I keep an eye on new titles through Baker & Taylor's Booking Ahead and CATS Booking Ahead emails and by using the fancy Advanced Search function at Amazon.
I read lots of blogs, I get recommendations from friends and family and library patrons.
I pick up books that are mentioned in the acknowledgements of other books.
I pick up books because I like their cover art, and I pick up books because I am horrified-yet-fascinated by their cover art.
I pick up books because they've been blurbed by a trusted source. (But I avoid putting TOO much stock in blurbs.)
I pick up sequels and books by authors I've read and enjoyed.
When I'm feeling ridiculously nerdy, I search Novelist for specific topics and read a bunch of books along similar lines (hence lists like this).
I buy used and new and I check books out of the library, and I get quite a lot of unsolicited review copies in the mail.
Like I said: A VARIETY OF SOURCES.
What I DON'T use very often are Book Recommendation Engines. Not because I have anything against them, just because I tend to find them and play with them and then forget what they're called.
SO. LET'S MAKE A LIST.
I shall use Howl's Moving Castle and The Book Thief as my test subjects.
Your Next Read: "At YourNextRead we only feature books you have told us you have read, enjoyed and recommended for others to read. If you do not understand what you are meant to be looking for then YourNextRead is for you...!"
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, YNR recommends: Castle in the Air, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Fairest, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The House of Many Ways, and Dragon Slippers.
For fans of The Book Thief, YNR recommends: The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, I Am the Messenger (twice!), To Kill a Mockingbird, Night, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (*shudder*).
What Should I Read Next?: "Enter a book you like and the site will analyse our huge database of real readers' favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, WSIRN? recommends: Ghosts I Have Been, I am Mordred, The Perilous Gard, Erec Rex, The Children of Green Knowe, I am Morgan le Faye, Rowan of Rin, Restoree. (As it's such a long list, I only listed the first eight... but as I scrolled down, it continued to get more and more bizarre, with recommendations like Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School and Rooftop. ROOFTOP. To be fair, Sorcery & Cecelia was there, too.)
For fans of The Book Thief, WSIRN? recommends: Daughter of Venice, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, The Clothes on Their Backs, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, Guernica, Alone in Berlin, Midnighters #1, and An Acquaintance with Darkness. (Further down? ONE FISH TWO FISH RED FISH BLUE FISH. I don't even. Boy in the Striped Pajamas shows up, too: although my hatred will never abate for that book, it makes more sense as a pick than DR. SEUSS.)
Bookish: "Bookish is an all-in-one website that uses patent pending technology to provide a book-centric, contextual and personalized experience, all with the goal of helping readers find their next book. We serve smarter book recommendations, original book lists and articles, and author and book pages for classics and new favorites."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, Bookish recommends: Abhorsen, Calling on Dragons, Sleeper Code, Rose Daughter, and Spindle's End. (Sleeper Code?? Calling on Dragons is a good call, though.)
For fans of The Book Thief, Bookish recommends: Where Things Come Back, Skullduggery Island (?), and Mattoo, Let's Play! (????)
There's other content, too: both pages link up to an extensive list of the author's other books as well as user reviews; The Book Thief is also included on a list called YA FOR BOYS (<--sideeye) and has a section devoted to favorite quotes.
BookLamp: "Much like Pandora.com was created to provide a practical outlet for the Music Genome Project, we created BookLamp.org to allow readers and writers to use the tools that we’ve developed over the years. BookLamp is the public face and home of the Book Genome Project, so please check it out and let us know what you think."
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE IS NOT INDEXED. Which is, obviously, a travesty.
For fans of The House of Many Ways, BookLamp recommends: Stopping for a Spell, Earwig and the Witch, The Servants, Magyk, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Re: the Shirley Jackson, I don't even.
For fans of The Book Thief, BookLamp recommends: Speak Through the Wind, Faith, The Blind Contessa's New Machine, Amagansett, The Rosary Girls. As I haven't read ANY of those, I can't offer up any pithy wisdom.
Hunch: "Hunch’s ambitious mission is to build a ‘Taste Graph’ of the entire web, connecting every person on the web with their affinity for anything, from books to electronic gadgets to fashion or vacation spots. Hunch is at the forefront of combining algorithmic machine learning with user-curated content, with the goal of providing better recommendations for everyone."
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE IS NOT INDEXED. See above for my opinion on that matter.
For fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Hunch recommends: A.A. Milne, Nicholas Christopher, William Golding, Markus Zusak, China Mieville, Philip Pullman, Susanna Clarke, Katharine Kerr, and Margaret Atwood. I especially approve of the inclusion of Mieville, and Zusak was a rather hilarious coincidence. (Either that or I'm just getting punchy. There are waaaaaay more of these websites than I thought.)
For fans of The Book Thief, Hunch recommends: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Water for Elephants, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Middlesex, The Shadow of the Wind, The Kite Runner, and The Hunger Games. So, mostly other Book Group Picks?
