How to Find Books That are Actually Worth Your Time


Here’s an interesting question. Given all the books out there, how do you know what to read? Or to rephrase that, how do you avoid the bad or mediocre books that just waste your time? Well that is what we are
going to try to answer in this video, though I think we need a
more fitting set first. Give me a second. (upbeat music) Alright, that’s better. So I’ve gotten a lot of questions on this particular subject in the past, but I’m just gonna go ahead and read the most recent one for you. I desperately need a video
about how to efficiently develop a reading list that saves you
from stumbling upon bad books, which may put you off a whole genre. I’d also like to know
how to read more books in more diverse categories and how to avoid abandoning
the older items on my list for a random book that I just heard of. Now I do want to be a bit
careful with this topic, because when I think back
to some of the best books I’ve ever read, they’ve been things that I’ve just randomly picked
off the library shelf or was given to by a friend, and I don’t want you to avoid
those serendipitous occasions. But given the absolute tirade of content that comes out of the
publishing houses of the world and the internet, in the interest of helping you triage all the options out there, I want to give you some recommendations for how to find the best
books in a particular genre, and avoid wasting your
times on the bad ones or the mediocre ones, or the ones that are just kind
of padded out for sales value if nothing else. And the first thing we’re gonna talk about is one of my favorite
websites in the world, which is GoodReads.com. I’ve been on Good Reads
for quite a long time, and I found many of my favorite books in Good Reads recommendation lists which I would highly
recommend checking out. For instance, one of my favorite
nonfiction books of all time, Bill Bryson’s “A Short
History of Nearly Everything”, was right near the top of one of Good Read’s best
nonfiction of all time lists, and that’s actually where I found it. And Good Reads is useful for other things besides just its list feature. If you do see a book on a
shelf at Barnes and Noble or some bookstore or a library and you’re not sure
whether or not to read it, the reviews on Good Reads
can be highly detailed and can be very good
ways to triage the books you have on your list to figure out what you should prioritize, and a lot of authors actually have very active Good Reads profiles. In fact, Pat Rothfuss, who
wrote “The Name of the Wind”, which is one of my top five
fiction novels of all time has an incredibly long review history, which I have perused
many times in the past, and one day when I was just
casually scrolling through it, I saw that he had written
a five star review for a fiction book, called “The Girl Who
Circumnavigated Fairyland “in a Ship of Her Own Making”, so I picked this up, read it, and even though it’s kind of a YA novel, I found it to be a really good read. So in short, Good Reads gives
you an extensive database of lists of all different types of genres. I mean I’ve found cyber
punk novels on their lists, I’ve found hacker history and crime history stuff on their lists, so whatever it is, you can
probably find a list about it. It also has a huge user base so there’s lots of reviews
for most books out there, and you can use the review histories of lots of your favorite authors who are active on the platform to find new books that they liked and which you may like as well. Now another great way to figure out whether or not a book is worth your time is to read a summary of it, and there are actually several
resources on the internet that you can go to to find lots
and lots of book summaries. I’m gonna give you a few
recommendations here, starting with the free ones
and then moving on to some that do cost money. So in the free category, I
want to point you towards two different websites
which are each run by people that I have a lot of respect for and who I’ve been
following for a long time. First and foremost, there’s
the website of Derek Sivers, who founded the company CD Baby, which if you have any music on Spotify or you know anybody who
is an independent artist and has their music on
Spotify or Apple or iTunes, they probably went through CD Baby, they’re kind of the OG in this industry, and since then, Derek has sold the company and spent a lot of his intervening
time between now and then reading and reviewing and taking notes, really detailed notes
actually, on a lot of books. So if you go over to his website, which is I believe Sivers.org/books, you’re gonna find a huge
list of book reviews with lots of notes and summaries, which can be a very good way to figure out whether or not a book is
actually worth picking up. And along the same lines, my friend Nat Ellingson
has another very long and very detailed book
notes page on his website, which I’ll have linked
in the description below because I can’t think
of the URL right now. And that brings us over
to the paid options, one of which is NewBooksinBrief.com, which I believe is just run
by one guy who reads books and then writes very
detailed summaries of them. Now on that site you
can actually get access to the first part of
each summary for free, and then afterwards I think
it’s about $3 bucks per summary if you want to just buy
them and get access to them. And another resource that
I’ve used in the past is called Blinkist. Now in contrast to New Books in Brief which operates on a pay as you go basis, you basically buy each
summary as you want it, Blinkist operates on a subscription model. So if you’re the kind of
person that wants to devour lots and lots of summaries, it can be a very good option for you. Now I do want to give
you one word of warning when it comes to book summaries, because reading them is much like getting the notes from your friend instead of actually going to class. You’re getting a second hand
account of the source material, and that can be good for
getting through that material quickly and seeing what at
least somebody else believes is the most important
points from that material, but you’re not taking it in yourself. So there may be things that would have resonated better with you that are just omitted from their account. And that example of
getting notes from a friend actually brings to mind
one additional tip, which is to make friends who like to read lots and lots of books from which you can get
lots of recommendations. Earlier in the video, I mentioned the book “The Name of the Wind”
by Patrick Rothfuss, and the only reason I ever read that book is because a friend of mine basically shoved the book into my hands and told me that I had to read it. Now usually when people
