How do I select a book?

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

Calling up the last five books I read: a fairy-tale satire, a non-fiction Malcolm’s book, a science book on sleeping, a science book about hypothetical questions, and a self-help book, you might wonder how I select my next book every time. You think my book choice is random. Bingo! I don’t plan what book I read next, and simply pick one from a stack of books I purchased early on. I don’t care about the order of books; however, I do linger for hours online as well as in bookstores to pick books for my collection in which there are currently 25 unread books. Here, I will share with you where my book list comes from.

1. Read whatever you find appealing

While it probably sounds ridiculous to start with this advice, I genuinely mean it. Whatever you find attractive can be the title, the font of the title, the author, its cover, or its color. This is the first advice I propose to someone new but eager to start his/her reading habit. Like the feeling when you see someone for the first time and fall in love with him/her from the first sight, I believe in the first impression which triggered by the vibe of the book (read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell to understand further). I think emotion is something you need to establish a new habit. Needless to say, it is just for a start.


2. Use book recommendation sites

Whenever I come across a good-looking book or get recommended by my friends, the first thing I do is looking it up on Goodreads. I don’t remember the reason why I started using this book recommendation app, but Goodreads is a well-built platform with a considerable number of serious readers. The app provides me the book’s summary, rating score, and social feedbacks, which are the three elements I certainly read every time I meet a book for the first time.

I think over time, you will develop a better sense of judging if the book you are looking at is good or not (or fit you or not) just by reading others’ comments and ratings. A high rating does not mean good content or vice versa. However, in my experience, social feedback and rating are two of the most reliable indicators from the public.


3. Ask book-lover friends for recommendations

I have developed a habit of asking my friends whom I know book lovers. You never know, getting advice from different people might bring you to the most valuable books. Many books on my list are recommended by friends and strangers (loving books) I meet online. This is also one of the ways to diversify your booklist, which I will explain in number 6.


4. Refer to famous book-readers’ booklist

Bill Gates’s seasonal book list was the inspiration for my quarter book collection. I don’t pick exactly items on his list because Gates has his taste of what a good book is like, but his recommendation is worth taking into consideration. Two reasons to believe so. First, he is apparently wealthy enough that he is not likely to advertise for a book; he recommends it because he likes it. Second, books that impress a first-class entrepreneur like Bill Gates are usually better than average. Barack Obama is another person whose booklist never stops inspiring me.


5. Follow book-lover influencers

You can follow me. Yes, I love books, and I am a mini-book advocate. (haha)

If you are my friend, odds are you find me one of the lousy people on social media posting about books every day. Good or bad, I am doing it out of my genuine interest in reading books and spreading the habit of reading books. I follow many famous serious book-reading influencers on Instagram, and it lights up my virtual space every day with new book recommendations and inspiring quotes.


6. Diversify genres on your reading list

If you are a med professional, you will most likely read medical books. If you are a mechanical engineer, you will probably find machinery-related books stunning. Me either. At the very beginning of this journey, I started with thrilling novels, Dan Brown’s stories, which are amazing. However, the more I read, the more I realize an interconnected network of knowledge across all academic disciplines, genres, or original languages. I think it is never a waste to start looking at fields you had no interest at first. Also, I have this strong belief that a single domain of knowledge is not enough in the world where, like it or not, manual jobs/ repeated jobs will entirely be replaced by robots henceforth. I see it happening in no more than ten years. Positions left for a decent salary are based on creativity, which will not come out of thin air; creativity is built on a collection of diversified knowledge. I might not have persuaded you, so I recommend you to read a book called Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal and a book (I forgot the name) by Malcolm Gladwell.


7. Visit local bookstores

I have this habit of looking at Goodreads for information on new books instead of social media or stopping by local bookstores every week. To tell the truth, I rarely buy books there, though, only to see and get the inspiration. For those living in Tokyo, I often visit Maruzen bookstore, where they have a vast collection of foreign books. I get inspired and motivated every time.


8. TED-talks

Watching TED talks is not what I often do because I like to dive deeper into a topic by reading 200-300-page books. However, I sometimes find it helpful in spotting inspiring authors who oftentimes talk about their researches in public events like TED talks. Mathew Walker is one of the authors who made me want to read Why We Sleep, which turns out to be a gem. I don’t spend time browsing all good TED-talk speakers, but I do take a look if it appears on my Facebook newsfeed.


And

Every one of you has your way of selecting a book, and some are better than others. I will be pleased if you share them with me.

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