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Book Recommendations: A guide for picking out your next good read.

Though I’ve never taken personality tests seriously, I consider myself a very Type A person: self-drive, ambitious and goal-oriented. Many of my to-do lists have lists within themselves, which makes my comprehensive “Books to Read” spreadsheet a culmination of my hyper fixation on completing tasks. 

This spreadsheet has made my life much more organized and is a visual way for me to recognize and recall all the incredible books I read, especially because I have such a bad memory. In this article, I share how I maintain my “Books to Read” spreadsheet as well as share favorite books of all time—books that I could read over and over again and still feel like I’m reading for the first time. 

First, I split the spreadsheet into categories, which go as follows:

title/author

This section is where I include the title of the book and the author. I usually include “the” in titles and italics the author for better formatting.

Genre

I typically enjoy Young Adult (YA) Fiction books which expand across many sub-genres, whether that’s Romance, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction, or Essays. I select books based on how much I think they will rock my philosophical identity. 

Synopsis

Really the heart of the spreadsheet is the synopsis section, where I include a description of the book taken from either the back of the book or found online somewhere. I try not to judge a book by its cover, and more what’s on the back of one. Anytime I pick up a new book, I give myself the first 50 pages to get into a story, otherwise I can be too judgemental on the world-building of a book (especially in fantasy novels). 

where found

This section is interesting to me, because I like to know where I’ve heard of books to read. Sometimes I can stroll through a bookstore forever reading the first ten pages of a book before picking which I’m going to take home with me. Most recently, I’ve found a lot of book recommendations through Tiktok, or Booktok as the section likes to refer to itself. At the top of my to read list and stacked on my desk currently are three popular Booktok recommendations I can’t wait to get into: “Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller, “Circe” by Madeline Miller, and “The Secret life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab. 

rating

I usually give books a rating out of 10. I think about books more than whether I enjoyed it or not: how many quotes gave me chills, how fast did I turn pages, how many times did I have to walk laps because a chapter got so intense? When books make you feel these things and beyond, there isn’t a better way to escape reality. 

year read

Although I can’t remember the exact times I read some of my books on this list, it is a nice way to keep track of how much I am reading and when. I wish I could keep myself on at least a book or two a month track, but it can be challenging to block off enough hours to delve into a book. Other times, I spend one week reading three books. 

Under these categories, I structure the chart into sections: books I’ve read, books to read, and books to really read. I highlight the Title section of the book blue if I’ve completed it, highlight books I want to read with orange, and books that are at the top of my list in red. My list of books to read has always been triple my list of books I have read, but I try my best to close that gap. 

Of the books that I have read, my favorite two are by the author E. Lockhart. Her books “We Were Liars” and “Again Again” had me gasping through page turns, crying periodically, and in need of many pens and sticky notes. Lockhart has a way of creating complicated and intricate worlds that let you free fall into its pages and swallow you with her words.

“We Were Liars” follows the story of the pristine wealth and perfection of the SInclair family, who summer on their private island every year. Three cousins and one of their friends become known as the ‘liars.’  After an accident leaves one liar with trembling headaches, the other three liars have to help her remember what happened. In a world where wealth and privilege bring destruction, Lockhart takes readers on a journey of money, power, family, and happiness. 

“Again Again” tells the story of a young girl dealing with consequences of decisions. Undergoing family crisis’ and mending a broken heart, Lockhart derives a complex character in Adelaide, who lives within her secrets, dances with her demons, and questions the intricacy of the human mind. Conflicted by her decisions and living in fear of making the wrong one, Adelaide embarks on a path of acceptance and loving, for herself and others. 

“And in this universe…”

page 248 “Again Again” by E. Lockhart
Kendall Shirvan is a junior studying Communication, Journalism and Art History at the George Washington University. Kendall serves as the Social Media Director for GWU's chapter of Her Campus. She is also involved in Kappa Delta Sorority and works for the GW Textile Museum. When she's not doing schoolwork, she enjoys watching Marvel movies, reading Harry Potter, and drawing.
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