on books

So, I like to read. A lot*. And I know that a lot of people reading this blog do too, because I frequently have real-life conversations about the books I’ve just posted about (why don’t you all ever comment? : ) So, I thought I’d write a little about how I find the books that I read, and how I keep track of them.

The main ways I find books are:

  • recommendations from friends & family whose taste I like
  • recommendations from authors whose work I like (many authors keep book logs, write reviews, or mention books they like in interviews. Pay attention.)
  • recommendations from bookstore employees (people who work in bookstores are almost always big readers. If you tell them what you like, they can almost always give you spot on recommendations. I’ve discovered some of my favorite books & authors this way.)
  • Reviews, specifically from The New York Times.
  • mindlessly browsing in local used book stores. In Oakland, Walden Pond Books is my favorite (as well as having been my closest neighborhood bookstore for most of my adult life.) I’ve discovered amazing things completely randomly by reading the backs of book covers while killing time.

So, how do I keep track of all of these books when I hear about them so that I actually read them later? Amazon. Let me say this: I am big, big, big supporter of local book stores. I’m also a big fan of buying books used, because I buy so very many books, and try as I might the library just doesn’t do it for me (I’m a giant believer of the importance of libraries to local communities. But I like to highlight books, fold down pages, re-read, and lend them out. Borrowing just doesn’t really work for me.)

Enter: the Amazon wishlist and my iPhone. Whenever I hear about a book that I want to read, I go into the Amazon app on my iPhone, and add it to my wishlist. Then, whenever I happen to be near a bookstore, and have some time to browse, I can pull up my wishlist, remind myself of what I’ve recently heard about that I want to read, and look for it in the shelves. Win. I do also order books from Amazon – mainly new releases that I’m dying to read so much I can’t wait for them to come out in paperback (if money were no object I would buy everything locally, and in hardcover.)

It’s probably worth noting some of my all-time favorite books while we’re here: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Any other tips for good ways to find books to read? Any books you want to recommend that I read?

*In fact, I often joke that my only non-work related hobbies are reading and my social life. Not really a joke. And I’m not sure how legitimate of a hobby “my social life” is.

posted in books, things I love


  1. Kate
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 09:53 | Permalink

    Yes to keeping a list of books on Amazon, I usually end up ordering from there now as I don’t have a bookstore close, but I love going into a good bookstore and browsing for new titles. My latest book I read which i LOVED was The Leftovers by Tom Perotta, a good story and also an interesting thought exercise.

    Sources for books for me include Vanity Fair magazine when I read it, they have a page at the front with quickie reviews, books I hear discussed in NPR interviews which sound interesting and also looking at other people’s bookshelves.

    Also – a huge yes to hard backs, there is something so nice about sitting down to read one…

  2. Posted January 10, 2012 at 14:48 | Permalink

    My mother-in-law talked me into signing up on goodreads.com — I’m liking that besides keeping my lists (though I totally do the amazon list for easy checking, too) I get updates from my friends about books they’ve read and reviews, and updates from some of my favorite authors

  3. Posted January 12, 2012 at 14:57 | Permalink

    I’m using LibraryThing to keep track of my 100-book challenge this year. The system makes recommendations based on what you’ve already selected, like Amazon, and other LT users can recommend, too. Plus I hit up my friends for ideas (and I find that we often have VERY different tastes, even if we have other things in common).


  4. Sarah
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 20:01 | Permalink

    A month late to this party, but I started using Goodreads a year ago and love it. Similar to Librarything with the important exception of it’s where two separate groups of my friends are. It’s been fun to see how long it takes me to read different books, how I rank books, and which books my friends comment on. Also, more fun to see what my friends are reading than I had expected.

  5. Emily
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 19:30 | Permalink

    I am becoming much more of a reader in my later 20s than ever before. Now only if my bookshelves looked so inspiring!