the Little Red Reviewer

How do you decide what to read next?

Posted on: March 11, 2014

Open Discussion:


We all own a ton of books. And then we buy some more books. And then we borrow from the library or from friends. and then there is netgalley. you might have a few of ARCs sitting on the coffee table.

How do you decide what to read next?  How do you prioritize?


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85 Responses to "How do you decide what to read next?"

I used to have this regular dilemma, but I’ve now figured out quite a simple solution: I read them in order I received them, oldest to newest, that way nothing gets cast aside or lost. :) Hope this helps.

i tried that, but then something I was really excited for would show up, and no way was I gonna slug through a bunch of crap when there’s a Valente, or a Vandermeer, or some such sitting there.

It depends a lot; right now I’ve got a new book list for school and have therefore been deprived of choice. When I don’t have assigned reading, I do draw lists of what to read next – and then read something completely different. (Yeah, lists don’t really work for me…) It’s mostly based on mood. Sometimes I want to read fantasy, sometimes romance, sometimes a classic, and I try to go with that. Usually I have a book in mind by the time I’m finishing the previous one, which is good, because if I don’t, I’m going to spend a day or in a bad case two trying to figure out what it is I want to read! And frankly, that’s time spent not reading and therefore bad.
Tl;dr – mood. Whatever I feel like by the time I finish the previous book.

lists don’t work for me at ALL. i try to put the high priority books on the coffee table, and then yeah, it’s all matter of mood from there. if I feel overwhelmed by the high priority stack i’ll usually go for something that has nothing to do with the books that are staring at me, demanding that I read them.

I’ve lately just picked up Republic of Thieves to avoid all the books that are priority/I haven’t read yet… :P

Library return date is the first decision point with a close second of what I am not able to renew.

After that, I try to read something that’s different from what I just read. If I just finished a fantasy novel, I’ll swing over for some sci-fi. FInish a mystery and move onto urban fantasy.

Renewal via library website is the best thing since sliced bread. Until I realized if someone else put the book on hold I wouldn’t be able to renew it, no matter what.

I need to get better at switching my genres around.

Sometimes I’m on a review deadline or tell a publisher I’ll read the book if they send it to me, those get priority. Otherwise, if I can’t decide to read from a small stack of books (3-6 usually), I’ll place those in front of my wife and she will pick for me. She claims to have a system, but the only element of that system she’s admitted is if she thinks the figure on the figure violates Myke Cole’s trigger discipline rule, she will not select it.

what’s the trigger discipline rule?

Yes, if it’s a book I promised to review (an ARC I pleaded for, or something for SFSignal), it definitely gets priority. Those feel commissioned.

I got a book I was really looking forward to the other day, my husband takes one look at it and says “why are you reading a book with a vampire hunter on the cover?” She is *not* a vampire hunter, it is *not* a vampire book. at least I don’t think so.

I’m probably horrible for saying this, but the cover is a pretty huge factor for me xD

I go from author I like > Friend told me it’s good > cool, evil-looking cover.

I’ll pick up a book from an author I’ve never heard of if it has a good cover.

There are so many amazing books I never would’ve read if not for the awesome designer that made the cover xD

I love it when good cover art catches my eye. Have discovered a lot of new-to-me authors that way.

I always try to read books from publishers first. And I have so many that I end up reading ONLY books from publishers. I only buy books I really really really want to read, so when I deviate from my review pile, it doesn’t really matter which book I pick up next, because they all are books I’m dying to read. I NEVER go to the library, so that isn’t a factor for me.

If I specifically requested the book from the publisher, it gets priority. but i’m at the point now where they just send me whatever book they are promoting, most of which I don’t feel like reading. most of the the ARCs go to ARCycle, the finished copies go to the used bookstore. I’m a super picky reader. if I want to read something, I really, *really* want to read it, and if I don’t? well, I don’t.

I feel guilty that i haven’t been to the library in ages.

