Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: How do you pick your next read?

The Sunday

One of my best friends came home to Chicago this past week, bringing with her a bundle of exciting (and massive) books for me to borrow and read.  I returned the favor, giving her two full bags of books to take back to St. Paul with her.

In addition to this exciting pile of fantasy and science fiction doorstoppers (seriously, the shortest one is over 650 pages.  I do not lie), I have books to read for the Classics Circuit, for the Spotlight Series, for review and (gasp!  Is it possible?!) for my own enjoyment, from my own collection.

So how do I pick the next book to read?  Previously, if I had a book that had to be reviewed by a certain date, I would freak out and read that book first and then just save the review.  I'm one of those people who always worries that if she tries to read and review the book on the day it's due, she will inevitably not be finished with it by then.  So before, I'd always read them really early and breathe a sigh of relief that I would be done in time.  Now, I cut the deadlines pretty close.  I have not yet even started my book for the Classics Circuit and it's "due" on the 28th.  Hey, I'm living on the edge!

So usually, if I have review books to read, and I'm in the right mood, then those are the books I'll pick to read next and review.  However, when I have more time free, then the options widen amazingly!  I have purposely accepted very few books for review lately so that I will have this freedom.  There are a lot of enticing books on my shelves and I want to read them.

I'm a very moody reader.  I pick the next book I read based on what stands out to me at the time.  Do I feel like a funny book?  Or an emotional one?  Do I want a short book or do I want to sink my teeth into an epic?  Fantasy or historical fiction?  Fiction or non-fiction?

I look forward to that feeling of anticipation, when I'm not quite sure what I'll be reading next, when my wall of bookshelves is completely open to me and any story I pick could conceivably change my life.  I love slowly pulling a book from the shelf, examining the cover, reading the back blurb, and then deciding whether that is the right book for me at the time.  Sometimes it is, but if it's not- back the book goes to the shelf to await its turn.

Girl with ShelfIt's really for the sake of this short, anticipatory moment that I have put something of a moratorium on accepting books to review.  I know a lot of people love receiving ARCs and free books.  There is even an "ARC Junkies" group on LibraryThing.  I find that bizarre, because why would someone love an ARC?  Isn't it the book that inspires love, not the free galley copy of it?  Its disturbs me that there are people out there that just like getting books because they are free, not because the story or the author or the plot really draws their attention.

This especially disturbs me because one person signed up for the Spotlight Series seeming to expect Unbridled Books to send her a free copy to read and review.  When we later told this blogger that free copies would not be coming to her (or to anyone), she lost interest in participating in the series (which she had previously said was a "great idea").  I do not often get angry at the book blogging community, but this situation really bothered me.  Since when is it a blogger's right to get free books, to the point that this person would expect a free copy of an unreleased book from a publisher that, as mentioned in the Spotlight Series blurb, does not have a huge marketing budget?  And then why would that same blogger lose interest in participating in a series just because the book would not be sent to her for free?!  There are libraries and, God forbid, bookstores, in which you can get your own copy of a book.  It is not a publisher's job to provide you with a free copy just because you are a blogger.  I don't think I have ever been so upset with book blogdom as I was in that situation.  I can't imagine the sense of entitlement that goes along with that thought process, and it deeply disturbs me that there are apparently people out there who are blogging just to get free books.

But I digress.

I love free books, but not so much that I am willing to let them dictate my reading schedule.  I do not like reading to a schedule.  I value that moment between books, in which I determine what I'll read next, when I have so many options before me and can pick whatever I want.  I don't like thinking, "Well, I guess I should read X next since I have to review it."  It feels so binding and regimented.

I know the next book I read will be my choice for February's Classics Circuit.  But after that... I'm free!  I'm open!  I can read whatever I want.  I think I know which book I'll read after the Classics Circuit, because I really want to finish a particular fantasy series.  But... I don't have to read that book.  I can read whatever I want.  Because for now, I have no reading/reviewing commitments and it's a glorious feeling :-)

How do you pick what you'll read next?  Do you just go up to your shelves and see what jumps out at you, the way that I do?  Or do you have a more structured method of deciding?

Note:  I am out of town today and will be gone until Tuesday.  If I do not respond to your comments on this post, please don't think I'm ignoring you :-)  Have fun!  Discuss amongst yourselves!


