How To: Choose the Perfect Book Gift

Are you wondering how to select the perfect book gift for your friends and family? Check out these questions to ask before you buy. |

A friend recently asked me for advice on choosing a book gift, and this got me thinking about how difficult it is sometimes to pick an amazing book to give as a gift to someone else, even if you know them well. I think the best way to choose the perfect book gift is to ask yourself questions about the gift recipient, so I hope the following questions help you choose!

  • Does your friend enjoy fiction or nonfiction? This one question will narrow your options greatly.
  • Is there a particular interest that has been consuming all of her energy recently? This might be running, soap making, parenting, baking, Russian history… the list could go on forever. If your gift recipient has a new passion, your job just got a whole lot easier.
  • Does he have an aversion to foul language, violence, etc.? I tend to skim scenes that I know would bother me, but many people would rather just avoid such a book altogether. By keeping this in mind, you can avoid giving your friend a book that will make him uncomfortable.
  • Does she need something lighthearted or something serious-minded? If your friend has been going through a tough time, you might give her something lighthearted, like a cozy mystery or a fantasy novel (you can check out my list of books to read when you’re stressed out for more ideas). But if she’s looking to chew on some big ideas (or get outraged about injustice), you might pick literary fiction or something historical.
  • How much time does he have to put into reading? Maybe he has a newborn or a demanding job. Or maybe he’s about to go on vacation and wouldn’t mind something long to fill up the time. The amount of time your recipient will have to read the book you give them can help dictate the length of that book.
  • If your gift recipient is a big bookworm and you’re afraid of choosing a book they’ve already read, consider a bookish gift. (If you want my best suggestions for bookish gifts that aren’t books, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send it to you!)

Have you given any book gifts that were particularly successful? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

How To: Get Into a New Genre

Want to to start reading a new genre, but don't know where to start? This blog post will help you on your quest. |

So maybe you’ve never been one for sci fi, but you want to try it out. Or your best friend has been raving about the latest YA novel, and you have no idea what she’s talking about. Whatever your reason for wanting to try a new genre, it can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start. Keep reading for my best tips on how to get started with the new genre of your choice.

Keep it short. Don’t start with Dune, even if it is a SFF classic. Those 600 pages are likely to cut short your foray into your new genre, so start small. Start with The Hobbit instead of LOTR, and you’re much more likely to want to explore more later.

Choose a topic you already care about. If you want to start reading nonfiction and you’re a teacher, boy do I have some suggestions for you. Similarly, pick a favorite author who is writing in a new genre, like I did when I picked up Shannon Hale’s books for my first graphic novels.

Ask a friend who’s into that genre. If your BFF has been raving over The Hunger Games or Everything, Everything, ask her if she thinks you’d like that book. If not, see if she has a suggestion for a book in that genre you would like.

Look for an author who is considered classic for that genre. But don’t go too old–choose Terry Pratchett over J.R.R. Tolkien, for example. If you want to get into horror, you can’t go wrong with Stephen King. Even if you’re not familiar with the genre and who might be considered a “classic” author, you can check the NYT bestsellers. I know nothing about romance, but if I wanted to get started, I’d look into Danielle Steel. Anyone who has sold over 800 million copies of her books probably knows a little something about her genre.
Have you ever picked up a new genre? How did you go about it?

How To: Get Out of a Book Slump

Stuck in a book slump? Here's how to get out of it. |

Have you recently been reading only YA, or celebrity memoirs, or cozy mysteries? I know that feeling. Sometimes it’s fun to binge your favorite type of books, but eventually you’re going to get sick of them. Here’s how to avoid that burnout and get out of a book slump.

Ask your friends (or your favorite book bloggers!) for a recommendation. I guarantee that even your best friend with identical reading taste hasn’t read exactly the same books that you have, but if you’re feeling especially brave, ask someone whose tastes don’t usually line up with yours at all. Maybe you’ll end up with a graphic novel that will blow your mind, or a nonfiction book about a topic you never knew you could be interested in.

Pick a random book off your library’s new release shelf. Don’t even read the back cover; just find a book with an interesting title or a pretty cover and take it home with you. Bonus points if it’s a brand new author as well.

Follow the Amazon rabbit trail. Find the Amazon page of one of the books you’ve enjoyed most recently, and then click through to some of the “also bought” books listed. Keep going until you end up in a totally different genre than you started in.

