In my quest for knowledge, I’ve observed a puzzling behavior: although I have more than 300 books on my “to read” list, I never cease to search for new reading material.
I do this not because I am seeking the magical missing book that will complete my life and give me a sense of meaning (been there, done that), but rather due to how my interests change. Some of those 300 potential books aren’t relevant to me anymore, mainly because my values and priorities have changed. But that doesn’t mean I’ll throw them away (in the case of physical ones) or delete them (in the case of digital ones). These books are a testament to my interests at a particular time and I’ll cherish them as part of my anti-library (tsundoku in Japanese). It’s likely I’ll even return to some of them if they start speaking to me again.
I’ve written before about my read less philosophy, and while I still stand by it, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be on the lookout for new hidden gems. It just means I won’t get to enjoying them right away.
I’ll continue to refine my reading list by constantly being on the lookout for new compelling reads. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate these ways of discovering new books.
One of my preferred methods for adding new items to my (growing) list is by checking out the books that are recommended by people I admire, or those who are influential thinkers in a subject I’m interested in. For example, I’ve gathered (and read) many amazing books recommended by John Vervaeke, PhD in his Awakening from the meaning crisis YouTube series. Alternatively, I like to browse the suggestions on GoodBooks, which features some of the most prominent personalities of today and their book picks. One drawback of GoodBooks is that most of the texts you’ll see there are fairly popular and/or recent, so it’s unlikely you’ll discover any hidden gems.
Goodreads is also an obvious choice with countless lists divided by topic, author or genre. However, it can get overwhelming scrolling though a list with hundreds of titles in it. That’s why I rarely use Goodreads for finding new books myself.
I’ve found the best place that combines unexpected, obscure but still relevant works is Shepherd. The site has a compelling premise: authors share the best books on a given subject (and those range from basic to wildly particular) plus a work they’ve authored themselves.
Or you could get a recommendation tailored to you by MeetNewBooks.
Another way of discovering great books is by…reading your favorite book more carefully. (This works best if it’s a non-fiction text.) If you’re deeply interested in a subject, you can get new reading inspiration just by closely inspecting the sources the author used for his or her book. These can be found in footnotes or the references at the end. Reading the former is one of my favorite ways to gain a deeper understanding of the author’s mind, because that’s the space where he/she can elaborate or justify the point made in the main text, without interrupting the flow of the main text.
Checking the footnotes or references in a beloved book can catalyze a serendipitous chain reaction.
You’ll discover a new book (one that informed the text you’re reading now) which will open up new recommendations hidden in its pages, continuing the cycle of discoveries. To give you an example from my experience, while reading McMindfulness I learned about Mindfulness and its Discontents, in which I discovered Happiness as Enterprise, which led me to Governing the soul: The shaping of private life.
Finally, if you’d like to explore my own book recommendations, go here.