recommend books to me, I think well, my Good Reads
list is already so long, I’ve already got so many books
that I wanna read before this so I’m never gonna get to it, but in that case, I read the book, I put everything else on the back burner, and I do not regret doing that at all. That book was amazing. And that brings me to something
that this person mentioned in their question. They wanna know how to avoid
abandoning the order items on their to be read list, or the TBR if you’re in
the Book Tube circles, in favor of taking up random books that people just recommend
to you in the moment or that catch your eye on the bookshelf. And quite honestly, I don’t
think this is a problem. Yeah, you probably want to
get to the books on your TBR at some point, they’re interesting, but just because they made it
onto your list for a new book doesn’t mean that they’re gonna have a greater impact on your
life than a new book will. As we’ve talked about on this channel and a lot of times in the past, the greatest ingredient
to learning is interest. So if something catches your eye and you’re interested in
it, don’t shove that away because you think you need
to get through something that was further down your list first. Follow your interest and let it guide you. In fact, while I’m thinking about it, Martin you actually deleted your entire to be read list, right? – [Martin] Yes. – Yeah, so there you go. Now to round this video out, I do wanna offer a few
more pieces of advice from my own experience
regarding reading books and having a lot of choices
and all that kind of stuff. Number one, don’t finish a bad book. Remember, the goal, if there
is a goal to reading a book, is not to turn the final page and be able to say that you did it, or be able to check it off
on your Good Reads profile, it’s to get something
useful out of the book or to enjoy reading it. You’ve probably seen all
these people on the internet talking about how they read
a book a day or a book a week and how it changed their life, but to be honest, the
number of books you read is not a metric that’s worth tracking. I mean it can be fun, but it’s what you get out of those books that really matters at the end of the day. So if you pick up a book
and you start reading it and then halfway through you think this is a waste of my time, then put it down, don’t finish bad books. Remember, your time is more valuable than what you paid for the book, if indeed you paid for it at all. But as a caveat to that tip,
don’t be overly concerned with reading the best quote
unquote books out there, because the best books are just the books that other people say are the best, and like we said before, you may gain something out of a book that nobody else is going to see because you have your own
unique life experience and your own unique goals. And furthermore, even if a particular book doesn’t make it onto your favorites list or doesn’t change your life immediately, it may send you down a path that leads you to other
resources which do. For example, one of the books
that I’m gonna talk about in next week’s video about
books that changed my life is one called “Harry Potter and
the Methods of Rationality”, which is, at the end of the
day, kind of a silly fan fiction that basically writes the
first Harry Potter book if Harry Potter was a boy genius. And I really enjoyed that book, but I wouldn’t say that book
in particular changed my life, but what it did do is get
me interested in rationality and heuristics and biases, and that book led me to
reading a book called “Thinking Fast and Slow”,
which did change my life. And last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy
the process of reading. One of the top lessons
I’ve learned in life is that you never really get there. Whenever you get to a milestone, there’s just another milestone waiting at the top of the next
hill that you can see, so enjoy what you read. Don’t worry about having read
all the best books out there because you’re gonna want
to enjoy the actual process. And on that note of
enjoying what you read, one of the things that I am
greatly enjoying right now is the complete collection
of Sherlock Holmes stories. Though it is slightly inaccurate for me to say that I’m
enjoying reading them, because I’m actually
listening to them on Audible. Now you know the deal
with these Audible spots, I recommend a book that
I’m enjoying to you every single time I do one, but with the Sherlock Holmes stories, I do have to get a little bit specific because since Sherlock
Holmes is so famous, many narrators have tackled the
task of reading his stories, and you can find many different
collections on Audible. For example, there’s a
collection by Simon Vance which is very good, there are collections by a
narrator named David Timpson which is very good, but for my money, the one that you want to get is the one that is read by none other than the great Stephen Fry. Not only is his voice
absolutely fantastic, but this collection of
stories is over 60 hours long and it’s only one credit, so for my money, it is one of the best deals
that exists on Audible and I am really enjoying it. And what’s better, if you’re not already an Audible customer, you can go over to Audible.com/Thomas or text Thomas to 500500 on your phone to get a free trial of their service and a free audiobook download, whether it’s Sherlock Holmes like I’m recommending for you right now, or anything else of your choosing. And when it comes to choosing, you’re gonna have a ton of selection because Audible has an
unmatched library of titles across a ton of different genres, ranging from all the bestsellers to lots of really obscure stuff. So whatever is on your to be read list, if you have not deleted
it like Martin has, you’re probably gonna be able to find it. So once again, if you want
to get started with Audible and start listening to audiobooks, which can be a great way
to make your downtime more efficient, the time on
the bus, time spent driving, time spent folding the laundry,
all that kind of stuff, then head on over to Audible.com/Thomas, or once again text Thomas
to 500500 on your phone. Big thanks to Audible
for sponsoring this video and being a huge
supporter of this channel, and as always guys, thank
you so much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, give it a like to support this channel and you might also wanna click right there to subscribe so you don’t
miss out on new videos when they come out. You can also click right over there to get a free copy of my book
on how to earn better grades, or go right over here to listen to our latest podcast episode. Last but not least, click right
here to watch one more video on this channel, and I will
see you in next week’s video on five books that changed my life.

