How to Find the Perfect Novel

What's next? It’s the book lover's eternal question. Your Facebook friends may have suggestions, but have they done the research? Amazon tells you what other people bought, but how relevant is that, really? When you're looking for that next great read, the book recommendation database NoveList finds fiction to match your tastes.

Developed by trained readers' advisory librarians, NoveList by EBSCOhost is a comprehensive fiction recommendation engine that you can use for free with your Kansas City Public Library card. To access it, go to our databases page and search by topic (Languages & Literature) or alphabetically (“N”). Or just click here. Log in by typing in the number on the back of your Library card and entering your PIN. (If you forgot your PIN, fill out this online form to have it immediately emailed to you.)

NoveList helps users find books based on qualities including genre, storyline, pace, tone, writing style, reader age, publication date, the series the book is in, and more. It can get remarkably precise. Looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful work of historical fiction set in the time of Napoleon? NoveList says, “Lauren Willig's mix of action, adventure, and romance among English and French spies during the Napoleonic Wars is immensely popular.”

But it’s OK if you don’t have a specific type of book in mind. As you’ll quickly learn, with so many different ways to explore the growing catalog of 150,000 books, it’s easy – and even desirable -- to get lost in NoveList. As with losing yourself in the shelves of a library or bookstore, you’ll rarely leave NoveList empty-handed.

As the database’s name implies, its reading lists help guide the way (look on the left side of the homepage under the Fiction tab, where it says “Recommended Reads.”) If you're looking for laughs alongside frights, the Humorous Horror list suggests titles such as Road Trip of the Living Dead by Mark Henry and You Suck by Christopher Moore. On the more family-friendly end of the spectrum, the Making Friends list offers books for 9-to-12-year-olds featuring characters building new friendships.

In fact, parents looking to tailor their kids’ reading agendas will especially love NoveList. This database was built by librarians who understand how kids think about books. Case in point: if you're trying to get your Xbox-addicted teenaged son to plug into a book, check out the If You Like…Halo list. Or maybe your fourth grader is struggling with popularity in school. There's a list for that, too. The recommendations are practically endless, so when your young reader is done with one book, you can have another on deck and several more in the hole.

Grown-up users, too, won’t find any lack of suggestions in NoveList. To get started finding a book, you may want to skip the lists and go straight to the Search box at the top of the screen.

Let's say you've just finished Stieg Larsson's back-to-back summer hits, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and you're looking for something in that vein.

After searching for Dragon Tattoo, you'll see a few fast recommendations over to the right – in this case, Box 21 by Roslund and Hellström, The Burglar in the Library by Lawrence Block and several others.

To dig even deeper, check out the "Search for More" box (lower right). It contains narrowing terms to lead you to more books that share specific traits in common with Larsson's thriller: “gritty,” “compelling,” “steamy,” “suspenseful,” “murder investigation,” etc. Perhaps you'll end up with a new favorite in Randy Wayne White or Jayne Ann Krentz, two of the authors NoveList thinks are like Larsson.

Other cool features of NoveList:

Book Discussion Guides: If you're presiding over a book club, NoveList's discussion guides are indispensable. Each one is written by a pro who has read the book carefully and crafted a detailed analysis. For example, the guide to Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex was developed by the managing editor of a university-based sociology journal and is loaded with citations to specific passages. No half-baked goods here. NoveList's discussion guides are often better than the ones that publishers stick in the backs of book-club editions.

Readalikes for In-Demand Authors: When the library is out of that hot new bestseller, NoveList can help you find the next best thing. Its Author Readalikes provide reader-focused analyses of hundreds of authors, including what makes their work appealing and who else you might like if you're a fan of, say, Grisham.

Feature Articles: NoveList doesn't just throw books at you. It also presents a lot of original content, including link-loaded discussions of books on a theme, such as cult authors or Islamic fiction. The wealth of content here can be overwhelming, so take advantage of the “Browse” feature and plug in keywords for things you're interested in.

Hopefully this gets you started using NoveList. Chances are you'll start exploring and find yourself down a rabbit hole of reading options. If you find anything good using NoveList, share it in the comments section below. Or if you have any questions, we’ll be happy to answer. (NoveList also has built-in training resources.)

The Library offers many other free databases to cardholders, from full-text newspaper articles to auto repair manuals to history journals. Peruse our offerings by topic, and good hunting!

-- Jason Harper