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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

What's In Your Wheelhouse?

Sometimes, it can feel a little hard trying to decide what to read next. Between hard copies, e-readers, and audiobooks, it can feel like you’ve got the entire literary world at your fingertips. The choices can be overwhelming. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve got limited reading time in the first place! Of course you’ll want to focus on a book you think you’d like: but how do you find that to begin with? Focusing on traits that you might enjoy is a good way to help level the playing field. And a good way to find those specific traits is to find your reading wheelhouse.

I first came upon this term via the book podcast Reading Glasses. Hosts Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara define a reading wheelhouse as genres, settings, character traits, plots, etc. in books that you enjoy reading about. A reading wheelhouse can be used to narrow down the wide world of books and help you pinpoint specific traits and tropes that you’re more likely to enjoy.

But how do you find your reading wheelhouse? Certain parts might be easy to find: genre is an easy one. But what about if you read books from different genres? Or you just can’t think of any commonalities between your favorite books off the top of your head? A good way to help find those connections is to write it down. Write down the title of some books you like (at least four, though the more you write, the easier it will be to find those connections). List out some traits about the book itself (genre, format, length) and some specific aspects about the book you really liked (worldbuilding, characters, plot).

Here’s an example of some books I liked and some traits about them:

Already, a few similarities spring up. I like period pieces, fantasy, wizards that are jerks, and bickering to love style romances. Look over your wheelhouse again and see if you wrote one trait in different ways: ‘strong female protagonist’ and ‘well-developed female lead’ are kind of the same thing. Finally, look at some of your stand-alone traits and see if they fit together in a larger designation. I like the use of letters in This is How You Lose the Time War, footnotes in Jonathan Strange and the oral history style of Daisy Jones. Maybe the three of those can be combined into a larger category like ‘unique writing styles.’

Don’t worry if some of your favorite books have opposite traits--that just means you can go either way on that trait. For instance, length isn’t a factor in my wheelhouse. I like short books just as much as I like long ones. Likewise, don’t worry if one of your favorite books doesn’t seem to link up to the rest. There’s only one or two traits that The Scarlet Pimpernel shares with the other four books, but by listing out what I like, I see that I might enjoy a book with a focus on secret identities.
So, now you have your wheelhouse. Mine is period pieces, fantasy, abrasive wizards, bickering to love style romances, well-developed female protagonists, and unique writing styles. Keep that information in mind when browsing Overdrive, reading book reviews, or scanning book descriptions on Amazon to try and see what you should read next!

Or, take what you’ve learned by finding out your wheelhouse and ask a librarian for help! Services like MLC’s BookMatch help librarians recommend books for patrons and find that perfect fit. The more you know about what you like, the easier it is to find a match.

As for me, I’m going to give The Ten Thousand Doors of January a try. It’s a period piece in the fantasy genre with a strong female protagonist and a unique writing style--a perfect fit for my wheelhouse!

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