Is there some human-powered book recommendation system out there?
April 24, 2015 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I find that my biggest problem with reading is finding books that sound interesting to read. MyAnimeList has a recommendation system that really appeals to me. Individual users who like two things say "If you like X, try Y because Z." I think the reasoning is what really makes it useful to me, because it makes me easier to choose on the parts of books that I enjoy. Does something like this exist for books?

Automatic recommendation engines (like on Goodreads) don't really help me that much because it's less appealing for me to go through a list of book covers, and my favorite books are varied enough that it feels like it just ends up throwing random things at me.
posted by that girl to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I know someone who had this job at CNIB. Basically people would call her and tell her what books they liked and she would recommend others. I don't think the position exists anymore. And unless you're blind, I'm not sure you would be allowed to use it even if it did.

Though you should know that Amazon actually does tell you why it's recommending a book. What it doesn't do very well is combine your tastes, which I guess is what you're getting at.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:53 AM on April 24, 2015

If it did exist it would soon be rendered useless by organized spammers.

That works for MyAnimeList because there aren't any blackhats who want to distort the rating system. But books are big business, and as soon as a system like that was set up for books, blackhats would do their best to corrupt it. It would just be another target for SEO.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:53 AM on April 24, 2015

well, when I worked in a renowned, locally owned book retailer, that was called 'Claudia'. These days, the best thing going is AskMe.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:53 AM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's called Ask Metafilter. What are some of your favorite books?
posted by theodolite at 8:54 AM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

My local library offers a free custom book recommendation service—you fill out a lengthy survey/form about your reading preferences, and a librarian will email you, call you, or meet with you (depending on your preference) with a list of book recommendations they've developed based on your tastes. Anyone with a library card can use it, and it's awesome.

You might try looking around at your local library system(s) to see if something similar exists.
posted by rebekah at 8:57 AM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

My library subscribes to a service called NoveList -- you put in something you've read, and it will tell you about "read-alikes" with a comment from someone describing how they're similar. After the first few recommendations it breaks down into "these works share thus-and-such vague keyword themes", but the first few are usually pretty good. For instance, I put in "Memory of Water" by Emmi Itaranta, which I recently enjoyed, and it told me this:
1. Never let me go
Ishiguro, Kazuo, 1954-
Reason: Haunting and character driven, these social science fiction novels follow the lives of a few young people in intimate domestic settings to illuminate dystopian futures. Biotechnology ethics influence Never Let Me Go, while Memory of Water is an environmental fable. -- Kaitlyn Moore
2. Find me
Van Den Berg, Laura
Reason: In these haunting, character-driven works of post-apocalyptic fiction, young women living in societies transformed by global catastrophe -- a devastating pandemic in Find Me, climate change in Memory of Water -- seek their place in a constantly changing world. -- Gillian Speace
3. Oryx and Crake
Atwood, Margaret, 1939-
Reason: Environmental catastrophe shapes the near-future worlds in these dystopian science fiction novels, which share detailed world-building, complex characters, and a concern for interpersonal relationships. Oryx and Crake is darker and more humorous than the haunting, reflective Memory of Water. -- Kaitlyn Moore
4. Sharp and dangerous virtues
Moody, Martha
Reason: Small communities grapple with resource scarcity and political strife in these thought-provoking science fiction books set in the near future. Both are character-driven, though Sharp and Dangerous Virtues is faster-paced and suspenseful, while A Memory of Water's tone is haunting. -- Kaitlyn Moore
posted by dorque at 9:00 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I suppose I could ask for recommendations in another question, but you can check out my goodreads account in my profile and memail me suggestions if something comes to mind. I just want mostly brainless non-super violent scifi/fantasy (i.e. not Divergent/Hunger Games and things of that ilk).

dorque: That sounds like a pretty great service, and it looks like one of my library cards gives me access to the NoveList Plus service. I'll check that out.
posted by that girl at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2015

LibraryThing, if you're prepared to take the time to enter the books you own - that's a very rich data set to work from. They also have user-powered recommendations ("If you like this, you'll like that"), but to be honest, the machine-generated recommendations built over your entire collection are, in my opinion, better.
posted by Leon at 9:11 AM on April 24, 2015

My local library system has BookMatch, where you can fill out as much or as little information as you like and a librarian will give you personalized recommendations -- and you don't have to be a library cardholder to use it.
posted by Jeanne at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2015

well, when I worked in a renowned, locally owned book retailer, that was called 'Claudia'.

Yeah, if you have a good local indie bookstore, start there. In L.A., it's Skylight Books in Los Feliz. They even post the employee recommendations online, so if you find a certain person you "click" with, you can just go to the site or the store and see their latest recommendation.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:39 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Most libraries that stock popular fiction offer this service to a greater or lesser degree. In libraries, it's called reader's advisory. There are books about it, people study it in library school, etc.

As rebekah points out, some libraries offer this service online, in some cases even extending this service to people who don't have library cards.
posted by box at 10:47 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anyone with a library card can use it, and it's awesome.

Thanks...I don't live there. Don't even know where it is. I just filled it out and will receive my recommendations within 10 business days. It never asked about a library card.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:58 AM on April 24, 2015

This doesn't solve your problem, but I just looked at your goodreads list and I think you might like:

Lev Grossman's Magicians series

The Golem & the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

He, She and It, by Marge Piercy
posted by janey47 at 11:20 AM on April 24, 2015

Yay! Glad no library card is needed.
posted by rebekah at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2015

It's long, and not totally brainless, but I think The Name of the Wind is great for both fantasy lovers and non-lovers. Super readable and super enjoyable.
posted by taltalim at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2015

« Older Finding a B&B near NYC   |   It took two years but she's finally figured out... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.