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6 Strategies for Recommending Books to Friends So They’ll Actually Read Them

We’ve all been there: you know that if a friend of yours would just read this book, they would love it. So we tell them about this book, and they promise to add it to their list. And then next time you see them you ask about it…and they haven’t read it yet. So you ask them again, and again they say, “nope, haven’t gotten to it yet!” And the cycle goes on and on and they never seem to read the book and get increasingly annoyed you keep bringing it up. You, in turn, get increasingly annoyed that they aren’t reading it, and then the friendship implodes (or at least comes close).

I’d imagine that for the most part, we all have been on both sides of this equation. Trying to get our friends to read books we think they’ll like, and getting recommended a million books. So, how do we recommend books without being so annoying? Let’s talk through some options! 

Strategy #1

You can not only recommend them the book, but you can buy it for them or lend it to them—if they don’t have the book already, of course! If it’s a physical book, them seeing it on their shelves will remind them to get to it someday, much more than if they just type the title in a notes folder on their phone. You can also gift them the audiobook or ebook version. Then they will constantly see it in their digital libraries. 

Tip: If you use this method, gift or loan the book in whatever format they prefer to read in. If they hate ebooks, but that’s the only edition they have…they aren’t likely to get to it anytime soon. 

Strategy #2 

Start a book club! If you know a friend who would love this book, you can suggest doing a book club around it. You can even invite more friends to join and make it a party. Bookclubs lend themselves really well to Zoom, so you don’t even have to wait until you can meet in person to do this. Not only will they want to read it for the club, but it’s a great way to foster community and discussion among other readers! 

Strategy #3

Handwrite them a letter explaining why you think they would love it. It’s one thing to talk endlessly about it to them, but it’s another to take the time to sit down and think about exactly why is perfect for them. Seeing you take the time to write a personal handwritten recommendation will make it clear just how important a book this really is. 

Tip: If you gift them a physical copy of the book, you could write the note on the inside cover. If you don’t like writing in books, you can tuck the note in the cover. 

Strategy #4

If this is a book that’s going to get or already has a movie adaption, plan a movie date a little while off. Tell them you know how much they would like the book, and how much you want to watch the movie. Then, they have a deadline (which you can move, of course; it’s not set in stone). You’ll have a great opportunity to talk about both the book and the movie with one another.

Strategy #5 

Do a book exchange: tell them that you will read any book they pick for you if you get to pick a book for them. Then you can finally get around to the book they have been bugging you about for a long time too—a win for everyone involved.

Strategy #6

Ask them what will motivate them to read the book. They know what works for them! You can explain how badly you want them to read it, but maybe they are in a reading slump and just need to not read anything right now. Maybe they really will get to it, but it’s just taking forever to get from the library. Or maybe they just don’t want to read it. And that’s okay too. 

Strategy #7

Let it go. There are so many great books in this world, and we know we can’t ever get to all of them. So, if a book you think a friend will love just doesn’t make it to them, it’s not the end of the world. Learn to let it go. 

Also, if they do finally read it, it may turn out they don’t love it. Let them know it’s okay! We all have our own tastes and preferences, and you just missed the mark with this recommendation. It happens! In fact, when you are recommending the book, I think you should tell them up front that it’s okay if it doesn’t become their favorite read. If they start reading the book under a ton of pressure, they probably aren’t going to enjoy themselves and might not finish it. 

At the end of the day, we have to know that no matter what, there will always be more books to read and reread. And if you want a friend to read a book, maybe you should read the book they’ve been trying to get you to read first.