  1. I do not accept many review books. I like to be pretty sure I will like the book if I am going to accept it as I feel compelled to finish reading a review book no matter what. I am a sufferer of literary masochism.

    I have only not finished 3 books total ever in my reading career. Once I start a series even if I do not like it (this means you Sookie) I continue on till the end.

    So I pick my next book strategically. I feel a mood, something dark let's say. So I go to paranormal (haven't read any horror but open to suggestions), if I want dark I filter out the romance and look for something edgy. I go to other blogs and see what they have been reading and choose my next read!

    Since I rarely buy books on the fly, I keep my TBR of bought and review copies to under 20. I feel pressured otherwise and will read nothing. Library books under 20 as well so no more than 40 unread tomes in my house at one time.

    Wow that's a long comment. Great question!

  2. I get 99.99% of my books from the library.

    So part of the equation is what has come up in my holds list & what I've actually got checked out.

    But then I have a stack of fiction and a stack of nonfiction books from the library. When I finish one book, I'll go and stare at my stack and pick on whim alone. Sometimes I let my 2-year-old daughter pick for me. :)

  3. I usually pick my next read based totally on my mood, or level of boredom at the time. Sometimes one book finished will just lead me to the next (like if I have three from one author to read) Lately though, I've joined a few reading challenges. For February, it's reading books from authors that participate in the blog called League of Reluctant Adults. So far I've read almost three. Once February is over, I'm going to pick a books for the POC reading challenge - read a book about a person of color, or written by a person of color. I want to read at least five (or more) Then I have 8 more challenges- the Challenges are actually making it easier for me to choose books to read, and to stick with them.

    Regarding ARC's I'm one of those people that are excited about getting an ARC. Not because I feel entitled, but for me it's fun just looking at the book, this planned copy, seeing what the planned blurbs are, and being able to read it ahead of time. Even knowing that some of the book might be changed for the final print, is part of the fun for me. Potential grammar errors at this point don't bother me, it's part of the fun also. I haven't gotten a lot ARC's and I certainly don't feel I'm entitled, part of the fun is winning it in a contest-just makes it special for me. I have (had) three ARC's and I was going to keep them, but then I decided recently to share one with someone who's shared a book with me. I'll probably eventually buy the regular paperback of that one, because I enjoyed it very much, and I'm also looking forward to reading the sequel. In fact, one of the ARC's that I treasure (I'll keep it forever!) is Strange Angels. Lili St. Crow (first YA novel) had let it be known that a few copies were available, to just email and leave info about being willing to review, etc. I took a chance (at the time I only had 3 followers) and was pleasantly (okay, ecstatic) when I actually received the book. I didn't expect to, I figured they would send it to bloggers with huge followings, but I was so happy to get it. As soon as I got it I read it,as soon as I finished it (two days!) I posted reviews on Amazon and my own teeny blog. It was great. It was also the first ever ARC I've ever received.

    ARC's, especially if I won them, are just a sweet bonus for me in my reading. I don't expect them. I guess there are always going to be some people who feel entitled to things no matter what (parties, gifts, ARC's, free rides, etc) and that could be where the other person was coming from - Or,...maybe they have very little money to buy books and were hoping to get some that way. Although I would think they would still want to participate in the spotlight series.

  4. I have over a 100 books on my to be read pile and I really should be picking my next books from there but often enough I'll read about a book at a book blog and I'll rush out and get a copy and read that first. I find that books need their time and place. You have to be in the mood for certain books. I haven't received a review copy yet.

  5. Most of my books come from the library so what is due back next tends to dictate. Add review books into the mix and there are really only odd occasions when I stand at the shelf and pick a book that catches the eye.

  6. I too am totally a mood reader, unless there is a deadline involved (either for a review or for a library due date). One reason I don't join challenges is that I prefer to be able to follow my mood!

  7. I have accepted very few books to read/review. I think that number has been 3 in the last 9 months. None of those were ARCs. I definitely read for the story, not for the fact that a book is free or new. That story you told about the spotlight series participant was awful. :(

    The way I choose my books varies on my mood. Sometimes I like having a list of books to read in the near future, and sometimes I just like to pick by mood. In some ways, I like having many unread books on my shelves, in others, I feel pressured by it. It's like I'm a schizophrenic book owner! :D

  8. I don't get many review books at all. Like Amanda, I think I have only had three since I started blogging.

    I buy a lot of books either new or second hand and use my library a lot.

