April 14, 2006

Some book recommendations for you

Have you ever tried any of the recommendation engine website online?

There's Pandora which let's you set up your own radio station online by putting in your favorite artists and songs. It plays those songs and artists and then starts to pick songs it thinks you will enjoy based on your favorites. I've done it and it works pretty well. It's free.

Well, now there's something similar for books.

You can just go to whatshouldyoureadnext.com and put in a book you like and the site will check their database of other readers' favorite books and suggest what you could read next. They compare it to "browsing the bookshelves of a very well read friend."

For the service to be more accurate, you should register (just an email address) and build your own list of favorite books.

I registered and entered a dozen, then asked for recommendations. I'd say that the results were pretty accurate to my taste because more than half of the recommendations were other books that I have read and enjoyed. (You can check THOSE titles off then and have them added to your list.) As your list grows, the recommendations get better - or more interesting. (So far, it really thinks I should read Fight Club.)

They also have "What have I read tests" they compiled lists of users' most popular books (according to the number of lists they appear in) by genre (Top 25 science fiction/fantasy, classic fiction, modern classics, non-fiction etc.). Try those and it will build you list of favorites up and it's faster than typing in titles and authors. To save time on that process: if you want to add John Irving's The World According to Garp (and I would definitely have to add that one) you can just type Irving and World Garp and it will find it. The search is pretty good.

I took one of the tests and it produced these results for me:

What have I read?
These are the 25 most popular modern-classic books at What Should I Read Next?
I liked it!I didn't like it!I want to read it!
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Nineteen Eighty-four - George Orwell
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
East of Eden - John Steinbeck
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey

It's a cool service and it made me think about my favorite books again. So what's their business model? Books come with handy links to buying from Amazon (US or UK - it's a UK site). If there's something you like and you buy your books from Amazon US or Amazon UK
through their links, they make a little bit (a few cents) on each purchase.


  1. I have tried Pandora and it's quite cool. You can even share your "radio station" with friends by giving them a link. Plus, you can create several stations - I have a rock channel, softer folky channel and a jazz channel.

    I'm definitely going to try the book site. Can you put in poetry books or jsut novels?

  2. You can enter any books - poetry, novels, non-fiction - any genre.

    In fact, after I had put in my first dozen, it recommended Billy Collins' last poetry book which I found rather amazing since I had only entered novel titles. And, yes, I really like Collins. Is there magical thinking in the the Net?


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