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.
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 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?
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?