I’m often caught reading strange books that no one has heard of. Family members ask me: where did you even hear about that?
Well, this article is my answer.
This just going to be a list of the best places to find new books, including book bloggers and vloggers that make great reviews and recommendations.
I’ll merely comment that the best bloggers and vloggers out there really focus on what makes their favorite works good. These people rarely “rant review,” a technique that might get a spike in traffic, but is overall terrible for finding books to read.
Steer clear of those types of reviewers.
1. Better than Food Book Reviews
Clifford Lee Sargent gets my number one spot for good reason. His reviews are genuine and passionate. The title sounds a bit like a joke.
What books would you choose over food?
But make no mistake, the way Sargent describes these books tells you he’s not joking. The best part is that he almost always finds books I’ve never heard of.
The reviews go in-depth without getting into spoilers and almost always get me excited to check them out. They sound more like literary analysis than review.
One of the greatest parts of these is how he manages to seam together clear, rehearsed thinking, opening the book and reading a supporting passage, with impromptu declarations of things he loves about it.
Just watch this review of Javier Marías’ A Heart So White, a book you’ve probably never heard of, to get a feel for it:
2. The Bookchemist
The Bookchemist (Mattia Ravasi) has very similar taste to me, so I tend to not find a lot new. He’s tackled all the postmodern giants like Gravity’s Rainbow, Infinite Jest, and Moby-Dick.
Last I checked, he was doing a thesis on Michael Chabon if you want a bit better understanding of what he likes.
So, when I do find something new that he likes, I know it’s going to be good.
His style is a bit more standard for reviews. He tends to go on broad overviews of what the writing is like, what the plot is, and why it was good.
His broad knowledge of writers always shines with apt comparisons. This makes it even better for finding new things because you’ll probably hear a comparison that gets you excited.
Check out his review of Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:
3. Used Book Sales
As a writer, I should be against used book sales. It’s a place where a book is being sold, the seller making money, but the author sees none of that.
Anyway, I find used book sales, like ones done by libraries for fundraisers or garage sales, to be far, far better than a standard bookstore or library for finding books. Even Amazon recommendations aren’t as good.
Here’s why: the sale is temporary. When I go to a library or bookstore and see a book I’m on the fence about, I tend not to get it. I know it will always be there. There’s no pressure to get it.
But at a used book sale, there’s probably only one copy that could get snatched up at any moment. I get all sorts of things I’d never even consider otherwise.
A few weeks ago, I got Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods.
I got it because I liked The Things They Carried by him, but I’d never read anything else. It was a whim that came from the pressure of the temporary nature of the sale.
And it’s so good. It kind of saddens me to think that I would have gone my whole life without reading it if it weren’t for that sale. The novel is something I never would have gotten on Amazon or at a physical store.
And so, this is my number 3 recommendation: go to used book sales!
4. Group Blogs
I know: blogging is dead, long live blogging.
Pretty much all of the options above help you find books that are new to you, but they tend to only help you find older books (published a decade or more ago).
What if you want to keep up on what’s hot now, the new releases?
Finding the right “group” blog is great for this. A group blog is basically just a regularly updated webpage with articles written by multiple people.
This format works much better than a Youtube channel by a single person because the group blog can put out ten times the content or more. This makes it more suitable for staying on top of new releases.
Here are some of the ones I go to when looking for new releases.
Okay, not really a group blog. It’s been around forever (1933), but the review part of the site is great.
You have to take everything with a grain of salt because you don’t know the reviewer’s tastes. But they do let you filter by “star,” which is the marking of a high review for them.
If you’re looking for new release hidden gems, this is the place to go. Check it out, you’ll probably not be familiar with most of the recommendations.
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
This one really is a group blog. Now, I’m not going to go through every genre, but all every single genre will have “review sites” like this. You should definitely bookmark these if you read a lot in one genre.
I love this site, and I even listen to their podcast every week. They have a true love for the romance genre, which always comes through when talking about books.
You’ll definitely find some gems from them. Check it out here.
5. NPR Books Podcast
I subscribe to the NPR books podcast feed. I think it pulls from a variety of their regular shows like On Point.
This is the only suggestion on here that actually lets you hear from the authors. There are so many books I’d never have picked up if I just read a review somewhere.
It was actually hearing the passion and excitement and intelligence of the author in person that made me want to read them.
Here are some of the recent On Point: Books episodes to get a feel for it. A lot are nonfiction, which I haven’t covered above, but a lot aren’t.
The interview with Ethan Canin when A Doubter’s Almanac came out still stands out in my mind.
Just do a search on whatever you use for podcasts to find this and similar book podcasts.