What Makes You Pick Up A Book? #LetsTalkBookish #LetsDiscuss2021

April 16, 2021

What makes you pick up a book?

What Makes You Pick Up A Book (white text over a background of a tall stack of hardbback books)

Image Source: Canva

One of the most pressing questions in the reading life is “What Should I Read Next?”

How do you decide what to read next? What makes you pick up a book?

I was going to clean the house, but then I realised.l..this book isn't going to read itself (Image: a young woman sits on the floor leaning against a cabinet reading a book)

I love discussion posts, and many of my favorite bloggers participate in Let’s Talk Bookish and the Discussion Challenge. One of my blogging goals in 2021 is to participate in more discussion link-ups. Do you enjoy discussion posts?

As I answer the questions, think about how you would answer them for yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This post is inspired by the Let’s Talk Bookish topic hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This post is also an entry for the 2021 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

What makes me pick up a certain book?

  • Reviews (I have a few reviewers I trust and who I consider my book twins!)
  • Known Author
  • Genre (hitfic FTW!)
  • Diverse Voices
  • Catchy Title

***Tip: I like to have a few books already in my queue so that I am not left adrift after finishing a book. It’s helpful in preventing decision fatigue to have something to hop right into. I enjoy a seamless reading experience. What makes you pick up a certain book?

Is a pretty cover enough?

Absolutely not! I’m actually most tempted by a catchy title or an author or review. I admit to liking bright covers….especially bright floral designs! I confess that I am growing weary of the women on histfic covers who are walking or looking away and all we see are their backs. Also, I usually prefer the original cover to the movie adaptation cover. It’s always interesting to notice different covers on the UK versions of books. Because I read on kindle, I hardly ever notice the covers until I start writing my review! Do you like a pretty cover?

Do I check for good reviews?

I stalk all reviews! The good reviews and the bad reviews. If I’m going to invest hours in reading a book, I want to make sure it’s a good fit for me. I don’t like to go in “cold.” Because I don’t usually read thriller or suspense, I’m not that worried about coming across spoilers. I’m trusting that most reviewers will avoid spoilers or have them clearly labeled. When I read reviews, I’m also looking for trigger or content warnings. I know that I don’t want to read books about child predators, serial killers, or witchcraft. I find it’s helpful to check the 2-star reviews. I know every book isn’t for every reader but I like to see if the shortcomings are something I can live with. For instance, if the reviewer indicates that excessive profanity is an issue, I will probably steer clear of that book. I know that I often quit on books with a great deal of profanity. If the reviewer indicates that the story is heavily character-driven with minimal plot, I will think carefully about that book and read more reviews. Many times when I pick up a book it’s because #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt (many thanks to my bookstagram buddies!) Do you read reviews or do you like to go in “cold”?

Do I depend on recommendations from friends, librarians, or booksellers?

pulling a shelf of library books

Maybe you have a group of bookish friends or family members who always recommend books? Perhaps you ask your librarian or bookseller for a rec? If we were friends in real life, I would always have a recommendation for you (maybe a cart full)! My hairstylist is not a fast reader but she appreciates having a good story on hand for when she wants to read. I began the tradition of buying her a book for Christmas one year. It took her an entire year to read it but she loved it and was ready for the next one the following Christmas! I guess she would say that she doesn’t worry about what to read next because she reads what her customer brings her! I think getting a recommendation from a friend is great because your BFF really knows you and your reading tastes. I have one friend that I love to get a rec from because we tend to enjoy the same books. Have you found your book twin?

Is the synopsis important?

The synopsis isn’t as important as reviews in my opinion. A synopsis is a sales pitch and it can be misleading or contain spoilers. I find that most reviewers are more careful about spoilers. The Sea Wife is sold as a thriller and I thought it was more of a family drama with a little mystery (how did the husband die?). I know several readers who were disappointed in the read because they were expecting a more thrilling story based on the synopsis. It was actually fine with me because I don’t like thrillers! Two years ago, I read an installment of No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and while I was writing my review I checked the official synopsis and a couple of events that were mentioned in the synopsis NEVER happened in the story! Sometimes, it’s painfully obvious that the writer of the synopsis has not read the book! Is the synopsis important to you?

Do I look for diversity or #ownvoices?

Yes, I purposely look for diverse reads and #OwnVoices authors. I track my yearly stats in a spreadsheet and I always include this category! In my monthly reading wrapups, I like to see a nice variety of voices and perspectives. Do you purposely look for diversity in your reading life?

