Choosing a new book can be a big investment. You’re going to put in time getting to know characters, learning their names, their personalities, their stories. You’re going to likely shell out money, whether it’s buying a novel at your local bookstore, or taking the bus to the library. You’re going to offer up your emotions, hopefully because you've picked a book that engulfs your senses and transports you somewhere new within its pages.
It’s a lot to ask of something that usually measures 8 by 5 inches. Whereas a bad movie or TV show may take at most two hours of your life, a book can last weeks or even months (I'm looking at you, George R.R. Martin). So it better be good. (Plus, imagine being stuck on, like, a seven-hour plane ride with one book that you can't get into. THE HORROR.)
So, if you have to make sure you choose the right one, how, exactly, do you do it? It's not as easy as just picking one off the shelf; whether or not you enjoy a book can be actually affected by a long list of surrounding factors. Here are 10 things to consider when choosing your next read.
What Time Of Year Is It?
Winter blues may have you yearning for a reminder of summer days. On the flipside, reading about a cold Russian winter may be less bleak in the summer when the sun stays out past 5 p.m. In short: Choose the setting of your book wisely!
What Are Your Stress Levels Like At The Moment?
Are you in the middle of exams and need some lighter fare to escape with for 20 minutes each night? Or, do you have the mental capacity to travel to Middle Earth for the next three months? If you're a ball of anxiety, stay away from book descriptions with heavier words that I call the "Ds": death, dystopian, depression, and destitute. Things often marketed as "beach reads" might suit you better.
Are You Traveling In The Near Future?
A great way to prepare for trips is to read books set in the location to which you're headed. Search out authors with novels set your destination. Heading to Paris? There are tons of lists about books set in the City of Lights that'll make you eager to get there, for instance. Novels set in specific cities and towns are a great way to learn about cool nooks and crannies that are off the beaten tourist path.
Do You Like To Read Books Before They're Made Into Movies?
So many books are made into movies these days that this is a big question you have to ask yourself before picking up a book. Here's a cheat list to help you know what's coming out on the big screen if you want to read their literary equivalents first!
What’s Your Stance On Spoilers?
When friends stated recommending The Girl on the Train to me as the next Gone Girl, I knew that meant one thing — I needed to read the book before a major plot point was spoiled. The editors of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars even went as far to include a message at the beginning of the book asking readers to not talk about the novel with anyone that hadn’t read it yet. (Also, how enticing is it to read a book that comes with a warning? Scandalous!) But if you can't bear to have a book spoiled, you might want to read the super-popular books fast before you have a chance to learning the big twists accidentally.
Are You Going Through A Phase?
Just like the dinosaur phase you went through from ages 4 through 7, adults also go through phases, too. Have you been binge-watching Orphan Black? There are books to quench your thirst for clones and genetic mutations. If you’ve finished Andy Weir’s The Martian and want more adventures in space, there are tons more recommendations for your out-of-this-world fever. And so on.
Where Are Your Emotions Right Now?
If you’re going through a dark period, now may not be the best time to finally get around to reading The Bell Jar. Similarly, books can pick you up if you need a boost: for instance, there are books can inspire you to kill it at work. Grieving a loved one? Walk 1,100 miles with Cheryl Strayed in Wild. Need a pick me up after a break up? Remind yourself love can come from unlikely places with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Feeling uninspired? Journey through the desert and find your purpose with Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist. A great book that reflects your current emotional state can go a long way in making you feel like you’re not alone in your fears.
Do You Have A TBR List?
Before you add yet another novel to your pile, why don't you check in with the ever-growing list you already have growing and mark off something there first?
Do You Want A Reference?
Sometimes we want a book to help us escape for a few minutes each day and don’t want to have to make yet another decision by picking a title. From your favorite website (wink!), to magazines, to friends IRL, to celebrity friends (I've had some excellent suggestions from my fake bestie Reese Witherspoon and her Instagram account), getting references from other readers can be a great way to find your next title without having to work too hard.
Is It Time To Step Outside Of Your (Reading) Box?
If you find yourself stuck in a reading rut, try something completely outside of your typical picks. You can get references (see No. 9 above), or ask the bookstore staff for a favorite pick. Download an e-book by an author you don’t recognize. Wander into a section of the library you’ve never visited. Ask the person next to you at the coffee shop what she's reading. Do one thing every day that scares you. OK, maybe that last one is a stretch, but you know what I mean. You never know where you may find your new favorite author.