book recommendations

I decided to start a book club recently, in an attempt to avoid hibernating all winter with my Netflix streaming addiction. I'm beginning to plan our first meeting and I'm grappling with a lot of tough questions: What will our club be called? Should we all wear sweaters with patches on the elbows? What snacks should I serve?  The one detail that's proving to be the most tricky is possibly the most important: What books should we read? It's a lot of pressure to chose a book for all your friends to read. What if you chose something terrible everyone hates? We're only meeting once a month, so I don't want to waste everyone's time with a lackluster book. 

As I do with all my problems, I turned to the internet for advice. There are a ton of sites dedicated to helping you decide what books to read. Here are my impressions of a few:

GoodReads: A popular site I've used before, good for finding new books and sharing your opinions on books you've read. GoodReads allows you to connect with your friend's virtual bookshelves and get recommendations from them. They are also accepting votes for the Best of 2013 lists right now, which are the only major book awards decided by readers. 

Your Next Read: Type in a book you like and this site will give you a list of similar books you may  also enjoy. Results seem a little mixed, some searches yield similar books and others seem to just give you random titles. This seems like one step up from Amazon's recommendations for me based on my random search histories. 

What Should I Read Next? : Very similar to Your Next Read, but seems to give even less useful recommendations. Books are tagged with keywords about the book's subject, themes and location. Many of the keywords seem arbitrary- I don't know many people that choose novels based on their location. Just because I like a novel set in Seattle doesn't mean I want to seek out other books set in Seattle...

Whichbook: A rather interesting way to find a new book. Whichbook gives you a choice of gradient scales that you can manipulate based on what you're in the mood to read. The gradient scales cover everything from "Funny" to "Serious", "Larger than Life" to "Down to Earth", and "Easy" to "Demanding".

The Staff Recommends: Created to act as a web version of the staff recommendation cards often seen in bookstores (which are actually often my most trusted sources of recommendations), this site offers a highly curated selection of books from a McSweeney's editor-at-large. Assuming you agree with his taste in books (so far it looks like I do), this is a great resource. The current selection features only 8 titles, much less overwhelming to look through than the thousands of titles offered on the other sites. 

Do you know of any other ways to find great books? Are you old school like me and still go to bookstores to find books?

[library photo via Old House Dreams]

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