Worthwhile Books: How to Find Them

by Maryssa Orta
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Plenty of times I’ve sat down and gotten ready to read a book, only to find out that I hated every moment and wished I never picked it up. This feeling is so universal. Too many 1 stars sit on my shelf. How do you stop reading such mediocre, or even, straight-up bad finds? Don’t want to waste your time anymore? But where do you even begin? There are too many books, and too little time, so stop spending any more time on the books that don’t blow your mind away.

Learn the Strats

My favorite books of all time are “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. I read both of these books around the same time, so I had gone through this amazing streak of books that I not only enjoyed but changed my life as well. Naturally, I wanted to find more books just like these, so I searched for them. I came across books I was indifferent to and books I wished I never read. But it all started to turn when I learned just a few of these different strategies.

1. Sign Up

The best way to find a book you’ll love is to sign up for websites such as Goodreads.com and Thestorygraph.com (still in beta). These websites allow you to log and review every book you have ever read. You can choose your favorite genres, tropes, and even what kind of author you want to support.

For example, I said I loved details, details, and more details, and so both websites were able to provide me with an incredible list of books that were worth my time. They provide detailed summaries that help me decide if I want to read a book. From there I can choose my worthwhile book.

2. Read Something Else

I know the genre for me is historical fiction. I never deviated from this genre, but I never considered that other genres could hold masterpieces. One day I decided to pick up a poetry book. Oh boy, it was the ride of a lifetime. Doors began to open and I branched out to other genres — genres I’ve never considered before.

So are you a fan of romance? Try reading a thriller. Fan of drama? Try reading an autobiography. Like reading wordy classics? Pick up a graphic novel. Diversify your reading!

3. Listen to Your Bookish Friends

Of course, this only applies if you are not a bookish friend. However, as a bookish friend, I have an entire library stored in my head. I may not have considered a book to be worthwhile, but the book might mean everything to another friend.

Let’s go back a bit. Remember that poetry book I decided to pick up? Well, another friend of mine recommended it. I asked her if she could give me a poetry book to read, just anything. She shrugged and handed me a copy of Richard Siken’s “Crush” and to her, the book barely meant a thing, yet she knew exactly what I would like.

Utilize that brain of a friend. The next worthwhile books may be just a phone call away.

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4. Diversify, Not Just Genres

Our schools are guilty of this, I’m guilty of this, and we can do something about it.

Read stories by minorities! Worthwhile books aren’t just written by the men you had to learn about in high school English. There are so many rich stories written by a variety of people. You can learn about experiences outside your own, and that’s valuable enough.

There are so many amazing stories out there and if you limit yourself to just one type of author, you’ll never get a chance to read these stories. Branch out! If you usually read books from white men, pick up a book from a Black woman. And so on and so forth.

5. BookTube

I cannot stress this enough: if you want to read more worthwhile books, pick a BookTuber and run with them. YouTube is a tool you can use to find your next favorite. There is a whole community of people who rant and rave about their likes and dislikes. If you find someone with a similar taste you’ll be hit with book recommendation after book recommendation. Before you know it, your TBR (that’s “too be read” in the BookTube community) list will be long, but you’ll be ready to conquer it.

Personally, I’ve been a long time fan of BookTubers ReadwithCindy, PaperbackDreams, and Ellias. Though, there is always a BookTuber that fits your tase!

6. Audiobooks ARE Books

If you’re busy — always on the go, know that it’s okay to pick up an audiobook. I’ve seen so many people say this isn’t a valid form of reading, but it totally is! If you limit yourself to the physical copy or the e-book, then you’re limiting the number of stories you read. Narrators can create such an amazing atmosphere that a book could benefit from it. Some authors even read their own stories which add to the great experience.

Decide which audiobooks are worthwhile. Recently, I’ve found that listening to nonfiction helps me understand the contents better. It’s like I’m in a classroom learning about some new self-help tactic or I’m sitting beside the author as they tell me their life story. So, listen to audiobooks. Yes, it counts as reading!

7. Use Your Library!

The library is full of worthwhile books that you haven’t read yet. Even when libraries are closed, the resources are open to you. The app, Libby, is a completely free resource full of audiobooks, e-books, and magazines. There are lists upon lists of different worthwhile books to read. As long as you have your library card a world of new stories and information will be right at your fingertips.

And if the libraries are open, the librarians themselves are a great resource. Ask them where the romcoms are. Which one is the most checked out? The least? Which one has an LGBT+ couple? Does it mix with another genre like domestic fiction? Seriously, ask questions. Book people love talking about books.

9. Wait For It

When I was in high school, I was required to read “The Scarlett Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I dreaded every word and I gave away my copy as soon as we moved onto the next book. I never wanted to think of it again, yet something happened — I grew up. Four years later, and I’m genuinely enjoying the story!

If you don’t want to read it, then don’t read it. Though, the more experience you gain as a reader, the more open you start to become to more stories. If the book isn’t right for you now, then it just isn’t. You don’t need to read that classic or that self-help guide your friends are raving about if it doesn’t speak to you. Maybe you’ll enjoy it down the line, but if it isn’t worth it now don’t bother.

10. Beware of Buying

It’s nice to have a full bookshelf of beautiful and new covers. However, why would you spend money on just an okay story? Don’t confidently buy a story that makes you feel “meh.” Not only will you regret reading the book, but you’ll regret wasting money too.

When I browse through stories I keep the notes app on my phone open and write down the titles and the authors. Mentally make a pros and cons list. Ask yourself: is [price] worth it? Have I enjoyed this author’s stories before? Is it a compelling premise? Can I read this for free at my library and decide if I want it later?

Still, want a copy? Check out your local thrift store and independent booksellers. At thrift stores, copies run way cheaper. At independent book stores, you can get the shiny new cover and give money to a local business, so if the book doesn’t work out, at least the money was put to good use.

Donate the books you don’t want anymore, so others can find their next worthwhile book too. Spread these stories and make them readily available for others to enjoy.

The Worthwhile Stories

Only you know what’s worth your time. Ask your questions and use those resources. Not every book you read will be a masterpiece that stays in your head for decades but finding a book that’s just right will open your mind to more and more stories. Mix it up and ask questions. From here on out, spend your time (and money) wisely. You’ll be knowledgeable and well-read for it.

Check out more in Books!

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Author Interview and Review: The Scoop on Nancy Richardson Fischer

The 4 Books Helping Me Stay Sane at Home

Author Interview: The Scoop on Lisa Barr

7 Bookish Objects to Fuel Your Book Obsession

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