Choosing what to read next

At the end of last year, Bill, of The Australian Legend, asked me what seemed a straightforward question – how do you choose what to read next?

I’ve been thinking about my answer since, trying to tune into what is driving my choice of books and I’ve realised that it’s a really difficult question to answer.

There are a number of things at play –

01. Mood – I literally scroll through the covers on my Kindle or glance over the books by my bed and pick. Yes, I’m that fickle.

02. A ‘reading roll’ – this can be positive or negative. For example, I might be loving stories set in the eighties and seek more or I might be over short story collections and need something meatier.

03. Prizes – March and April is dominated by reading the Stella Prize longlist and shortlist and that’s my priority.

04. My TBR stack (and I choose depending on what will tick off reading challenges) – I know some people don’t like reading challenges because they feel restrictive but I find them a useful way of sorting through the TBR and rediscovering books I bought five years ago but haven’t read.

05. ARCs – I’m not terribly efficient with ARCs and can’t quite believe I keep getting given them (but publishers, if you’re reading, I do eventually get to them because I do have a fair case of Reading FOMO).

06. Format – I generally have a hardcopy and an e-book on the go, and sometimes an audiobook as well. When I finish something in those formats, I replace it with the same format.

07. Whim – I ignore all of the above and just pick a book.

As I write this list, I’m thinking that choosing a book seems like a stupidly complex task but in fact I LOVE the anticipation of choosing the next book (it’s like holiday planning, where as much enjoyment is derived from researching your destination as there is in the actual holiday). And although this list appears to be a bunch of hurdles, I mentally scroll through it within seconds… which suggests that 01. and 07. are probably the most important.

Every so often I throw caution to the wind and let blog readers do the picking for me with a poll. There’s also some websites that do the picking for you although I’ve never used these (What Should I Read Next and Which Book)

How do you choose what to read next?

18 responses

  1. I always have a hardcopy and ebook on the go too! I carry them both with me wherever I go, so I can pick one depending on how easy it’s going to be to read it during my free time. 🙂 As far as picking out what to read next, I can never plan that far ahead. I always try to, but then change my mind the second I reach my bookshelf. haha

  2. I’m pleased to have inspired a post and your answer to my question is inconclusive then I guess that is because so is the processes we all use. Audiobooks, I listen to constantly, chosen 10 at a time from the library. I should turn more of them into reviews – using speech to text technology as we have been discussing. I always have one ‘paper’ book on the go, which I will review, chosen from the new books in my TBR, and from older books to fill one of my reviewing streams – C19th, Miles Franklin, and so on.

  3. Your method is pretty much my method. And I also have a hard copy and an e copy on the go; that’s because I never like to leave the house without a book and my Kindle is small enough to fit in my tiny handbag.

  4. I liked your list of ‘how you choose’. I’ve done all of those things. I always have an audio book and a print book going. Sometimes I do a read/listen, especially if I’m wanting to get a book finished for a book group. I do belong to more than one book group, though I don’t always read the books selected for my two group that read regular fiction/non-fiction. Since I moderate the mystery book group, I’m kind of compelled to read everything for that one. Glad to hear that others ‘go down the rabbit hole’ with a type of book or a topic of interest. I do that too. LOL

  5. I’ve been mainly whim based for the last year or two, plus trying to get in a ARC or two (because reader FOMO is real). Though if there’s a lot of work required reading going on (heavy environmental nonfiction), I tend to choose lighter fiction.

  6. I’m a big mood reader, but let things like shortlists, readalongs, cc spins guide some of my choices.
    By mood, I mean not only how I’m feeling (ie comfort read or something challenging & stimulating) but also current passions (ie French revolution) or holiday plans (ie Japan).
    Whim is for ARC’s or that spur of the moment brain surge I get from reading a great review of hearing an amazing customer recommendation….or seeing a pretty cover!

    This year I am trying to find ways to lower my TBR therefore trying to apply whim and mood in that general direction. It’s mostly working 🙂

    • I’m also trying to lower the TBR stack and have found that by making a list of the books in it (it’s a very long list), I ‘browse’ that list to see what jumps out at me when I’m ready for the next book.

  7. I totally agree with you regarding choosing your next read being like holiday planning etc… The process is important and adds to the overall reading experience.

    Personally, I’ve always been very much a mood reader, which is why me and books for review didn’t quite work out. I’m definitely most motivated by mood, and also I’ve come to note, seasons. Although the books I read in spring may not be the same as the ones so and so reads in the same season, however I do find I gravitate to certain types of books at certain times of the year… This is why I now set myself tentative seasonal reading lists.

    Interesting post; loved reading about your process.

  8. I try to have a few books on the go at a time and I always have an idea of what I want to be reading, it’s just working books in so I’m not reading more than one that are too similar to each other. Typically I’m a whim reader, but you’re right – there are still so many other ways to pick a book!

  9. I think I would plump for ‘informed whim’, which also picks up on one or two of your other categories, mood being the main one. Like one of your other commentators, I have found it difficult to be a ‘professional’ reviewer for this reason. But I love to be blown hither and thither by book blogs, library recommendations etc etc – you never know where they might take you! 🙂

  10. Pingback: Random Thoughts: Choosing the next book – What I Think About When I Think About Reading

  11. For every rationale there’s always a number 07. I like to look at something new I’d like to read, not find it in the library, then return with something that seems vaguely related.

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