The Best Way to Give Book Recommendations

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As a book editor, one of the questions I’m asked most often (after “can you take a look at my manuscript?”) is “what should I read?”

I love giving book recommendations (I do not love looking at your manuscript, stranger). Discovery is one of the great joys of reading and editing books. Nothing makes me happier than a message from someone who read and loved something I’ve suggested.

There are lots of good, perfectly reasonable ways to give book recommendations. Tying a book to someone’s interests (Queen of the Night for an opera aficionado; Ready Player One for a video game lover; Wicked Plants for a gardener) is always a safe bet. Browsing a person’s bookshelves can give you a great sense of his or her reading taste (or at least buying habits). Some people simply recommend the last book they liked.

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to necessarily have read a book to suggest it. I’m forthcoming with people if I mention a book I haven’t read myself. Working in publishing, I read reviews, follow social media, and spend a lot of time discussing books with my coworkers. All of that comes into consideration when I suggest a book I haven’t read.

Now, all of these strategies are well and good, but none comes close to my foolproof* book recommendation method.

*not at all foolproof

Have someone tell you two or three books they’ve read (preferably recently) and liked:

For example, if someone were to say they recently loved The Thirteenth Tale and Wuthering Heights, I’d recommend The Madwoman Upstairs.

For someone who loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, A Man Called Ove, and The Little Paris Bookshop, I’d recommend The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

For someone who loves In the Garden of the Beasts and In Cold Blood, I’d recommend Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Sometimes people don’t see a common thread in their reading habits. Having them list the books can help make that clearer (for both them and you!).

Happy Recommending!

Featured photo: Pop Chart Lab/Essential Novels Chart


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  1. Lynne Welch

    I get most of my books by getting recommendations. I feel that it gives me a better look into the book hearing from someone who has read it. Like my current read, Exodus 95 by Kfir Luzzatto. I wouldn’t have picked it out on my own, but it was a suggestion and it turned out to be an excellent read. Recommendations to the job!

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