Does my last read influence my next read?

Definitely, yes. I recently read a very heavy WW11 histfic book, and I immediately picked up a sweet middle grade read. I do like to balance my genres a bit. Sometimes that fluffy chick-lit book is exactly the palate cleanser I need. Even though my followers must think I read nothing but histfic, that’s not the case. Sometimes I don’t write full blog reviews for my in between reads….but I do note them all on Goodreads. Often, a series will influence what I read next. I can’t pick up book #4 in a series and enjoy it without reading the three previous installments! I’m a binge reader when it comes to a good series. In fact, when I am immersed in a series, it’s the perfect antidote to worrying about what I’ll read next. Are you influenced by your last read?

Do l Iook for any checkboxes?

Absolutely! My biggest checkbox is probably histfic. That genre always intrigues me and deserves a look! I also love complicated family drama, found family, and friendship themes and enemies to lovers or friends to lovers tropes. What are your most important checkboxes?

Do I have autobuy authors?

For sure! Fredrick Backman, Kate Quinn, Louise Penny (although I’ve decided not to read the one she’s coauthoring with Hillary Clinton), and Stephanie Dray (especially coauthoring with Laura Kamoie) are four definite auto-buy authors. For chick-lit, I’m always curious about Katherine Center’s new releases. I love Sara Ackerman’s Pearl Harbor/Hawaii stories. I could go on and on listing authors whose work I’m always checking out! Do you have an auto-buy author?

Do I reread?

Usually I don’t reread. I keep a list of lifetime favorites and I’d be happy to read anything on that list should the mood arise. I suffer from FOMO and I’m distracted by the new and shiny, so the pleasure of rereading gets pushed to the back burner. I did reread The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society before the movie came out. And I impulsively reread The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry last summer. Honestly, I’m always fearful that I won’t love a book as much as the first time I read it. I’m addicted to the “Wow” experience in reading and second or third reads don’t offer the same thrill.  However, there are different reasons to reread a book including appreciating the prose and revisiting a poignant theme or memorable characters. I remember the time I read The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman two times in a row. The first time, I was gripped by the plot. As soon as I read the last word, I immediately started on page one to reread more carefully and appreciate the writing, character development, and themes. Fortunately, this is a short story that is easily read in an hour! What is the last book you reread?

Am I influenced by hype?

Yes and no. As I mentioned earlier, I have FOMO so I’m always influenced by hype…Except if the book doesn’t check my boxes. When that happens, I feel awful! I don’t like being out of the loop for new reads. But it happens and I live with it. My most recent experience involves The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I am familiar with her work (The Great Alone, The Nightingale, and The Winter Garden), but I know that she can make me ugly cry (especially her earlier titles). When I heard how sad The Four Winds was, I just knew I wasn’t in the right headspace. I’ve also read a review that gave me pause. I’ve decided not to read it, but I have to live with the hype! Are you influenced by hype?

Outside forces often dictate which book I read next.

At times my review calendar decides my next read for me. I have made commitments to publishers and blog tours that must be honored. Other times, library due dates dictate which book I read next! Occasionally, I pause my hold (easy to do if reading digitally on Overdrive or Libby!), but it’s always looming and I rarely totally give up my place on the holds list and start over. Instagram Buddy Reads and IRL Book Club also affect which book I read next. I need to be accountable to the group and ready for discussion! Do library holds or book club commitments influence what you read next?

I think that knowing yourself as a reader leads to a satisfactory and enriching reading life. (see this post about Your Reading Style)

QOTD: What makes you pick up a certain book?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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  1. I have to admit the cover is a huge appeal to me, as in the styling of it. I always ask myself if it’s a book I would proudly put on my own bookshelves. And I know I should never judge a book by it’s cover. I have found that many proof covers appeal to me more than the final cover.

    • I think when I switched to digital reading and gave all my books away that I lost my love for covers. If I were still buying physical copies I would definitely be captivated by covers! Thanks for commenting!

      • Well….there were a couple of contributing factors…..my daughter and grandson moved in with us and we had to clear out 2 bedrooms both of which had bookcases in them…..then my sister had just passed away and I had to dispose of 100s of her books…..so it just struck me that re-homing my own books would be helpful to my own children in the future…one less task for them. I had already switched to digital so I hadn’t bought books in a long time. But I miss my books because they add the soul to a house. Now I love buying an occasional book as a gift!

  2. I’ll be honest and say that the cover usually gets me first because it’s the first thing you see. Many times it’s reviews though too. Excellent post!

