The Sword and Laser discussion

How do you find new books to read?

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message 1: by Alexander (last edited Jun 14, 2014 12:49PM) (new)

Alexander (technogoth) | 171 comments Reading the thread on star ratings got me thinking about how other people go about finding new books to and authors to read. And I'm curious what the process other people go through in their search.

I put together a quick conversion funnel to illustrate how I go about it.


I have a few authors that are my go to authors I'll buy anything they write as soon as it comes out.

I discover new authors based on recommendations from friends, buzz, or the title and cover when browsing.

A quick look at the synopsis to decide if it sounds interesting and isn't YA.

Then I'll check the goodreads rating, some good and bad reviews, and if it all sounds good I'll either buy it or read the first few pages before deciding whether or not to buy it.

What about everyone do you go through a similar process? Or go about it in a different way?

message 2: by Ben (new)

Ben (bennewton_1) I have a similar process. There are a few authors I will get any new release from, but other stuff I'll decide on a combination of the blurb and concept, buzz, comments on GR (particularly here at S&L), reviews from other places like, and recommendations from the guys at my preferred bookstore.

message 3: by Mustardseeds (new)

Mustardseeds | 1 comments Oh it's a mix of a whole lot of things. Recommendations from friends, reading more books from authors I've already read and appreciated, browsing in bookstores is a big one, goodreads. One thing I like to do on goodreads is check reviews on a favourite book, and check reading lists of others who have given it 4-5 stars.

There's a few ways I use finding reading material.

message 4: by Kaleb (new)

Kaleb I take recommendations, look for books that look interesting with the help of reviews by some reviwers I trust.

message 5: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) Go to authors, word of mouth which Goodreads really helped with and browsing. I like to read the first 10 pages of a book and it I keep going I will buy it.

message 6: by Walter (last edited Jun 15, 2014 04:19AM) (new)

Walter Spence (walterspence) | 707 comments I've done most of the above, but in addition I have one of those daily desk calendars which each day promotes a different book, providing the title and a brief summary. Have found some really great books I might not have heard of otherwise this way, such as Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind.

message 7: by Micah (new)

Micah (onemorebaker) | 1071 comments For me S&L plays a huge role. I rarely have time to read the monthly picks along with the group so I get to fill out a back catalouge and just pick and choose from there. This group has given me some awesome books to put on by TBR pile.

message 8: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments The Books on the Nightstand podcast is great for recommendations. If they like a book and the description sounds interesting to me, then it's close to a sure thing. My batting average with them is very high.

message 9: by Mark (new)

Mark Catalfano (cattfish) Awards and pretty covers

message 10: by db (new)

db | 11 comments Impressive graphic! #like

message 11: by db (new)

db | 11 comments Hmmm... first - library - new books section. Second recommendation by a podcast or a site, a group, a friend... Third, favorite author's new books always get read.

And weirdly, just recently, I have tried two new books from the Goodreads advertisements. Two books I probably wouldn't have ordinarily read, but I really enjoyed.

message 12: by Wilmar (new)

Wilmar Luna (wilmarluna) | 241 comments Hmm, I have to say that due to my experience with "brand loyalty" with video games and the like. I'm not generally one that will pick up the author's next book. I have to be extremely selective of the titles I choose to read because I have so little time to divide between reading and writing.

So if Stephen King decided to write a romance novel or Hugh Howey made a sequel to Wool. Unless the book made me want more or I"m curious, I'll generally just skip over it.

Right now most of my purchases are based off recommendations from other readers. I look at the reviews to see what readers hated and then judge if this is what I would hate to, then make a purchase.

I hear everyone raving about Gone Girl and how its prose is so amazing. Yet, when I found out that a reader I follow hated the book, I looked at the sample and found myself promptly unimpressed.

I'm more of a author that seeks out books to fill a need. I need: to be scared to death, to learn how to write better, to see a sci-fi world, to read a good romance novel, you get the idea.

message 13: by Ben (new)

Ben Nash | 200 comments I already have enough books to read for a few years, but I still add to my list.

As one major source of new books, I look to award lists. Early on, I tried to tackle what I call the "double-winner" list, i.e. those stories which have won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. I still give those award lists some attention (I'm reading the Hugo nominees right now), but I've gotten bored with the same old stories about the same old things, so I look to awards that focus on other things.

I also look to recommendations from people I trust.

Then I filter that through ratings and reviews, giving the reviews more weight.

And then there are the stories that catch my attention for some random reason or another, circumventing the whole process.

And I have to accept that I'm never going to read everything I want.

message 14: by CatBookMom (new)

CatBookMom I get ideas from a lot of places, but roughly in this order: Online friends' comments and recommendations here and at Ravelry (knitting community), some online bargain-ebook sites I follow(e.g., Books on the Knob, DailyCheapReader), the Sunday LA Times book section, NPR, etc.

message 15: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments my process is like the OP's.

message 16: by Misti (new)

Misti (spookster5) | 493 comments Most of the time, just browsing through the bookstore. Since I've joined the book club here, I've discovered so many authors I didn't know. I've found them so interesting I've wanted to READ ALL THE BOOKS! If only I had more time during the day. Le sigh!

message 17: by Alan (new)

Alan | 534 comments In the past year, I've probably gotten most of my new authors from the chat on this forum. The rest have been friends' recommendations and various podcasts.

message 18: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4203 comments I like the graphic in the OP but "conversion funnel" sounds like the kind of executive buzz-speak that my coworkers and I would put onto our "buzzword Bingo" cards. :)