I use a variety of methods. I’ve done polls on my blog asking people to recommend which to read next. Another time, I looked through my unread and owned list in Goodreads and alternated between best rated and worst rated. Last time, I just looked through series I’ve started and chose books that continued the series.

I should do one of those “what should I read next” polls. And I’ve certainly done that, looked through my shelves to see series I haven’t finished yet, and then gotten the next book. Ususally turns out to be a good comfort read.

Doing the poll takes the control out of my hands and makes it more of a surprise for me. Not sure if I’d call it more exciting, but it does put a little variety into my reading schedule.

My reading order can depend on if I own the book or it’s checked out of the library. If I own it, I may feel I have more time to get to it while a library book has a due date. A due date looms larger if it’s an e-book checked out to my card number because there is little I can do if the book expires and I have not read it yet (besides either checking it out again or buying it, of course). There are times I’ve kept a library book an extra day or two to finish it since the fine for keeping it is less than the purchase price of the book and I tell myself that I am funding the library to buy more books I might want to read someday.

The pressure of a deadline can also be extended to group reads or ARC copies that have asked for a review within a certain time frame, of course.

And sometimes it can be a mood will strike me. For example, if I feel in the mood for a certain type of genre novel or author based on a recent TV show or movie viewing. I recently watched the pilot for Bosch on Amazon and after seeing it, I pulled out the copy of City of Bones from the to be read pile and enjoyed it. (The series will follow the story of City of Bones as the central arc for season one, I’m told). Other times I may have the best of intentions to read a certain series of books but will sometimes throw in something to break up the pattern a bit and hopefully help me enjoy both the addition and the series a bit more by avoiding burnout.

Of course, there are certain books and authors that are “must read” as soon as I get my grubby paws on a copy of their latest works — Stephen King, Laura Lippman are just two examples of this for me.

I used to joke that the library could put an extra wing on the building funded by my late fees. They need to raise the fines, otherwise slow readers like me will be returning books 5 days late for the rest of time!

Do e-books from the library just disappear off your reader when the due date comes?

The only books I try to schedule are my ARCs, but even then I tend to pick and choose based on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes my regular TBR suffers for it, but it works far better than trying to force myself to read, say, an epic fantasy when I’m in the mood for sci-fi, and so on.

That is exactly why I jump out of the TBR. I can’t force myself to read something that I’m just not in the mood for. that is a recipe for disaster, even if the book is just fine.

Sometimes, it’s my mood. Other times, the cover. There are days I’ll just pick randomly from the pile. The random picking doesn’t always work out though but every once in a while there’s a huge reward. When I’m really stuck, I go to my favorite bloggers and see what they’re recommending.

I discovered Gillian Philip by picking up her book randomly out of a stack of unsolicited ARCs I’d been sent. Best random pick EVER, she’s amazing, and I”m now obsessed with her Rebel Angels series. Didn’t hurt that that first book had one helluva first chapter.

seeing what my favorite bloggers are recommending is a wonderful/horrible idea. wonderful, because I get a good long list of books that look perfect for me, horrible because i get a good long list of books that look perfect for me, and then I go buy them and never make any progress on my TBR! #BrokeButHappy

I stare at my 300 unread novels nicely packed on a shelf and go with whatever appeals at the moment. Perhaps based on a recent review I’ve read of an author I’m frequently thrilled with. If I don’t feel “in the moon in the first 40 pages of that book” I move to another one.

*or an author I’m frequently thrilled with

Though feeling “in the moon” is seemingly not an error ;)

(“In the mood”? “Over the moon”? Let’s have both!)

Childish pedantry aside, yes, this. I was going to say with the exception that I’ve not got quite as many as 300 waiting to go, but once I’ve factored in the kindle it might not be that far off.

Ehh, typing too fast — happens. But yes, I have too many… And no kindle for me.

Last I checked, I haven’t read about a third of the books I own. the kindle just makes that percentage even more embarrassing.

Me 2 in the moon..:)…. staring on an endeless list trying to figure now what?

