How I choose what books or fics to read (spoiler: it’s different!)

A recent conversation on Twitter about the trend of advertising (romance?) novels simply by their tropes got me thinking about how I choose what I want to read, what gets me interested, and how different it is for books vs fanfic. And so, here I am writing this post, which honestly is of interest to exactly one person (me!).

How I pick books to read

Scenario 1:

Wander aimlessly around a big bookstore (the kind we don’t really have in my country) until something catches my eye. Anyway, after something catches my interest, read the back cover, maybe flip over it, read the beginning, decide if I want to take it home.

The thing about this is… well, obviously, the time and place requirements, and the fact that it ideally ends with taking home a physical book (sometimes I take a photo of the cover and hopefully remember to get it later, but this experience isn’t complete without buying a book). And the fact is, the past decade or so it’s kind of hit or miss whether I’ll actually read a physical book, simply because e-readers are much more convenient.

This is my ideal when I have the time and opportunity, and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend a couple of hours.

Scenario 2:

I’m walking by a bookstore, and a book catches my eye. I have no time, so I take a photo on my phone and hopefully remember to look up the book online later. This one happens a lot and rarely results in actually reading the book, because I often forget about the photo. If I do remember, I do the same as in the next scenario.

Scenario 3:

I “hear” people talk about a book (online or offline, but often offline these days), be it because they’re discussing it because they like it, or because the author is a guest on a podcast I’m listening to, or because I landed on a rec list. So I look up the book, read what it’s about and decide if I’m interested in the topic and/or plot. If it’s available digitally, I’ll buy it if I’m really interested, or if I already know the author, etc. Most often, I’ll download a sample (later I’ll pick a sample on my Kindle and if I’m still interested when I get to the end, I buy it). If it’s not available digitally I’ll think long and hard before actually ordering it.

There is a sub-scenario of this that consists in hearing about a show or movie that sounds interesting and learning it’s based on a book. Generally I’d rather read the book before seeing the adaptation, so I’ll look it up.

Scenario 4: the danmei edition!

I read MDZS a year and a half ago, and the selection process for a danmei novel is a little different. Most of the time I become interested in a danmei title because I see a lot of fanart I like and I want to be able to appreciate it. Other times (but less likely than the fanart) the interest comes from seeing people discuss something a lot. After that it’s a matter of finding out what it’s about, and where and how I can read it. This is of course a lot more time-consuming since so much is only going to be available through fan translations, and then aside from what the book is about, it’s also about whether the translation is finished, that it’s NOT a MTL, and how many hoops I have to go through to actually read it.

How I pick fanfic to read

I would say the overwhelming majority of the time, when I specifically want to read fic, I do it on my iPad and and there is a specific ship that I want to read about (and I tend to only be interested in very specific ships per fandom).

Scenario 1: Find fic from scratch

On my iPad and I go directly to AO3, to the ship tag I want to read about. Then I’ll filter out the stuff I definitely don’t want to see or stuff like language and making sure I have otp: true selected (when reading anything that is not wangxian in MDZS fic). After that, I’ll filter for tags if I’m in the mood for something specific (1/3 of the time, maybe?) or if I’m say only in the mood for porn.

After that if there are lots of results, I’ll decide what to sort by: kudos, comments or date. Usually it’s kudos (yes, I know that kudos are inherently a popularity contest, you don’t have to tell me that). After that, maybe I’ll also decide to select a specific date range to catch stuff that maybe I’ve missed before.

And then I’ll go through the list, skimming descriptions until one catches my eye. Once that happens I’ll look at the length (because I often read in bed before sleep, which means I don’t have a lot of time) and read over the tags. If I’m still interested, I’ll open it in a tab.

If I’m really interested, I’ll read it right away. Otherwise, after having several tabs open I’ll pick one and read that.

Scenario 2: Go through my to-read list

On my iPad, either go through open tabs until I find a fic I want to read right now, or go on Pocket, go through my to read list, and pick the fic I want to read. Generally in this scenario I again want to read a specific ship, so the selection will be restricted to that.

Scenario 3:

I’m online and see a promo post or a rec for a fic that sounds interesting. I’ll click on the link, read the description and tags and decide if I want to read it (generally I don’t need to look at fandom or ship because a fic will only catch my interest if it’s for a specific ship I’m already into; there have been exceptions, but very few).

If I’m on iPad, it usually means it’s leisure time, so I may just read it right then. Otherwise, it’s one of the open tabs I’ll eventually get to. If I’m on my laptop or phone, I’ll save it on Pocket, with a ship tag.

In this last one, the next step of course is the to-read list scenario.

I don’t know that I have a conclusion to this post other than… the way and the reasons I read books and fanfic are very different.

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