Contrary to the near-constant book FOMO I experience on the daily, every once in a while I’ll admit to finding myself in a literary jam: suddenly, it feels like I’ve read absolutely everything, and I have no idea how to decide what to read next. Despite the number of great books out there — the oldies-but-goodies, and those new titles being published every year, sometimes it’s hard to know how to find a book you’ll love. Maybe you start to feel a little like Rory Gilmore standing outside the Harvard University library: overcome by the simultaneous and mutually exclusive feelings that you’ve read all the books and yet none of the books, and panicked by the idea of having to decide what your next great read will be.
The good news is, you won’t have to stress for long (reading is supposed to be relaxing for a book-lover, after all). There are tons of different ways to find new books you’ll love, and plenty of fellow book-lovers out there who will want to help you in your search.
1Head over to a new indie.
One thing that I love about independent bookstores is that each one tends to have its own, unique vibe. Unlike national chains that stock the exact same content, with the exception of an occasional “local author” shelf, no two indie bookstores are exactly alike. If you’re not a frequenter of the independent bookseller, now might be a great time to expand those literary wings. Or, if you’ve always visited the same bookstore, head over to an indie you’ve never visited before. Independent bookstore owners are passionate about books, and they stock tons of stuff they love. Plus, they’re more likely to feature new, unique, and obscure titles you’ve never heard of before. Your next great read might be only a few blocks away.
2Scroll down to that “Frequently Bought Together” section.
If you’ve fallen prey to the irresistible lure of Amazon Prime, then you’re probably familiar with the “Frequently Bought Together” bar that pops up the second you place a book into your digital shopping cart. And while you might be tempted to scroll right on by, consider taking a moment to see what other titles are hanging out there. The recommendations can actually be surprisingly helpful — often featuring other books by the author you’re buying, or similar titles by other writers.
3Start a book club.
Normally, I recommend those in search of new and exciting books join a book club. Not so in this instance. Deciding what to read next is all about taking charge of your own reading life, so you be the one to take the reins here. Consider starting a book club with a theme (only reading mysteries published in 2017, for example) or a goal (like only reading books that half or more members of you book club have never even heard of before.) Gather together fellow readers whom you know are there for more than just the free wine and snacks — we exist, I promise — and take a leap into the great literary unknown together. You’ll have a blast, guaranteed.
4Join a book club
OK, I know I just said I wasn’t going to recommend joining a book club, but I changed my mind — with one caveat. Give as much thought and deliberation to the book club you join as you do to the books you read. Consider joining a local reading group, filled with members you’ve never met, who will introduce you to books that you and your regular reading company haven’t considered before. Or check out an online book club with a particular aim (like one that only reads feminist romance novels or nonfiction written by women.) There are also book clubs, like those hosted by The Rumpus, that only read not-yet-published titles — guaranteeing you'll be reading something that is both new and awesome.
5Read book reviews — especially those written by writers you love.
Some of my all-time favorite contemporary writers dive into the realm of book reviewer now and again — and if I love what they’ve written themselves, chances are I’m going to love what they’re reading. If you follow your favorite authors on Goodreads, you can receive the reviews of new books they’re advocating for via e-mail. Or checkout the print and/or digital publication Bookforum, which specializes in author interviews and reviews of the latest titles, often written by reviewers who are authors themselves. Just be sure to scan for spoiler alerts, because those are a total bummer.
6Visit What Should I Read Next?.
Simple, free, and you don’t have to join or login (aka: no spam.) What Should I Read Next? invites users to plug in the title of a book or the name of an author you love and voilà, a list of book recommendations is generated, just for you and your preferred reading tastes. And let me tell you, I almost always discover books I've never heard of before here.
7Check out Netgalley.
If you’re a book ‘grammer, influencer, blogger, or other disseminator of all types of bookish love who always seems to be on the prowl for new things to read, consider joining Netgalley. Netgalley is an online service that delivers digital galleys of soon-to-be-published books to your computer or e-reader — and the best part is it’s totally free. Netgalley is not for the casual reader, however. You need to be a professional reader (think: reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or influencer) to join.
8Read something you think you might hate. Or at least a book you wouldn’t normally consider.
I’ll admit it: I am a die-hard loyalist to my preferred genres. At least, until those times I’ve ventured outside my preferred genres, and suddenly discovered a newfound loyalty. Mysteries, thrillers, YA fiction — all things I used to avoid, until I didn’t, and then fell in love. Head-over-heels, make-space-on-the-bookshelves, staying-up-all-night-to-read, can’t-get-enough-of-these-books literary love. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
9Go back to college… sort of.
I don’t think there’s anything unethical to this suggestion, but if you find out there is then perhaps don’t take it. However, as it turns out, tons of college and university English programs share their class syllabi publicly, online. Missing the benefits English 101 had on your bookshelves? Consider snagging some reading recommendations from the syllabus of a recent English class. (Bonus points if you complete some of the assignments too.)
10Work your way through the award-winners.
The National Book Award, the Lambda Literary Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Man Booker Prize, the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Best Translated Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Guardian First Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the American Book Award, the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award… those should be enough to get you started.
11Go digging around Goodreads.
From lists of upcoming books to tons of online communities good for a book rec or two, (or two dozen), Goodreads is a bibliophile’s one stop shop for all things new and exciting in the book industry. This is one website with sidebar ads you’ll actually want to pay attention to. Pro tip: their browse tab has a link for recommendations at the very top. You can't miss it.
12Ask for help, ideally from a professional.
When all else fails, it never hurts to ask for help. Whether you’re heading over to your local library or the personal collection of a bookish bestie, ask someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to reading great books. I love sharing reading recommendations, especially with friends who have different literary tastes than I do — there is no better way to find your next great read than calling up a bookish bud and asking them to hook you up with a book you’d never pick out yourself, but that they know you’ll love.