I find new books in a variety of ways, most of which have already been listed. There are some authors/series who are "day 1" buys for me, though if I get burned too often, that can change (::cough::Neal Stephenson::cough::). I always get sad when that changes...

message 19: by Karl (new)

Karl Smithe | 77 comments Stumbling across them by accident seems to work as well as reading reviews and is less aggravating.

message 20: by Joanna Chaplin (new)

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I have a list in a Google doc that's currently 22 pages long. I tend to add books from the following sources:

S&L picks and recommendations
Goodreads adds or suggestions - I like how it emails me when an author I've read comes out with something new
The Big Idea posts from John Scalzi's blog (
Kindle daily deals

On the one hand, Kindle deal impulse buys are cheap, but on the other hand, most of my lemmed books are from that source.

message 21: by Lee (new)

Lee Thames (sardonic) | 6 comments Three ways for me in order:
NYT Book Review
Bookbub/B&N/Kobo Daily Deals

I then browse consumer reviews (like here), one book/author leads to another and I keep a Nook Wishlist on

A period of months or years can go by - A good example would be I read the review of "1Q84" a while back (2011?) and put it on my wish list. About every 6 months I would check the price and story line again and read some reviews. Ultimately I went with "The Wind Up Bird Chronicle" and read it this past April.

message 22: by Gordon (new)

Gordon McLeod (mcleodg) | 347 comments This is precisely the problem that lead me to search for SF&F book podcasts and brought me to Sword & Laser some years back. Tom and Veronica have kept my TBR list so long ever since that the problem has completely vanished from my life.

message 23: by Janet (new)

Janet | 51 comments I have a pretty informal system that mostly revolves around a paper and pencil list next to my desk, but generally to be added on my list or bumped up, I go by the "rule of three", which is if I hear about it in 3 independent places with positive recommendation, it's worth picking up.

Possible sources:
1. Friend suggestions
2. Podcast recommendations / interesting author interviews
3. New releases lists
4, Blog reviews
5. Keeps popping up on S&L forums
6. Really high rated on goodreads with a decent number of reviews
7. Award lists
8. Free galleys that look interesting

message 24: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2702 comments I look for books that are similar to other authors that I've read, see if any of my GR friends have read it and what they thought of it, I'll check out past S&L picks for recommendations as well as recs from authors I follow on twitter.

message 25: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) Lately, I've been going through the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library. Then books available on Project Gutenberg or at my local library rise to the top of list. After that it's what fits my mood at the moment.

message 26: by Grim (last edited Jun 17, 2014 10:39PM) (new)

Grim (grimnir) | 40 comments Wow. I have a Loooong list of authors whose books I will buy regardless. But new authors...

I read the SciFi mag and they do a book review, I'll often try their recommendations.

And I'll browse Goodreads recommendations as well.

I then regularly trawl through and look at all the new releases each month in the Sci-Fi and fantasy fiction range. The list has the book cover, title and author only but click on a link and you get up details about the book. If the title, author or cover does not grab me I don't even look. (The obvious sickly romance covers I avoid) Then on the pages of books I like the sounds of are recommendations of similar types of books so I look at those too. Sometimes authors on those pages recommend books they like too and I'll look at those.

I then check out amazon's scifi and fantasy fiction top 100 and new releases. Again following links to similar books.

Finally every week I spend an hour or two in Waterstones browsing book shelves and reading rear covers of anything that catches my eye.

I USED to do that at my library too, BUT Doncaster's new head of libraries doesn't like books in libraries cluttering up the place, he prefers large open spaces, so he's condemned all books over 3 years old, and won't buy books unless a minimum of 20 people request it. (Your boned if you discover a series over 3 years old as you can't get the earlier books) My library which had something like 50 book cases of fiction, of which 6 were fantasy and scifi now has two fiction book cases only and a total of only 10 fantasy books in total!! yes 10 total, count them 10!! Just 10!! Only 10!! Its (insert swear word of choice) ridiculous!

PS - all of a sudden library attendance has dropped off so they are closing library's I wonder why? Could it be the lack of books and the fact that you've probably read every book you are interested in, in a fortnight!!

I work nights, I'm a prolific reader, usually a book every few days, we are not allowed electronic books in the secure environment so the library was my friend!

message 27: by Wilmar (new)

Wilmar Luna (wilmarluna) | 241 comments Grimnir wrote: "Wow. I have a Loooong list of authors whose books I will buy regardless. But new authors...

I read the SciFi mag and they do a book review, I'll often try their recommendations.

And I'll browse G..."

Wow Grim, that is hugely informative! Thank you for sharing your story in the thread. It's a damn shame that libraries are closing down but it's great to see that you continue to read as many books as possible.

Thanks for pointing to the fantastic fiction website, I just e-mailed them, hopefully they will consider listing me on their page.

message 28: by Darren (new)

Darren I used to buy based off of

Authors I trusted
Cover art
(in pretty much that order)

Then I discovered the Kindle Daily Deal, and now have an enormous backlog of books I genuinely want to read... But still I keep adding to the pile.

message 29: by Scott (new)

Scott | 312 comments I read along with S&L monthly, so beyond that, I have 2 or 3 authors I'll read anything from. Then I go to franchise/series (I'm a big Star Wars Expanded Universe/Legends fan, and have a few other series I've been following along with). After that, it's a combination of seeing a book on Amazon or wherever and then reading the blurb to see if the premise sounds interesting to me.

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