Nicole asked on my 10 Weekly Goals Post:
Crystal, how do you decide which books to read next? I love your book choices, and am wondering how you make your selections? Is there a webpage you visit, is it through friends’ recommendations, or do you have a book list you follow? -Nicole
Well, truth be told, there’s no scientific reason behind the books I choose to read and the order I read them. I did make a booklist at the beginning of 2011 with 24 books I planned to read this year. I planned this list from books I already owned and had been wanting to read for some time.
The two books per month I’m supposed to read from this booklist are my first reading priorities each month and I try to not allow myself to read much else until I’ve finished (or almost finished!) these. However, since I often read at least five or six books per month, I specifically only planned two books per month so that I could have room to read quite a few other books throughout the year.
Always Be On the Lookout For Good Book Recommendations
Most of the rest of the books I chose based upon suggestions from friends (I’m constantly asking my local friends, “What are you reading right now?” I get lots of great ideas this way!) and from the blogs I read (Catherine from A Spirited Mind posts many great reviews and I’ve found quite a few excellent books based upon her suggestions.) I also occasionally find books I’m interested in on Pinterest or from an email or comment from a reader. Since I love to read, I’ve learned that just keeping my eyes and ears open for good book recommendations pretty much guarantees I have an endless supply of good book ideas.
Keep a Running List
As soon as I find a book I’m interested in reading, I write it down. And, at the next available opportunity (usually that same day), I’ll check out the reviews on Amazon. While these are not always unbiased (some authors get a bunch of their friends to write glowing book reviews for them), you can get a good sense in skimming the reviews as to whether the book is worth reading.
If I’m still interested after reading the reviews and description on Amazon, I check to see if our library has the book. Most of the time, it does, so I go ahead and place a hold on it. Since I recently spent $25 to get a Gold Card membership, I can request unlimited holds–something that comes in very handy at the rate we check out books at our house.
The thing I love about checking out books from the library is that I don’t feel any sort of obligation to have to read the book. If I get it and start skimming through it and realize it’s not what I thought it was, I can just return it to the library, without any guilt. I’d rather spend my time reading high-quality books that I’m going to enjoy and benefit from, instead of feeling obligated to read a mediocre book because I paid for it.
In the cases where our library doesn’t have the book, I’ll check PaperBackSwap to see if it’s available there. If not, and it’s a book I really want, I add it to my Amazon wishlist and then wait for when we have some extra credit from Swagbucks to use toward buying the book.
As books come in from PaperbackSwap, from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, someone sends me a book (companies often send me books in hopes I’ll read and recommend them on my blog), I keep them on a bookshelf in our schoolroom that is just for books I’ve yet to read. As I finish one book, I choose another from this bookshelf to read. When library books I’ve put on hold come in, I make those higher priority since I have to return them in a timely manner (it’s not saving money to check books out from the library if you end up having to pay late fines repeatedly!).
(Pages of notes I took from Organized Simplicity)
The 3-Books-At-A-Time Rule
I try to always have three books going: one that is an easy, highly-interesting read; one that is somewhat business related (about marketing, blogging, writing, growing a business, being a leader, personal finance, etc.); and one that is encouraging and building me up spiritually. I don’t always follow this formula exactly, but that’s what I aim for when choosing what book I’ll read next.
Another thing I’ve implemented this year is to be consistent in finishing books before starting new ones. I used to be the queen of starting books, but was really, really awful about actually finishing a book. I found this to be quite unproductive, since it starts becoming overwhelming and crazy to try to process what you’re reading if you’re reading snippets of 20 different books.
So in 2011, I’ve made it a point to only have three books going at once–in addition to my current devotional book and my current “running” book (I have a spiritually-deep book by the treadmill that I read a few pages out of while I’m doing my pre-run walking warm-up. I’ve been reading really thought-provoking books during this time as I’ve found it then gives me a lot to think about and mull over while running.) Setting a specific boundary on my book-reading has helped me to actually finish many, many more books than I usually do–and I feel like I’ve gleaned a lot more by concentrating and focusing on reading fewer books at a time.
For those who are interested, you can see the books I’ve read so far in 2011 here. You can also read reviews of many of them here. (I’m behind on writing book reviews, but I am hoping to get caught up sometime in the next week!)