    I try and read one library book and one from my personal pile at the same time. I will choose which ever one I am in the mood to read.

  9. I'm a moody reader as well, so this year I'm trying to schedule my reading as little as possible. No lists for challenges, no piles on my nightstand, etc.

    I've decided to quit accepting review copies as well. I've only accepted like 6 in nearly 3 years of blogging (and plus I don't get many offers for geographical reasons), so they never really dominated my reading. Still, I could do without the pressure or the schedules, so it's just easier to say no altogether.

    There's been a lot of drama in the past regarding that sense of entitlement about review copies - especially in the YA community. I agree with you; I think it's completely silly.

  10. Right now my next book is often dictated by which book is the next one due for grad school. But I only have three more books left for that so yay!!! Otherwise I have a schedule based on my challenges because I need the structure otherwise I drift aimlessly. That said, if the books on this months list don't grab my attention then I pick something else.

    The challenges I have signed up for I purposely chose because they gave me a great deal of flexibility in what I read. I wasn't tied so much. That is important for me.

    Like you though I tend to get a bit anxious about reading something when it is due. What if I miss "my" date?! But that has actually lessened in the past few months. If I miss it I miss it. Book blogging has actually let me see that it is about the books not about when I read them. That said, I always try my darndest to read books for when I have said I would. I purposely didn't sign up for the Classic Circuit in March because I know I will be busy with school, I also haven't signed up for Zola but will sign up for Dumas, again, April will be a busy month. Hopefully I will be able to participate more in that challenge come summer and autumn because I really like it. I like it because it expands my reading to things I wouldn't normally read.

    I've only ever received one ARC (well actually galley) and I doubt I will be doing it again. Yes free books are GREAT! But my personality means that I feel obligated to review the book and it lessens my enjoyment of it. Having someone else (imagined) pressure on me doesn't do it for me.

    With regards to getting free books? Well since I'm not in the US I rarely get any anyway so I always just assume I will buy the books I review (my library has few books in English). I was so happy when I realised that Unbridled books were available from Bookdepository so that I could take part in the Spotlight series. I'm hoping my book will arrive this week!

    Sorry about the novel length of this response, hope you have a great time away!

  11. Books from publishers are a perk of blogging but not one that I at all feel entitled to or my raison d'ĂȘtre for blogging; in fact, the books I have received are mainly books that I have really wanted to read and have either been requested by me or sent my a publisher who I have built a relationship with and knows my taste.

    Anyway, I am consciously acquiring less books, be they bought, borrowed or sent, because I feel pressured reading to a deadline. I far prefer the freedom that reading on a whim allows me; I like to pick up a book at random, either inspired by last book read, recommendation/subsequent temptation or just serendipitous choice.

  12. I vastly prefer having a real choice in what I read, too. If I have ARCs then I tend to go to them automatically, but it's so much nicer to have only a few and know I have the freedom to read whatever I feel like. Since moving to the UK I get vastly fewer review copies and mostly in big bursts when I visit my parents in the US, but I really prefer it this way. I admit I am sometimes jealous when it seems "everyone" is reading the latest book and they all got it for free, but I just add those books to a list and when I have more money, I will buy them, and feel good knowing I'm supporting the author and publisher, rather than feeling that I'm entitled to have the same book for free. None of us are entitled to everything, and it's much nicer to treat review copies as a treat when they arrive than expect to get them for everything.

    Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

  13. Someone is definitely in this blogging business for the wrong reasons if they bail when they don't get a free book! Ugh.

    I do have a reading schedule because I joined so many challenges I had to figure out how to make it all work. Then I get in the mood for something not on my schedule and I squeeze it in, shoving my "schedule" off. So far so good, but it's only February! I need to realize that I might not finish all the challenges. But who knows....

  14. I am definitely a mood reader as well. In fact, I have been known to miss deadlines for review copies because I was in the mood to read something else. I try not to let deadlines impact my reading too much, which is why I refuse to create lists for challenges and limit any review copies I request or accept. However, I only get one or two review copies a month anyway because I only request or accept books that truly interest me.

