Books, glorious books! If you're like me, you're finding that safer-at-home time has opened up pockets of the week where actual reading can happen. And now you're casting about to decide what to read next, since let's face it, you're a little out of practice with the art of reading.
Or if you're like the me I want to be, you've been reading books voraciously and have some space on your bedside table or ereader. Either way, you need some inspiration to find your next good book, or your next stack of books.
The thing is, we can't wander the aisles of the bookstore or the library anymore, and online lists feel kind of overwhelming. I find myself wasting my reading time in perusing lists or "you may also like" to decide... what to read.
I was chatting with my friend Emily from The Favor Stylist about just this conundrum. She reeled off several creative ways to narrow down all the choices and spend more time, you know, reading. I was inspired to throw in a couple of ideas of my own, too.
- Your favorite author's favorite books. I never knew this was a thing, but I Googled Neil Gaiman (for example) and "recommended reading" and bam! tons of great suggestions. Obviously, this works best for living authors since Jane Austen isn't really creating reading lists these days. But side note: I did go back and read Samuel Johnson and Fanny Burney because Austen read them in her day. So there's that.
- 50 for 50 challenges. This one's more about making yourself sit down and read, since you're reading as many books as you are years old. You can be all free-spirited, and simply pick one book a week from any list you like, and see if you enjoy it. But for more targeted results, tie this into the next two ideas...
- Books from the year you were born. Just think about the time-warp this gives you! Goodreads has lists for the most popular books each year, which is wonderful fun to explore. I'm definitely going back to read everything from my birth year, if only for an excuse to re-read Judy Blume.
- One book published each year of your life.Talk about a time-warp. I like this one for how you can see how what we read changed over time. Goodreads will be perfect for this, but Wikipedia also has fascinating "year in literature" posts. Take a look at 2002 in Literature, as an example. Love this!
- Ask your friends. Surprisingly, I never did this. Not surprisingly, I'll be doing this now. Zoom book clubs, anyone?
- Book club lists. Speaking of book clubs, you can Google "book club lists" and find a goldmine of suggestions. You'll even find thought-provoking questions about the books and discussion topics in case you want to have actual conversations with actual people. Or just mull the questions in your journal if you're all Zoomed out.
- Movie adaptations. No, I'm not suggesting cheating (no judgment). But looking for movie adaptations can lead to some really interesting book ideas.
- Books about your age group. This is fun not just for fiction, but non-fiction. In fact, Joan Chittister's The Gift of Years stands out as one of my favorite non-fiction books about age and aging.
- Pick a genre you've never read. I never, ever read romance novels, but I think I'll give them a try. Maybe you never read art history, or sci-fi, or medieval literature. Why not choose 2 or 3 and give it a go? You might find a new passion.
- Re-read your high school reading list. Imagine how different To Kill a Mockingbirdand 1984 will look to you now. I'm wondering if I'll finally like Moby Dick, personally. Stranger things have happened, and recently.
- Pick up the Norton Anthologies. Or any anthology. I'm partial to Norton because that's what I studied in college. They give great context for what I'm reading, and lead me concisely through the centuries. I'm currently working my way back through the first volume of the Anthology of English Literature, and have rediscovered all kinds of fascinating tidbits. (For example, you know that scene in the Lord of the Rings movie, with King Theoden reciting "Where is the Horse and the Rider"? Directly inspired by an Old English poem that'll give you chills, it's so good.)
- Books that support who you are, right now. Maybe it's books about self-care, or entrepreneurship, or indoor gardening, or smart women doing good things. If mindfulness or creativity are on your list, I've got a few suggestions here. Reinforce your best self with a stack of inspiration.
- Books that support your dreams. What a lovely time to indulge in armchair travel, home decor visions, or self-exploration. I've always loved dipping into Peter Mayle's charming stories of living abroad, but maybe you can suggest some others for me to try?
- Books by your favorite authors, about to be released. This would be a wonderful way to support your favorites, by buying their books outright as soon as they're released. If you can afford this, you'll be giving them meaningful support.
- View live readings online. Authors have moved online, since they can't do in-person book events. You can listen in and discover your next favorite author without taking off your pajamas. FTW.
- Books about a place you've never been. Not quite armchair travel here, although it can start there. You could dig into Irish literature, or South African fiction, or stories of China through the centuries. Where have you never been that feels exotic, intriguing, or simply unknown to you?
- Books about people you wish you'd met. There's no shortage of memoirs to engross you, but also consider historical figures. I found fascinating contrasts in how 13th-century Eleanor of Castile was depicted in her various biographies, for example. When I'd read my fill, I sifted the stories to choose my favorite viewpoint.
- Books about an event. I don't know about you, but my high school history classes all stopped at World War II. It was like everything after 1945 simply didn't exist. So I've got the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and a whole bunch of modern history to explore from different viewpoints. Or maybe I'll just dig into Teapot Dome scandal, or the Irish famine, or the Russian revolution...
Okay, I just realized that I may not have narrowed things down as much as I thought. I'm going to need a bigger bedside table.
So how will you choose your next book? Give me some suggestions in the comments, or tag @smallcompanyartworks on Instagram!