My Favorite Sources for Book Recommendations

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Last week, one of my colleagues asked me how I find and decide what library books to get. Her question made me think not just about work but my personal reading life too.

Sometimes I’m baffled by the idea that certain readers struggle to find their next book. I feel as if I’m drowning in books some days, so the thought of someone not knowing what to read next is hard for me to wrap my head around.

Those thoughts sparked the idea behind today’s post, which is a list of my favorite book recommendation sources. I include sources I use for school libraries and my own reading. I hope this is helpful and that you find a new-to-you resource. Let’s jump in!

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Any New Books

I’ve been a longtime subscriber of Any New Books newsletters. Each week, I get emails listing that week’s most popular book releases. You can sign up for whatever genres interest you most. I receive lists for teens, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, history, and spirituality. These newsletters are an excellent resource, especially if you’re doing work that requires you to pay attention to the latest book releases.

Book Marks

Book Marks is a site from Lit Hub, another tremendous literary resource. On Book Marks, readers see aggregated book reviews for the newest releases. I get an email from the site every Friday that shows me the top-reviewed fiction and nonfiction releases of the week. I always find at least one title on either list to add to my “to be read” list (as if that needs to get any longer).

Book Riot

Book Riot is one of my favorite sources for teen book lists and recommendations. They have book lists for every topic you could imagine. Book Riot shares the latest books but also highlights backlist titles, which is helpful for me to make sure I haven’t missed any big YA releases.

Instagram

One of the good things about social media is the celebration and attention its users give to books. Readers can find photos, videos, and recommendations for niche interests with just a couple of clicks. Here are some of my favorite literary Instagram accounts:

The Millions

Twice a year (January and July), The Millions shares its most anticipated books preview. I look forward to these lists because I always end up with a ton of recommendations. The Millions focuses primarily on literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, both of which I love. The site also offers book lists and well-written essays.

Modern Mrs. Darcy

Anne Bogel is probably the most famous book blogger out there. (She also hosts the delightful podcast, What Should I Read Next.) On Modern Mrs. Darcy, a blog I’ve followed for many years, Anne shares all kinds of bookish goodness. Her summer reading guides are always packed with exciting titles, and I also love her book lists

My Local Indie

There are few things in this world I love more than a bookstore, and I’m lucky to have some good ones in my city. Auntie’s Bookstore is my favorite and the one where I shop the most. Their inventory includes titles and authors I’ve never heard about before, which makes shopping at Auntie’s extra exciting. I always make sure to stop by their staff picks section on each trip. Auntie’s also has an excellent Instagram account. Each Tuesday, they show off the newest arrivals for adults, teens, and kids. These photos help me remember which books I want to read and which ones I should get for my school libraries.

NoveList

NoveList is a subscription database you might have access to through your local public library. It’s like the best bookish search engine out there. You can search for titles by unique genres, story elements, author characteristics, etc. I use NoveList to search for the latest YA releases. I can see when a book was published, read multiple reviews of it, and save it to a list so I’ll remember to purchase it. During last year’s remote learning, I led a virtual training for my coworkers on using NoveList because I love it so much.

Social Justice Books

Last school year, I completed diversity audits of the high school libraries where I work. This was the same year when my school district passed an equity resolution, promising to provide a more inclusive learning environment for all students. As I searched for diverse books to help support that resolution, Social Justice Books was a site I turned to repeatedly. They have all kinds of book lists and sort titles by grade level, making it quick and easy to find books for teens.

Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

YALSA is the best resource for finding good YA titles. They have much to offer, including book lists, book awards, quick picks for reluctant readers, and helpful articles. It doesn’t hurt that their acronym sounds like “salsa,” one of my favorite things in the entire world.


What sites should I add to my list? Where do you get book recommendations? Let me know!

Naming What Matters for My Home Library

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My book collection has become a situation. Shortly after I started doing library work professionally, I decided I wanted a personal library. I’m privileged to have always owned books, but I wanted more than a few books on a shelf. I wanted a collection, something I’d build slowly over time. I have that now, and it could be going better. 

For one thing, I’ve outgrown my bookshelves. When that used to happen, I’d just buy another bookshelf from Target and call it good. But now there’s no room for more bookshelves. Hence, the situation. 

One of my favorite people on the internet is Kendra Adachi, a.k.a the Lazy Genius. I never miss her podcast, and I love her book, The Lazy Genius Way. Her work always helps me clarify my thinking, so I re-listened to a recent episode of her podcast called What to Do Before Reorganizing Your Home. In true Kendra fashion, she said something that resonates deeply: start by naming what matters

  • What matters to me about having a well-organized home library?
  • What matters about having a collection where I can find the book I want without moving a gigantic, wobbly tower to get to it?
  • What matters to me about having a home library at all?

These are some of the questions I’ll be thinking about in this post as I design a plan to conquer my bookish clutter. (I wrote about this in 2018 too but have apparently ignored my own advice.) I was going to make a Word doc and work through this project privately, but I thought this post might help those of you who are facing bodily harm due to the stack of hardbacks on your nightstand that looks more like a Jenga tower than literature. Let’s dive in.

Problem #1: I don’t have enough space for the books I have
Solution: Get rid of some books. 
Question: What matters about the books I choose to own?