    Regarding review copies, they are a perk for blogging but by no means a right. In fact, I still get a thrill when I am lucky enough to receive one because I realize how fortunate I am to be in this position. That being said, I would continue to blog and review even without receiving review copies because there are SO many books out there I want to read. I blog because I like it, not to receive free books. I can totally understand your ire at that situation.

  15. Great discussion! I, too, can't believe that someone would only blog for the free books and not for the enjoyment of it.

    I've never received a free book and I don't plan to - I love choosing my own. And I agree, choosing the next book mostly comes down to mood. Or if it's for a challenge, it adds a little bit of pressure to read it.

  16. I love feeling free to pick any book from the shelf. Up until this month, I would always decide prior, what to read. I decided to end that habit, once and for all. From now on, I'm just going to list half my usual number of books (probably due to readalongs or review books - which thankfully I don't accept too many off), and the remaining half I plan to just select randomly, based on my moods.

  17. I choose my books by mood too. I am also doing a number of challenges this year to put some focus on my reading. I try to read one book for each challenge each month. Luckily, a lot of the challenges overlap, so that a book I choose will satisfy a number of the challenges. Even if I know that I need to read a book for a certain challenge, I still have a variety of choices of books.

    I have only received 3 ARCs that I recall. I am a member of the Early Reviewers group at LibraryThing. I only ask for books that I think sound interesting and have only "won" three times. Those books get read and reviewed immediately upon receipt.

    I am into blogging because I like to talk about the books I read and don't know very many readers in real life. I also like to find out about good, new books that are coming out both for my personal reading and to stock the two school media centers I manage.

    I seem to go through phases. Right now I am reading some traditional space opera science fiction. I don't really know what I'll choose next. I have 550 books on my TBR stack and another 3000 previously read books at my house. I know I'll find something!

  18. Anonymous2/21/2010

    I get most of my books from the library, so I decide what to read from those, whichever I'm in the mood for. And then if none of my library books appeal, or I'm just in the mood for something light, I'll reread something of mine. I do return books unread to the library now and then.

  19. I have a mix of ways to choose books. I have one pile near my desk of boosk that I should read next -- library, borrowed from friends, on a list to read, or books I pulled because I recently thought I wanted to read them. I usually try to grab from that pile and usually find something because there is a big variety of books included. But if none of them strike my fancy I get something else. I have quite a few books due for classes, so those get pushed to the top of the pile too.

  20. I've only recently begun receiving review books...however, I have been an Amazon Vine participant for awhile. I carefully choose from the options each month, though, because my greatest dread is a book I have to struggle to read.

    The same goes for review copies.

    Most of my books are those I've bought from Amazon or bookstores, and because I seemingly cannot resist books that pull me in, my TBR stacks were so out-of-control that I created a blog to document my progress through those stacks. (

    I have made good progress on the stacks!

    My Salon:

  21. What a great question! Since I'm a cheapie and get most of my books from paperbackswap I choose to read books from those that people are 'wishing' from me. There tends to be quite a few of them at any given time so that gives me some freedom to then use my mood to decide from there what kind of book I want to read. That I know when I post it, it will be snatched up instantly for a credit for another book to come my way. It's a system that works for me :)

  22. I haven't received any review copies yet (apart from a few that I was lucky enough to win from LibraryThing and other sites) and I haven't really expected to, since I only started blogging five months ago. The fact that I live in the UK makes it more difficult to get them anyway. Although it would be nice to be sent some ARCs, I don't think I would like the pressure of feeling I had to read a certain book by a certain date. I prefer the freedom of choosing what to read depending on my mood. If I've borrowed books from the library then I'll give those priority, otherwise I don't really have a method for deciding what to read next.

  23. I agree with your point of view on the ARCs. I have received a few but recognize it is a perk, not a right.

  24. I am a complete mood reader as well. I choose from my library stack and my own shelves. It just depends if I want something light, something heavy, something funny or something serious. I don't think that I plan my reading. I just read what I feel like reading.
    As for review copies, I have only received a few and it's fun to receive them, but I don't like reading on a schedule either. It reminds me too much of school and it takes the fun out of reading just a little.

  25. I counted my TBR pile this morning and the total is over 200 books. I hate that. I'm constantly buying books and trying to read them but I am a moody reader. By the time I receive a book, I'm often not in the mood to read it.

