I’m a big reader – huge. Anyone who’s known me for at least two weeks knows enough not to ask me what I’m reading nowadays (unless you have an hour or two to spare).
For a while (a long while), my reading life was sharply separated from all things technology. This is how I felt. However, once I dove in I started to discover all the delightful tools the Internet could offer a good old traditional bibliophile.
I took my first step toward integrating some technology into my literary life after a friend told me about What Should I Read Next (WSIRN), an extremely simple website for book recommendations. All you do is go to the site, search an author or book, and you’ll get a list of books and authors that are similar. (FYI: when searching, simply type and wait for the results to appear below the search box. For some reason, hitting enter just empties the search box.)
Becoming a Registered User
The simple search method is the most basic way to use this site. However, if you become a registered user (i.e. give WSIRN your email address), the site will save your list of books and you can use multiple books in the search for your next read.
You’re probably worried about spam or yet another monthly newsletter clogging your inbox. If it makes you feel better, I gave them my email address about two years ago and I can count the number of emails they’ve sent me on one hand.
Relying on Collective Taste
Amazon offers book recommendations in the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” category at the bottom of the page.
However, where Amazon’s recommendations* are based off people’s buying habits, WSIRN’s suggestions are based off people’s tastes. Their algorithm is informed by all the registered users’ lists. Books that are often found together on the same lists become more and more associated. That means that if a whole lot of people had both Fight Club and Winnie the Pooh on their favorite list, a search for what to read after Winnie the Pooh would tell you to give Fight Club a go.
As my example shows, this approach could go horribly wrong. However, that only depends on your definition of wrong. Because your suggestion is based on real people’s reading interests, there is no guarantee how closely related the suggestions will be; but the website won’t fail to give you new titles to try.
*If you are interested in seeing Amazon’s recommendations, you should check out The Book Seer, a fun and quirky site that gives you your Amazon recommendations via a wise old man.
Pros of WSIRN:
- Simple, intuitive website
- A book icon next to each title will take you to the book’s Amazon page where you can find more information or buy it
- Won’t suggest other titles by the same author (as WSIRN says, they’ve “assumed that you’ve thought of reading those!”)
Cons of WSIRN:
- You’re going to get some weird recommendations (potentially not a con)
- Widely read books show up a lot (this means that you might have to deal with seeing books from the Harry Potter and Twilight series suggested every once in a while)
- Many titles are in the system more than once (i.e. Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, etc.)
All in all, What Should I Read Next is a pretty useful tool. If your “To Read” list is racking up the check marks, WSIRN is definitely worth a shot to find new titles.
Would you use What Should I Read Next to find your next book to tackle? Do you have a different site you like to use for book recommendations?