By Tamar Zmora
In search of a new book, many often seek guidance from friends and family -- but what if your friends are more or less illiterate and your family doesn’t share the same refined taste (or, let's be honest, guilty pleasure of teen angst novels) as you? What, you mean your friends aren’t nebbish bookworms like Belle and don’t have a magnificent library like the Beast?
Instead of consulting Mr. Nitwit and his cousin, Ms. Lit Comatose, for book advice, it may be in your best interest to take a bold leap of faith and browse the cyber world’s book recommendation websites. Using them is far easier than stepping foot in a bookstore as a salesperson hovers near to press a purchase and much less uncomfortable than browsing a professor's bookshelf during office hours. The following are a few of my favorites.
GoodReads. This site is a staple of many book clubs, publishing companies, and students with a literary itch to scratch. Check out the genre-specific lists or your friends’ bookshelves, rate and review books, and create a wish list of future reads.
What Should I Read Next? We all pose this question occasionally. The next time you do, click on over to this website and enter an author or book title in the search engine. WSIRN? will generate a list of related books and authors based on a database of over 80,000 titles and more than one million reader recommendations.
Shelfari. Forget a Sub-Saharan African safari; cruise the exotic cyber bookshelves on this site, powered by Amazon. Shelfari is a community-supported encyclopedia -- the social network of the book world, if you will. Create a profile, then build your own virtual library with your favorite titles, and see what your friends are reading.
Whichbook. This site offers suggestions based on your mood -- gradient scales ranging from “Optimistic” to “Bleak,” “Larger than life” to “Down to earth,” and “Expected” to “Unpredictable,” among others, let you set the tone of your next big (or small) read -- or on character, plot, and/or setting preferences. Though these facets are certainly unique, the site’s book and author options are limited; still, if you like Whichbook’s suggestions, the “Borrow” and “Buy” buttons re-direct you to a library catalog and Amazon, respectively.
Library Thing. Boasting over one million members and a book catalog nearing 70 million titles, this site is for serious book lovers. Similar to Shelfari and GoodReads, Library Thing lets you create a profile and view what your friends are reading, as well as browse their substantive catalog. Join one of the online discussion groups, or check out the more-or-less-live message board; a social and active book network awaits!
Gnooks. This site is not exclusively for books -- it also contains categories for movies and music -- but the literature map is a distinct feature. Type in an author's name, and a scattered list of relevant author names will appear, with those most closely aligned with the original author's style or genre closest in proximity. (I used James Franco as an example and found some disjointed results: No author is particularly close to Franco on the map, which I'll leave to the discerning reader's interpretation.) Another unique feature is “Gnod's Suggestions,” which offers an author who might fit your taste based on reader recommendations.
The Staff Recommends. Surely you’ve seen the staff recommendations when you enter a bookstore, but does anyone actually heed their advice? John Warner, a McSweeney’s editor-at-large, is hoping you will. As TSR’s chief writer, Warner oversees all of the site’s recommendations, so if you trust his opinion, this website is for you. And because TSR wants to assure readers that they’re giving their honest opinions, any money the site receives from user purchases through their affiliates goes directly to First Book, a non-profit that donates books to children in need.
Do you use book recommendation websites? Which ones do you like best?
Photo by Zach Bonnell (Flickr)
About Tamar -- I'm a recent Wellesley College grad with a degree in English and studio art. I grew up in the Midwest and briefly lived in Europe and the Middle East. My name is often mistaken for Tamara from "Sister, Sister." I love exploring coffee shops and am almost always highly caffeinated. I am very interested in films, the arts, theatre, painting, photography -- you name it -- '90s TV shows, and music.
The author is solely responsible for the content.