If your local library or used bookstore has a 50 cent bookshelf, purchase a couple of those books. For a couple of bucks, what’s the worst that could happen?

Try some of these tips the next time you feel like you’re in a book slump and see what happens! Push yourself into a new genre, author, or style, and you might just find your next favorite book binge.

How To: Get Over a Book Hangover

Still stuck in the world of the book you just finished? You might have a book hangover. |

We’ve all been there–gotten so absorbed in a book or a series that once you emerge, you find it difficult to deal with your lingering feels. Maybe you can no longer relate to the real world, or maybe you’re just finding it hard to dive into a new book when you one you just finished was so amazing. Here are my best tips to help you overcome that book hangover of yours!

Step 1: Talk through your feels. Do you have a friend who recently read the same book who is willing to talk for an hour about the squee-worthy romance, the tearjerker of an ending, or the shocking plot twist in the third act? Great! Make a coffee date with that person to talk all about the book that broke your heart. If not, go online. Goodreads (just to name one option) is stuffed full of book lovers just like you who are ready and willing to debate the merits of your book.

Step 2: Start looking for your next book. Maybe you want to read something similar to the book you just read, because you’re not yet ready to leave that fantasy world (or dystopia, whatever). But your best bet is probably to read something completely different. If you loved that book so much, anything similiar to it will probably pale in comparison, at least for a while. So if you just finished an epic fantasy series, check out a fast-paced thriller. If you enjoyed your long, atmospheric literary fiction, maybe pick up a graphic novel next. Read a memoir if you’ve gotten stuck in a dystopian book hangover. You get the picture.

Step 3: Keep trying. Sometimes it just takes time to get over your book hangover. Every once in a while, it’s nice to linger in the atmosphere a book has set for you. I remember when I finally finished Anna Karenina (of all books), how I felt like I had spent so much time with the characters that they were practically my friends, how even though I was satisfied with how the story ended, I wanted to linger with the characters just a little while longer. That’s totally cool. Feel free to daydream about the characters, the plot, the setting, whatever did it for you in your latest, greatest read. But keep trying new things. Eventually you’ll find another, totally different book that strikes you in just the same way, and you’ll get to start the cycle all over again.

Have you ever suffered from a book hangover? How did you deal with it?

How To: Track Your Reading

In accordance with my New Year’s blogging goals, I’m introducing different types of posts as well as my usual reviews. This series will be some instructional posts related to bookish things. And since I just posted my reading stats for 2015, I thought I’d start with how to track your reading.

Goodreads, of course, is an easy way to track the books you read. You can write a short review, point out the person who recommended it to you, and even provide information about the copy you own, if you want to. It’s quick and easy, it can be linked to your Amazon account to auto-fill the books you purchase there, and Goodreads even provides a year in review graphic. But if you’re looking for something a little more in-depth and flexible, this is what I did.

I decided I wanted to record more and different information than Goodreads has the capacity to record, so I started a Google Doc spreadsheet to track my reading for 2015. If you have a Gmail account, this is super easy. Just click on the Google Drive button and create a new spreadsheet.

How to track your books using Google Docs |

Once you’ve opened a new spreadsheet, you’ll want to decide what categories you want in your document. I included book title, author’s name, whether the author was male or female, whether the book was diverse in some way, my rating, whether the book was fiction or nonfiction, whether the book was new or backlist, the genre, format, and where I got the book. (As you can see, I’m a total nerd for my reading stats, and I wanted to include a lot of pieces of info. You don’t have to include all of these, and you may have other things you want to track, like the number of pages or publishing year. It’s up to you!) I started a column for each of these categories, and as I recorded each book, I simply put the information into the correct slots.

How to track your books using Google Docs |

At the end of the year, my spreadsheet made it easy to see all my stats. You can sort each column by alphabetical order, so it’s easy to see how many fiction vs. nonfiction books you read over the year. (To accomplish this, just click on the tab at the top of your sheet that says “Data.” The options will drop down from there.)

I hope this helps some of you as you set up your book tracking for 2016! If you’re as nerdy as I am, it’s a lot of fun to see all your stats at the end of the year, and this method makes it easy to track and sort your information.

If you have any ideas for other how to posts you’d like to see on the blog, please leave me a comment and let me know!

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