    What is up with the blogger who wanted a free book? Most of us started blogging because of our love for reading and literature, not free books.

    I'm a really moody reader so I haven't finished more than 3 books this month. It's horrible and I'm hoping the mood will pass soon.Because I'm such a moody reader, I'm often bad at keeping up with read-alongs and tours. I'm trying harder this year but we'll see what happens.

  26. Right now, I'm only reading books from my shelves. I've got about 200 or so that I own but haven't read yet, because I have a terrible book buying problem. I also come into a great deal of free books. I suppose these aren't really problems at all, but I am deliberately not buying ANY new books right now. I'm sure book publishers cringe every time they see one of us write that!

  27. I try not to accept too many review books because then I feel too "tied down" (like you mentioned). I like to mix up my reading ... but sometimes reading a book will lead me to another and I'll just follow along.

  28. It's so hard choosing my next book to read - sometimes I know exactly what is next and other times I start about 3 books before choosing which one I will read to the end!

  29. What I choose to read often changes with the seasons ha, ha. Last spring I did this seasonal challenge on, where I had to read books based on tasks (i.e. It's Anzac Day - read a book by an Australian author or set in Australia) and I'd get points for reading the book. The points were arbitrary, but I love that feel of competition and seeing my name move up the leader board. After that challenge, I got back into mood reading. So far this year I've been a mood reader, but I will be joining the spring challenge again, and reading more books based on tasks, the reason being that I read so many awesome books the last time I completed the spring challenge which I probably would not have picked up, unless forced, and I was mainly working with books on my TBR.

    As for review books, they are nice, but I hardly request any. I've requested like 4, however, I do occasionally get asked if I want to review something, and a lot of the time, I say yes if it sounds interesting. When I have review books, I try to get them read as quickly as possible. I tend not to keep ARCs, I don't really care for how they look on my shelf, so I like to give them away in contests. Also, while I think bloggers do provide awesome publicity services, I don't think we're entitled to books, and if we want a book so goddamn bad, well there is the library, or an awesome indy book store.

  30. I like to gauge my mood upon finishing a book to see where I will next head on my shelves. Sometimes I choose to continue in the same genre as my previous read, but more often I look for something totally different. At times, I look for a book that has some small thing in common as my last read, such as geographical location or historical character. I like the fact that I can go in any direction, and often do!

    I know we have discussed the ARC situation, so I am glad to hear that you are free of reviewing commitments for the time being! I bet you are going to have a nice heady mix of books in the next few weeks!

    I am also appalled and dismayed at the antics of this anonymous blogger who was hoping to get a book for free. It's a nice perk to receive books from publishers, but it is far from a right, and I can't believe that this person backed out of reviewing a book from Unbridled just because there was not a free copy sent out. I would have been mad as well. Why couldn't that person hit the library or bookstore?

  31. Anonymous2/23/2010

    At the moment I'm alternating between books I've committed to read (whether review copies, or book group choices etc), and my own picks. Although I do have a must read soon pile of books I really want to read, I do like to let mood dictate, and I don't like to plan too far in advance for these.

  32. I do accept a lot of review copies but don't let them overwhelm me. I feel like I read what I want to when I want to. I think the speed at which I read helps with that though - if I put something off, I know I can get through it very quickly if necessary!

  33. Bloggers have no right to free books; it's a privilege. I get some, but not as many as I could if I really wanted to take advantage. As far as how I prioritize, I'm trying to wheedle down my stack of review obligations so I'm alternating between those and the things I want to read and current books. It's not easy! This is a great post on an always-worthwhile subject.

  34. Wow - I didn't read all the comments here but many are so long! cool. and now I've forgotten what I was going to say.... hmmmm. I love the joy of just picking something/anything random next to read. lately, I have 3 or 4 eagerly awaiting to be picked and once, I let my hub pick for me! I love the feeling that a book picked me. Have fun with it! :)

  35. What a great discussion you have going here!

    When I first started my book blog, I didn't even know what "Mailbox Monday" was--now I completely understand. :)

    It is wonderful to choose what you read, and when you want to read it, but it's also terrific to be chosen to read a book, for a book tour or by a publisher or author. That is a special perk of being a book blogger. It's not something we are "entitled" to, but more of a privilege.

    Thank you for presenting this forum on a timely and interesting topic!


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