How to find books you'll love

Today, even with all the new media, shiny & loud distractions, books are still probably the most reliable way to entertain yourself, to educate yourself and to enrich your life. Often in ways unimaginable. In ways that may seem unlikely and unimportant to you up until the "That is freaking amazing" moment. The goal, then is to become an expert in finding good books, or use a tool that lets you accomplish the same thing, so that each book you read, each investment of time you put into reading something, will have the highest likelihood of creating just such a "oh my goodness" experience.
Dec. 7, 2020

The joy of finding books to read

Yes. There is a 'joy' to this experience. Hard to describe. Somewhat like the dopamine effect that Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook feed on, where you see book after book, and they are ok, ok, ok, really? ok, ok, ...what the heck is this?

And the mind is immediately opened to something new and wonderful.

And this feels good.

Definitely more like Pinterest than Facebook or Twitter - in that the book discovery experience has positive overtones and reverberations - with a real chance of improving the rest of your life.

So the joy of finding that perfect book is similar to that of other joys in life. It just takes longer to consume vs. a few seconds for a funny meme on Facebook or the minute to lovingly consume the perfect cupcake.

But the benefits are not as fleeting as these other joys, and they often last a lifetime.

A real chance of improving the rest of your life

It is amazing to think about, but most books have a decent chance to improve your life.

Think about it.

Some enrich or expand your skill-sets. Learn a new language. Learn how to cook better.

Some enrich your appreciation of something. Learn about the history of your city. Learn how other people fall in love, or solve difficult puzzles.

Some resolve questions you had (which you may have not even known you have). Read how being a better negotiator will improve all aspects of your life. Read anything with sophisticated dialog or descriptions to improve your own verbal skills.

Some help change your mindset in a positive direction. Get inspired reading someone else's story of how they overcame the obstacles you may face.

Except for some books either too poorly written to be of use to anyone, or those designed to frighten and ultimately bilk people of their money, just about every book is going to be a rewarding, worthwhile book.

So it is easy to find a 'good' book. So what we really want to know is how to find books that we want to read right NOW.

And to be able to find books that are not just 'good', but OMG awesome.

How to find books that we want to read Right NOW

Can we somehow appreciate and easily evaluate the potential joy and life advantages that each book offers us without having to actually read it?

Because the better we can do this, the better we see the value offered by each book as we quickly scan through them, the easier it will be to recognize the Book for Right NOW.

We are actually looking for different kinds of books all the time (though we don't often think about it this way!).

We have many goals in life, and we are necessarily always 'keeping our eyes open' for opportunities to get us closer to these goals.

Having almost any kind of goal requires recognizing and inspecting and consuming books that get us closer to a particular goal.

This takes a lot of brain power and focus and it is hard to expend any kind of concentrated effort on this for very long - especially with the tools currently available to us whether online or off.

The modern history of book shopping

Or... "what the heck keeps happening to our book stores?"

From little book stores and magazine stands in most neighborhoods to Barnes & Noble's domination to Amazon, the 'biggest bookstore in the world' - where are we going next? What a long strange trip book lovers are having.

Is there a cure for the addiction to the smell of slightly moldy [oops. musty. uh, make that dusty] books? Or the ambiance of the latent potential energy of thousands of newly printed, never-before opened books ready for their first reader?

Probably not. But we have to keep chasing bookstores as they keep changing - trying to keep taking advantage of one of the things, and perhaps the primary thing, that keeps humans more intelligent than apes. Think about it. Look around.

Making book shopping fun again

Was it really all that fun?

It sure could be expensive to buy books (similar to music albums) and find out they really weren't what you were hoping for. Libraries lend books for free, but their selection is often, uh, shall we say populated with books that are good from a different point of view than that of most readers?

Fifty years ago mass market paperback books were incredibly popular. There just wasn't that much escapist entertainment available with just 3 television networks and movies were of limited breadth. When I was young I inherited about a thousand books from my divorced parents: mostly detective and science fiction. Rex Stout and Dashiell Hammett and Harry Harrison [never found out which parent liked which] ... and I discovered how one person can communicate complex ideas to another using the written word. I was hooked.

I spent a lot of time in now defunct used and new bookstores: B.Dalton Bookseller and Walgreens, Eads News and Smoke Shop, Stage House II, the 'Used Book store', Basemar Books, Trident Booksellers and Boulder Bookstore, the Red Letter bookstore and several others whose names are seemingly lost somewhere deep in my memory banks... (all Boulder, CO). Later, older, and earning some money, I spent time in Computer Literacy (San Jose), Biblioteca (Boulder), Powells (Palo Alto), Standard Bookstore [AWEsome. But the C.U. Bookstore kind of sucked. Sorry], and Tattered Cover (Denver). Powells and the Tattered Cover and a few others are still here.

Over time my tastes had evolved from detective and science fiction to computer science books and science fiction [and, guilty pleasure, still enjoying a Janet Evanovich - at least the first 15 or so, and science books, math, biographies, art, ...].

Computer Literacy online masthead

Computer Literacy moved online, and I bought a few books from their online store [eventually fatbrain.com], but another online store [whose name escapes me, argh] had a larger selection and a better experience and I spent thousands there until Amazon started to have a larger and often less expensive solution. And during this time Barnes & Noble provided the 'in-person experience'. Even then, finding a book I wanted to buy online was difficult. It just helped so much to leaf through the pages and see the font used and the level of detail, observe the thickness of the paper and bleed-through, and read a few pages...[Amazon's 'Look inside' has taken the place of some of this].

Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver

The joy of shopping for books

Yes. There is a 'joy' to this experience. Hard to describe. Somewhat like the dopamine effect that Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook feed on, where you see book after book, and they are ok, ok, ok, really? ok, ok, ...what the heck this!? And the mind is immediately opened to something new and wonderful. And this feels good. Definitely more like Pinterest than Facebook or Twitter - in that the book discovery experience has positive overtones and reverberations - with a real chance of improving the rest of your life.

Trident Booksellers, Boulder

We still 'kinda' have this feeling, this wonder of discovery, today with traditional online book shopping. Kind of. But something sure is missing...

In real life, random access makes us feel powerful. Being able to jump around from one book to the next, to the next book shelf, to just scan lots of different sections quickly to see what appeals to us Right Now - at the moment. Unplanned. Unexpected. Sometimes we skip the authors, genres, form factors we are familiar with and just do something wild - just by turning our heads a little.

The absence of this ability, the resulting feeling of powerlessness, this is one of the things that prompted us to be here. Today. Doing this.

Perhaps millions of books, not just a few thousand in front of us in a physical bookstore, but with the ability to really explore like we are able to do in the physical world. This kind of free wandering exploration which we still seem unable to do in the current online experience. Perhaps this will make us feel like powerful shoppers again.

These are all things we have been working on here. Efficiency: increasing success rates, and enjoyability: reducing the onerousness of the tasks involved ....

Stay tuned...

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