  3. I think if you’re a book blogger, you’re always going to be swayed by other bloggers you’ve come to regard as having similar book tastes. I take their recommendations seriously. Rarely am I swayed by a cover (it happens on occasion) but a cleverly written book blurb will make me look twice. Goodreads friends’ reviews are probably my biggest influences, though. Some of them are those where I’ve had a ten-year online relationship! We discuss books in detail.

    Great post, Carol💜

  4. Ha I read the book that bill Clinton wrote with Patterson, but I wouldn’t read anything Hillary co wrote. I think Patterson was the bigger draw. I think my biggest two are author and synopsis, sometimes I listen to reviewers but usually they spoil more than they sell for me😂

  5. The title usually catches my attention, but the synopsis is important to me. Reviews are sometimes helpful, but since everyone has his/her own preferences, they can’t always be trusted. One reviewer gave one of my books 3 out of 5 stars and commented “Too short for a higher rating.” Really? The length of a book should never be a criterion in a review. It should be about the content.

    • Ugh! Sorry you received that sort of discouraging review. I saw that a lot with Backman’s novella and thought it was so unfair! I tend to follow a group of reviewers that have similar tastes so I trust them more than random reviewers…..although I peruse random reviews, too. Hopefully your next reviews will be wonderful!

  6. I find myself lost in time. I am disappointed in most of what I’ve read in the last decade. I don’t want to be lectured, I don’t want to be theorized – I want to
    be captivated by an an interesting story, The late Stephen Ambrose said story makes everything come
    alive, especially history- Winds of War, Seabiscuitc The Aviators Wife, Unbroken, Undaunted Courage, Fried Green Tomatoes- something that makes me think, or gives me an understanding of humanity and tells a good story. My current book is an oldie – We Die Alone – about Norway’s underground during WWII.

    • I’m sorry you’re having difficulty finding great stories! I have a sense of what you mean. Have you tried Mitch Albom? I loved The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.

  7. You make so many great points. I too no longer buy physical books (and only own a few that are in storage due to lack of space) so covers are no longer the driving force they were. Author and blurb are big attractions for me, though I will then scour reviews before deciding – and I tend to read those 2 and 3 star reviews on Goodreads for that purpose. I’ve actually bought books from 1 and 2 star reviews, particularly as my tastes tend to run quite dark!

    Reader friend recommendations are also important – I have a small circle of like minded readers that I chat with on Goodreads, and this is where I will be inspired to try a new author. I read indie published books, so media/blog hype rolls over my head as they aren’t names I’m familiar with, even though everyone else has heard of them!

    • I find the 2 star reviews quite useful! Likeminded readers are the best source of new reads! Thanks for commenting Louise!

  8. This was really interesting Carol and I agree with many fo your suggestions as to why you read what you read. I don’t tend to re-read either, as I have so many books in my list I want to read. the covers don’t matter much to me either as I too read mainly on my kindle. I often check out reviews before I read but mainly afterwards to see how my thoughts compare. I appreciate book bloggers who write reviews and often add a book to my list as a result of reading a review. I also have next reads lined up ready and can start a new book just hours after finishing one. What a great topic that got me thinking!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Debbie! I like having books lined up ready to read so I don’t have to hunt for something!

  9. What makes me pick up a certain book?

    Blurb + reviews
    Author I like
    Genre (mystery, thriller, literary fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction)
    Setting – (so important to me)
    Attractive cover
    Series I follow

    • That’s true….I didn’t mention how the setting affects my choices…..small towns/ villages (rural or coastline) are my favs!

  10. I am drawn in by covers even though I know they are not a reliable indication that I will enjoy the book! A lot of other things influence what I decide to read. My last read often leads to another one on the same topic or genre, also other bloggers or friends who mention books I think I’ll like. I just picked up Black Elk Speaks because a friend mentioned it in a conversation, for example.

  11. The cover is definitely the hook for me but if the rest (synopsis, reviews, and peer reviews) then I don’t purchase it. If I’m uncertain if I’ll love it I usually always get it e-reader

  12. Loved reading this, Carol! Diversity and certain genres are very important factors when I’m looking for books to read. And I relate, there’s really no time to reread with all the books that are constantly coming out. I always have about 10 books total that are on hold besides the ones I already have ready to read so there’s just no time to stop and reread any favorites. And I agree, histfic’s covers are really starting to get old. But I guess it’s still good in a way since I can tell instantly by seeing them that it’ll be a histfic novel…

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