I usually have a reading list which I fill with way more titles than I can handle, so I can choose from a wide variety to suit whatever mood strikes me. I would say I choose my next read based on a lot of factors, but it mostly comes down to when the book is released (if it’s an ARC I have) and what I’m in the mood for at the time!

I always mean to read the ARCs and recent releases first…. but it never seems to work out that way.

I choose mostly based on mood, and partly according to if I’ve signed up for some challenge or other. I will never be in the mood to read Candide, but I’m signed up for a readalong this month and it turns out to be not as scary as I thought. Oh, plus March is Diana Wynne Jones month, so everybody should be reading her. :)

oooh, Diana Wynne Jones, I love her!

so I guess i need to find a reading challenge for Anna Karenina or The Three Musketeers?

Yep, you do. That is totally how I get through those giant books! And then I am happy I did it because they are always really good.

It is all mood for me. I have two tiers of to-read shelves which I reorganize every once in a while to refresh my memory about what’s on there (which usually just leaves me desperate to read everything at the same time because it is all so exciting) and one shelf is the immediate priority shelf. Add to that my ebook collection, whose size is also become quite perverse. When I finish a book I’ll read a few dust jackets and take whatever strikes me the most. I often have the need to flip flop around a lot. For example, I usually can’t stand to read a series back to back and need bumper books in between to keep my from getting lost in the world forever.

your tiers of to-read shelves sounds similar to my system, except you are way more organized than I am. e-books are so easy to set and forget, but with physical books, they are taking up space and staring at me… so I’m more likely to pick them up.

In January, I plan all my books for the year based on reading challenges I am participating in. I then divide that list up into a monthly schedule, allotting a readable amount of books to each month, with each month containing a diversified mix of genres. So, when I finish a book, I need only check the schedule to see what’s next. (I suspect this method is a bit…..odd.)

you have amazing discipline! it’s like a Netflix queue, but for books! it might be a little odd, but I am still jealous of your ability to stick with a plan.

With 30 hard copy books and over 150 on my Kindle, I tend to go for something different from the one I have just finished. It’s handy to have Good Reads where I list the hard copies so I can attempt to read them in a chronological order (i.e. in the order that I acquired them).

With the Kindle it is far less planned. I just skim through and see what catches my eye

the way you skim your kindle, that’s how I skim my bookshelves. I only have a few e-books, but print copies? yikes, there’s hundreds.

If I’m in a reading challenge, I’ll generally choose from that first. I try to not over-commit to challenges, so I usually have some leeway. If it’s not something from a challenge, it’s usually the next book in one of the twenty-ish series I’ve started but not finished. After that, it’s probably one of the books in the the 100-ish long TBR list.

Or maybe something completely new that struck my fancy. I probably don’t spend more than 30 minutes or so deciding.

i don’t over commit to challenges or read alongs, but I sure do over commit to ARCs that i can get to in a reasonable amount of time. I try to give a book 50 pages to decide if I want to continue or not.

I read whatever I am feeling at the moment. I have refused to run a schedule of any kind, just not my way. IF I am down to two books I may go by release date, but even then I can be distracted by a trip to the library. Or a book deal. Until I am 5% into a book my reading is open to change.

see, this is why I don’t go to the library much anymore. because then I’d just bring home another half dozen books that i wanted to read *right now*. which would derail any attempt at getting through the TBR pile at home.

I usually try to mix it up a bit. If I’ve read a big literary novel, I might turn to a mystery or thriller as a good change of pace. Then I’ll thread in some SF or fantasy and by that time I’ll come back to the literary novel. :)

i need to do more genre jumping like that. but I do seem to jump around in length, if not genre. I’ll read a bunch of novels, then some anthologies, then maybe a novella, then back to novels. Still i’m risking getting burned out on certain types of books.

Sometimes I curl up with a big pile of books in bed and i read the first few pages of each until something grabs me and won’t let me go. And sometimes I know exactly what I want – like comfort food for the brain. And Netgalley and Eidelweiss add to the pile of choices. Hmm….staring longingly at pile of library books.