100 thoughts on “How to Find Books That are Actually Worth Your Time”

  1. I am surprised that you did not mention public libraries. Reference librarians are an excellent source for personal recommendations and public libraries are generally free! Many libraries also provide access to databases, such as NoveList, which are designed to help you find your next read!

  2. I had picked up Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland because of Patrick Rothfuss too! His reviews are really cool

  3. The part where you say "Don't forget to enjoy the process of reading and that it's about the journey", totally resonates with me. At the start of this year, I had set a goal to read 2 books per month to resume my love for reading. Eventually, I realised that I was really rushing through. And, my sister pointed out exactly the same thing – what's the point of such a goal if you are not enjoying it. So, I have slowed down and enjoying all the reading ?. Thanks for the tips..

  4. “Don’t finish a bad book” that is a great advice, personally it has to be a really bad book in order to left it unfinished. I like and I’m interested in most books that you mention. One recommendation: “The Coaching Habit” and also I’m slowly getting all the books the author recommends at the end haha.

  5. Your Video Is Great But The Part Where You Mentioned Tai Lopez Was Not Needed. You Should Respect Someone Else's Point Of View.

  6. – Read review summaries
    – are not substitutes for reading the source material
    – depends on who's writing it
    – Follow my subjects of-interest over a predetermined reading list

  7. I love the way he speaks…he's great….keeps your attention…content is good and delivery of the info is crisp…a natural

  8. I am on the fence about going with audible or blinkist. Can anyone give me some insight into their experience with these and which one you would recommend?

  9. Once I looked for a book about electric cars (informational) and didn't read the summary of the book I requested from my library…it was about a guy and his friend riding across the US with their Tesla. Read the summaries, kids!

  10. Patrick Rothfuss, the guy who hasn't published The doors of stone (Working title), it's been like 8 years since The wise mans fear 🙁

  11. I liked your attitude very much ,for most things you give an answer that it is RELATIVE ,which is always true ,because IN THIS WORLD NOTHING IS GOOD OR BAD EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE…

  12. Life is too short. I only read books that have 4.5 star above rating on Goodreads. Then I sort of stop because the community of goodreads sucks and I decided to not contribute my knowledge to their site.

  13. To add to finish free summaries of books, I did this:

    Download the Kindle App on phone, or tablet. Then with your amazon account, find a book you want on the amazon site, find the kindle version of that book and click on “download a free sample”. Most of the time, the first pages give you an idea of the book and then from there, you decide.

  14. Personal development books are my favorite
    My recommendations are
    Think and grow rich – napoleon hill
    As a man thinken by James Allen
    psycocybernetics – Maxwell Maltz
    Atomic habits by James clear
    The power of your subconscious mind by Joseph Murphy
    Eat that frog Bryan Tracy
    Awaken the giant within – Antony Robbins
    The genie within by Harry w. Carpenter
    Miracle morning- Hal Elrod
    There is a lot more books that I really like but The ones I mentioned are some of my favorite!!!

  15. Most of the time i only read a book or watch a film just because i saw how someone reviewed that boook/film and what it meant to him, it gives you a feel of a need to read/watch that thing a
    and go back to that person/review and discover what it moved in you
    So sometimes not the ratings or toping list makes a person read a certain book .it's seeing that book's traces on the people who read it.

