Finding new books to read isn’t always easy. Looking at the size of libraries and some bookstores, it’s hardly surprising that there’s a lot of bad stuff circulating as well. Until recently, I limited myself to word of mouth and the tedious business of reading the back of every book on the shelves. How old-fashioned.
Like StumbleUpon for websites, and Last.fm for music, there are so-called book recommendation engines as well, that suggest titles based on previous reads. Most commonly, these are integrated in book cataloguing sites like LibraryThing and GoodReads.
For this article, we’ll focus on the ‘quick’ book recommendation engines, that skip the whole process of cataloguing and rating all your previous reads. These three sites will hook you up with new books in a matter of minutes, working off your last (enjoyable) read, or story traits you’re looking for.
The Book Seer is as simple as it gets. On the home page, fill in a book title and author, and hit the button. The server leprechauns will rack their brains for some good recommendations.
On the next page, you’ll be presented with two independent recommendation lists, so don’t be surprised if you see a duplicate title. The left side column is generated by the Firefly collaborative filtering system, rendering the famous Amazon recommendations. This is the same backend system used by Barnes & Noble.
The right side column is generated by LibraryThing‘s system, an online book cataloguing tool.
Scrolling down the page, you can also search for local books stores or libraries, or launch another recommendation ‘search’.
Off-topic tip: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, as featured in the left column above, is an amazing read.
In essence, What Should I Read Next operates very similarly to The Book Seer. Again, you can launch a recommendation search by entering a book title, or its ISBN code (and save a few clicks in the process). However, What Should I Read Next does not use the Firefly system (Amazon), or LibraryThing, but employs its own recommendation engine.
Recommendations are pulled from similar ‘likes’ of registered members. You can register (and log in), by simply entering your email address. Since you won’t be handling any sensitive information, a password isn’t even requested. Once logged in, the site will keep your previous reads ‘in mind’, enabling it to improve future recommendations for everyone.
WhichBook.net comes at the recommendation problem from a whole different perspective. You won’t even need to enter previously liked books. Simply describe the kind of book you’re looking for by specifying the ‘degree’ of the most prominent characteristics, like mood, humor, length and unconventionality. Up to four traits can be filled in.
You can also opt for audio books and large print, to filter down the possibilities.
At the bottom of those traits, a button will take you to revising character, plot and setting details. Specify the kind of protagonist, up to visual characteristics, and select the ‘kind’ of plot you’re looking for. Setting will allow you to limit the scene to certain continents, or if need be, to an imaginary world.
Searching will show you a title, author, and a short reader comment, as well as a number of parallel titles. WhichBook.net can help you out if you’re rather specific about the kind of book you want to read next.
Do you know any other quick recommendation sources that don’t require signing up and endless ‘rating sessions’? Let us know your tips in the comments section below!