How to Ask for Book Recommendations…So You Find Books You’ll Love

April 11, 2017 Book Recommendations 14

How to Ask for Book Recommendations


Last week, I announced that I would be trying out a personalized book recommendations service for a limited time.

While creating this service, I’ve thought a lot about how to give the best book recommendations possible…which in turn got me thinking about how to ask for book recommendations so you’ll have the best chance of finding a book that fits your personal taste. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts!

Most importantly, know yourself and your reading taste.

The clearer you can be about your reading tastes and preferences, the better book recommendations you will get!

Beyond what books and authors you like and don’t like, pay attention to why you like (or don’t like) a particular book or author. You’ll be surprised at the patterns you’ll find! Beyond knowing you like a certain genre, think about what you like or don’t like about books in that genre. These revelations can then be applied across all genres and help you expand your reading horizons in a more purposeful way.

For example, I’ve had trouble with mysteries and thrillers lately. I’ve figured out it’s because they can seem formulaic after awhile, rely more on plot than writing or style, and generally have “shocking” twists and/or endings that are either A) not surprising or B) so surprising that I roll my eyes at the ridiculousness.

Consider how you feel about key literary elements.

I’ve found that certain characteristics of books are much more important than a book’s topic in determining the right fit.

  • Length
    Are you open to chunky books (more than 400 pages) or do you prefer something short?
  • Plot vs. Style
    Do you need a propulsive plot to love a book or can you also enjoy quieter books that have gorgeous writing? Obviously, it’s ideal to have both, but many books don’t.
  • Likable / Relatable Characters
    Can you enjoy a book that has predominantly dislikable characters or do dislikable characters kill a book for you? Do you have to relate to at least one character to love the book?
  • The Happiness Factor
    Do you like to read books that are light and happy? Or at least end up that way? Do you mind emotional gut-wrenchers and/or books with dark storylines?
  • Humor
    Humor is a tough one, as it’s such a personal thing. Everyone finds different things funny and what one person finds funny, another could find offensive. How do you feel about inappropriate humor? Morbid humor? Gross-out humor? Snarky humor?
  • Endings
    Do you like your endings to resolve all the big questions (or, as I like to call it, “tied up neatly with a bow”)? Or, can you still be satisfied with an ending that leaves things somewhat unresolved?

Figure out what types of “outside of your comfort zone” books you might be willing to try.

I’ve had some good luck venturing outside of my literary fiction comfort zone lately. I’ve read a couple fascinating Science Fiction books and some gorgeous short story collections, both of which are outside of my wheelhouse. I know that I can carefully venture into these two genres for books that come recommended from trusted sources.

I’m also pretty comfortable in the fact that romance novels, fantasy series, and cozy mysteries are probably not going to work for me.

And, the answer to this question for you could very well be none, which is completely fine. But, at least you’ll know the answer!

Keep a record of your reading.

Some readers may know exactly what types of books they like and how they feel about the key literary elements I mentioned above. But, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t!

To get a handle on your personal reading taste, try keeping a record (spreadsheet, journal, scrap paper, whatever works for you!) of the books you like and why you liked them (and do the same for books you don’t like) for a month or two. Look for patterns in your likes and dislikes across books.

What patterns have you noticed in your reading? What book characteristics do you think are important in giving or receiving great book recommendations? 

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14 Responses to “How to Ask for Book Recommendations…So You Find Books You’ll Love”

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yup! And hope so! I’m now categorizing all the books on my spreadsheet based on these categories.

  1. Naomi MacKinnon

    Sometimes people really don’t know what it is they like about books – they just like them. So, this should really be helpful for a lot of people!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Hopefully! And I’m sometimes still guilty of not knowing why I like or don’t like something!

  2. Melinda

    I love this post! I get so many people asking me for book recommendations and then nothing to go on. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to share this post on my FB page!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Thank you so much! And of course you can share it on Facebook – please do!

      I started thinking about this after a couple people asked me for recommendations saying “I like fiction and nonfiction”. Haha.

  3. Catherine

    This is such great advice for any reader!

    At this stage of my reading life, I’m not sure about my patterns. They have definitely changed this year. I’m less patient and, I’ll say it, less interested in white male protagonists. Having said that, if the writing is great, I’ll read almost anything.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      So true about patterns evolving over time! That’s absolutely been the case for me and I now wish I’d included something about that in my post!

  4. Greg

    Great advice. And you know, as much as I think I know my preferences, some of those questions do get me thinking more about what I like (and don’t like) in books. My tastes have changed with blogging and plot vs style and likable characters are two that I go back and forth on.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Totally agree! And certain types of dislikable characters bother me while other types don’t. I think it’s only natural that our tastes evolve.

  5. carrie

    Yes yes and yes! So many people always tell me they love to read, but don’t know how to find books, they know they’ll like. and even when people ask me for recommendations I always ask them what they like to read, and most of the time they don’t know what to tell me. I’m like well you gotta know a little bit about your reading style in order for me to help you!

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