Support for PBS Parents provided by:


  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Odd Squad
  • Peg + Cat
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Martha Speaks
  • WordGirl
  • Thomas & Friends
  • Arthur
  • Sesame Street
  • The Electric Company
  • Cyberchase
  • Between the Lions
  • Mama Mirabelle
  • Caillou
  • Chuck Vanderchuck
  • Oh Noah
  • Fetch!
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Mister Rogers
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • SciGirls
  • Wilson & Ditch
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM
 

Books

Home »
Terry

Read and Read Alike: Selecting Books for Older Readers

Posted by Terry on December 8, 2009 at 8:00 AM in Recommendations
Bookmark and Share

During a recent conversation with my mom, she said that she would like to buy a book for my 13-year-old nephew, "Sam," for Christmas. For years, Sam was a dormant reader. Like his dad (my brother) he didn't like reading when he was younger. Unlike his dad, he has come to really enjoy books just for the fun of reading.

heat-mike-lupica.jpgAt the moment, Sam loves the middle-grade books by Mike Lupica, a sportswriter for the New York Daily News. Mom wants to get Sam something he likes, so she zeroed in on these books. After she got to the bookstore, though, she realized that didn't know what books he has already read. [There are 12 titles, three released this year.] My mom thought she would call my sister-in-law, but then realized that she might not know the answer, either.

So what do you do when you want to buy books for a reader who loves a particular author or series but you're not sure they're at the beginning or the end of a collection? Thanks to Sarah Mulhern, I had an idea on how to help my mom: look for a read alike. A read alike is a book (or series) that is similar to something that you (or your reader) already likes. The formula is fairly straightforward:

If you like [insert: author, title, series name], then you might like ________.

book_pile.jpgEarlier this year, Sarah (a 6th Grade Language Arts teacher) wrote a post about middle grade read-alikes for Share a Story-Shape a Future. She is a voracious reader and gets her students excited about reading, too. Her Reading Zone post is filled with read alike ideas. Sarah says she frequently relies on "the wonders of the internet" to find book lists for titles that her kids are excited about.

My mom isn't going to search on the Web; she wants to ask a person. Using the example above, she can get some recommendations from a librarian or a bookseller by asking this question:

    "My grandson likes the sports books by Mike Lupica. Can you recommend some books that are similar to his?"

For those of us who are web savvy, the Internet makes it easy to find read alike lists. With Google, when you search read alikes, you'll see a number of additional options. I selected "for kids," and instantly had a list of library systems that keep read alike lists on their website. Here are several I found particularly easy to maneuver.

  • The Charles County (Maryland) Public Library has a read-alikes page that lists popular book series. One click takes you to a printable list of read alikes. Suggestions range from books for early elementary readers to young adult.
  • The Hennepin County (Minnesota) Library has a series of read alike tools, including the "If You Like" Author Search that offers real reader reviews of books that mention your author of interest. There are some glitches, as a search of "J.K. Rowling" came back with ideas that covered every genre. However, because the site maintains a series of tools, it is easy to overcome that hiccup.
  • The New Jersey State Library has a collection of read alike lists on its Youth Services page. Although there are just a half-dozen lists, the read-alike titles each come with a short note about the story. On that same page, you'll find links to the Pick of the Decade list with the Best Books for Children Grades K to 8 with books, 1995 to 2005. [They aren't read alikes, but it is quite a nice list.]

Another tool that I found useful is a website called bookseer.com. After you type in the author and title of a book you just read (or may be interested in), your search comes back with recommended read-alikes from BookArmy, Library Thing, and Amazon.com. You can click on a title in the list to get more details about the book, which is a nice feature. Another tool, What Should I Read Next? Is similar to BookSeer.com, but it clearly has a commercial relationship with Amazon.com.

UPDATE: In a comment, Shana offers this information about www.literature-map.com. "[It] allows you to type an author's name and find other authors that are read by the people who read the searched author. The results are displayed graphically to show you which are most similarly read, least similarly read."

Between the bookseller in person and me on the web, we should be able to help mom select a good book or two for my nephew. Update: Melinda has already offered John Feinstein's books!

Read-alikes are a great way to keep kids excited about reading; keep them in their [genre] comfort zone; and, at the same time, stretch them beyond the totally familiar. For the gift-giver, they are a great way to show that you listen to their book talks without the risk of duplicating something they already read!

Do you have a go-to source for finding tailored book recommendations? Add it below and I'll update this post with your suggestions.

6 Comments

"Read alikes" are a great idea! I also find that my once my children find an author they like, they'll read all of his or her books. Sometimes it's the style of writing and the way an author speaks to you that matters most.

Thanks for these useful tools, Terry.

Ann writes...

These are excellent resources! Thanks so much for sharing them.

Ann

Shana writes...

www.literature-map.com allows you to type an author's name and find other authors that are read by the people who read the searched author. The results are displayed graphically to show you which are most similarly read, least similarly read.

Teresa writes...

Gracias for these fantastic suggestions... I'll make sure to pass them along to my family, friends, and customers.

~Indie bookshop owner

Melinda writes...

Great idea! If he likes Mike Lupica, he might like John Feinstein's books. My son loves them.

USA Shop writes...

Great idea! If he likes Mike Lupica, he might like John Feinstein's books. My son loves them.

Support for PBS Parents provided by: