How Do You Discover the Books You Want to Read?

Two-and-a-half-years ago, I took an informal poll to find out how people discover new authors. I posted the following on discussion boards on both Goodreads and Facebook:

It seems as if there are as many ways of discovering books as there are readers, but I’m curious as to how you choose the books you want to read. Do you go by reviews? By recommendations from friends? Because you’re familiar with other works by the author? Do you ever read a book because of an ad you saw? Because of a blog article? Because of a mention on a website such as Goodreads? Do you cruise book stores, libraries, or online sites like Amazon? Do you find them some way I haven’t mentioned, such as gifts, perhaps?

Admittedly, the questions were loaded, but I still got an interesting and probably quite accurate overview:

Favorite authors or previously read authors: 36
Word of mouth: 26
Blog reviews/Book websites: 26
Goodreads/Shelfari: 24
Local bookstores: 21
Amazon/B&N/other online stores: 15
Library: 13
Publisher sites/newsletters: 5
Social networking sites like Facebook: 5
Book Clubs: 5
Author appearances/writing conferences: 5
NY Times bestseller list: 5
Offline reviews: 5
Yard sales/second hand bookstores: 4
Advertising: 3
Saw the movie: 3
Oprah: 1
Free downloads: 1
Gifts: 1

Recently, I posed the questions and got similar responses (though from a much smaller group):

books by favorite authors: 8
recommendations from friends: 5
browsing in bookstores: 4
libraries: 2
imprints (the trade name under which the book is published): 1
newspaper reviews: 1
blog reviews:1
recommendations from Amazon: 1
book clubs: 1

So, even with small independent publishing houses springing up like new forest growth, and self-published books proliferating like elm tree seeds, the means of finding books are still the same. That means, if you are an author looking for a readership, you need to be everyone’s favorite author and have your readers recommend you. An almost impossible task when most people already have their favorite authors.

What about you? How do you discover the books you want to read? Or rather where. (A lot of people said they found books to read by the front cover or the blurb on the back, but I’m more curious as to where they saw the cover.)

9 Responses to “How Do You Discover the Books You Want to Read?”

  1. Classic Says:

    Excellent post 🙂
    I always discover new books by going to the library and, once I have all of my ‘needed’ books for school and personal research, I let myself grab three ‘fun’ books. I just walk along the rows and whatever title seems interesting, or whatever cover catches my eye, I grab and read. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction or what author it is, just if it catches my attention. 🙂

  2. Wenswritings Says:

    It’s the title that will catch my attention and then I read the back or inside cover. I do shop for books at yard sales and second book stores.

  3. ~Sia McKye~ Says:

    I have authors I enjoy reading and I’m always watching for new book releases from them. Honestly? Most of my books from new authors are picked up from blogs. Sometimes I’ll look into a new author from a suggestion from my writing group.

    I get recommendations from places like Amazon based on prior purchases. I’m on Amazon at least once sometimes twice a week for other business so take a look at whats there.


  4. Holly Bonville Says:

    I have pretty much switched over completely to eBooks. I don’t see covers, but do read descriptions. I very rarely buy a book but download the free ones. Budget is an issue.
    I used to go to the library every week, but it was getting harder and harder to find books I hadn’t already read. Finally gave up and bought my first kindle.

  5. sandy Says:

    I used to browse the library, just pick up books with intriguing titles, open at random and if the prose appealed to me, I’d check it out. If I loved the book enough that I thought I’d want to read it again, loan it to friends, etc. I’d go to a bookstore to purchase it. I have some writer friends whom I will name because they are two of my favorite authors: Ita Willen (FKA Ita Jones when she wrote The Grubbag published by Random House in 1972) and Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer, who sometimes recommend titles to me because we share a taste for a particular kind of literary fiction. It was through them that I discovered a couple of my other all time favorite authors: Aharon Apelfeld & Helen Hudson. And then after I retired and moved up to this small town, I started reviewing books for the Boulder Daily Camera and more recently for the online review site: and now I have more books than I can keep up with to read and review. I would like to think that those reviews do have some kind of impact on increasing the readership for the books I review. I only select those books that I believe I will like and then try to include in my reviews the audience I think will also appreciate them. If I read a book that I cannot sincerely review positively I write to the PR person who sent it and let them know I won’t be reviewing it because I don’t see any point in posting a negative review when it is so hard for authors to find their audience already and I do donate the review copy to a local library so other readers might discover it. After all art appreciation is a matter of taste and tastes differ. Also when I am invited to meet with book clubs who select one of my books for discussion I take the opportunity to recommend books by other authors that I think they might appreciate based on their discussion of mine. Knowing how difficult it is to get the word out about our work, I want to help other authors however I can.

  6. Una Tiers Says:

    Interesting post Pat, for the last several weeks, I have downloaded so many Kindle books it will take a while to read them all. Otherwise I stick with my favorite authors.
    Una Tiers

  7. joylene Says:

    Your list about covers it. Except for Book TV. I loved that show. Then we had to downsize our Sat programs and I no longer get it. Which is for the best ‘cuz I was watching WAY TOO MUCH tv. I was hooked on HGTV. It’s amazing how easily I can get distracted when I’m supposed to be writing. Which has nothing to do with your post. Hmm. I should go bake some cookies. I think my sugar count is down.

  8. ClaireMcA Says:

    * Recommendations from fellow reading friends on my literary wavelength
    * Asking people what they are reading
    * Reading my favourite book blogs e.g. dovegreyreader
    * Browsing bookshop for familiar authors, not just those I’ve read, but read about
    * Reading the Saturday Guardian review
    * Mslexia magazine and Granta
    * Newest source, netgalley by genre

  9. sandy Says:

    Just curious. anyone here read/like the work of G. G.Marquez?

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