A New Tool for Online Book Recommendations

Just like you, I'm a hopeless bibliophile with a book budget that won't stretch nearly far enough. When I come to the end of the penultimate chapter of whatever I'm reading, my mind starts to wander — the desperate, determined search for the next spine to crack has already begun.

In my university days — many long years ago — there was a used bookstore across the street from my apartment so small and well-stocked that you couldn't swing your book-bag without hitting a literary classic. Ever since the bygone era of that proximate bookshop I've found myself struggling to maintain a steady stream of recommendations. I harass my friends, I confront perfect strangers on the subway, I snoop relentlessly, and I never back down from a bookstore attendant with a ready tongue. But no matter what method I try, I am always overcome by the struggle to choose the right book.

Perhaps you can appreciate my excitement when word of Readgeek, a free, online source for great literary recommendations, spread to my distant corner of the Internet. And if you've ever experienced anything like I have, you probably want to know about it, too.

What Is Readgeek?

These days, if you're looking for recommendations, there are a number of different places you can go, from the vast archive of reading lists available right here at Bustle to public opinion as represented on Twitter, or old standbys like the New York Times Book Review.

What makes Readgeek special is an algorithm that allows the service to learn about your preferences based on your ratings of old reading material. You simply navigate to Readgeek online and begin rating books that you've already read to establish your preferences.

Now, as a lover of forms, questionnaires, and surveys of every kind, I should state that for me, that part was not a hard sell. That said, even if you aren't as enamored of offering up your opinion as I am, I have a hunch that you'll enjoy weighing in on your favorite reading material. Headd to Readgeek, choose to try the service, and select a ranking between 1 and 10 for any of the books presented.

After you've ranked until you've had your fill, click "Get Recommendations" and let the suggestions role in. It's a lot like using Netflix. And, like Netflix, Readgeek has a lot of advantages when compared with more traditional services that offer suggestions such as Amazon or Goodreads — Readgeek suggests books that other users with similar tastes have enjoyed, rather than simply offering up books that are similar to the ones you've already ranked.

Yup, thanks to the benevolent goodness of data, better book recommendations are ours for the taking.

How To Make the Most of Readgeek

I gave it a shot, and the recommendations I received were not bad. I ploughed through 23 titles, ranking them honestly before receiving the above recommendations. I was impressed.

I had already read a number of Readgeek's recommendations — many of them I really enjoyed. There were a few I had never heard of, but there were no books I had already tried and dismissed. Those are impressive results. But I wanted to try more.

So, I jumped back in and rated another 28 titles, securing a new set of recommendations. I liked this list even more: it was more deeper, more accurate, and more thorough. And a bonus: I hadn't already read many of the titles on the second list, either. What that means for you: Keep rating, and feeding Readgeek data, and your recommendations will get better and better.

So, Should You Try It?

All things considered, I got a real kick out of Readgeek, and the next time I'm stuck for a new title to present itself, I'll go back to it. Admittedly, I'll probably chat up my local librarian first. After all, algorithms are grand, but there's nothing that can take the place of a truly personal suggestion.

Image: dixieroadrash/flickr