Readers’ Advisory, or, What do I read next?

For my summer class, I’ve been working on designing an evaluation of readers’ advisory services at a public library. “Readers’ advisory” is the library-speak term for suggesting books that people will like, either directly (through a conversation or “readers’ advisory interview”) or indirectly (e.g., displays).

I’ve been doing this for family and friends for years without realizing it was a “service” – we just called it talking about books. But it is definitely something that people expect from libraries (and from bookstores), and of course now there are online tools as well, from Amazon’s “If you like this, you might also like…” feature to social networking sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing to the subscription-based NoveList.

Whichbook is a site I learned about recently, and it’s unique in a number of ways. First, it’s incredibly browsable – I got pulled in right away. I don’t think any online experience can really replicate the experience of wandering around in a bookstore or library, but this comes closer than anything else I’ve found.

You can manipulate a number of factors (see below) to get results, and you can also look through lists (“weird and wonderful,” “bad luck and trouble,” “a terrible beauty”), or search by author.


Whichbook’s About page explains that all of the books are fiction or poetry, written in or translated to English, and published within the last ten years. They focus on “books people won’t find for themselves,” not bestsellers, and have a wide range.

The site is British, and once you’ve found a book that interests you, there are links to borrow from a library or buy through Amazon. If you’re not in the UK, there’s a link to WorldCat, so you can find a copy of the book in a library near you. I’ve played with the variables a lot, and the results are promising: a few books that I’ve already read and enjoyed came up, as well as a number of titles I hadn’t heard of before but that looked good. Try it out!

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