2- Building the Perfect Reading List: How to be a Book Blogger
A simple and fun way to recommend books is through reading lists. This type of content is essential to any book blogger as it allows you to curate a number of books that share a common thread. Ultimately, reading lists are a great way for you to show off your expertise, engage with your audience by helping them discover, and eventually buy books. With this in mind, we’ve put together fundamental tips and tricks to help you build the perfect reading list.
This article is part of our series on blogging about books. Check out our first installment: How to Write a Solid Book Review.
1. Choose a common connecting topic that hasn't been overdone
Before you even start picking and choosing which books to add to a reading list, you’ll need to choose an overarching theme. Basically, this will make your book selection process easier and your reading list more discoverable. You can create an infinite number of lists that vary according to the plot, book characters, setting, genre, socio-political message, and more. For example, a reading list can be inspired by 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 journalistic scandals 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 ones out there, then don’t hesitate to adapt your original topic into a more distinct proposition. 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.” This will allow to have a stronger edge and push more readers to click on your headline. What’s more, this strategy will grant your reading lists a better ranking on search engines because you will be competing with fewer articles for your audience's attention.
In that same vein, do not be afraid to have an opinion. Strong and opinionated titles grab people's attention as they pack a stronger punch. A title like “The 30 Ultimate Mangas to Read Before You Die” is more intriguing than “The 30 Best Mangas.” Needless to say, you should obviously steer clear from clickbait-y structures.
2. Choose your books depending on your blog's positionning
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 short and sweet. On the flip side, if your blog is more detail oriented, then you can afford to dive in and build lengthy reading lists. With that being said, try not to have less than four books. Recommending just two or three books might make your post feel a bit too shallow.
Now, there will come a time when you might want to build a long reading list, but have not read all the books related to your theme. Reading the books you recommend is important, as it will allow you to provide insightful and personal information about each of them. However, if you’re really attached to the topic you chose, it’s okay to add books you have not gone through yet, just be honest about it. You can mention what attracted you about these books in the first place and down the line, once you have read them, you can update your post.
3. Write a search-engine-friendly introduction to attract readers
Now that you have your theme and featured books covered, it’s time to start writing. When it comes to your introduction, make sure to explicitly lay out your reading list’s purpose and detail what differentiates it from others. This will contextualize it and make it more accessible, helping your readers know what to expect before diving in. From another standpoint, equipping your introduction with all the right keywords will help boost your search engine ranking. As search engines crawl through your articles, they primarily scan your introduction for keywords to index.
Your introduction does not have to be long or elaborate. All you need is a couple of sentences that set everything up . For example, let's say you're working on a list entitled the 6 best fiction novels about the Cold War, you introduction could be: “With the US’ relationship with Russia currently back in the headlines, I went on a reading binge of fiction novels that best depict the countries’ ties during the Cold War. After weeding out the non-eventful ones, I've drawn up a reading list of what I think are The 6 best fiction novels about the Cold War.” 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 & punchy 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 the love story at the centre of the dystopia, why you found it so intriguing and what makes it so perfect.
5. Time to 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 this. 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 your introduction, your books' titles, followed by their cover and their short descriptive paragraphs which we discussed above.
6. Insert smart and 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 them to more detailed reviews of each book, information about their authors, or any other useful trivia. Additionally, links will connect you to a network of other websites, which improves your visibility on search engines, allowing more people to find you.
If you are part of an affiliate program, it’s important for your readers to buy the books you are recommending. So make sure to hyperlink each book title, and its cover with the appropriate affiliate link. Don't forget to make your affiliate links pop.
7. Keep your reading list open-ended to promote conversation
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. Finish your post by asking them for their opinion, and for other suggestions. Don’t think of your reading list as final, you can always build on it with your readers' help.
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 more in-depth review for the books you mentioned.
We’ve broken down the important steps towards building the perfect reading lists. Done right, they make for an amazing tool to recommend books. At the end of the day, everybody loves a good online listicle. Lists are short, to the point, easy to read and useful, perfect for people's short attention spans. So, when building yours don’t forget to keep it fun, full of personality, and thought-provoking.