How to find books that are actually worth reading

I’m a self-confessed bookworm. But I also confess to struggling to make time for reading. I may get a few free minutes or so a day, but rarely enough to actually settle down to read a book. So when I do manage to make time, I want to make sure what I read is worth it.

I like to read at night. On the bed, the book propped up on my tummy. I like to read until my eyes are so weary they start to close on their own. I like to be invested in what I’m reading, so intensely focused that I forget everything else.

This means:

  1. I need a conducive reading environment.
  2. What I read has to engage me wholly.

I’ve got the first one covered. Its why I read at night; for the peace. I lock my doors and don’t look at my phone until the next morning.

I still struggle with finding an engaging book though.

That’s why when I started to track what I read, I  also started to track what I should read.

Note I said should.

I no longer have a TBR (To Be Read) pile. It’s been replaced by the  “Potential” list.

I pre-assess any book that catches my interest. Read thorough reviews especially the critical ones. I regularly weed out the books I no longer have interest in, and re-prioritize the list according to what I should read next.

But most importantly, even before I start on all that…

The books are already pre-curated by someone else even before they make it to my list. 

And its those someone else-s that I will talk about today, those someone else-s that give me great books to read.



Ask a question.

This is how I’ve been finding books lately. I would be curious about something, google it, then read through a plethora of Quora Q&As and blog posts.

The answers would usually refer to a book either as reference or for more details, and it’s these that I note for my potential pile.

For example, had the answers to the questions I had about running this blog. But what impressed me more was not what he wrote, but how he wrote it. His posts were always organized, timely, and engaging.

So I asked, “How did you learn to write?”

And so he wrote about 9 Essential Books That Will Transform Your Writing Forever. Two of those books ended up in my list (another I was already reading).


Read curated blogs.

Since I mentioned SmartBlogger, it should be no surprise that I source my book recommendations from other blogs as well.

But not just any blog.

I follow bloggers who write so well they could damn well publish their own book. The bloggers whose ideas are so engaging I can’t help but envy why I didn’t think of them myself. The bloggers who have navigated the vastness of the Internet to construct maps for their readers

I’m talking about The Internet Librarians.

“I want to build a new framework for what information matters,” she said. In effect, she wants to recreate the portals she first viewed the world through as a child — the library science of her mother and the encyclopedia of her grandmother.

–Maria Popova has some big ideas, The New York Times

Popova is the author behind the popular, a treasure trove of old-school literature, art, and ideas. Her blog is a great resource for books on these topics.

On ideas, is another favorite. The ideas they publish are often novel and thought-provoking backed up with hard science. This is a great reference for nonfiction books.

For ideas that aren’t so novel, for things we should already know but always forget, I refer to The Book of Life. Its a book on its own with the chapters forever in progress.

And if you like to think about thinking, I recommend Farnam Street.

Finally, once you do read a book,


Read the author’s recommendations.

This is especially true for educational/business/self-help books.

A book doesn’t come together on its own. The author puts in a lot of effort to research then curate the material to be published. They have a scope: What they covered versus what they took out.

So if you want to know more about what was removed, the authors would be able to point you in the right direction.

Cole Knaflic for example, author of Storytelling with Data, recommended Data Points by Nathan Yau in her first chapter by saying she’ll be focusing on explanatory visualizations vs Yau’s exploratory approach.

The second book is now also in my Potential list.


I still browse bookstores and occasionally make an impulse buy, but those rarely turn out to be successful buys. The above book curators do a much better job of predicting whether I’d like a book or not, and are therefore my recommended methods of finding a book actually worth reading.


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