Hello everyone! I’m Mr Ng Guo Liang, an English Language Curriculum Specialist and Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty.
In my time as a teacher, one of the most common questions I’ve got over the years is this: What book should I read? More often than not, the students who direct this question at me fall into two categories: those who love reading and wish to seek my advice on new books they should consider reading; and those who do not read often and hence, do not know how to find a book for themselves. It is to the second group of students that this post is directed.
Ironically, for an English teacher, the question ‘what book should I read’ is not as easy a question to answer as one might expect! Here are some reasons why; first, there are thousands, if not millions, of books out there to choose from and to recommend. Next, I need to also consider the reading level of my students — some books are either easier or more difficult to read than others. Most importantly, what I enjoy reading might not be equally enjoyable for my students (they might even find it boring!). These are just some reasons why it is so difficult for your English teacher to give you a quick answer to that question.
If you are someone who used to not like reading and now wish to start reading but do not know where to start or know how to find a book for yourself; or if you are someone who generally does not know how to look for a book to read, I hope that this post would provide you with some suggestions and tips to help you with that problem. Here are 8 ways to help you choose a book!
1. What Makes You Happy?
The most important thing in my mind when it comes to reading is interest — no one, especially those who do not read often, likes reading a book they have no interest in. If you do not know the various genres, or if you have no idea about what books you’d like, a good place to start is to think about the things that make you happy!
If you have a favourite hobby, look for books about that activity. Are you into sports or dinosaurs or a specific celebrity? Do you have a favourite movie or TV series? Are there a few careers you’re interested in? The point is that you can find books about almost anything you like, and you’re more likely to enjoy reading a book if you’re already interested in its subject. Thinking about your interests alone could already help to narrow your search down by so much!
2. Fact or Fiction?
Consider if you prefer reading fiction or nonfiction books. Some books are entirely made up and consist of imagined stories. These are called fiction books. Novels, short stories, and fables are all examples of fiction. These books can transport you to another world or help you imagine something beyond your own experience. If you’re someone who enjoys watching movies or particular television series, you might enjoy reading fiction.
Non-fiction books, as the name implies, usually use facts or real events — but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. In fact, many of these books read like novels from start to finish. Non-fiction books can bring to life everything from the life of a teacher to the first trip to the moon. If you’re someone who enjoys learning about the world, about people, or even about yourself, non-fiction might just be for you. So try both fiction and non-fiction books to see which you like better.
3. Judge a Book by Its Cover
For new readers, when it comes to choosing and exploring books to read, judging a book by its cover IS something I would recommend!
I love reading books that look beautiful. Whenever I’m looking to buy a new book for myself, I would make sure to buy one whose cover I enjoy looking at. I think that reading an aesthetically beautiful book adds a lot to my reading experience!
What many do not realise is that book covers are really one of the best ways for new and avid readers alike to find their first reads or their next book! Since you have no idea as to which books take your fancy, why not start with the books that look attractive and interesting to you? For all you know, you may find the contents as attractive and interesting as the cover!
4. The Blurb
Assuming you’ve found a book which looks nice to you, the next thing you should do is to have a look at the blurb. The blurb, or synopsis, is a short description and summary of a book, which can often be found at the back of a book’s cover. There have been many times when I have chosen to either read a book or put it back from simply reading the blurb alone.
5. Be Patient — Give the Books a Chance!
If the cover and blurb interest you, read the first few pages or chapters of the book to see if you’d like to continue reading further. Even if the cover looks plain but the topic sounds fascinating, try this. Give every book you’ve chosen a chance! Some stories might develop slower than others — they might start slow but pick up pace and excite you later on! So do not give up on a book from just reading the first few lines or pages.
6. Book Swaps
Book swaps are another way you could find a book to read. If you do not know what to read, why not see what your friends or family members are reading? It’s always fun to see what others are reading. Even if they’re not bookworms, sharing books and encouraging each other to read is a great (and free) way to find a new book of interest for new and avid readers alike. For all you know, you might share common interests and might enjoy each other’s books.
In fact, I found my favourite book from borrowing one of my brother’s books when I was in primary school. So I am living proof that sharing books is a great way to find a book for yourself!
7. Ask an Expert
Seeking help from an expert could be helpful too. Your school or neighbourhood library is a great place to find books that you’ll love, and you don’t have to search all by yourself. Tell a librarian about your interests — crime thrillers, historical events, whatever you’re into — and the names of some books you might already like. The librarian could help you find other books that you might like.
If you’re not comfortable speaking with the librarian, your English teacher is another good person to ask! Having taught you, they should be very familiar with your reading level and language mastery, and should be able to guide you in your search for a book. All you have to do is ask, and I’m confident that they would be more than happy to help you find a book to read!
8. Make Use of the Internet
Lastly, you can always rely on the internet to help you in your search. When I was a boy, it wasn’t as easy to find books as it is today. With the advent of the Internet and the help of our phones and computers today, we have access to entire libraries of books at our fingertips. Interested in a particular genre but would like book recommendations? You could do a search for book recommendations for that genre and you’ll be provided with many titles to consider. Found a possible book you might be interested in and want to know more about whether it’s a good read? Try a search for reviews on that book online. So do not be daunted by not knowing what books there are out there; finding a book for yourself can be made much easier with the help of the Internet once you start searching!
In many ways, finding a book for yourself is like finding a new movie or TV series to watch, or thinking about what to eat for a meal — it’s subjective, there are many options, and there are many ways to help you make a decision. The methods I shared with you are really very simple ones which I’ve always relied on myself till this day, and which I think could really help some of you who have not been reading much and are thinking of starting to or those of you who generally do not know how to find a suitable book for yourself. These methods are free, they do not require much knowledge about books, and only need a very little amount of time to do. Try these methods out! And I hope that they will help you on your journey to finding your first read, and your new book too!
This brings us to the end of my sharing. Thank you, and on behalf of the Lil’ but Mighty family, stay happy, stay safe, and stay healthy!