Throughout my many (many!) years as a reader, the way I've discovered books to read has gone through several significant shift.
As a kid, I received books as gifts, acquired my older sister's used books, and went to the library once or twice a month. At the library, I'd browse the stacks, taking 10-12 books out at a time. Inevitably, at least one of those would be a re-read, and others might be new-to-me books by familiar authors. The remainder, maybe half of my stack, would be books that caught my eye on the shelf, and then that had a promising jacket blurb. This is the stage of my life is where I learned how to carry a big stack of books using my chin to stabilize it.
In high school and college I continued to read books my friends and family recommended. I read a bunch of mystery series and fantasy series as well. This was also the stage of my life in which I read a lot of classics and "important" books. Dickens and Hardy, Vonnegut and Potok, Walker and Kundera. My college roommate took a short course on Canadian authors and we both read a bunch of Atwood. I read essays by Le Guin and delved into works by "serious comics" like Thurber and Tom Robbins.
SO serious. Just a tiny bit pretentious.
In my twenties and thirties I was living in a town with a less than stellar library, but a decent county-wide network. This was the era of requests/holds. I'd go to one of my favorite independent bookstores--or "bookstores" as we used to call them--and browse. When I found a book that sounded interesting, I'd jot down the title on the margins of my checkbook or on the backs of receipts. Then I'd go to the library and search for all the titles I'd collected. Not all of them would be available, but enough were to keep me quite busy reading and exploring.
In 2009, I discovered Goodreads through a book club I was in. My to-read list suddenly exited in a more trackable format than penciled notes on scraps of paper. I started looking at lists and at "Readers Also Enjoyed" sidebars to books I'd liked. Soon, my to-read list was in the hundreds.
Then I started reading book blogs. Whoops! To make matters worse, I started writing one. Now I know to call my to-read list my TBR, and it's massive--well over a thousand. Last year I put together a list of books I hoped to actually get to, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to that, so it didn't help much. This year I'm doing a formal challenge, the Mt. TBR challenge, so I've added specific books to a shelf and have managed to knock off four so far. I've also decided to be pickier about what I ADD to my to-read list. (No report yet on how THAT is going to turn out.) First step: not adding every single book from every single person's TTT suggestions every single week.
Of course, I still go to the library and bookstore, and I still end up finding books that look interesting even though they aren't on any list. (Or my favorite--when I get a book I've been wanting to read, then later find out I hadn't actually put it on my TBR, so I'm reading without whittling that list down at all.)
That's the finding part--I could write another post about how I actually identify books that "sound good" to me, and another one about how, with a TBR shelf over a thousand titles long, I decide what to read next. Maybe I will. But for now, I think I'm going to go read.
What about you? Where do you find new books you want to read? How do you track and prioritize them? How do you decide when enough is enough? (If you have an answer for that one, I really need to hear it.)