How I find books to read

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Fortuitous encounters

I love second-hand bookstores because I end up picking up books I would not buy new — the titles that I have heard of a few times but don’t find immediately compelling enough. Some of the best books I have read over the last few years have emerged out of these encounters.

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Platforms

NPR’s Book Concierge

This is the best end-of-the-year reading compilation out there. The creators note that they wanted to look at collections books that considered them more as overlapping “Venn diagrams” than linear “lists”. The lovely UX achieves precisely that — the site is filled with a plethora of books and categories without ever being too overwhelming. The only shortcoming is that the collections only go back to 2013, but if you are someone like me who particularly enjoys reading recent work, this is perfect for you.

What Should I Read Next

Self-explanatory — the virtual equivalent of looking at books that occupy the same shelf in a store. I like this kind of “recommendation algorithm” because it is much more transparent than Goodreads and leaves me with a lot of agency in picking what kind of books I want to look into. (I don’t have an account on this site and just use the barebones recommendation feature).

Recommendations from peers

I have this slightly creepy habit of screenshotting Instagram stories whenever my friends share the books they’re reading. In real life, I like to keep reading lists and ask friends for recommendations for introductory books, especially if their interests are very different from my own.

Course syllabi

While selecting classes to take during college, I was always overwhelmed by the sheer number of interesting things I could potentially learn about. Of course, I graduated having indulged only a fraction of those interests but I do have the syllabi from a lot of the courses I couldn’t take, which include lists of assigned books. Syllabi are useful because they are likely to have slightly denser or niche books that would not make it to bestsellers list, but are nonetheless written by incredibly qualified people.

GatesNotes

This is Bill Gates book club! The books he selects definitely tend to be of the ‘intellectual but not too academic’ genre but I have found it helpful for pointers to explore new fields that I am less familiar with. The list of books is also relatively small and contained which makes for easy perusal.

r/books

I use this subreddit like I use r/podcasts — to find books in genres I am just discovering. Not all posts are high quality but the people on here are very thoughtful and well-informed.

Goodreads

I added this here only to note that I do NOT use Goodreads to find books. Maybe I don’t update it enough with books I actually like, but my feed is never interesting and mostly populated with mass-market business and popular psychology books of a fairly shallow variety. It is also frustrating to not be able to tell what the algorithm is optimising for. I like to have more agency in deciding what to read next and prefer old-school reading lists or NPR’s Book Concierge over Goodreads.

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Reading Lists

I love reading lists that are not put together by publishing or media outlets (which often end up regurgitating bestsellers lists grouped by theme). I often come across these on Twitter and will try to update this section regularly! (These are obviously biased by my own interests, I am sure there fantastic lists out there on topics that fall out of my range!)

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