Looking for a Book Recommendation Site
February 4, 2005 4:16 AM   Subscribe

Automatic Book Recommendation: I'd really like to find something like this: A website where I input a list of all the books I've read in the last 5 years that i've really enjoyed. The website then generates a list of books that it thinks I'd enjoy based on my reading history, and possibly other users history. Amazon does something vaguely similar, but you need to have bought the books for it to generate a potential listing for you. Anybody know of a website that does this?
posted by kev23f to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
See if gnooks works.
posted by Gyan at 4:27 AM on February 4, 2005

I had high hopes for whichbook. Doesn't do exactly what you want, but it's a great idea for getting book reccomendations. Alternately, Amazon has a "If you liked ... then you'll also like..." thing.
posted by seanyboy at 4:39 AM on February 4, 2005

I don't know about the US site (or the Irish site) but Amazon lets you do this on the UK site.

There's a Recommendations box down the side with an "I Own It" checkbox.
posted by saintsguy at 4:48 AM on February 4, 2005

Just FYI--in Amazon, you don't technically need to have bought the book through them for it to be factored in. You can actually rate any book on the site when you're looking at it on the site, so you can actually go through and do what you're describing--it's a bit cumbersome, but you can do it, and you are then drawing from a much, much larger comparison population than you could on any other site. (I'm not trying to shill for Amazon...I'm just saying.)

With that in mind, though, it's always amazed me that Amazon didn't basically give away those little bar-code scanners with a little "custom upload" driver--anyone who felt inclined could basically scan any books they already had and liked in about 20 minutes, pop it in a USB port, and bam...that much more data in the recommendation set, for you _and_ for them.

I know a lot of people would hate to share that information with Amazon, and I'm not saying everyone should do it. I'm just saying that it would be a cheap, attractive way for Amazon to get people who did feel like doing it to participate much more aggressively, and make their own dataset much richer.
posted by LairBob at 4:56 AM on February 4, 2005

I do this with Amazon, and I lie copiously. Albums I've heard but don't own get marked down with my opinion anyway. Books that I don't own that edition of, but do own some version of (especially commonly I have the story in an anthology while they have it as a single novel) get marked down with my opinion anyway. It works quite well, and my Amazon recommendations are full of things I like.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:16 AM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ok, i have experimented more with amazon and it seems to be working out. Thanks muchly everyone. Any other suggestions would be welcome though.
posted by kev23f at 5:38 AM on February 4, 2005

You might see if your local library has a subscription to a database called Novelist. It's only good for fiction, but I find it quite useful in helping people who just finished a favorite and don't know what to read next.
If your library does have a subscription, chances are pretty good that you can access the db from home with your library card.
posted by willpie at 5:45 AM on February 4, 2005

Can you add the books you've bought to your Amazon wish list?
posted by carter at 6:06 AM on February 4, 2005

Thanks Gyan, gnooks is at very least a pretty fun toy:

"Find me a book that is.... sexy, but bleak. Go!"
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:24 AM on February 4, 2005

kev, I know it's not what you asked for, but didja ever consider...asking a librarian? Or a clerk at an independent bookstore. I'm not trying to criticize, just suggesting another avenue. I sympathize--I can never find enough new books to read.
posted by scratch at 6:44 AM on February 4, 2005

I second scratch -- you'd probably do pretty well posting a list of, say, 20 of your favorite books here, and asking for recs from people who have similar tastes.
posted by Miko at 6:51 AM on February 4, 2005

Second scratch & Miko. Also willpie. In addition to Novelist there is also What Do I Read Next? that many libraries make available online to patrons w/library cards.
posted by mlis at 6:57 AM on February 4, 2005

I use the Amazon recommendations all the time, though I almost never buy from them. I've had mixed success. The first time I used it, amazon recommended about a dozen things to me, mostly stuff I had read in college and hated. But they did recommend a few things I had never read, including two authors who are now favorites. Now they base their recommendations on things I have bought, usually as gifts when I haven't wanted to go to the post office myself.

