can follow her there to stay up-to-date with her reading.

6. Read book blogs

Book blogs can give you a lot of information about the world of books. AllTop shows you the latest posts of some book blogs.

7. Browse Gutenberg’s list

If you like old books, there are many of them at Project Gutenberg. There you can find classic books like The Prince or The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. To see which books are popular, visit the Top 100 list. Best of all, you can download the books for free.

8. Use StumbleUpon

Have you ever used StumbleUpon before? This service gives you random web pages in a channel you choose. Whenever you press the Stumble button in the toolbar, it will give you a new page that it thinks you might like. Set the channel to Books and you are on your way to find interesting books you might never hear about before.

9. Use delicious

With delicious, you can find popular links in practically every field imaginable. For popular links related to books, visit this page or this page.

You may combine multiple delicious tags to find book-related links in a certain field. This way you don’t have to go through books in fields you aren’t interested in. Here are two examples:

Is A Book Worth Reading?

Before committing your time to reading a book that looks good, it’s better to ensure that the book is indeed worth reading. Here are two ways to do that:

1. Learn more about the book

Whenever I find an interesting book, I open the book’s Amazon page for more information. Here are several things I usually check in a book’s page:

  • Product description. Obviously, I need to know what the book is about. Sometimes I find a book with interesting title that doesn’t have the content I want. In such a case, I just close the book’s page and move on.
  • Sales rank. Amazon’s sales rank doesn’t guarantee that a book is good, but books with high rank rarely disappoint me. A book’s sales rank is like a social consensus about the book’s quality. I usually look at the rank in the context of publication date. A book that still ranks high years after its publication is usually a good book. Having said that, sales rank isn’t a mandatory factor for me. If I already hear good things about a book, I don’t care about its sales rank. But for books that I’ve never heard of, sales rank is a good indicator to use.
  • Table of contents. What topics are covered in the book? I find them out by looking at the book’s table of contents.
  • First pages. I don’t always read the first pages of a book, but sometimes I do. They give me a feel of how the book is written.

Of course, if you are in a book store or a library, you can get all the information above (except the sales rank) by simply browsing the book.

2. Test it with time

An important sign of a good book is it passes the test of time. Let’s say you come across an interesting book and you want to read it. Will your desire to read it last? Would you still want to read it after one week? One month? If you wouldn’t, then it’s probably not a good book to read.

Let a book sit in your Wish List (or a similar list) for some time before deciding to read it. It helps you filter out many temporary impulses. After applying this principle, the quality of the books I read increases significantly and I get much more value from my reading time.

***

What about you? How do you find good books to read?

Photo by Photos8.com


Categories: Learning

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  • http://www.gettingtozen.com Lisa

    Great tips! I was just thinking about putting my Summer readling list together. I’ve never used Amazon’s lists before. Usually I just type in my interest and see what comes up. Thanks for letting us know about the lists. I am so looking forward to doing some reading this Summer. :-)

  • Marie

    …ask a librarian ;)

  • http://thedropoutkid.com/blog/ jonathanfigaro

    I think when we read a book with a purpose. This is the best way to absorb the knowledge presented. All you need is a pen to underline key facts and a open mind. With those two things…only magic an occur.

    • j.r

      excellent!!!!

  • http://www.stevescottsite.com Steve Scott Site

    Nice post. I am an avid reader myslef and I find I do most of these steps. Amazon is like a second home to me.

    The ones that I have not tried are 5 and 6 which, when I think about it, is odd to me becuase I do spend at least an hour a day checking out blogs, I really should have book blogs in there too.

    Thanks,

    Steve

  • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org Donald Latumahina

    Lisa,
    I wish you a happy summer reading :)

    Marie,
    Nice suggestion :)

    Jonathan,
    I agree with you. Reading with a purpose does make a difference.

    Steve,
    Amazon is really good indeed. I’m still curious about Google Books; there must be something interesting we can do with it.

  • Vladimir

    Just wondering if it’s possible to write a good book using crowdsourcing approach and then share profit :)

  • http://www.nevermindthemanager.com Frode H

    Hi.
    I read a lot about leadership, motivation, coaching and similar books. I have read about 1-3 books each month for about 4 years.

    1. I am increasing my leadership abilities.
    2. I am gaining confidence in my skills.
    3. If I learn one new thing from a book, it will be good value for money.
    4. I develop as a leader and as a coach
    5. I develop as a father and husband
    6. Amazon news letter recommends according to previous buys, this is costing me a lot of money as it is very targeted :)
    7. As a leader you are obligated to keep growing to be the best you can for the people you love and care about.
    8. Reading = learning
    9. There is a difference between theory and reality, but without theory you won’t know what reality works.
    10. Books have changed my life. Some in just one chapter…

    :)

  • Pingback: Steve’s Sunday Selections- July 25th, 2010 | Steve Scott Site

  • http://www.siteofwisdom.com Percival J. Meris

    There is really nothing more that I can say as of now but ”Thank you” for these wonderful tips you gave. Now-a-days, I have stopped reading physical books and focused more on digital books.

    But your tips have re-enkindled my interest for physical books. Since I buy my digital books from the internet, I shall try ordering stuffs from Amazon. The collection is more comprehensive there than our local bookstore.

  • http://www.pincltd.com Jehangir

    Hi Donald

    Nice article!

    Having Indian parentage, I was always brought up never to step on anything with print. This was a mark of respect for the learning that the written word can bestow.

    One thing did get me thinking, though.

    The application of what we’ve read is an important aspect of learning, since it helps us to truly understand and integrate it.

  • http://www.cultivatingheroes.com Jarrod – Cultivating Heroes

    While not a book choosing tip but here is something I think is important when reading.

    Learn to read fast, skim and skip.

    Just learn how to get past the unimportant bits. Don’t waste your time, focus on the awesome parts of the book.

    With time you get a handle on knowing which parts are important and to read slow and which you can read fast.

    Do not make the assumption that all paragraphs are equal :)

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com Steve-Success Factors

    I personally liked your suggestion about changing StumbleUpon profile preferences/interests to “books”. I’m looking forward to finding some good reads this way.

  • http://www.mindrecipes.com Brenda Freeman

    I love wandering around book stores and libraries. More often than not, a book will stand out from the others, and i just have to have it. This is usually how I make my selections

  • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org Donald Latumahina

    Vladimir,
    I have no idea about it but it sounds interesting :)

    Frode,
    Interesting thoughts. I agree that Amazon’s recommendations are very targeted and could be dangerous for our pockets :)

    Percival,
    I think the principles above also apply to digital books. I prefer physical books but, of course, there’s nothing wrong with digital books.

    Jehangir,
    I agree with you. Application makes the real difference.

    Jarrod,
    That’s a useful tip. We all should learn to read smarter.

    Steve,
    I hope you can find some good books!

    Brenda,
    That’s a good way to find interesting books.

  • http://www.mikelitman.info Brian

    This is great- After all, the goal of reading is to get as much value as possible.

    Everything in life and business is a “Value for Value Exchange”- Books are no different…

    Thanks for the great ideas

  • KBKeel

    Amazon lists and recommendations are worthless because of so many people using hacking techniques to artificially increase the ratings on their book. They’re totally unreliable sources of information.

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