The Value of a Good Book Recommendation

Why it matters, and how it can go a long way.

When trying to kick start a new reading habit, sometimes, it can be hard to know where to look for solid recommendations. But on the other hand, the internet is full to the brim of listicles telling you about all the books you should read. But it pays to remember these lists are usually written by one person and are that person’s opinion on what you should read.

Although starting a book’s publication with the intent of writing about reading recommendations may seem counterintuitive, the reason I think it’s valid as a space to come to for recommendations is that it has a myriad of different writers recommending all sorts of books. This space’s beauty is that there will always be something for everyone, depending on their interest. That’s what I hope, at least.

I’m sat here, writing our third newsletter about reading recommendations and why they matter — because we have published a lot during the past month — and I’ve loved editing every one of them. In my personal life, and as a bookseller (pre-Covid), I have had many conversations with people about reading and where to start. This, in part, has fuelled my belief that a recommendation can go such a long way, especially when it comes from a place of love.

Before the first lockdown hit in the UK, customers rushed to the till, asking me for reading recommendations to keep them busy. They sought these with such a passion and need, which inspired me to start writing my own book recommendations online and eventually start this publication.

A Thousand Lives primarily aims to be a space for discussing books and wants to bring in the perspective of writers worldwide to inspire as many readers as possible. We believe in the power of a good recommendation — but never want to come across as one dimensional. That’s why we need as many new, passionate writers as possible. If this sounds like something you would like to be involved in —please see the bottom of the email for more information.

Updates on A Thousand Lives

  • We are currently looking for an editor to help run the publication. If you can spare an hour or so a week, it would really help take the burden off me as I currently do all the publishing & social media content. If you’re interested, please get in touch. Obviously, this would be voluntary, and a non paid position.
  • We have put together our style guide— please refer to this from now on when you are submitting. We would like to improve our distribution rate and widen our readership, and sticking to this will help!
  • We are planning on doing an official launch for our new feature, Writers on Writing, so keep a lookout in the coming weeks for what’s to come. If you are a writer and would like to be featured, let us know! This is a recent example of what we are aiming to publish.
Image created by the author using Canva

Every month I do a round-up of some of my favourite pieces we’ve published. Please note, if you’re not featured, it’s not because I didn’t enjoy your story. This would be an awfully long newsletter if I mentioned everything! In case you missed them, these are three of our stories I *particularly* enjoyed this month.

How To Start Reading Shakespeare With 5 Plays by Vicky Greer

Thinking about William Shakespeare often takes me back to memories at school, where we’d each be given a part to read out, and we’d plough through the play as a class. I always enjoyed this, but I remember most of the people in the lesson looking fed up. Shakespeare can get a bad rap for being boring, out of date and not very accessible; after all, the plays were written several centuries ago. But there’s a reason they continue to endure.

Vicky provides us with a story that debunks these common misconceptions about Shakespeare. She gives recommendations for the non-intimidating plays based on the merits of the story, setting, language, comedy, and dramatic speeches. It’s a brilliant article that shows just how relevant Shakespeare still is and encourages readers not to be intimidated by his work.

“Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed for everyone, and people enjoyed these stories no matter what educational background they had. Behind every seemingly complex soliloquy lies a dramatic plot or even just a sexual innuendo. Just because you didn’t enjoy studying Hamlet at school doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.”

Classics Aren’t My Thing, and That’s Okay by Sam Hewitson

Classics are still everywhere and appear on pretty much every article if you type into Google What books should I read? Classics are classics for a reason, but this isn’t enough alone to justify reading them. We actually have to like the sound of them too.

When I was younger and just starting to get into reading, I thought I had to read every classic. At the age of fourteen, I would methodically work my way through the BBC’s 100 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, which was made up of mostly classics. But that was before I realised there is so much more to reading than the big names and literary status. Now, I read whatever I fancy, and sometimes yes, that does include classics too. But it is rare.

Sam reminds us that it is important to read whatever you want and not be driven by societal expectations. Instead, we should search for books that give us joy, regardless of their status. Oh, and it’s totally okay if we never have a favourite classic either.

“There is definitely more to highlight when it comes to reader shaming because it’s a very real issue. I long for a day when we can all read in peace, enjoying what we want, free of judgement. I don’t want to read classics, and that’s okay. Just let me live, and let me read.”

How To Develop A Reading Habit by Jason Nguyen

When I talk to people about reading, I often get the response of, but how do you make time for it? This is a good question because, at first glance, reading can seem like a time consuming or even selfish endeavour.

I’ve had people tell me in the past that reading is a luxury if you have the abundance of time to spend on it. But the truth is, it isn’t. George Orwell pointed this out in his essay Books Vs Cigarettes (1946) when he argued that if people spent less time drinking, smoking and doing other frivolous activities, they would have plenty of time to read.

And you can apply this to now — if only we halved our screen time and hours spent on social media, we’d have plenty of time to read. Jason reminds us of the importance of reading and how making it a habit is about investing in ourselves. It’s not a waste of time but a type of long term investment because books and ideas stay with us long beyond the time it takes to read them. If you read a good one, that is.

“There is a massive return on investment with reading that most people don’t realise. Books cost on average about £10.00. However, a single book can be one of the best investments you ever make. A piece of knowledge you gain from a book can be so transformative that it charters a different course in your life.”

A reminder — we are always looking for new writers — the more, the better!

If you like reading and are interested in writing about books, please head to our Write for Us page to get started. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us via our contact form.

“[books] are actually tiny time machines that can transport us back to the past to learn the lessons of history and forward to idealized dystopian futures.” — Michiko Kakutani

This is an email sent from our Monthly Edition newsletter on Medium, however anyone can sign up to receive it straight to their inbox by clicking on the following link. Importantly, you don’t have to be a Medium member to receive our newsletters.


Published by Violet Daniels

23 years old, ex history student and aspiring writer.

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