How I Decide What to Read Next

Johnny from sci.casual wrote this on my book reviews from Monday:

You’ve got eclectic tastes – how *do* you answer the question “what should I read next”?

I’m glad he asked that, because it’s a good question, and it requires a longer answer than I prefer to give via comment form.  In the book blogging world, many book bloggers are super organized about this.  It’s common to keep a TBR (to be read) list, and to read and review brand new books from one or two chosen genres.  I admire that organization, but the way I pick what to read next is much more arbitrary.  Here’s the short version — I keep a list on Goodreads, and then I pretty much just read what I want to read.

Here’s What I Like to Read (with examples from my Goodreads TBR)

Genres/types of books I read a lot:

  • Memoirs
  • Realistic YA
  • Fluffy summer novels
  • Literary novels
  • Nonfiction
  • Thrillers
All images from Goodreads 


There’s not necessarily one genre that is my favorite, although if I had to pick it would probably be literary fiction, because of the vast range of stories and styles it encompasses.  But the things that really interest me are how humans interact together and how we process things.  I love reading about other cultures and immigration.  I love languages.  I love realistic portrayals of life, history from an individual’s perspective, and even poetry if individual poems can be taken together to tell a whole story (think Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse).  Truly, stories are my passion — as opposed to small talk, for example.  I can do small talk for awhile, but it doesn’t tell you anything about the person.  It’s what you do because you have to be together, like when your cashier is ringing up your groceries.  But once you get to know a person, you know their stories — the things they’ve done, the people they know, the hobbies and passions and experiences that make them who they are.  That’s substance.  And that’s how I choose books to add to my TBR — if the story sounds interesting and realistic and meaty, I add it.  That’s it.  It’s a bonus if it sounds like it’ll make me think and reconsider my opinions.

But How Do I Choose What to Read Next?

The short answer: I read what’s available.

The long answer:  I don’t like spending a lot of money on books, especially ones I haven’t read yet.  If I don’t like a book, I don’t want to have wasted money on it.  So I do pretty much all my reading through libraries.  I have a library card for every city I’ve lived in.  I grew up going to the library weekly, so I’ve gone through a lot of books.  And if you know how to tap into interlibrary loan, you’re pretty much set up for whatever you want to read.  In the last few years or so, I’ve gotten into borrowing ebooks, because one of the libraries I have a card for has a fantastic selection.  So while I prefer physical books, I’ll take an ebook any day of the week, too.

When I don’t have anything to read, I scroll through my Goodreads list.  I search for titles in the library catalogs to see who has what.  And usually I find one or two books on my list, so I’ll check those out and begin the cycle again.  But, a lot of books I read are fairly new and thus unavailable in libraries yet.  If this happens, I just pick a library book that’s not on my TBR.  And though I’ve slacked off on this a bit recently, I typically have a book or two sitting around that I received through a book review program.  I try to read these in a timely manner, but if it doesn’t sound interesting to me at the moment, I read something else.  My mom always has good recommendations too.

Not a lot of thought goes into what I read next, which is why my review posts can be a mishmash of random books.  I read what I like, and that’s the way it will stay.


  1. I love reading about how other people pick their next read, because my system is, well… not a system really. I look at my shelves and panic, basically, because choosing is HARD. It does seem much more fun than having an organised system and a set TBR, though – but I guess that depends on your own preferences :) I’m a mood reader myself, so I just look at what appeals to me most at that moment. I love your explanation of your process! And I agree wholly about stories; they’re my passion as well. :)

    • Glad you enjoyed this! I used to use your method as a kid when we had tons of books in the house I had never read. Browsing is the best. I have to avoid bookstores now because I browse by mood like you and end up wanting to buy everything!

  2. I love the thought of staying organized and being able to make a check list for books every month, but I’m terrible at sticking to lists. I’m more of a mood reader, so how I decide what to read next depends largely on whatever I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I check out books from the library and end up returning them without reading them because it just wasn’t the right time. Interesting discussion!

  3. It must be nice being organized about finding books to read. I just go to the library and browse the shelves. Since I usually go with my wife or one of my kids, I feel the clock ticking. Under duress I will grab something that I doubt I’ll like and a book I’ve already read. I wind up rereading many books.

    • I hate picking out books under duress. That happens to me a lot with the books I get for free to review — there are always limited copies available so I feel like I have to pick something now! Not fun.

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