Want a personalized book recommendation?

For the holidays this year, I had a lot of fun choosing book gifts for various family members (and supporting indie bookstores in the process). So I thought it might be fun for The Book Stop to offer personalized book recommendations. I know most of us already have too many books we want to read, but if you’re looking for something new, you can drop me a request here.

I worked in a bookstore for years, and my favorite thing was helping people find books they might like. Often a person would walk in with an idea of what they wanted or trying to find a good gift for someone. Sometimes it was a book they’d heard about but couldn’t remember the name or author. I loved that part of the job.

What did I pick out for my family? For my mom, I bought two of Karen Odden’s historical mysteries, A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit, because I like her books but also because her stories involve art and music. And, I know Odden frequently reads at a bookstore near where my mother lives. 

One of my sisters wanted to read more and was looking for memoirs, so I bought her some of my favorites: Becoming by Michelle Obama, Know My Name by Chanel Miller, and Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner.

My other sister likes nonfiction stories and memoirs that are inspirational. She’s recommended some books that I’ve liked, including Jessica Pan’s Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come. For her I picked: Inheritance by Dani Shapiro, I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union, and Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan.

And for one of my nieces, who loved Six of Crows, I picked up Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, Brigid Kemmerer’s Defy the Night, and Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. There were many other books I wanted to get but I was limited by what was in the store. Other considerations were Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (an old favorite) and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. 

I’m a big fan of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What Should I Read Next? podcast.  Anne Bogel asks her guests what they’re looking for in their reading life, and then they describe three books they love (and why) and one book that wasn’t for them (and why). From that she puts together three book recommendations.  Bogel looks beyond the obvious (like genre) and gets at deeper ideas about why people like what they like.  For example, on some of her shows, she’s talked about whether her guests like multigenerational sagas or journey themes, complex characters, or books that make them feel good. Then she gives a variety of recommendations, not just one.

I’m not a fan of “if you liked this, read this” recommendations because they’re too simplistic. This made me think of some of my own likes and dislikes. For example, I like books with strong character development, particularly characters that are hard to like. I like research-based settings, in different places and times. I love good family dramas but I’m less enthused about gigantic, epic sagas. I don’t love dual timelines (I think these are overused). I don’t love books that feel “cute” or are overly sweet.

So, tell me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you want to read more of, and I’ll give you my best suggestions. I might share the recommendations here

  18 comments for “Want a personalized book recommendation?

  1. Karen Bernard
    January 25, 2022 at 7:56 am

    Ariel already read Defy The Night and loved it!!!!! Thank you, she is now on to The Golden Compass and said it wouldn’t have been something she picked for herself but is surprised at how much it suits her! I have started Inheritance and it’s also a perfect fit. You can pick out books for us anytime, so fun, Nailed IT!

    • January 26, 2022 at 10:36 am

      Thanks sis! I so appreciate the support and glad you both are enjoying your books! Golden Compass is a book I loved but also a strong recommendation from the bookstore I went to (thank you Hooray for Books!) You know I had a good time picking them out.

  2. January 25, 2022 at 9:52 am

    I am a mixed bag with the recommendations feature based on my previous readings — whether it is an e-mail from my local library or Storygraph. To me, if I have nothing left to read, I’ll look at the recommendations page. I approach any book with an open mind.

    • January 26, 2022 at 10:35 am

      Storygraph makes great recommendations, but there are so many of them it’s hard to pick out a few. I get a lot of my ideas from Modern Mrs. Darcy blog lists and also other bloggers.

  3. WendyW
    January 25, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    I remember when a bookstore employee recommended a new book to me and it was Outlander, and boy did I enjoy that series. And there was no way I would have picked that book up without that recommendation.

    • January 26, 2022 at 10:34 am

      That’s funny, I remember the bookstore where I discovered Outlander too – my version had this cheesy romance cover and it wasn’t at all what I expected. A shout out to bookstore employees!

  4. January 27, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    I would love to have a personal book recommendation but I’m having trouble choosing books I like and don’t like. I think I need to get some sleep and then try again.

    • February 1, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Thanks Lory, I’m glad you came up with a few ideas, I’ll be working on your recommendation!

  5. January 31, 2022 at 8:12 am

    What a generous offer. I might take you up on this mid summer when I’ll be looking for books for my husband’s birthday.

    • February 1, 2022 at 8:00 am

      I hope you will! Using it for gift ideas is a great idea, do you and your husband have different reading tastes? I look forward to the challenge (I know you are quite the reader). Hope your winter is going well so far!

      • February 1, 2022 at 1:29 pm

        We do have completely different tastes . He enjoys bios which I hardly read. I’ve introduced him to authors that he’s gone on to love like Steinbeck but I’ve also had duds

  6. February 1, 2022 at 12:02 am

    That’s a cool idea – giving out personalized book recs. I think giving out great book recs is a talent. It was sometimes hard to come up with good ones when I was working in a book store. You have to think quickly.

    • February 1, 2022 at 7:57 am

      Thanks Zezee – I agree giving a book recommendation on the spot in a bookstore is much harder than having time to think about it. Plus there are lots of good internet sources to generate ideas. I did love working in a bookstore though! Hope your winter is going well so far.

      • February 1, 2022 at 10:48 pm

        Thanks! Hoping for winter to end soon and spring to come with its cherry blossoms. Hope it’s going well for you too.

  7. March 26, 2022 at 9:24 am

    I just read my first book from my list of recommendations (Inheritance by Dani Shapiro) and it was a perfect choice! I definitely recommend The Book Stop’s recommendations.

    • March 27, 2022 at 8:39 am

      Thanks Lory! I’m so glad you liked it!

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