“and i read the first few pages of each until something grabs me and won’t let me go”

That sounds brilliant, i need to try that! I’ve gone back and forth between one or two books, but grabbing 8 or 10 (or more!) that are completely different and seeing what works the best, sounds fun. Or I could just meander over to my comfort read shelf for a sure thing (that shelf is 50% Steven Brust).

I am a mess with this now! I used to be all so excited to read the next/last book in a series that I would nearly burst something waiting for it to appear. Now, I have so many unfinished series that I should be slapped! I’m like a big kid in a sweet shop. An old fashioned sweet shop with all your favourite sweets that you haven’t seen for donkeys. I’m all like ‘yay, sherbert fountain, oh look, fruit salad, no way there’s pear drops – omg you won’t believe this they’ve got Caramac!!’. Now, you probably haven’t heard of any of those things – but you get the gist! I think I should make a list – but like others say I’m more a read for the mood type of person. I do think I should put my ARCs in order because sometimes I’m on the last minute with them. The only time I really stick to anything is where I have something set. Any sort of blog hop, readalong or event – if I have a schedule I stick to it (it might be within two minutes of the deadline but come hell or high water I stick to it!)
Lynn :D

ha! I love your response, because it is exactly how my brain works! This was why I participated in the Lord of The Rings read along a while ago, i knew it was only way I was going to slug through those books!

Books ARE like candy, I want to taste all of them. but at least with candy you can shove a few jelly beans, a piece of chocolate and a marshmellow in your mouth all at the same time. i can’t read 5 books all at the same time. Actually, that combo of candy sounds gross, now that I think about it!

I don’t feel bad about my unfinished series that I”m reading, so you shouldn’t either. :D

I dread finishing a book. I agonize for an hour or so, pacing in front of the bookshelves, before I finally pick one at random and worry for the first 20 pages or so that I might have chosen a better one.

“worry for the first 20 pages or so that I might have chosen a better one.”

same exact thing happens to me. no matter what I pick up, I know there is probably something better out there.

Library books always get top priority since I have to give them back, while the books I own can wait indefinitely. Other than that, I choose based on how I feel. If I just read a long fantasy epic, I might go for some science fiction to change things up. Or if I just finished a long book, I’ll go for a short one. And if I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction, I’ll read historical fiction or a thriller. I rarely read the same genre back to back and somehow this method has a way of balancing itself out.

Since I seem to like a lot of variety in my reading, and I’m always finding more books to read, I keep a list in a lovely mini journal. It’s not alphabetical or anything, I just add authors as I find them and list all the books in each series I’m interested in, and cross off the ones I’ve read, so I can keep track as I go. I also draw a little symbol next to each author or series so I know what genre it is at a glance, that way I can find whatever kind of book I’m in the mood for (scifi, fantasy, steampunk, vampires, etc). I call it my book book. :)

the blog is a great way for me to keep track of books i’ve read, a little like a mini journal.

I’ve taken so many unfinished (or even unopened) books back to the library, because I just wasn’t in the mood for that title or genre. :(

It completely depends on my mood. Whatever I’m in the mood for, that’s what I’ll read. Any attempt by me to schedule my reading in advance, or set rules for myself to meet, falls apart because I always just end up reading whatever book in my library bag appeals to me the most.

this is pretty much how I am. Mood is everything. Do I want something that’s gonna kick me in the feels? do I want something that’s just a fun easy read? Mood trumps all.

Mostly mood. I have this thing when I start thinking about the next book as soon as I get down to the last 30 pages or so in the current one.
Mood means I sometimes start three or so books at the same time, and then I switch them depending on what I feel like reading.

I read ‘for work’, I suppose. This means I need to review something, or somebody gave me a galley that has a bunch of other people waiting for it.

If it’s due at the library. :)

When I borrow ARCs from my bookseller friend, those do get priority. I know those books are supposed to be in his office…. not in my living room!

