Your Next Read?

February 5, 2013 // Web Reading

Where do you get your next read?

Please don’t say the customers-who-bought recommendations via the A-word.

I used to rely on reviews in Publishers Weekly, courtesy of my company’s subscription. For my job, I subscribe to a lot of publishing feeds that point me in good directions. I am also a big fan of browsing bookstore tables to see what jumps out at me. Though I like to give recommendations to friends, I am not a fan of taking recommendations—or worse, taking a loaned copy—from friends. Taking a beloved book from a friend’s hand carries with it quite a bit of obligation—to love the book as much as they do, to read it in a timely fashion. Sometimes it works out for the best, though.

Now it seems like there are more and more sites that help you find a recommendation based on what you like to read.

Our friend, Librarian Amy, shared What Should I Read Next? This site bases its search on a database of its users’ reading lists. When I entered The Secret History by Donna Tartt, it took me to a longish list of books which included near the top an old favorite: Spies by Michael Frayn. But I don’t really see a lot of similarities between the two. Except for “children” and secrets. Searching on John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things, I fail to see the connection between him and Kinky Friedman. So I’m thinking this search is truly just “people who read this also read this.” You have the option to purchase a title here, but it takes you to the A-word. compares itself to’s service in that it is “home of the Book Genome Project,” using “computer-based analysis of written DNA” to help you find books. From what I can tell, this means that it looks at even potentially minor elements of a book and matches it with those same elements in other books. The Great Gatsby, for instance, is distilled to Expressions of Emotion, Suburban Living, Automobiles & Vehicles, and Celebration/Parties, to name a few. It’s hard for me to think of a book like this in these elemental terms. Ditto with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which shows Nonverbal Communication, Vehicles/Rural Travel, Physical Injury/Exertion, among others. (And guess who has a book that shares this DNA: Nora Roberts. Really?)

Today’s launch of offers yet another Recommendations feature. So far, I’ve had some interesting success with the results. Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez pointed me to Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons, which I am intrigued by and added it to my TBR list. Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches pointed me to Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (already read and a little traumatized by), The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (which I’m sorry to say I gave up on when reading a few years back), Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson (read), and Art & Lies by Jeanette Winterson, whom I adore. I consider these results successful. It’s nice too that they offer the chance to read a sample, although I’ve noted a couple search results where the author listed wasn’t correct, despite the correct cover displaying.

And you can place an order through the site…and it doesn’t go through the A-word.

About the author

Amy says, "Wait a minute, I want to finish this chapter."


  1. My recommendations come mostly from Twitter. I follow so many authors, publishers, agents and other book related things that at least once a day I discover something new I want to read. Sometimes enough people will talk about a book (one that I may have normally passed over) that I feel compelled to find out what all the hype is about.

    I’m also guilty of seeing what’s on the Barnes & Noble homepage. They have recommendations based on what I’ve already purchased and they have “Staff Picks” which are clearly just what’s hot right now.

  2. I’m fairly certain that the same database of recommendations, or algorithms, connect both the A-word and What Should I Read Next. I’ve been able to duplicate my results more than once (in my professional opinion*wink*).

    I’d also be curious about the Nora Roberts bit. Since she has 8 million pen names, she’s like the Kevin Bacon of publishing.

    (Similar to you: I made my boss keep our subscription to Library Journal mostly for my own book recommendation needs. )

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