Like every other book-lover I know, I have a huge collection of books I’ve never read. My to-be-read list seems like an infinite loop; for every book I read, I seem to accumulate at least three more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hoarding books for vanity’s sake, I really do want to read them! But in the face of such an overwhelming number of options, how do you decide what to read next?
This is the most truly utilitarian way to decide what to read next: entering all of the contenders into a random selector, or putting them all on slips of paper and drawing them out of the hat. Of course, this takes all of the work out of deciding what to read next, which is a big upside for the (ahem) slightly lazy reader, but you do risk ending up with something you don’t “feel” like reading.
Chronologically by Deadline
If you’re a library user, or a reviewer of new releases, you’re lucky: the books you choose come with built-in deadlines. If you’ve got one book due for return or review in a week, and another due in a month, you can simply pick up the most urgent title. This method comes with a heavy hit of obligation, though, not to mention some gnawing guilt if you don’t quite make it.
A Book Bracket
This is probably the most fun way to decide what to read next! Say you have eight contenders, eight books you just can’t wait to read: put them in to a bracket and play them off against one another, until you find a winner. If it’s, say, Convenience Store Woman up against Daisy Jones And The Six, Convenience Store Woman comes out on top and proceeds to the next round to do battle with the winner of The Handmaid’s Tale and A Man Called Ove. Hey, if it’s good enough for sports tournaments, it’s good enough for bookworms!
If you decide to join a book club, participate in a read-along, or agree to a buddy read, there’s no need to decide what to read next – your choice is made for you! Yes, it’s peer pressure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (despite what your high school health teacher might have taught you). It will lift the weight of decision-making off your shoulders, at least until your choice for book club rolls around…
Bonus: you could go by the calendar to choose what to read next. Pick up books by black authors during Black History Month, a book by a woman for International Women’s Day, queer reads for Pride – it’s a great way to feel connected to what’s going on in the world!
Shaking Things Up
I’m quite partial of deciding what to read next this way: deliberately choosing something completely different to your last read. If I’ve just finished something intensely literary, like Mrs Dalloway, I’m going to turn to something more fun, like The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project. If I’ve just sped through a great memoir, like Me Talk Pretty One Day, I’ll choose something next that I can take my time with, like Crime And Punishment. Choosing what to read next this way ensures you’ll never get bored, and never end up in a re-reading rut.
Okay, this is pretty much the complete opposite to the last suggestion, so pick whichever works best for you. A book flight involves reading a whole lot of books in a row on a similar topic or theme. So if you were, say, really “feeling” true crime at the moment, you might read The Arsonist, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, In Cold Blood, and Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered back-to-back. This method is probably best suited to the obsessive reader, the ones who love to grab on to an idea and not let it go until they’ve shaken it to death.
Go With “The Vibe”
Alright, this is probably the most popular – and most logical, for normal people – way to decide what to read next. Simply check your gut for what you “feel like” reading, and choose a book based on its vibe. I do this from time to time (granted, I scroll through my highly-organised spreadsheet until a title jumps out at me, it’s not exactly loosey-goosey), and it always seems to work out. If you truly don’t know what you feel like reading, then resort to one of the other ways of choosing what to read next, but if you have a strong instinct, you should go with it. You won’t regret it!
How do YOU choose what to read next? Let me know in the comments!