A few weeks ago a reader asked me to write a blog post on how to choose which books to read. I replied to her that I can’t really give advice on that topic because it’s choosing what to read is such a personal process. Everyone has an individual taste and likest to read different kinds of books and I don’t feel like I’m in the position to tell anyone how to choose their reading.
However, this request insipired me to write a piece on how I choose which books to read. Even though I feel like I cannot give universal advice on this topic I can still share how I pick what to read and which factors I take into consideration.
The most basic distinction between the books I’m reading is probably the difference between fun reads and obligatory reading. Because I did my bachelor’s degree in literary and cultural studies I always had to read a lot of theoretical and fictional texts for my classes. I’m also part of a book club in which we decide as a group what we want to read. So my university and book club reads are obligatory reading choices on which I only have limited influence.
What kind of a reader are you?
There are readers who plan their TBR (to be read) very thoroughly and know exactly which books they want to read in which order. I’m not one of them. I’m a more spontaneous reader. I already have so many obligatory reads for my studies and my book club that I don’t want to limit or restrict my reading any further. Instead I spontaneously choose which books to read.
Yes, I sometimes post about which books I’d like to read in a month (here’s my selection for September). But I never really stick to these plans. I’m usually not a spontaneous person at all but when it comes to reading I like spontaneously picking whatever I’m in the mood for.
For example: At the moment I’m neglecting all my September plans and my current reader in favour of my recently rediscovered audiobook obsession and the discovery that there are lots of audiobooks on Spotify.
Choosing by genre or author
I mostly choose which books to read by genre. As a teenager and child I used to read a wide variety of different genres from thrillers to classics to fantasy or historical fiction but in the past few years I’ve mostly focused on a few specific types of books.
Nowadays my favourite genres are classics, political nonfiction (preferably about feminism, racism or sustainability) and feminist books. I’d say most of my reads fit in somewhere with those genres although there are also others sneaking in sometimes like last month when I relistened to a childhood favourite.
Occasionally I also choose which books to read by the author who wrote them. There are also some authors whose books and writing I really appreciate. Two examples are Irmgard Keun and Françoise Sagan who both write very beautiful and interesting novels. This year I also discovered Chanel Miller and Chinua Achebe from whom I’d love to read more books.
Books recommended by others
Books recommended by other people also play a huge factor in which books I choose to read. Before joining the bookstagram community the main inspiration of my reading choices were the media (namely feminist magazines and a culture focused broadcaster I like to listen to), my classes on literature and culture and the (very eurocentric and male) literary canon.
When I was a teenager and really got into literature and classics I also read pages and pages of Wikipedia on literary periods or important writers. I don’t remember much of it now but it made me discover a lot of 19th century British literature as books by Oscar Wilde, the Brontë sisters or gothic novels. So this habit also influenced my reading a lot back then.
Now bookstagram is also a huge source of inspiration when it comes to which books I read. I love that it inspires me to read more geographically diverse and that it brings book to my attention that I would’ve normally missed out on. I still doubt that I’ll read any romance novels or thrillers soon but I’ve definitely discovered some amazing books and authors on there.
In the end it all depends
In the end, when it comes down to why I choose which books to read it all depends. It depends on my mood, on what’s available, on which book crosses my path at the library, in a class or on social media.
Yes, I do have an incredibly long list of books that I would like to read but in the end which books I choose to read really depends on a variety of different factors that influence me and my decision making process.
How do you choose which books to read?