Hmm. This has changed a lot as I have gotten more serious about the blog. Now I have something of a flow chart: Review copy and/or project -> Library -> Something from my bookshelf, with a parallel line of TBR book (off any of several TBR lists) -> series I should finish -> new release -> whatever. On the z-axis are questions of gender and ethnicity, since I have been making a point to monitor my consumption of straight, white, Anglo-Saxon males. My mood is the wild card that generally helps whittle down multiple options.
Needless to say, this is a complicated assessment process and takes a fair amount of time. It’s also a reason I have not started actively seeking review copies.

blogging has definitely changed how I choose what to read. I used to read a lot of books from the 80s and older, and now I find I’m drawn towards the new shiny stuff, and I have to actively remind myself to read older titles.

How and when did our assessments and decision making processes become some complicated?

Things for me got more complicated when I realized that people are actually paying attention to the blog. Suddenly I felt responsible! Or something. Also, once I get into something, I tend to get all scholarly about it, do research, learn about the past, etc. (It’s happening right now with baseball, as I teach my son how to play.)
Also, library e-books are nice. They do indeed simply disappear when your loan is up. Good thing too, or I’d never get those stupid 50 Shades sequels off the Kindle.

** groan ** It’s pretty much been said by someone or other already, but I’ll chime in.

the SETUP:
I have three or four thousand books around here, about half of them read. I don’t get ARCs, don’t read e-books. I usually have three or four books on hold at the library. I read SF-F, non-fiction, mystery, pulp fiction reprints, art books, poetry.

If I have a review due, that comes first. Then library books get read. Then books in a series, say a trilogy, which I will read straight through. (I have a lot of trilogies sitting here not completed by the author, and I’m waiting. Do you hear me, Patrick Rothfuss??

Like many others I like to switch genres, mostly between SF, F and mystery. I usually have a couple of books going at once and a short TBR to go to next, but sometimes I just go browse the shelves or look at the catalog (I have all my books cataloged) to see what is missing the “R” next to it. And yes, as others say, mood.

ha ha, is Patrick Rothfuss your bitch? Should I not even mention a certain GRRM? ;)

with such a huge collection, do you get to reread your favorites very often? You are not missing anything by skipping e-books, by the way.

At the moment I use a monthly reading challenge from a Goodreads bookclub. The challenge involves reading 3-8 books to spell out a South African word (either slang, or something from one of the 11 official languages). First, I try to fit in whatever review copies I have for books being published that month. If I need more books, I choose some from my ARC backlog (it’s my goal to reduce that this year!). I might also pick a buzz book, group read, or something I need for a different reading challenge.

I actually didn’t think this system would work for me, but having a plan and the goal of completing the monthly challenge has been fantastic. Before, I used to just try to get to all the review copies for that month, but sometimes that wasn’t structured enough or didn’t give me enough motivation to read what I’d planned.

“reading 3-8 books to spell out a South African word”

That is the coolest thing I have ever heard! and so many languages to choose from… bloggles my mind!

structure is a good thing sometimes. Doesn’t really effect what you can choose from, but certainly helps you narrow it down.

Even with a chart things can go amiss… I can be distracted very easily when the plot is problematic for me.

my problem is i try to finish every book i start. even if the plot or writing or anything else is awful.

That’s always tough. I have two bookshelves full of books I haven’t read yet.
Generally, it does depend on my mood and where I’m going to be reading. I’m not taking a 900 page hardback on the Metro, for example.

So, if I need a paperback for the plane, I’ll go with an author I know I enjoy. The next in a series, perhaps. And I’ll take a book from an author I don’t know. (I find being stuck in an airport for two hours while waiting for your flight to board gives me motivation to stick it out with a book that I might not have otherwise read.)

At home? Sometimes I just close my eyes and grab. Other times I’ll seek out something that’s been on my list for a long time and someone just mentioned.

“I find being stuck in an airport for two hours while waiting for your flight to board gives me motivation to stick it out with a book that I might not have otherwise read”

the same exact thing has happened to me! and then you are stuck on a plane for 2 hours, so you might as well finish the darn book.

