It's disappointing to haul a book home from the library or shell out hard-earned cash at the bookstore only to settle in at home and find you don't enjoy it one bit. Stock your reading list with these five great recommendation services.
Photo by Zitona.
Whatever you're looking for you'll likely be able to find a recommendation for further reading at one of the sites below. That said, if you're looking for revisionist historical fiction where Napoleon conquers the world with a steam-punk army of robotic Pokémon, you might just have to write that yourself.
Shelfari (Web-Based, Free)
Shelfari is a social network built around books. You can use the service to browse reviews and get suggested additions to your reading list but the site really shines when you participate and add your library contents and reviews into the mix. You can pick a book you like and see what additional titles Shelfari recommends but it's often more fruitful to browse through the extensive lists, tag clouds and lists of popular titles for additional reading.
LibraryThing (Web-Based, Basic: Free, Premium: $US10/year)
LibraryThing is, foremost, a massively powerful online book-cataloguing tool. As a non-member you can browse the extensive lists and suggestions but in order to take advantage of the massive catalogue of millions of books and the tastes of their owners you should really sign up and enter in some of your favourites to build a personal library. LibraryThing's uncannily good suggestions come from its extensive user base of over a million book lovers. With a pool that large there is bound to be somebody with similar tastes and a recommendation list to share.
Amazon (Web-Based, Free)
The power of the Amazon.com recommendation engine is in the old saying: "Money talks". Sure Amazon has a list tool where people can put together lists like "Best Summer Reads", but where most people get their recommendations from Amazon is the "Customers Who Bought This..." suggestions. Buy a book on container gardening and Amazon will suggest other interesting books that people have purchased about container and backyard gardening. One of the nice features about Amazon's suggestions is that they often introduce you to topics you were unaware of but because other shoppers before you bought books in pairings, like backyard gardening and composting or composting and chicken tending, you're made aware of them.
GoodReads (Web-Based, Free)
GoodReads is a book lover's site with great features like interviews with authors, book trivia, book swap events and more. Most notable however are the lists. We're not talking lists of questionable quality by one person, we're talking lists compiled with the inputs of thousands and thousands of users. Recommended historical fiction, best space operas, best young adult novels of 2010, books that were better than their movie counterparts and other interesting lists abound on the site. Rather than get one person's opinion of the top humorous non-fiction travel books you get the composite opinion of 20,000.
GetGlue (Web-Based, Free)
GetGlue requires a registration to get at the recommendations — there's no casual browsing or preview of the database — but once you sign up you're part of the large GetGlue network of people reviewing and ranking everything from books to DVDs to music. You rank books and other media with a simple like/dislike toggle and GetGlue compares your likes to other users returning an entire battery of book suggestions which you can again like or dislike to further refine the process. One of the more novel features of GetGlue is the "sticker" system where you earn badges for accomplishments on the GetGlue network like being a first adopter that recommends lots of new material or ranking lots of media. While that might not be your thing, many people love the "Achievement Unlocked!" sticker system.
We couldn't leave this Hive Five without two great honourable mentions. The first honourable mention goes to finding books through real life person-to-person connections. As fancy as web-based recommendation engines have become many people find them a poor substitute for a recommendation from a librarian, bookstore worker or friend. The other honourable mention which we're quite pleased to share is the book club at our sister site io9. The io9 book club is a great place to find new science fiction works, participate in active discussions around those books, and even get a chance to ask the author questions.
Want to mention a service not highlighted here? Let's hear about it in the comments.