The hot topic in library readers' advisory circles and bookselling for a while now has been "book discoverability."
Of course, this is nothing new. People who suggest and sell books have always talked about ways to help people who love to read books to find them. And it's always been (and always will be?) a somewhat tricky proposition, no matter what all the new social media book discoverability sites try to tell you.
So how do I most often find books? Well, for one thing, I'm very lucky that my tastes in nonfiction in particular are quite democratic. I'm promiscuous subject-wise; if I hear of a book that sounds interesting or is by an author I like, I'll most likely check it out, regardless of what its subject is (unless that subject is World War II, which I tend to avoid at all costs). So mainly what I do is a very unscientific mix of reading about books wherever I can--in magazines, on blogs, on those little tags that they have at Barnes and Noble that say "so and so who works here recommends"--and then either getting them from the library or wandering through the library catalog and seeing what else pops up around the title I was interested in.
That's right: no TBR Excel spreadsheets or lists around here. I just wander around cyberspace and anyplace else I can find books and wait for some to whack me in the face.
A case in point was this summer, when I read at Kim Ukura's excellent nonfiction blog Sophisticated Dorkiness, that she was working on a book called Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville, by Witold Rybczynski. (It's a book about urban/suburban development.) I can never remember how to spell Witold's last name, and I certainly can't pronounce it, but I do enjoy his writing, so this suggestion caught my eye.* So then I took myself off to my library catalog, and looked it up by title: last harvest. And here's my favorite thing about my library's catalog, it pulls up all the titles with those two words in them, which led me to two unrelated titles. From that search, I found two nonfiction books titled Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land (by David Mas Masumoto), and Harvesting the Bay: Fathers, Sons and the Last of the Wild Shellfishermen (by Ray Huling).
When I think back on how I find books, I realize it's actually a little shocking how much I depend upon and enjoy "book discoverability by serendipity." I also refer to it as the "lazy person's way to find books," because often when I do these loose title searches, I'll find three to five wildly unrelated nonfiction (and sometimes even fiction) books, and that keeps me busy for a while.
More later this week on actually reading these books. In the meantime: How do you "discover" the books you want to read?
*It turned out, after I'd requested and gotten the book from the library, that I thought I'd already read it (and enjoyed it, even if I couldn't remember much about it). So after all that, I didn't end up reading the original book I'd searched for.