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How to Choose Your Next Book to Read — In the Most Chaotic Way Possible

Cassie Gutman

Staff Writer

Cassie Gutman is happiest when surrounded by books and dogs. Originally from a small, funny-named town near Louisville, Kentucky, she now edits words for a living near Chicago and would like to be paid in ice cream. You can find her on Instagram @happybooklovers or on Twitter @cassiepgutman.

Picture it now: You’re scrolling through your socials looking at all these readers posting beautiful stacks of books, meticulously organized charts about what their month of reading will be, and detailed plans for their TBRs. You think, Wow, I’m going to do that! But then…you don’t. 

Welcome to chaotic book choosing! I have tried approximately 400 times to create reading plans, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m an Extreme Mood Reader. I get distracted by new releases and backlist books and the ones they’re recommending on All the Books and the ones I accidentally step on because I forgot they were in a pile on the floor in my house. TBR planning doesn’t work for me! So instead of fighting it, lean in with me and choose your next read in a more chaotic way.

We have some quizzes you can take if you want a specific recommendation right now, like what book to read next based on what tea you like, what book to read based off your ideal cozy day, or what book to read based on which queen you are on RuPaul’s Drag Race. But if you need more ideas or larger pools of books to pick from, here are some great ideas to get you started.

Bonus chaos: choose a random number picker to select a number between 1 and 10: that number is now the task you will follow for choosing your next book!

How to Choose Your Next Book

  1. Don’t read any jacket copy on any book ever. Instead, purchase it based on cover alone and begin reading without even knowing the genre of the book. Best done if you can also somehow pick without reading the title. 
  1. Make a TBR jar. I know, I know, this seems like standard fare. But you can make it even wilder by having other people choose the books that go in it. Have friends, family, coworkers, or random strangers on the sidewalk fill out slips of paper and put in a jar. Don’t look at them! This way, when you draw out a book to read, it could be literally any book ever. 

  1. Pick your favorite animal. Now search for only books with that animal in the title or featured on the cover. (If you chose cats, for example, here’s a whole quiz about cat books you can start with. If you chose ocelots, it may be a bit more difficult to find those.)
  1. Have you heard about those people who read the last page of a book first? Try it! See if it grabs you. Does it make you wonder what the rest of the book is like? This is more common than some other methods on this list, but is a great starting point if you’d like to try mood-picking your book. 
  1. This one will take some setup unless, if you’re like me, you already have a gigantic spreadsheet of every book you own in your house, organized by what you’ve read and what you haven’t. Make said spreadsheet, assigning all books a number in the spreadsheet (this can include rereads, if you like, or only unread books). Then, go to a random number picker online and select a number. The corresponding book is your next read! Keep this spreadsheet for future use. 
  1. Ask a mortal enemy what their favorite book is. Alternatively, ask a BFF what their least favorite book is. Read either, and report your own review back to them. 
  1. Prefer to leave the decision-making to the real head of household? Have your pets select your next read by laying the choices on the floor in front of them. Dogs will probably sniff, so whichever book their nose deems worthy is your next pick! Cat owners will know that cats are…a little less predictable. But, for the purposes of this list, they are the most chaotic and will fit the theme nicely. They may stand on it, lay on it, walk on it, eat it, or leave the room entirely and choose none of the options. In that case…you’re on your own (or try again). Got another pet, like a bunny, guinea pig, snake, or rat? Choose your own method for book selection!
  1. Have a child, partner, or roommate pick a book from your shelves for you, telling them to pick a book with no context and explain their choice to you. Best done if they are not readers and have never heard of any of the books in your stacks. 
  1. Head to your music library or streaming service and select “shuffle” without clicking on any specific song or band. Whichever song plays, select a book you think pairs with the ~ vibes ~ of the music. 
  1. Book darts! Use a Nerf gun or foam darts with suction cups and fire away at your shelf. This is the book version of throw a dart at a map for your next travel plans. 

If you want to move past the realm of average chaotic and into unhinged, there is one additional way you can select your next read. Shake your bookshelf really hard. Whichever book falls out first, read that one. It will probably hit your head on the way down. Be careful! (But also please don’t do this.)