How to Decide What to Read Next

Books laid out on the ground in some leaves.

With literally millions of options available, it’s no wonder book lovers often find themselves unable to decide what to read next. When then back cover of one book closes, you’re faced with the monumental task of wading through potentially thousands of titles to find new reading material.

Or, if like many bibliophiles you have a stack of books waiting for you on your bedside table, you many only need to choose between a few different options. However, you still have to meet the challenge of prioritizing which one to tackle first.

While by no means a life-or-death decision, picking what book you want to read next can feel like a significant one. Reading is an investment of time and energy. If you have a long list of books you want to experience, choosing between them is not just about seeking out a source of entertainment, but also about how you’re going to use these limited resources.

On the other hand, sometimes we simply become overwhelmed with decision fatigue and want someone else to make the final call for us. Either way, here are some tips for deciding what to read next, whether you have a To Be Read (TBR) pile or not.

3 Tips for Finding New Books to Read

If your reading options are looking scarce (or non-existent) it may be time to head to your favorite local bookstore or library branch to pick up some new material. Should you find yourself standing in the middle of an aisle unsure of where to turn, here’s some guidance that may help steer you in the right direction.

1. Reread an Old Favorite

While it may not sound as exciting as discovering a new story, returning to an old favorite can be a fun reading exercise. You may find new things you like about the book that you never noticed before, picking up on nuances that were lost on you during past read-throughs.

I know some people are staunchly against rereading books. I understand their thinking – again, you have limited time and energy available and it makes sense to want to spend them on new books. However, the magic of your favorite tales is worth re-experiencing. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have enjoyed them so much the first time around.

2. Check Out Recent Releases or Best Sellers

If you’re feeling stumped as to what you should read next, you may simply be making the decision harder than it needs to be. Most bookstores and libraries have displays near their entrances that feature recent releases or popular books. This is an easy source of new material you’ll probably enjoy.

Of course, your taste may not align with the majority and best sellers might not be your cup of tea. However, there’s usually a decent variety in the selections featured in these displays. It’s worth taking a moment to check out what’s on offer before giving up.

3. Ask a Bookseller or Librarian for a Recommendation

Chances are that if you’ve made it to this point, you’ve already consulted the internet and your friends for book recommendations. If these resources haven’t turned up anything that piques your interest, it may be time to turn to a professional.

Booksellers and librarians are in unique positions to give you prime book recommendations. They’re more likely to know about new or lesser known books that might be of interest to you.

Plus, when you go to your friends for suggestions, you’re probably going to get a lot of the same recommendations. Asking a bookseller or librarian what you should read next may help you break out of your usual genre or style and try something different for a change.

How to Decide What to Read Next If You Have Too Many Choices

On the other end of the spectrum are readers who have huge stacks of books lying around and can’t decide which of their many options to tackle next. If this scenario sounds familiar, these tips may help.

First, consider decluttering your books if you haven’t done so recently. It may be that you have several that you know you’ll never read. Having them piled up with all your other books will only make it harder to pick out the ones you’re actually interested in.

Then you can move on to the methods below. Some of them are practical, others are even a little bit fun. Use your favorite or mix and match to find your next great read.

1. Read Your Books in Purchase Order

If you’re in the habit of buying new books and tossing your latest purchase on top of your growing TBR stack, choosing what to read next is easy. Just take it from the top – or rather, the bottom.

Reading your books in the order in which you acquire them can help you avoid leaving unread books lying around your space. This method not only eliminates the need to actively make a decision, but also keeps zealous book collectors accountable.

2. Choose a Book Based On How Much Time You Have Available

A fluctuating schedule may mean that you don’t always have a ton of time to read. Choosing what to read based on your availability can help you optimize the time you do have so you can make the most of it.

Take that thousand-page sci-fi thriller on your two-week beach vacation. Stash the hundred-page debut novel on your nightstand in your briefcase to read on the train to work. When you make calculated decisions like this, it can help you avoid slogging through a huge tome or getting stuck without anything to read because you finished your last book too quickly.

3. Pick a Book Based On Your Mood

Another option – just go with your gut! If you read as widely as I and many others do, your mood and what else is going on in your life could have a strong influence on what you decide to read next.

For instance, the harsh realities of 2020 have made escapism particularly appealing. At the moment, I would rather sit down with a thousand-page commercial novel than think seriously about carefully crafted literature.

If you’re tired and you just need a break, go with some light reading that provide the relaxation you crave. You can reach for Proust or that experimental novel on a day when you’re in the mood for a challenge.

4. Keep a TBR Jar and Pull Titles Out of It to Randomize Your Reading

This is a fun little practice that I used briefly several years ago. Write down the titles of all the books you have on hand on strips of paper and put them in a jar (or a cup or a vase or a hat or some kind of container). When you’re ready for new reading material, pull out the title of your next literary adventure.

This truly randomizes the process of choosing what to read and can add a little excitement to it. Plus, it takes all the decision-making out of the equation and leaves it up to chance. No need to stew over which book seems that most appealing at the moment.


Sure, deciding what book to read next isn’t a life-changing moment for most. But you never know if you might be reaching over your new favorite story to pick up a dull narrative that eats up your valuable time. Or, who knows, your next read might totally change your outlook on life.

I’ve covered a few ideas in this post that will can help you tackle the book selection process with ease. Whether you seek out professional recommendations for new material or start making a dent in your TBR pile, here’s hoping the next book you open is a great one.

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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.

Molly Tyler

Molly received her B.A. in English in 2016, and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 2019. She now works full time as a digital content marketer.

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