In theory, selecting a new book to read shouldn't be difficult. If you're anything like us, you probably have a stack of books you haven't yet read piled up next to your bed.
But sometimes, when you've finished your latest read, choosing the next book to pick up and dive into is a harder task than you might have expected. Sometimes it's a matter of too much choice, sometimes it's just indecisiveness. And sometimes it's just about gauging what kind of mood you're in after finishing your most recent book. How do you feel? What is going to inspire you, engage you, and move you at this specific point in time (and the next few days, weeks or months, depending on how fast you read).
If you're struggling to decide what book to read next, here are a few ways of approaching the test to help you along the way.
The genre approach
To keep our reading list fresh, we like to alternate between genres. If you've finished reading a big, meaty work of literary fiction, change things up by attacking a murder mystery or a gripping crime thriller. If you've just spent a few weeks lost in an engrossing work of non fiction or a memoir, it's time to get back into the world of fiction, preferably with something high concept like science fiction or fantasy. Just read something really sad and emotional? Maybe you'll want to switch gears by choosing a romance or a comedy next. This way, your reading list will keep you on your toes.
The how are you feeling approach
OK, so you've thought about the genres that you've recently read and how they made you feel. But what about how you're feeling outside of books? How are you feeling more generally? Often, your emotional state is a good gauge for what you should read next. Think about how stressed you are, or how tense you might be feeling. If the answer is 'very', then try reading something light and fizzy, like anything by Marian Keyes (Grown Ups is a recent favourite of ours) or Liane Moriarty (The Husband's Secret is a true classic).
Maybe you want comfort reads: the purest, most decadent book version of mac and cheese or chicken soup. Look for something like the books you loved as a kid (I Capture The Castle, Harry Potter or anything Roald Dahl), which will wrap you up in a big, warm hug while you read. Maybe you're feeling sluggish, and you need a zappy, zesty thriller to wake you up – Australian author Rose Carlyle's The Girl in the Mirror (out August 2020) is a page turner that will give you the jolt of energy you need.
The what's new? approach
If you're nearing the last pages of your current read and thinking ahead to what you'll get stuck into next, but nothing on your reading pile is really calling out to you, simply head to the recently released section of your favourite online bookstore. There you'll see all of the incredible new books that have just hit the shelves. Think of the new releases list like a hotel buffet. Look out for titles you've heard of, or seen reviewed, or written by authors you've previously enjoyed, then click add to cart and wait for the delivery. Simple!
The era approach
When the sheer volume of recent releases is too overwhelming, shift your gaze and select a title from the archives. It's easy to get into the habit of relentlessly reading new releases – which is a fantastic way to support authors working today – but it can mean we miss out on great books from the past. If you're finding yourself stumped for something new to read, think about seeking out a book that you've been recommended before that you never got around to reading.
Maybe it's a classic. (North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell? Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh?) Or maybe it's a book from a few years ago that passed you by. (Kate Atkinson's Life After Life is that book for us.) When you find yourself with a break in reading and you're searching for a new book, go and seek out one of those books that got away. To make this task easier, keep a note on your phone where you write down all the titles, whenever they are recommended or they cross your path in magazines or on podcasts. That way you'll always be able to easily consult the list when you need it most.
The canon approach
One way to make sure you've got plenty of books on your reading list is to seek out an author you love and start reading their entire oeuvre. Just a warning: not everyone likes to read this way. But sometimes, when you're really locked into the way a particular writer writes, and you love how they see the world, attacking their whole canon is one way to plough through a reading list. Think about it like discovering a new favourite filmmaker or an artist whose work you adore and can't get enough of.
If you find yourself falling for, say, Heartburn by Nora Ephron, head to your local bookstore and buy some of her other books, like her collection of essays I Feel Bad About My Neck. Did you recently tear through Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half? Might be time to pick up her first book, The Mothers. Loved Normal People but still haven't read Conversations With Friends? Now is your chance.
The what's big on social media approach
Following book review accounts on Facebook and Instagram is a great way to get inspiration for what to add to your reading list – here's a list of authors to follow on Instagram. We of course love the mega-popular Reese's Book Cub as well as the accounts of platforms like Australian online magazine Primer and the 2020 books highlight on Sophie Roberts' account – she's one half of the fantastic Highly Enthused podcast.