Building the Perfect Reading List: How to be a Book Blogger
This article is part of our series on blogging about books. Check out our first installment: The Perfect Book Review.
As a book blogger,people probably turn to you to find their next reads. A simple and fun way to recommend books is through reading lists. This type of content allows you to curate a number of books that share a common thread. Reading lists are a great way for you to show off your book expertise, as well as engage with your audience by helping them discover, and ultimately buy books. With this in mind, we’ve put together the important tips and tricks to help you build the perfect reading list.
1. Choose a specific connecting topic
Before you even start picking and choosing which books to add in a reading list, first things first: you’ll need to choose an overarching theme. Ultimately this will make your book selection process easier. You can create an infinite number of lists that vary according to plot, book characters, setting, genre, socio-political message, and more. You can even create a reading list inspired from a single book like “5 Books that will remind you of the Hunger Games”, or a movie like “If you liked Spielberg’s The Post, Here are 5 books about Journalism set in Washington D.C.”
What you do need to keep in mind is that the more specific your reading list is, the more you will stand out amongst the fold. A simple online search is enough for you to make sure your reading list is unique. If you find that there are already a number of similar reading lists, then don’t hesitate narrowing your topic down. For instance, let’s say you want to create a list based on Harry Potter. There are countless lists out there that tackle: “If you liked Harry Potter then you should read…” So put together a list that has more of a twist to it, like: “5 Books with female protagonists who are just as bookish as Hermione.” Ultimately, this will allow to have an edge, pushing more readers to click on your headline. What’s more, this strategy will allow your reading lists to have a better ranking on search engines because you will have less competition when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
In that same vein, do not be afraid to have an opinion. Strong and opinionated titles are appealing to readers. A title like “The 30 Ultimate Mangas to Read Before You Die” is more intriguing than “The 30 Best Mangas.”
2. Choose your books
Okay, so you’ve locked your reading list’s theme; now it’s time to choose your books. You might be asking yourself, “How many books should be on my list?” Your list can range anywhere from four to a hundred books. It all depends on your blog’s positioning. If your audience is used to you creating fun, and quick content, then your lists should be shorter. On the flip side, if your blog is more detail oriented, then you can afford to build longer reading lists. With that being said, try not to have less than four books. Recommending just two or three books does not make for an interesting reading list.
You might want to build a longer reading list, but have not read that many books related to your theme. Reading the books you recommend is important, as it will allow you to provide insightful and personal information. However, if you’re really attached to the topic you chose, but haven’t read enough to fill your list, it’s okay to add books you have not gone through yet, just be honest about it. Down the line, once you have read the unread books, you can update your post.
3. Write your introduction
Now that you have chosen the books that will be featured in your reading list, it’s time to start writing. When it comes to your introduction, make sure to explicitly lay out your reading list’s purpose. This will contextualize your list and make it more personal, helping your readers know what to expect before diving into the books. This will also boost your ranking. As search engines crawl through your articles, they will primarily scan your introduction for keywords to index your article.
Your introduction does not have to be long nor elaborate. All you need is a couple of sentences that set up the reading list. For example, you can simply write, “With the US’ current relationship with Russia, I went on a reading binge of fiction novels that best depict the countries’ ties during the Cold War. Here are my top 6 favorites.” In this introduction, you’d have clearly explained what your reading list is about, and why you have created it. Your reader is now ready to jump right in.
4. Give each book a description & short review
A reading list is not just a listing of titles. Unlike a review, where you might give a positive or negative impression of a book, a reading list is ultimately a recommendation. As such, make sure you don’t just copy any of the books’ existing online reviews. Instead, each book’s paragraph should include two main points: first, a short description that’s enticing enough to get your readers hooked, and second, your reason for why the book is a relevant pick in regards to your overarching theme. Let’s say you’ve carefully curated a selection of books that fall under “The 5 Best Love Stories Set in a Dystopian World.” For each of the five books mentioned, you will need to talk about both the love story at the center of the dystopia, and why you found it so intriguing.
4. Lay everything out
Before your reading list is ready to go live, you will need to settle on the order in which you will display the books. There are no general rules when it comes to book order. However, if you mention a certain order in your title and introduction, make sure to follow it. For instance, if your title is “My 10 Favorite Archie Comics from Funniest to most Dramatic,” your layout will obviously have to start by your funniest pick. Alternatively, you can rank the books from the one you liked best to the one you liked the least, or you can list them in the order in which your readers should read them.
Once you have settled on an order, if you have one, you will need to structure the reading list’s layout. Start off by including the book’s title, followed by its cover image and then its short descriptive paragraph that we discussed above.
5. Insert relevant links
Similar to book reviews, do not forget to add relevant links, which will allow you to enrich your reader’s experience. These links can redirect your readers to more detailed reviews of each book, information about their authors, and other useful information. Additionally, links will connect you to a network of other websites, which improves your visibility on search engines, and allows more people to find you.
If you are part of an affiliate program, it’s probably important for your readers to ultimately buy the book. So make sure to hyperlink each book title, and its cover image with its appropriate affiliate link. You can be as creative as you want in the way you use these links.
6. Keep your reading list open ended
Look at your reading list as a conversation starter, and a way for you to engage with your audience. There are a number of ways you can keep the conversation going from linking to similar reading lists, to actually engaging with your readers. You can ask them for their opinion, and even for more suggestions. Don’t think of your reading list as final, you can always build on it with your readers.
In fact, there are a bunch of ways you can expand on your reading list. You can even consider repurposing it under another format. For instance, you can create a booktube review of each book, or of the entire list, a podcast roundtable discussion about the books, or if you haven’t done so yet, write a review for the books you mentioned.
We’ve broken down the important steps towards building the perfect reading list. Done right, they make for an amazing tool to recommend books. At the end of the day, everybody loves a good list. Lists are short, to the point, easy to read and useful. So, when building yours don’t forget to keep it fun, full of personality, and even thought provoking.