Top Ten Nerdy Book Places by Jennifer Ansbach
Like many Nerdy Book Clubbers, I have a reputation as a capital-R Reader, and in addition to being asked about how I could read so much, I often get asked how I find so many books to read. Sometimes people are seeking recommendations. Others are baffled how the books I want to read seem endless (I know I’m not the only one in the Nerdy Book Club room here who finds herself saying, “Oh! That’s on the TBR list!”). Here are the top ten places I find new titles to curl up with:
- Recommendations from Readers. When you know people who read widely and often, you learn to pay attention to their recommendations. My Nerdy friends frequently post their thoughts about what they are reading to their own blogs, to Goodreads, and here on the Nerdy blog. Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp host #TitleTalk. Many tweet titles they are excited about or post them on Facebook. Podcasts offer opportunities to hear book talks and book discussions. And those of us who go to High School Matters at NCTE wait eagerly for Carol Jago to book talk her top ten of the year.
- Recommendations from readers. My friends who read less voraciously but read books when they find them compelling often find books that are un-put-downable. I’m always looking for those books my friends who don’t usually read during the school year find so intriguing they keep reading, even when lesson plans or grading beckon. I also find friends who don’t consider themselves Readers because they think they don’t read enough to share what they read on social media, for example, often have a great title they will talk about.
- “Best” book lists from magazines or blogs often go deeper and point to midlist gems mined by those who read a genre deeply. Taking a look at “best beach reads” or “best thrillers” helps me find titles that tight publishing budgets don’t put on an end cap in Barnes & Noble but are worth picking up.
- Book award lists. While often these lists are highly subjective, I find looking at the finalists for the awards more meaningful than the list of “winners.” There are awards given by any organizations, and while some focus on adult literary fiction, so many others offer prizes for genres or demographics (I admit I wait every year for the list of Amelia Elizabeth Walden finalists from ALAN!).
- Book reviews. New York Times book review makes Sunday morning more interesting (and if I read with an internet connection, more expensive). When I can, I pick up the book reviews in my school library, paging through copies of School Library Journal, Kirkus, or Booklist. These are generally separated by demographic and genre also, and a cell phone camera helps me keep track of all the new books that catch my eye.
- Whether I’m reading an author interview, following author Twitter feeds, or listening to podcasts, I love listening to author recommendations. Sometimes they are suggesting titles that inspired or informed their work. Other times they are fans of a book and are talking about what they love to read, too.
- Book Events. Each year, because I love young adult literature and look for titles to put in my students’ hands, the cornerstone of my book love every year is the ALAN workshop, held after the NCTE convention. The joy as YA fans, most librarians and teachers, unbox The Box of books resonates throughout the workshop hall. For two days, we listen to panels of authors and authors in conversation, keynotes and book talks. The authors and speakers inspire us to dig into that year’s crop of books. Book Expo America, the ALA conferences, NerdCamps, and events like BookCon and other book festivals throughout the country offer similar experiences of hearing directly from authors and sharing the experience with other book lovers.
- NetGalley & Edelwiess. For those in the book industry, including teachers and librarians, these services make digital advance copies of books available. The books are organized by genre and age group, and I’ve discovered new authors and books here that I am a fan of. Publishers are hoping we will become champions of those books that speak to us because they know that book lovers love talking about books.
- Sometimes, despite my efforts to keep up with the latest in YA, my students have favorites that they introduce to me. Some are titles they found browsing the library or bookstore. More often, though, they are books passed along from other students or older siblings. Sometimes they are favorites from parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, opening up a connection and dialogue with the student and family.
- Indie bookstore recommendations. I’m sure someone has made a blog or Tumblr on the shelf talkers indies post. More than once, the clever, funny, or poignant recommendation taped to the edge of a shelf has led me to a new, fantastic title. It makes visiting an indie bookstore a treasure hunt.
- Bonus: Paid book services. Curated book boxes from different companies take me out of the sometimes-echo chamber of my Nerdy friends where we all gush over the same books. Some of these services offer an introductory letter from the author, while others have the author annotate their work. In some, authors curate boxes that include their own book and others they have chosen to highlight. Many include “bookish goodies” related thematically to the featured title. Subscriptions include one-time purchases, monthly, and quarterly boxes. I subscribe to two different services, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
I’m sure I’m overlooking many more places I discover books. Where do you go to keep the To Be Read pile from getting stale? Leave your ideas in the comments!
Jennifer Ansbach is a lifelong reader and book lover. You can often find her on the sofa curled up with tea and a book. Her book Take Charge of Your Teaching Evaluation: How to Grow Professionally and Get a Good Evaluation is out now from Heinemann.