No offence to Jacquilynne, I never read reader-reviews. People usually end up just talking about themselves. And you never know who these people are. I have friends whose recommendations I take seriously, and others (and God knows I love them) whose recommendations I read as serious warnings.

I second the suggestion of going to a library, but most of the tools they will show you index by topic. This assumes that if you read one book about medieval France (Return of Martin Guerre), you'll like others (Harlequin romances). But public librarians are great at recommendations.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:01 AM on February 4, 2005

All Consuming has a recommendations engine, and is pretty nifty all around to boot.
posted by Remy at 7:24 AM on February 4, 2005

I used to love the Recommender at Alexlit quite a lot (it's under 'Departments' on the left-hand menu), and got several good recommendations through it.

However, this was a few years ago and now Alexlit seems to be more focused on selling eBooks, so the Recommender feature is probably not well-updated and -frequented any more. But I think it's the sort of thing you were looking for.
posted by chrismear at 7:25 AM on February 4, 2005

I agree that there have been some great threads here for book recommendations, and i've even bought a few books on foot of them -- i just had a yearning for something less static than that, and something less cumbersome than the amazon system. (the gnooks link is cool btw). Ask Mefi isnt really the place for constantly asking "what'll i read next?" so i was hoping for another solution.

I've just started A Hundred Years of Solitude, so i'm all set for a little while at least...have a pleasant weekend all...
posted by kev23f at 7:28 AM on February 4, 2005

oh, and before i go...

Remy, thanks for your link, i think its just what i was looking for.

Scratch and Miko and Co..thanks for the alternate solutions, i'll try a library over the weekend, i think i was 9 when i was last at one so it'll be an adventure....
posted by kev23f at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2005

No offence to Jacquilynne, I never read eader-reviews.

I don't read them, either. Amazon allows you to "rate" items on a scale of 1 to 5, and uses that information in forming their recommendations to you. I don't believe it gets calculated in the reviewer ratings, but I'm not sure, and it doesn't really matter to me. I just search out things that I do own that are representative of what I'm looking for, tell Amazon I own them, and rate them so that they get included in the calculations for my recommendations.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:39 AM on February 4, 2005

i think i was 9 when i was last at one so it'll be an adventure....

I know what you mean. I went through a long phase of years in which I never went to a library. Then when I moved to my new city, I started going again, and it was wonderful. I had forgotten how nice it was to load up a big stack of six or seven books for free. You don't have to take the plunge and buy them in hopes that you'll like them. You can take home things you're not even sure you're interested in for a 'test drive'. If you end up hating a book, you don't feel like you wasted your money. And you'll come across things you probably wouldn't see in the bookstore, because they're not worried about pushing the publishers' hot lists. Go libraries!
posted by Miko at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2005

Library! I can't get this to work for my library system, but I was inspired to add a password to my account. Now I can search the library database, order books from other branches, and even have CDs shipped from other branches so I can rip 'em. My tax dollars at work. If you can get that bookmarklet thingy to work for your system, you can just browse a site like Amazon, and if you see a book that interests you, check to see if your library has it and if so put it on reserve.
posted by fixedgear at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2005

A non-member emailed me and asked me to recommend Alexlit as well, chrismear. So apparently someone thinks it's still worthwhile. [Thanks to non-member Philip Armstrong]
posted by Doohickie at 2:54 PM on February 4, 2005

Just as a data point: Tonight I've just gone through and rated and marked my entire library as "I own it" on Amazon. The results aren't amazing but they're impressive; very little I wouldn't want but few surprises too.
posted by mendel at 9:15 PM on February 4, 2005

See if gnooks works.

I just tried gnooks. I put in hemingway, dostoevsky, and barth. I got catherine coulter. awesome.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 4:51 PM on February 12, 2005

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