Daily Archives: November 18, 2009

Don’t just take my word for it.

In case you hadn’t noticed yet, one of the many things we do here at the library is suggest good books to read.  It is laws two and three of the 5 laws of library science (okay, you probably knew that we suggest good books, but did you know we have laws?):  Every book its reader and every reader his book. 

So I want to share with you today some of our secret methods (they’re not really secret, it just sounds more mysterious that way) of finding good book recommendations.  I am really excited about this because I just practiced them on myself and they really worked! 

I had in mind Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and how much I loved it.  At the moment, though, I was in the mood for not-too-heavy fiction perhaps with an Eastern spiritual bent.  Here is what I did:

Method #1:  LibraryThing
LibraryThing is a website where you can keep track of your books, but you don’t have to do that in order to use it for great book suggestions!  You can use their search page to find particular titles or authors, so I looked for Eat, Pray, Love.  On that page, I found tags that I could go back and search, such as spirituality and travel.  I also found both ‘LibraryThing recommendations,’ which are based on other books with the same tags, and ‘member recommendations,’ which individual members can create in their libraries.  I got some good ideas from both lists, including Water for Elephants, by Sarah Gruen, The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, and Enlightenment for Idiots, by Anne Cushman. 

I knew I was on the right track, since I had read and loved those books, but nothing was jumping out at me yet.  So I moved on to:

Method #2:  Goodreads

Yet another web site where you can keep track of your books, and where, like LibraryThing, you can voyeuristically explore people’s libraries.  This time, when I looked up Eat, Pray, Love, I got fascinated with the huge number of reviews of the book.  Member reviews are available on LibraryThing, too, but on Goodreads, you can see how many people liked each review, and even read comments by other members on the individual reviews.  Another plus for Goodreads is that you can immediately click on the Worldcat link to see what libraries own the book!

Somehow, I still wasn’t quite finding what I wanted, until I decided to search for the more obscure title I’ve been reading lately, The Splendor of Recognition, by Swami Shantananda and Peggy Bendet.  The number of people with this in their “bookshelves” was much more manageable, and perhaps because of the picture (I really have no good reason), I clicked on Dana, who had given the book 5 stars.  As I scrolled through Dana’s bookshelf, I again found many good books, but what jumped out at me was Breakfast with Buddha, by Roland Merullo, about a suburban, middle-aged guy who drives his sister’s maroon-robed, smiling guru across the country.  Exactly what I was in the mood to read.

Speaking of mood, I want to share one more method with you before I close.  (I do have more, but we have to keep some secrets, don’t we?) 

Method #3:  Whichbook

Whichbook is very different than LibraryThing and Goodreads in that it is really entirely based on what you feel like reading.  Using your mouse you place a marker on a spectrum between happy and sad; funny and serious; safe and disturbing; expected and unpredictable; larger than life and down to earth; beautiful and disgusting; or six more categories, and then click “go!”  A whole list of recommendations comes up!  Even if you don’t end up with something to read, you can have fun thinking of whether you want to read something conventional or unusual or optimistic or bleak.

So now give it a try!  It worked for me, see if it works for you!

– Kaarin


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