TasteKid: "TasteKid is a discovery engine that provides on spot, relevant, music, movies, TV shows, books, authors and games recommendations, based on one's existing preferences. The purpose of these recommendations is discovery and taste exploration. Sometimes, less known items are recommended instead of more similar, yet much more popular ones, in order to increase the chances of discovering something new."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, TK recommends: House of Many Ways, Castle in the Air, Terrier, Lirael, Abhorsen, The Princess Bride, Stardust, Through the Looking Glass, Harry Potter, Fruits Basket, and a few others.
For fans of The Book Thief, TK recommends: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Messenger, Fault in Our Stars, The Night Circus, Paper Towns, Shadow of the Wind, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Sophie's World, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I Capture the Castle, and a few others.
Bookseer: While it has a great look, this one just uses Amazon's top recommendations, so I'll just list the first of each list.
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, Bookseer recommends: Castle in the Air.
For fans of The Book Thief, Bookseer recommends: Divergent. AHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Gnooks: "Gnooks is a self-adapting community system based on the gnod engine. Discover new writers you will like, travel the map. of literature and discuss your favorite books and authors." This one is by author, not title, and so while it's not particularly helpful in this case, it's still WICKED COOL.
For fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Gnooks points us to: Patricia C. Wrede, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Tamora Pierce, Bruce Coville, Gerald Morris, AND MANY MORE.
For fans of Markus Zusak, Gnooks points us to: Hugh Laurie (<--based on his ONE book, I guess?), Carlos Ruiz Zafron, Jonathan Stroud and David Levithan.
Which Book: "If you're not good at remembering book titles, or if you are the sort of reader who likes to choose by browsing round a little and seeing what tempts you, whichbook is the perfect solution to help you find what you are looking for." This one uses sliders, so you can search for a sad-funny-disturbing-optimistic book, or a happy-serious-safe-bleak one, or anything in between.
[EDITED TO ADD TWEET]
BookLikes: "Discover great books by exploring blogs and let others discover best books thank [sic] to your book reviews. Writing reviews was never so easy, fast and engaging - connect your review with a single book or whole book series."
As far as I can tell, this site is just trying to be a mashup of Tumblr and GoodReads?
BookVibe: "BookVibe digs through your Twitter stream to show you books being discussed by your friends (the people you follow). We have bought a ton of books ourselves from our friends’ “book streams” and we hope that you will enjoy seeing what books your friends are talking about. We compile this for you on one handy page and send out a weekly email digest highlighting books from your book stream."
No robot recommendations here, either, though I signed up for it anyway because I'm a sucker.
And then, there are the personal reading databases that double as recommendation engines:
GoodReads: "Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love." AND TO PROVIDE A SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO BRING THE DRAMZ AND GET INTO BIG NASTY (though entertaining) KERFUFFLES. ALSO, IT'S OWNED BY AMAZON.
The recommendation engine is vaguely based on user ratings rather than on the plug-in-a-title-get-a-recommendation model, and in my experience, provides bizarre results. Last time I checked, it was telling me I'd like nonfiction about punk rock.
Not that I have anything against nonfiction about punk rock, but judging by the almost 1,500 books I've rated, you'd think that the computer would be able to tell that my reading tastes lie in a different direction.
Shelfari: "Shelfari introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari is a gathering place for authors, aspiring authors, publishers, and readers, and has many tools and features to help these groups connect with each other in a fun and engaging way. Our mission is to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word." ALSO OWNED BY AMAZON.
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, Shelfari recommends: a bunch of other books by Diana Wynne Jones.
For fans of The Book Thief, Shelfari recommends: In My Hands, Milkweed, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Tunes for Bears to Dance to, Something Remains, Diary of a Young Girl, Tales from the Secret Annex, World War II, Never Let Me Go, Edelweiss Pirates: Operation Einstein.
LibraryThing: "LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, LT recommends: Castle in the Air, The Pinhoe Egg, A Sudden Wild Magic, Sabriel, Sorcery and Cecelia, Spindle's End, So You Want to be a Wizard, Searching for Dragons, Rose Daughter, and A College of Magics.
For fans of The Book Thief, LT recommends: I am the Messenger, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Thirteenth Tale, The Help, Water for Elephants, Behind the Bedroom Wall, Room, People of the Book, and A Thousand Splendid Suns. (That list seems to start out with related titles and then just devolve into Common Reading Group Picks.)
LibraryThing offers lists of BOTH LT recommendations AND user recommendations for both titles, which is a super feature: in both cases, the user recommendations seemed more accurate to me.
Not launched yet:
Valioo: "You shouldn't waste time or money with the wrong books. Life is too short for such mistakes. We are developing a quick, fun and easy way to rate your books and receive highly personalized recommendations."
Real-live people providing online readers' advisory:
[Recommended in the comments] The Seattle Public Library provides this service via their website. As I'm not a patron—the form asks for a library card number—I haven't tried it out, but the idea is definitely a cool one.
PHEW. What have I learned?
That while these various recommendation resources are certainly entertaining, and could definitely point readers in some INTERESTING directions, that none of these engines can really hold their own against a one-on-one with a reader's advisory expert.
Anyway, I'm sure there must be more: which ones did I miss? Also, do you use them, and if so, which one is your favorite?