  16. I would recommend the book "Discovery Mode: When Survival Becomes Your Only Way Home" by Joseph Tait Miller!

  17. Great vid. I have been stuck and only finished 2 of the last 10books I started. Now I have a direction and some good recommendations. Thank you

  18. Understand you have to hawk Audible because you get a kick-back or whatever, but just feel audiobooks is just most people's way of cheating when they read.

  19. I haven't watched the video yet so please understand my criticism.

    All books are worth knowing. There's no such things as nonsense books, even academic textbooks. Because I believe that every book holds magic in them. I believe that, small or big, nonsense or powerful, a book is worth knowing for. It's like people. There's no nonsense people. Every person has their own story and it's an absolute creation of magic to listen/read on their stories.

  20. I know everyone has different interests when it comes to reading, but a few books that I have enjoyed reading are as followed:
    • Ego Is The Enemy (Ryan Holiday)
    • The Obstacle Is The Way (Ryan Holiday)
    • The Second Mountain: The Quest For A Moral Life (David Brooks)
    • The Road To Character (David Brooks)
    • Rising Strong (Brene Brown)
    • Daring To Lead (Brene Brown)

    One might say that a more accurate assessment is three authors that changed my life as I listed a couple books by each author that I've come to enjoy reading and have learned to grow my perspective and personal self from what I've read and apply them to my own life and situations that happen within it. I've always been a strong believer that while reading is fundamentally important and essential to helping us learn and grow, it's all in how we apply it as well. I hope for those that see this comment and decided to read any of these books or if you've already read any of them you can share your experiences below. I hope you can experience as much joy from these books as I have come to know. Keep reading what you love and find interesting and grow as much as you can as a person.

  21. Also don't ever be afraid to start reading multiple books at once. You don't have to commit to everything, as long as one of them is enjoyable you already won.

  22. I dont read much anymore but when I was about 12 I was churning through books like nobodies business, when I came across a book that I found very hard to read I would skip to the middle of the book and go for a bit from there to see if it got any more interesting, I recall a book called the girl with silver eyes, cant remember the author though. But I found it vey hard to start so upon skipping to near the middle I got to discover how interesting the novel actually was and went back to the start to catch myself up to the juicy middle chapters

  23. Goodreads is a shelving method for a great number of readers. It's also a social media site for books. People give ratings there very easily — a cat walking across a keyboard might leave a rating in GR.
    It's full of readers who download free books from Amazon and other sites and store them. They then give the book about two pages to hook them or not, and use GR as a filing system. If by page two they don't like it, they give it a one-star rating and go on to rate all the author's books the same way to remind themselves not to waste time reading that author.
    Some books that are hailed by critics — and the best books of all time — have three-star or below rating on Goodreads. "Eeeew, this Anna Karenina took soooooo long to start!"
    Also, depending on the following an author gathers online, they can win prizes for best fiction of the year because of an army of voters. This happened with a Wattpad author who has a million fans and told them all to go rate his books as five stars: he got on the list of best fiction for the year, and only got bad ratings subsequently, when normal grown ups were suckered into buying his books and saw that it was utter unedited trash.
    You can see a lot of reviews on GR, and that's the only good thing. If you're interested in a book you can go there and read a lot of the reviews and see which ones are mentioning things that might upset you, and which ones are saying things you might also enjoy.
    But then, you can do that on Amazon. Trusting GR lists of what is "hot" or "good" (which are based on ratings that are given following these methods above) is just trusting the opinion of people you don't even know, whose taste might not be yours…You would have to do a lot of triage of any list there……

  24. If one is still considering listening to the Sherlock Holmes books, please give chance to John Telfer, one of the earlier issues of the Sherlock Holmes audiobooks and an absolutely wonderful listen!

  25. Technically you can make it much more easier to figure out what books to avoid reading. Simply do not read any contemporary fiction. If fiction is to be read, then read that about which a lot of people know already and which already have proven cultural influence. No matter how much someone may be praising a fiction book/novel that is written in last 30 years or so, that will almost certainly be a waste of time. The newer it is the less worth reading it is. It sounds mean to the authors, but it is true. Non-fiction at least has value in itself due to being non-fiction. Fiction does not.

  26. I'm so weird I hated reading so much in school and I'm not very good at it but now that iv been out of school for 5 years I have a weird craving and I acted on it and went to the library and I was so overwhelmed I had no clue where to start or anything which is why I'm here lol I grabbed ready player one because I loved the movie and wanted more and figured that the movie probably left a lot out

  27. 6:07 EXCELLENT – for a long time I thought that I should get back to learning German because I was pretty good at it and it would make sense to add some extra effort and bring it up to a nice level. But… it was like To Be Read List – there was no vivid energy in it, just a concept. Instead I went for French and followed my love for the language. And now I am B2 level, still aspiring to climb, with so much joy in the process.