Here’s what I came up with as I thought about what books and types of books I want to own rather than borrow: 

  • I want to own books by authors whose work I value deeply
  • I want to own books I know I’ll want to write in or underline
  • I want to own books I know I’ll return to over and over again
  • I want to own books that are part of special series I collect
  • I want to own books that are pretty because aesthetics matter to me
  • I want to own books that I’m excited to read right now

That last bullet point is probably the most important one for me as I embark on getting rid of books. I’ve had some titles on my shelves for years that I haven’t picked up yet. When I run into those books at one of my school libraries, I have no hesitation discarding them because books that don’t circulate don’t provide much value to a library. I need to take that approach with my own collection, too.

Problem #2: My books are disorganized. 
Solution: Organize my books in a way that makes sense to me. 
Question: What matters to you about an organization structure? 

Because I’ve been doing library work for nearly sixteen years, I can’t help but want my home library to have a strict structure. I like my fiction shelved alphabetically, and I like my nonfiction divided by subject. Have I briefly considered putting Dewey decimal numbers on my nonfiction books? Maybe, but I don’t want to talk about that right now. Organization matters because it saves me time finding books and putting them away. 

(Dear People Who Shelve Books By Color, 

Your shelves look so pretty, but I just cannot.

Love,
Andrea)

Problem #3: I buy books a lot faster than I can read them.
Solution: Buy fewer books. (Maybe stop checking out 17 library books at a time, too.)
Question: What matters about how I spend my money? 

Of the three main issues I have with my home library, this issue bothers me the least. I don’t mind having many unread books on my shelves, but I know I need to be more thoughtful about spending my money. Years ago, I’d often visit thrift stores and pick up any cheap books that looked even mildly interesting. I’ve become choosier over the years, but I still have work to do in this area. After thinking about it for a bit, here is what matters to me about the books I choose to purchase: 

  • I want to financially support authors whose work means something to me, especially if that author is a person of color
  • I want to purchase books I want to read, not books I think I should read
  • I want to purchase books I intend on keeping in my collection for a long time
  • I want to focus more on quality than quantity, like buying one new book at my local indie instead of six at a thrift store just because they were cheap

Having a home library matters to me because I love books and I like having them around me. It’s that simple. They’re exciting, comforting, beautiful, and stimulating. My collection brings me joy, but only when it’s contained and not piled up everywhere.

Working through these three main problems has helped me clarify what my next steps to need to be in order to go from a situation to an enjoyable part of my home. I should probably go get started.

Top Five Friday: Where I Buy Books

I have six bookcases, three of which are pretty big. All six are overflowing at the moment (a privilege for which I’m thankful). Despite my crammed and sagging bookshelves, I continue to buy books. Some books are just so pretty, and some books are super cheap, and other books call to me, and I must answer their call or the books will be sad forever. I trust you, dear reader, understand completely. Today I’m sharing my favorite places to buy books in case you too are a hopeless collector.

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BOOK OUTLET

I didn’t know about Book Outlet until about three years ago. When I found out about it, I felt as if I had just entered a new, higher plane of existence. THEY’RE SO CHEAP, YOU GUYS. I’ve found new releases in hardcover for under $5, a few special editions, and some popular paperbacks for less than $2. I appreciate Book Outlet because your money goes so far on their site, but do know they don’t have the selection you’ll find through an ordinary bookseller. Their inventory changes all the time, so this site is best for browsing instead of hunting for something specific.

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LIBRARY BOOK SALES

The greatest library book sale finds I’ve ever stumbled across has to be the Robert Caro LBJ biography set I discovered during a $3 a bag sale. Not only did I get the first three volumes of that set in pristine condition, but I also filled up the rest of my bag for $3 total. Three dollars! As in less than a latte for a bag full of books! Library book sales are your friends. They can be hit and miss, sure, but you can find some absolute gems if your timing is right. One time I cut off the circulation in my arm for a while because I was carrying so many heavy bags of books from the library to my car, but my temporary numbness was totally worth it.

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MY LOCAL INDIE

I love indie bookstores, and I’m lucky to live in a city with a great one. It’s big, has a wonderfully curated selection of new and used books, and is always full of so much beautiful light thanks to all its pretty windows. In addition to books, my indie has a good assortment of magazines, gift items, and beautiful stationery. The staff is friendly, and the displays are always impressive. I know I can find what I’m looking for and am happy to support a local business that brings so much literary goodness to the community.

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THRIFT STORES

When I enter a thrift store, I’m drawn to the book section first thing. I approach feeling like a hunter searching for its prey. There’s excitement in each step as I walk up to the first shelf. Sometimes I score a brand new hardcover for a dollar, and other times I wonder who donated the decade-old computer books and what employee thought someone would actually buy them. But the duds are worth looking through to find the gems. And if outdated technology books are your thing, a thrift store will be your bookish oasis.

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BARNES AND NOBLE

I feel like shopping at Barnes & Noble means that I prefer Fox Books to The Shop Around the Corner, but there’s room in my heart for both the big box store and the little indie. I like B&N because of the atmosphere. There’s a ton of seating, and it smells like a mixture of new books and coffee (a.k.a. the best smell ever). B&N also offers great deals to its members. My $25 annual membership pays for itself thanks to all the 20% off coupons I get throughout the year. A trip to this bookstore always relaxes me, whether I buy anything or not. (Let’s be honest here: I usually buy something.)


As a bonus item, check out Bookfinder when you’re shopping for books online. It’s not a site where I buy books, but a place that tells me where to buy them. When I want a used copy of an older title, I always use Bookfinder because it does all the searching for me by telling me what sites have the title I want and who’s offering the best price.

What are your favorite places to pick up books?