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Keeping track of my book recommendations

I have a text file where I write down every book recommendation I receive. It has three lists:

  1. Personal recommendations. Anything recommended specifically to me – usually from somebody who knows my reading tastes, so there’s a good chance this will be a book I enjoy.

  2. General recommendations from friends. Any recommendations from somebody I trust, but not specifically to me – for example, somebody tweeting “I really enjoyed this book and you should all read it”. I enjoy a lot of the same books as my friends, but this is a softer recommendation. I feel less obliged to follow up on these.

  3. Everything else. Recommendations from retweets, strangers at parties, people I don’t know very well, stuff I saw while browsing in Waterstones, and so on. These are mostly valuable in the aggregate – a single recommendation for a book isn’t very useful, but knowing that six different people recommended it might be.

I’ve tried slicing in other ways – fiction and non-fiction, by author, genre, date, and so on – but sorting by quality of recommendation is the one that I keep going back to.

A lot of what I read comes from these lists. (I have similar lists for films and TV shows.) I’m not bound by the list, and a bit of spontaneity is helpful to avoid an echo chamber effect – but using it as a starting point means I know I’m likely to enjoy something before I pick it up.

As a bonus, having this list means that if I read something and enjoy it, I get to go back and thank the person who gave me the recommendation. Sometimes it’s years later, but better late than never!

David has been thinking a lot about reading on Twitter recently, and I wrote about my system in a reply. This blog post is the expanded version of that thought.