  28. Don't finish bad books..good advice….this is a mistake lots of people make… they end up not reading anything because they feel they must finish what they started and have lost interest in said book…

  29. this was great thankyou. Excited to check out good reads and those recommends. The idea of befriending someone for book recommendations cracked me. Your cadence is very similar to nerdwriter, so many people on youtube are sounding like this maybe your all from the same neck of the woods but sometimes its a little jarring especially in addition to the music for the uber audio sensitive like me. Something to think about or completely disregard.

  30. Summary:
    1. Good reads reviews
    2. Summaries (sivers.org/books or blinkist)
    3. Have book-reading friends
    4. Follow your interest

    Reading advice:
    1. Don't finish a bad book
    2. Don't be overly concerned about optimising for 'best' books
    3. Enjoy reading

  31. Those are some incredibly bad reasons to read books. Reading isn't just about "enjoying" or "useful" reading is primarily to expand your knowledge and your culture. Hence I don't get how not finishing books you don't like is a good advice, it's a terrible advice. I've had hard time reading Stendhal but I did, it wasn't enjoyable but I still get something out of it.

    I don't know a lot about American litterature but some great books have been made in English.
    I would recommend to buy classical litterature to build yourself up a strong cultural base, philosophical books to open up your mind, and some books of sheer fiction that your like to enjoy as a laid back reading.

    My advice would be to read an "hard-to-read" book alterned with a more laid back book, at the same time, to relax.

  32. deleting the TBR list is great, if you really wanted to read something youd buy the book right away, instead the tbr list just gives you anxiety lol

  33. You mentioned Goodreads and that made me super happy!! I haven't been on their in AGES though…. :'( </3 I should return!!

  34. I really loved what you said about taking time to enjoy books, and that milestones don't really matter–you could have a goal to read 100 books in one year and finish feeling totally unfulfilled, or only read 10, at your own pace, and love each one. This is a lesson I need to learn!
    I set out at the beginning of this year wanting to read as many books as possible, but then began Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive–which is QUITE the undertaking! I am enjoying them, however, I don't know if they will end up becoming some of my favorites. I don't know why this is (I feel sort of sad about it for some reason; I want to like a book I spend 2 months reading)…I guess only time will tell. Regardless, this is such a fantastic reminder that readers should only read what matters to THEM!!

  35. I disagree with "Don't finish a bad book." Books can turn into good books by completely changing perspective in the final chapter or page.

  36. its not about the quality or quantity of books or information you get, this days there's a trending metric to measure how much ones read and it doesn't matter at all

  37. I have a hard time stopping in the middle of a book. I have stopped a series though because it was like a GOT S8 almost reaction. Thus I, too have realised to be more selective. Though its more that if the book pulls me in, which I think is quite easy for me to be pulled in (maybe its cuz its FOMO).

  38. The top five lists on goodreads is pandering to certain writers, it's not based on merit. You won't 'find a good read rather than an author supported by most major publishers or social media. Real gems are to be discovered by yourself on descriptions and other people's reviews.

  39. I would add that one should read bookreviews, speak to booksellers at actual bookstores and be weary of top 10 books – they are bestsellers, not the best books suited for your reading needs necessarily.

  40. If you like books then Goodreads is an essential part of your reading routine.
    By reading reviews of your favorite books, you will find reviewers who have similar tastes and you can check out their top-rated books.

  41. I hate videos like this. First off the question he reads is from someone who obviously lacks some self confidence or else it could be argued, like a lot of us unfortunately, is looking for a short cut or looking to avoid things, in this case, bad books or wasted time on books we find we don't like. The simple answer to the question, the only one, the one that didn't require a vid of any length, is that there is no answer. You can't avoid these things no matter what "tips" or "tricks" you get. No matter what little tricks or whatever you employ you still will likely, in this case, encounter a book you don't like or felt was a waste of time pick up to begin with. We need to start trusting ourselves more, we know the answers to most questions we ask, we just don't believe in or have faith in ourselves. Bottom line of the vid is this: The question asked was a wasteful one with no answer, the vid is another illustration of an ego trip by someone who thinks himself or has been told he is some kind of expert . The fact that he even bothered to answer this question and in this bloated way speaks to that. Start trusting yourself folks, stop looking to others and acting like their experts, most aren't anymore than we ourselves are….. BTW most of this is advertisements for book related businesses, not really an answer to the question….

  42. this is not what people are here for but two books that i absolutely love are, blink by malcolm gladwell and little bee by chris cleave.

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