By Heather Nicholson
Coaldale Public Library
I’ve always loved to read but before I became a librarian I didn’t always know what to read. Walking into a bookstore or a library can be overwhelming. Is it any wonder people tend to stick to the same authors they know or pick from the list of the latest bestsellers? It’s not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that there is a whole world of great reading out there if you can figure out a way to find the books that will match your reading tastes. Now that I work in a library, my problem has changed. The list of books I want to read grows much faster than my eyes can possibly scan the pages. I am fortunate my job involves reading book reviews, buying books and talking about books. I know what I like and I can usually find a book I know I’ll enjoy in pretty short order. Patrons often come into the library looking for a book and ask me about my favourite. While I am happy to share that information, not everyone has the same reading tastes, and what might keep me turning the pages may put somebody else to sleep.
Still, if individuals don’t mind me asking a few probing questions about their reading tastes, I’m more than happy to make some suggestions about titles they might appreciate. One method we use is searching for read-alikes. A great tool at our disposal is an online database called Novelist. If you type in the name of almost any author, Novelist will generate a list of authors who write in a similar style or about similar topics. Alternatively, the name of a book may lead to a list of other books on similar topics. You can also access Novelist yourself from the library website. Another consideration in searching for your next great read is appeal factors.
Basically, this means understanding a little about yourself as a reader. Experts have come up with a list of four major elements that draw readers into a story. Most books and authors have a dominant appeal factor and if you can figure out what your major draw is, it can help you select books more effectively. Are you one of those people who pause to savour the beautifully rendered words an author uses to tell a story? Do you like poetry or poetically written novels? If so, you may be someone who reads for language. Look for books described as lyrical, poetic or descriptive. Pick up a book and read a few pages to see if the style of writing captures your attention.
Maybe language is less important than the story itself. If you like a book that is fast-paced and focused on intriguing events, you probably read for plot. Look for books described as action-packed, intense, plot-driven, or page-turners. One clue to finding story-driven books is dialogue. If you open a book and see a lot of short paragraphs punctuated by frequent dialogue there is a good chance it’s a faced-paced story.
If you are drawn into a story by reading about complex and interesting characters, your appeal factor is probably characterization. Stories with a focus on character allow the reader to get to know the characters in detail and create a connection between themselves and the person in the story. Character-driven books are often described as well-developed or multi-dimensional. Book descriptions of character-driven books will focus on the growth or development of the protagonist.
Finally, there are some readers who are drawn to a story because of its well-depicted, atmospheric setting. People who read for setting or place like a book to transport them to another place or time and enjoy detailed descriptions that help the reader imagine themselves in the story. This is a just a brief introduction to the techniques librarians use to help match readers with books. Think about your favourite books and consider whether they have any appeal factors in common. This might help you when you’re looking for your next book.
So next time you feel a bit lost about what to read next — rest assured there are many ways to find your next book: determine what factors appeal to you, discover a similar author through Novelist, or ask us.
There is nothing a librarian loves more than the question, “Can you help me find a good book to read?”