Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What should I read next?
I do get asked for recommendations a lot, especially in person. I do like the intent behind the question and wish I had a great one-answer-fits-all for it.
Problem is, any answer depends on what the questioner has already read and likes to read.
No use pushing a seventeenth-century literary masterpiece on someone weaned on contemporary thrillers. There are plenty of classic crime and espionage novels they might better enjoy being challenged by. Or more literary works with thrilling elements to draw them into the deep end.
I'd like to develop a website that would take what you've read recently and make suggestions for your next reading based on similarities—and differences—of time period, style, genre, theme and authors. Meanwhile though, you can use the general idea to guide your future reading.
It works like this:
- Think of the most recent book you've read and thoroughly appreciated.
- Using online, a bookstore, library or your own store of knowledge, imagine a cluster of related books around that one. The cluster would include works by the same writer, as well as works by other writers in the same genre, in the same decade, on the same theme, or in the same style. The cluster should consist mainly of recommended books (from The Greatest Literature of All Time and other sources) but it should also include a few unknowns.
- Then move your reading around within that cluster.
- As you find yourself enjoying new works, build new webs of book suggestions around them too.
- Keep changing the lines of network you follow. If you moved along author or genre lines the last time, try period or theme connections this time.
You'll develop growing clusters of clusters—ideas for reading the rest of your life. I realized at one point this is in effect what I've been doing most of my own reading life, which has taken me all over the literary map, while keeping my interest all the way.
That's too much work? You just want some suggested titles?
Then go to the next question.