How to find new books to read

by on May 23, 2008 at 5:26 am in Books | Permalink

TLV, a loyal MR reader, asks:

I’ve always been curious about how Tyler goes about choosing new books
to read. Most people rely on recommendations from others, but Tyler
seems like someone who generates a lot of recommendations rather than
relying on them. What is your process?

Children, do not try this at home, but here goes: visit Borders every Tuesday to look for new books, go to a local public library every other day and scan the new books section, subscribe to TLS, London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, noting that you should spend more time with the ads than the book reviews, read the blogs Bookslut and Literary Saloon, read the new magazine BookMark (recommended), read the NYT, FT, and Guardian and their books sections, review lots of books on your blog and peruse the numerous review copies you get in the mail (thanks, you mailers and yes I do look at each and every one; keep them coming!). 

It’s rare that I rely on recommendations from other people.

Oh, yes, you should get free shipping on Amazon.com.

sa May 23, 2008 at 5:42 am

well, you kind of do rely on other
people if you do all the above.

bjk May 23, 2008 at 8:27 am

Amazon is the best tool for searching for new books. Pick your topic and then prioritize by date, which turns up all the newly published books.

Bill Harshaw May 23, 2008 at 8:31 am

The big problem is not finding good books to read, but finding what to do with them after they’re read.

Rich May 23, 2008 at 8:41 am

If I did all of those things, there wouldn’t be any time left for reading…

Ted Craig May 23, 2008 at 8:56 am

Don’t forget get a job in academia so reading is considered part of your job.

Carrie May 23, 2008 at 9:08 am

In addition to all the normal ways of picking books, about once a month I go to the Book Nook (used book store) walk down aisles that are of interest to me, close my eyes and walk while running my fingers up and down the books until I stop at one randomly. Then I choose that one or either one to the side. If I’ve read them all, I go again. Crazy I know, but it’s led me to read some great books I never would have picked up otherwise.

Chris May 23, 2008 at 10:00 am

Amazon’s listmania is a great source of books.

I like George Will’s advice not to read any book under a year old — any book worth reading is going to still be so in 12 months time.

liberty May 23, 2008 at 10:07 am

I have found some amazing books using by searching Amazon by name. Because they aren’t under a year old, but instead are used and ~40-75 years old, they are cheap enough to buy blindly based on title.

I know I don’t appropriate the knowledge as I purchase them, but I like having a large collection which allows me to read what I am most in the mood for at the time, and things slowly creep to the front. In the meantime I can often use them for reference without having read them cover-cover.

I don’t like new books much – too much chaff. I rarely buy on recommendation unless I have another reason to believe I will like it. I don’t like fiction, unless it happens to be “great literature” which most great literature (and nearly all fiction) isn’t.

M May 23, 2008 at 10:58 am

I find the books Amazon recomends gets thrown off when I buy books as gifts. Amazon now seems to think I’m a “middle aged woman mystery novel type” after getting some books for my aunt. Also some books seem to be weighted more heavily. I buy one “Cartoon Guide to Statisitics” and suddenly I’m getting the idiots guide to everything under the sun recomended to me.

I’d be nice to be able to turn off the feature if you’re buying a gift or don’t want that book counted.

Jonathan Hohensee May 23, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I find the books Amazon recomends gets thrown off when I buy books as gifts. Amazon now seems to think I’m a “middle aged woman mystery novel type” after getting some books for my aunt. Also some books seem to be weighted more heavily. I buy one “Cartoon Guide to Statisitics” and suddenly I’m getting the idiots guide to everything under the sun recomended to me.

I’d be nice to be able to turn off the feature if you’re buying a gift or don’t want that book counted.
I hate how the order of the recommends is not randomized, and so if I don’t have any activity for a while, I just get the same suggestions over and over. I don’t want to have to dig through about 10 pages to see what I would like based on my purchases from a couple of months ago.
Also, their are a lot of redundant items; if I purchased seasons 1 and 2 of The West Wing, odds are that I would be aware that season 3 of The West Wing exists, but at the same time I don’t want to delete the item from the recommends section, in fear that it would screw up the algorithm and all of a sudden everything West Wing related is now black listed.

Alan Little May 23, 2008 at 2:11 pm

I rely to a large degree on recommendations from Tyler.

tom s. May 23, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Not only what John B Chilton just said.

Also, isn’t loyalty (as in “a loyal MR reader”) contrary to our hosts’ outlook?

baiano May 23, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Wall Street Journal for nonfiction? Yeah, especially in the Op-Ed section.

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