So Many Books, So Little Time!

So a friend of mine who reads this blog reached out to me recently in response to one of my posts about books and asked this great question:  "You go through so many books! How do you hear about new books and do you get most from, the library or you have an audio subscription? Maybe that would be a good blog post to say how you learn about books and how you access them, and if you've already done that - nevermind!"

A picture of Burgess Meredith in a Twilight Zone Episode on stairs surrounded by books.
Twilight Zone Episode: Time Enough At Last
Featuring Burgess Meredith
And well, I don't think I have actually done a post about this, so I am thankful for the idea (Sidebar:  I am always interested in recommendations for blog posts; I'm always looking for new ideas).  

Where do you get your books and audiobooks?

I'll deal with this question first because it's easy (that is, to answer). 

Audiobooks always come from three places.

  1. My editors for Audiofile Magazine and Publisher's Weekly send me some each month.
  2. I regularly get them through the library's physical and digital audiobook collections.
  3. I get them from Audible subscription (2 a month) or occasional sales.  

Books primarily will always first come from the library and only after I have read it, will I decide to buy it (that is if it belongs in my personal library).  I do occasionally pick up a book at a used bookstore (in fact, when traveling that's usually my weakness: find an interesting used book from a bookstore; that's my souvenir).  I rarely buy books brand new, especially if I haven't read them.  For several years that lead me to ending up with bins of "To Be Read" books that came with me through a few moves.  Instead, all books I'm interested in, I put on different categorized Amazon wishlists.  

How do you hear about new books?

This one is much more complex, but let's take a stab at it.  

Recommendation features

Maybe it's because I've been ordering on Amazon since 1998 (I just looked at my first order and I really think that may need to be it's own post--seriously, it's such a hodgepodge), but I find the recommending features on Amazon and Audible to be extremely useful in finding books that I may like (given that in totality, I have bought thousands of books, DVDs, audiobooks, graphic novels, music CDs, etc--my guess is Amazon knows me better than anyone--including myself).  I would say that this feature definitely accounts for a serious chunk of how I find new books.   

Alerts on Authors

There are some authors who I will want (or need) to read their new work, no matter what and want to know when I can expect the next.  In the realm of comics, Robert Kirkman and Jeff Lemire hold this prestigious place and so I have Amazon Alerts on these authors.  There are nonfiction authors as well such as Michelle Alexander, Carol Anderson, BrenĂ© Brown, Nicholas Carr, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barbara Ehrenreich, Christopher Emdin, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Jeff Jarvis, Steven Johnson, Ibram X. Kendi, Jane McGonigal, Steven Pinker.   

This may be an extension of the next but I also make sure to subscribe to newsletters by those authors that have an active website and newsletter as that might give me a heads up to their forthcoming works (and if possible, request to review them from my editors).  

Newsletters

Burgess Meredith in a Twilight Zone episode, sitting on stairs reading a book.
Twilight Zone Episode: Time Enough At Last
Featuring Burgess Meredith
A major source of book recommendations is from many of the newsletters or blogs that I subscribe to (usually via email).  There are some amazing places out there to check out.  


  • Audiofile Magazine Blog:  Also another great source for finding new books, besides the ones I'm reviewing (Note: I review for Audiofile Magazine).  
  • Brookline Booksmith:  A local and highly popular independent bookstore that has many established author-events.  The newsletter is a must!
  • Bryan Alexander:  This gentleman puts out a fascinating blog about education and technology and it is a pure pleasure to read.  On occasion, he throws out book recommendations and also does a virtual book club.  
  • Electric Literature:  More literature and diverse in its coverage, the essays and reviews give me a lot of different books to add onto the every-growing "TBR" list.  
  • Joshua Kim:  Josh is an active blogger on Inside Higher Ed and in fact, recently featured me in one of his blog posts.  I love to read his blog posts as he's often reviewing and recommending books that focus on the intersection of higher education, technology, and learning.  
  • Public Books:  I really love this newsletter as they are often hitting timely, critical, and meaningful books that are in many ways, engaged in public discourse about civic society.  They also do many open-source syllabuses on important issues of the day.  
  • Read It Forward:  A newsletter that often has great listicles of book recommendations on particular topics or concepts.  
  • Tor.Com:  The newsletter of Tor, a publisher of science-fiction and fantasy; they often feature their books as well as themed-listicles that capture many of the classics or hidden gems that are worth checking out.  
  • Unbound Worlds:  Focused on science-fiction and fantasy, this newsletter usually has a mixture of recommendations, retrospectives, and interviews.  
  • Waltham Public Library:  One of my local libraries has a great list of recommendations and new additions to the library, which is often useful for seeing what's coming out.
  • Wowbrary:  A weekly newsletter of book recommendations that comes out through one of the libraries that I belong to (yes, I belong to a few).  

Social Media

There is, of course, social media, which I spend plenty of time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.  And I stumble upon a great many articles, authors, and discussions about past, present, and future books--to which my first action is to search for the book on Amazon and Audible (giving preference to Audible but disappointedly accepting if it is  only available as a text) and promptly add it to a wishlist.  

I have to say this happens by circumstance and not so much actively seeking out.  Since I actively curate whom I follow on Twitter actively, it's quite an eclectic mix and that brings with it some great (but random) introductions to books.  

Recommendations from people I know

Thoughtful recommendations from people I know (in person or via social media) can strongly sway me.  They have to be intentional recommendations though in one of two ways.  

  1. The person recommending is clear about what the book is about and why it is important beyond a superficial endorsement.  That is, I don't necessarily pay attention if I'm just told: "the book is great".  I need to know why it is great.
  2. The person recommending the book is specifically telling me I need to read it because they know enough about me, my reading/listening habits, and my particular interests in life.  

A good example of the latter is a friend of mine had told me about The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin and since we always nerded out about authors of color and science-fiction/fantasy, when he said, "You need to stop everything right now and read the fucking books!"  I promptly listened because he correctly knew I would love them.  

There you have it--those are the major ways that I come across and stay on top of what books are out there.  I hope it has provided you with some useful places to explore or ideas about how to find new books.  I think my next post on this, I might discuss a bit about how I choose which books to read and maybe another post on how I choose what books to keep and what books not to keep--after all, if I'm reading 200 books a year, my bookshelves are only so big.  

What about you?  How do you find new books to read?  What are some of your favorite places to find out about new books?  Do you have a favorite website or newsletter?  Is there a person on social media that you go to for all your recommendations?  Share all your thoughts via the comments below, via email, or on social media.  If I get enough responses, I'll do a follow-up post!




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