How to Find a Good Book to Read

Posted on August 23, 2018

by April S

How Do Librarians Find Books to Recommend?

So, when someone walks up to the reference desk and asks – can you help me find something good to read? Where does a librarian even start when there are so many things to consider and books to choose from?

1. We start with a reference interview.

Basically, we ask a lot of questions to determine what someone really likes to read and go from there.

  • What was the last book you read?
  • What did you like about the book?
  • Do you have a favorite author?
  • Do you have a favorite genre?

2. We utilize a lot of online resources for readers’ advisory.

When I’m trying to find information related to a series, author, title or similar reads (aka: read-alikes), I typically use the following:

3. We read a lot of book reviews.

To stay current, or on top of what’s popular, it’s really important to read book reviews to see what the experts are recommending. There are so many great go-to resources that it’s often challenging to keep up with them all. Check out these librarian favorites:

Where does the average person start when they’re trying to find a good book?

Just looking for a good book - Wikimedia Commons

The average person can use some of the same methods as a librarian to find a really good book to read. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is the last book you read?
  • What did you like about the book(s) you enjoyed (i.e., the characters, pace, setting, storyline, tone, or writing style)?
  • Do you gravitate towards certain genres and/or sub-genres?
  • Are you in the mood for a particular subject or theme?

By exploring the books you really like and what you like about them, it will be a little easier to find your next great read.

Using Novelist to Find a Good Book

So, you finished that really engrossing series and don’t know what to read next – sound familiar? Well, you could use Novelist to find similar books. For instance, they offer read-alikes based on titles, authors and series. They also use various appeal factors (or terms) to match up selections with the hopes of matching readers with their next great read.

Exploring Appeal

What do you think of when you hear the word appeal? According to, it means “the power or ability to attract, interest, amuse, or stimulate the mind or emotions.” A signature feature of NoveList is appeal, which basically is like matchmaking between people and books. Appeal factors combine various story elements to help readers find that perfect book based on their preferred style or mood – it’s the “chemistry of readers’ advisory” says Novelist.

Novelist definition:

Appeal is a way of determining why people enjoy the books they read. Some readers already have a good vocabulary for talking about the books they love, while some do better in talking about books they never want to read again – but framing these conversations around appeal is the foundation for helping people find what to read next. NoveList uses appeal terms to augment other data about genre, subject, geographic location and reading level.

Learn More About Appeal Factors:

The Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Appeal (2018 Edition)

Novelist: Finding Books using Appeal

By using the resources above, let’s find a few read-alikes based on a popular book:

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

“Less” by Andrew Sean Greer

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. It received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

Notable Elements
  • Genre: Humorous fiction, literary fiction and satire
  • Characters: Complex
  • Storyline: Character-driven
  • Tone: Bittersweet and Sardonic
  • Writing style: Engaging, lyrical and wordplay-filled
  • Synopsis: Receiving an invitation to his ex-boyfriend’s wedding, Arthur, a failed novelist on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, embarks on an international journey that finds him falling in love, risking his life, reinventing himself, and making connections with the past.

If you enjoyed this book, what should you read next?

Using the “readers’ advisory” resources listed above, I found four similar reads (or read-alikes). Keep in mind, with readers’ advisory recommendations you’re taking a leap of faith. Basically, you’re hoping a book you never heard of before will be interesting, compelling, and/or enjoyable to read.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
This is your life, Harriet Chance! : a novel by Jonathan Evison
Remembrance of things I forgot : a novel by Bob Smith

We hope you find these tips and tools helpful in your next quest to find that perfect book to read. However, if you get stuck along the way, contact one of our awesome librarians – they really enjoy helping with readers’ advisory. And in case you didn’t already know, we have a great readers’ advisory service called “Give 3 Get 3.” Basically, tell us about three titles you really enjoyed and we’ll send you back three more recommendations based on what you tell us.

But wait, there’s more … we also have a variety of book and movie lists on our website you may want to explore.

Photo credit: Photo of man flying next to bookshelf – “Just looking for a book” by Colin Payson via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license.

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