Become a Book Detective

Boy detectiveReading and listening – as we all know – are the keys (the things that make something possible) to better English. Better English is the result of spending as many hours as possible with interesting, easy-to-understand podcasts, blog posts, and … books.

If you’re like many of my students, finding a good book can be a challenge (something that tests your ability). So today I want to show you how to find a good book using a little online detective work (efforts to discover information).

When you think about books you’ve read, which book was your favorite? Which book stands out (is easy to remember) because it was easy to understand and interesting to read? Let’s start with that book and try to find one that’s similar to it. I’m going to use Holes by Louis Sachar as my example.

Begin by going to the Goodreads web site. When you get there, take a moment to create an account – it only requires your name and email address. Then return to the home page and put the title of your book in the search tool at the top of the page. When you get the search results, click on the cover of your book – it should be at the top of the list – and Goodreads will take you to the book page for your book. This is where your detective work will start.

On the book page, there are three places to find ideas for your next book. Near the top, in the right sidebar (narrow area on the right side of the page), you’ll see Readers Also Enjoyed – about 15 books that other people who read your book have also enjoyed. Often these books will be similar in some way to the book you began with. Click on the arrow to see all 15 of them.

If you scroll (move the page) down a little, you’ll find Lists with This Book. For Holes, one of the lists is Best Young Adult Books, another great place to look. Click on any of the books you see to get the complete list. There may be other helpful lists for your book.

If you scroll down a little more, you’ll find Books by Louis Sachar in the right sidebar. Reading several books by the same author is a good strategy for language development, so I often tell my students to look here first.

When you find a book you think you might enjoy, click on its cover to go to the book page, read its description, and read some of the Community Reviews to see what other readers have said about it. After that, if you’re still interested, you’ll want to read an excerpt (short part) of the book for yourself.

There are two ways to find an excerpt from a book you’re interested in. First, Goodreads provides excerpts from many books. When they do, you’ll find a “Read Excerpt” button below the the book cover. When you click on it, you’ll be taken to the beginning of the book.

If Goodreads doesn’t have an excerpt, look for “Get copy” – it’s near the cover of the book – and click on “Amazon”*. When you go to Amazon’s book page, you’ll usually see “Look Inside” on the cover of the book. If you do, click on the cover, then click on “First Pages” to go to the beginning of the book.

This process may take a little time at first, but my students tell me that it works well for them. Happy hunting! And happy reading!

*Suggestion: If you see “Get copy: Barnes and Noble”, use the circular arrow at the top of your browser to reload the page; “Barnes and Noble” should change to “Amazon”.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site.

Clipart courtesy of MyCuteGraphics.





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7 Responses to Become a Book Detective

  1. Dan says:

    Thank you Warren.

    That is good advice, and to those not knowing the following, go and visit Warren’s website Successful English. That is a mine gold of information/suggestions.

    Isn’t that cute the detective Icon? as I am done here I’ll visit the source of that.

    A system like the one exposed by Warren above is used, I guess, by Amazon.

    That is what I see when I visit my account there. Suggestions based on what I have read or searched for.

    The following, has nothing to do with Warren’s post. Have you guys noticed that if you look for something on Amazon, after that you see ads about that on the webpages you visit?
    I have noticed that more than once.

    Lately I have looked for “DRONES” since I saw my neighbor using one, I was curious about it and searched on Amazon.
    There it is! as I visit other webpages I see an ads of this drone called “Parrot”.


  2. Renny says:

    Hi, greeting from Venezuela.
    Excelent recomendation. I star to practice my reading with a book named “Deep Black: Biowar” is about spy. Very interesting
    My advice is take note of word that you don´t understand and then look what means using a english dictionary, don´t traslate.

  3. emiliano says:

    It is done, thank you so much Warren, I could say it is a very nice site with
    very good information and such a lot of books to see and revise.
    I like the site, the pages, and the web design.
    You could sign by Amazon, Facebook or Hotmail.

    Thanks a lot Warren.


  4. Dan says:

    Hi there.

    Right now, I am not reading books. The last one was back during Christmas holidays.
    Sometimes I am lazy and do not feel like reading.

    At the moment I am watching tons of videos on youtube. I am enjoying many channels made by either professionals and regular people.

    I find the youtube system of presenting what you might like great. I have watched great stuff thanks to that.

    Would you like to know what I look at? sorry I cannot say that.


  5. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the new web site recommended. I have accessed “Goodreads” , and indeed good books.
    But as I do not know the American literature it is difficult to me to select the most representative books.
    I am still in the stage when I need a good piece of advice, a recommendation.
    I have to be guided. I can’t read any book.
    Anyway, ESL Podcast team takes care and guides us every day.
    Thank you.

  6. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the American writer of children’s books, Louis Sachar, mentioned.
    I’ll try to read “Holes”.
    Happy reading, yes! But happy hunting…I have to wait for a while to know what to hunt.

  7. Lassana says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks Warren about this interesting topic and thanks also for the advice.

    I’m not a student but I think this website can provide some informations about books for all people. It’s not easy to choice a book, because of our level in english and also the kind of book we like.

    I’ll go there once to see that.

    See you soon.


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