Author Topic: How can I find better books to read?  (Read 5751 times)

shelivesthedream

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How can I find better books to read?
« on: December 27, 2014, 12:25:19 PM »
I am having problems identifying books that are appropriate to my level of understanding in a few subjects - mainly in early 20th C history (the wars and between) and various subjects related to agriculture and the environment. I find I am frequently disappointed that a book is too introductory or frustrated that it is too academic. I currently get books from a mixture of the library (when they have them) and Amazon (when they don't).

Do any of you have any ideas for how I can identify which titles will be high-level popular/low-level serious? Browsing is too overwhelming and had led to wasted time and money. (Or do you have any recommendations?)

ShortInSeattle

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2014, 02:27:53 PM »
It takes some time, but how about finding and following readers with similar interests on Goodreads?

Glenstache

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2014, 02:43:56 PM »
Sometimes it can be enlightening to read a topic specific book that falls in that time interval. It gives a telecoped view at one element, but it can really help understand things a bit more viscerally. Reading things like Daniel Yergin's "the prize" talking about the oil industry provides an interesting context for how many decisions and political agendas unfolded in that time and others.

Janie

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2014, 03:30:49 PM »
The New York Review of Books is great.

ETA link: http://www.nybooks.com
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 06:03:56 PM by Janie »

sheepstache

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2014, 04:21:27 PM »
Do you keep a list of books to read? Whenever someone mentions a book that sounds interesting or an author references other books, I note it on a list I keep in my email drafts. I have the same experience as you if I only begin the task of finding books once I'm actually ready to start reading.

I would give yourself permission to give up on books fifty pages in. But also I would say if you're interested in a topic, sometimes you have to force yourself through a book that's academic. The more knowledgeable you are beyond the basics, the more interesting options you'll have.

Don't limit yourself to books. Lots of websites and blogs will have information you want. I think for non-fiction it's easier for writers to sharply capture what they want to say in whatever format is most appropriate rather than having to fulfill some pre-conceived book format with a made-up storyline, required page count, etc. Plus online resources will both mention books sometimes, and you'll become more well-prepared for the topics.

And +1 on Glenstache's suggestion.

Noodle

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2014, 06:30:39 PM »
Your librarian! Seriously...they take whole courses in Reader's Advisory, which is about connecting readers with the right books. (You want the person at the reference desk, not the check-out counter.) Lots of libraries also have online reader assistance ..I have used the service a couple of times and gotten great recommendations. If you can give specific examples of what worked and did not, that will help.

Future Lazy

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2014, 06:37:49 PM »
Your librarian! Seriously...they take whole courses in Reader's Advisory, which is about connecting readers with the right books. (You want the person at the reference desk, not the check-out counter.) Lots of libraries also have online reader assistance ..I have used the service a couple of times and gotten great recommendations. If you can give specific examples of what worked and did not, that will help.

+10000000000 Just as your librarian. Tell them what you've been trying to read that's too academic for you, and then tell them what subject matter you want, and they can help point you in the right direction. Don't feel ashamed for not wanting to read textbook style academic writing.

Would also recommend looking into fantasy/fiction books set in that time period. Some series take their setting histories very seriously and you can actually learn a lot about the cultures at that time, even though the storylines of the books are fictional.

Good luck!

mlipps

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2014, 07:41:05 PM »
I always sample the first chapter of a book via my Kindle before buying. Also, if you've found a few books that do strike the balance you want, maybe look them up on Amazon and look at the other recommended books on the page.

Primm

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2014, 10:49:14 PM »
Your librarian! Seriously...they take whole courses in Reader's Advisory, which is about connecting readers with the right books. (You want the person at the reference desk, not the check-out counter.) Lots of libraries also have online reader assistance ..I have used the service a couple of times and gotten great recommendations. If you can give specific examples of what worked and did not, that will help.

Second this. Also your library may (mine does) have reviews online for all of their books, I can spend ages clicking from one to the next "if you liked that you may like this" link, and adding books to my "read next" list.

deborah

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2014, 10:59:09 PM »
It can be helpful to look at the books they recommend for first year university courses in the particular subject.

ClaycordJCA

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2014, 12:52:26 AM »
I look at the year-end best book lists in the NY Times, Washington Post and LA Times to get ideas for Christmas presents. Do a web search for best books of and specify the year and see what looks interesting.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2014, 07:54:25 AM »
I generally rely on Goodreads and Google-fu.

NinetyFour

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2014, 08:43:39 AM »
Maybe something here will interest you:

http://www.brainpickings.org/tag/best-of/

MBot

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2014, 12:00:39 PM »
Is there a university library that you have access to? While the librarian at your public library will be helpful; it may also help to see what a librarian at the university recommends

For two reasons - simply because they may have more extensive collections on those subjects; ranging from introductory to very academic. And since students have likely asked about them every semester for the same classes, they probably have a good understanding of those particular subjects and what is at your level.

shelivesthedream

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2014, 03:04:47 PM »
Thank you for all the suggestions! I especially like the NYT (et al) book lists.

I have tried asking librarians, but all they give me is the class mark of the relevant area. I have to either browse everything (and risk spending hours!) or know what I'm looking for. There isn't a reference desk in my local library, and there aren't any others within biking distance. They're very good at inter-library loans, though, as long as you know what you want!

I'm interested by GoodReads but it seems like it would take a whole to get into so I'll save it for later.

NinetyFour

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2014, 05:42:00 PM »
I hope you will let us know what books you plan to start with.  :)

Lookilu

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Re: How can I find better books to read?
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2014, 06:39:18 PM »
Your librarian! Seriously...they take whole courses in Reader's Advisory, which is about connecting readers with the right books. (You want the person at the reference desk, not the check-out counter.) Lots of libraries also have online reader assistance ..I have used the service a couple of times and gotten great recommendations. If you can give specific examples of what worked and did not, that will help.

+10000000000 Just as your librarian. Tell them what you've been trying to read that's too academic for you, and then tell them what subject matter you want, and they can help point you in the right direction. Don't feel ashamed for not wanting to read textbook style academic writing.

Would also recommend looking into fantasy/fiction books set in that time period. Some series take their setting histories very seriously and you can actually learn a lot about the cultures at that time, even though the storylines of the books are fictional.

Good luck!
^This. The most valuable thing in the library is, of course, the librarian. :-)
Also, if you happen to have a brick and mortar bookstore nearby, see what they stock. Experienced booksellers can be very knowledgeable. There are popular authors and perennial sellers in all categories. On a personal recommendation note, I'll also add a shout out for anything by Barbara Tuchman.