I can be drawn in by a cover, but I try to read the first few pages if I can, because I can be quickly turned off. If it’s an eArc, I give it an extra try, but that’s no guarantee that I’ll finish it. The hardest thing for me is the first 50 pages or so: I can be drawn in by an idea, but after those first pages I usually either put it down or feel like a runner, breaking away from the crowd because I’ve found something I’ll get through.

Library books usually get top priority because they have to be returned, and things that I’ve promised to read.

Books I borrow from friends, and things I’ve promised get priority. I like you 50 page rule, I try to do something similar, except for that damn pesky feeling of guilt if i don’t finish something I’ve started.

A lot of variables. Depends on the money flow situation and if the library even has something I really want to read. Depends on what I’m in the mood for or if something that’s on my MUST READ list comes out. If I’m really stumped, the Mrs. and myself have an agreement where we can insist the other read something.

The Mr. and I have tried that agreement on insisting that the other read something, but it usually ends up with a heartfelt “honey, I love you, and I know you loved this book, but it just didn’t work for me”.
if one of us loves something, it’s usually a sure thing that the other won’t care for it.

and I spend way, way too much money on books each month. Way, way too much.

I find it a hard decision at the best of times. I own a few books, I also end up picking up more from a charity shop, and as a manager of a library I have access to quite an extensive collection.

Most of the time it depends on the library return date!!!

When return dates aren’t an issue, it really depends on what’s going on in my life at the time. If I’m really busy then I will want something I can get through fairly quickly e.g. Quick Reads title. Or if I have been playing any PS3 games and I know there are titles on the extended universe I will delve into one of them.

Sometimes the above method will lead me on to reading more of that particular author.

you manage a library? that has got to be dangerous, with all those books at your fingertips, not to mention probably being able to request anything you want….

in fact, that’s probably why I don’t go to the library as much anymore. Interlibrary loan is just dangerous.

It’s pretty simple. I borrow a lot of books from my library so they take priority (especially when someone has reserved them!) over my huge book collection and the titles I have on my Kindle. I then tackle the shortest novels or manga/graphic novels to whittle things down quickly.

I find manga to be a good palate cleanser, they are quick and fun, and satisfying, and there’s always more in the series if it’s something i really connect with.

I have a TBR jar. I put the title of each unread book on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. If I don’t know what to read next, I go to the jar and draw one out. It has been a pretty good method so far especially when I get overwhelmed with how many unread books I have.

that is a damn brilliant idea. so brilliant in fact, that I may need to borrow it!

There’s some complex algothim that I cant figure out. Truthfully, my previous readings lead me to my next book. If i get bogged down with a fantasy, I’ll lean toward SF. If something is to wordy or literary, I’ll go for something commercial. And so on.

If I’m really in a rut, I’ll hit the backlist of an author I know I will like.

One thing I struggle with is review requests. I get a lot of urban fantasy and it just isnt my favorite if given the choice.

I find specific titles from other reviewers, podcasts, and the internet in general. Once I find an author I like, I generally will pick up their next work.

I definitely do that when I’m in a rut – go straight for a comfort read from a author I know I like.

I’ve been getting a ton of epic fantasy lately as review requests, and for a while I was getting a ton of YA stuff. most of it ends up donated somewhere, which is too bad. but I don’t have time to read it, and sometimes I just don’t connect with these titles.

It’s always a tough decision, especially since I’m very bad at saying no and tend to overbook myself, and not just on my blog.

Generally blog tours come first, and then readalongs. Other review copies get a priority, but lately I’ve been trying not to stress out about the quite as much. I tend to alternate between review copies and books that I’ve either bought or are sitting on my shelf, and what I read at any given moment depends on a combination of what I’ve been reading/enjoying lately and my stress level.

I am terrible at saying no. so I want to read this new shiny stuff, but I also want to read all my favorites that have been sitting on my bookshelf whimpering “don’t you love us anymore?”

Exactly! And I still have books that I bought back when Borders was closing that I haven’t read yet.

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