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How to Find Good Books

Updated on May 6, 2013


Finding a good book to read can be a monumental challenge. With the vast array of genres out there, the hundreds of authors, and thousands of titles, where do you begin? How do you tell the good from the bad? the witty from the non-witty? the humorous from the humorless? Do you just dive right in and hope for the best? or is there a method to all the madness? Just what is it that you should do?

While, to my knowledge, there is no one surefire way to find a good book, there certainly are a few things you can try that will point you in the right direction. Here are a few of them:

"The Jungle Book" tells the story of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves.
"The Jungle Book" tells the story of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves.

Check out the Classics

The classics have earned that title because they have managed to stand the long test of time. Their charm and whimsy pull readers in, capture their hearts and imaginations, and refuse to let them go. Classic books regularly appear on top book lists and school reading lists. They serve as college classroom examples of good writing, and even modern authors draw their inspiration from these older works. You almost can't go wrong in reading one of these. In fact, it's a good a idea to begin your book hunt with the classics.Try hunting up titles at your local library or library book sales. Works by authors such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Anna Sewell ("Black Beauty") are good places to start. Most book stores also carry these titles; some may even take requests. For the older titles that may be more difficult to find in libraries or book stores, visit bidding sites like Ebay. The time and effort you put into searching is totally worth it.

Other Classic Authors: Rudyard Kipling ("The Jungle Books"), William Golding ("Lord of the Flies"), Wilson Rawls ("Where the Red Fern Grows"), J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings"), Richard Adams ("Watership Down"), Lynne Banks ("The Indian in the Cupboard").

Suzanne Collins'  New York Times bestselling book, "The Hunger Games."
Suzanne Collins' New York Times bestselling book, "The Hunger Games."

Look Up What's Popular (or Recommended)

If you find that older books don't quite tickle your fancy, try taking a look at titles that have made 'bestsellers' lists. Companies such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble usually display these on the homepage of their websites. You can also type "bestselling books" or "popular books" in Google Search or Bing.

Don't limit yourself to the web alone. Visit bookstores and libraries, and request a list of books that are currently popular. Take note of the ones that really capture your attention. Write them down, and order them, beginning with the most interesting and ending with the least interesting.

Also consider looking into Newberry award winning books or those that have received an honorable mention. Yes, these are children's books. Yet, you'd be surprised at how entertaining, engaging, and well-written they can be. At 26-years old, I've read and enjoyed quite a few of them myself!

Ask Others

"Read any good books lately?" You can open the door to a cornucopia of good reading options just by asking this simple question. However, don't ask just anyone. Individuals who have read a mere two or three books will only disappoint you with their lack of information. Instead, target friends, family members, or coworkers who you know enjoy reading. Avid readers have a vast amount of knowledge regarding the options that are out there. In other words, they know what's hot and what's not. If you're a college student or still in contact with old English professors, try asking them as well. Professors who have specialized in the fields of writing and literature are often more than happy to offer suggestions.

Read Book Reviews

If you happen to encounter a book that looks promising but you are still not entirely sure you it will meet your expectations, consider reading a few book reviews. Most of the time, reviewers are honest or even quite blunt in their opinions. They'll let you know what to expect before you read by highlighting the pros and cons of a book's content. This includes the plot, characters, settings, and so on. A word of caution here: because reviewers tend to be very detailed in the information they give, be careful not to spoil the book you're thinking about reading. If a review contains a "spoiler warning" consider skipping it. Look for reviews that are more like overviews rather than play by plays. However, if your enjoyment of a book is not affected by knowing all of it's details , go right ahead and read an in-depth review. After all, being told about something as opposed to reading and experiencing it for yourself are two different things.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien.

If there's a Movie, there Might be a Book

Movies aren't always the result of a director's or producer's original ideas. In fact, more often than not, films derive their origins from books. For example, recent movies such as "Life of Pi," "The Hobbit," and "The Hunger Games" are all based on books.Try doing an online search of some of your favorite movies or movies that you've heard were good, and see how many of the results bring up books. Wikipedia itself lists many of these. Read a few of them. After all, if the movie is great, the book is probably even better. People often claim this to be the case. Why? Because movies tend to alter or even completely remove people, places, and events that are found in their book counterparts. So, just because you've seen the movie doesn't mean you won't enjoy reading the book.

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