With thousands of books being published each day, there’s a good chance someone has recently written and published a book that you’ll adore. Problem is, this tends to also mean more work for us readers sifting through the countless books to find that perfect read. As a Youth Services Library Advisor, it’s my job to help people find a book they’ll enjoy. I’ve endured countless rabbit holes of “Top 10” articles and “if you like… then you’ll love…” Google searches but I’ve found that a few deceptively simple techniques make all the difference.

1. Look to the Cover for Clues: I once had a kid tell me he wanted to read about sword fights. We could have searched our library catalog all day and not found a book to his liking so I decided there was only one thing left to do. We walked the shelves. Within a minute, I had pulled a book off the shelf with the cover of a young boy epically holding a sword against the flames of a ferocious dragon. He loved it. Mission accomplished. But there was nothing about sword fighting in the synopsis, nor would it have come up if I’d used the term “sword fighting” on my search bar. 

2. Let Go of Genres: Epic romances are shelved in adventure, dramas too depressing for my little soul are placed in comedy, and hilarious banters can be found in horror. My favorite book of all time is labeled “historical fiction” and “adventure.” It's true that The Scarlet Pimpernel includes sword fights, war, and heroes outwitting villains, but the romance is front and center throughout the entire book. In fact, it’s filled to the brim with longing looks, secrets, and vows of love. Sometimes slipping out of one's usual expectations increases the chances of finding that one perfect book.

3. Read the First Page: I don't personally search for scary books but I can handle a terrifying scene as long as the characters banter well. I'm currently hounding everyone in my large family to read Jonathon Stroud's latest series Lockwood and Co. because the book’s epic first page made me want to clap. My mother on the other hand, needs long paragraphs of description to be pulled into books. She once found what became a family classic because the first line perfectly described a thunderstorm. This can be slightly more difficult with ebooks but most offer access to the first 25%. Take advantage of this.

4. Don't Force Yourself to Read: I don’t know how many times I’ve had to help a young kid find a book, only because the parents insisted they read more. The kid’s not excited, as if they’re being forced to read as a punishment. I can’t get a decent answer to any of my questions and the whole search is over before it can begin. I’ve had moments like that myself where just the idea of reading a book makes me want to cringe. It’s okay. Reading should be fun and forcing yourself to do it only makes it unpleasant and stressful.

At the same time, books hold a wealth of information and if there’s anything the brain loves more than oxygen, it’s learning in a fun environment. Instead of thinking “ugh, another book” or chanting “just get through it,” take a step back, think about what you’ve been interested in learning about lately. Did a fun history fact strike your interest? Was there a mythological reference in the TV show you watched last night that you want to know more about? Great! Go from there. I once helped a young reluctant reader get excited about books when I showed her not all books were about the fairies her sibling loved so much. Some teach you how to build rockets. There are so many kinds of books out there to explore. I flip from adventure to sappy romances to spiritual nonfiction quicker than a slinky can fall down the steps.

So next time you’re in search of a good book, take half an hour, go to your local library or bookstore and simply walk the shelves. Open the books, read a sentence or two, and let the right book grab your attention. Follow whatever sparks your interest. You might be surprised what books you walk out excited to read.