04 September 2010

Useful website of the week: When you don't know what to read

Do you ever have this problem? Your TBR may be overflowing and your library card recently renewed, but you just can't find anything to read?

In my case it's a matter of having too many books to choose from, so I decided to try a truly random way of choosing my next book to read. You see, I am trying to read at least 5 of my TBR books each month and I plan to use this method to choose my next book from the TBR stacks whenever I run into this problem. Since my books are all entered into a spreadsheet and I keep a separate list of TBR books and rough genre lists as well, choosing is a simple matter of deciding if I want to read from a specific genre and opening that spreadsheet and then numerically eliminating the books I have read, or opening the TBR spreadsheet if I don't mind what genre I read and choosing at random.

But how to make it truly random? Pointing a finger is hardly going to work, and while closing my eyes and deciding on a random number could theoretically work just fine, I chose to use the Random Integer Generator on the Random.org website. It is very simple: you choose the number of return numbers you want - in my case 1 - and enter it into the "Generate X random integers" box, and then you enter a range of numbers into the "Each integer should have a value between X and Z" ('X' and 'Z' stand for the boxes), which in this particular case was the exact number of books in my TBR spreadsheet.

I decided beforehand to reject any results that indicated:
a) a book I have owned for less than a year, because the principal rule of this challenge is to read books I have owned for over a year, and
b) a book over 300 pages long, because I am already reading one chunkster and I don't like to juggle more than one long book at a time.

The generator returned the number 199, which is a cosy mystery called The Irish Manor House Murder by Dicey Deere. Since it's under 300 pages, I didn't have to choose again.

Besides randomly picking your next read, the random numbers generator is very, very useful for other kinds of random drawings, and I know that many bloggers who hold contests and giveaways on their blogs use it to choose winners at random.

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