December 26, 2019

Don’t read what you don’t want to

I don’t like novels set in World War II. They’ve had their moment, and I’m always confused as to why new books are set in that time period.  

On more vulnerable occasions, I’ll even start reading one, only to glaze over after a few pages and reach for something a little more contemporary. I admit this isn’t a popular opinion, and it most certainly puts me at odds with the Pulitzer Prize Board (All the Light We Cannot See, for starters). To me, the actual history is too rich, well-documented, and riveting to need to be fictionalized by yet another novel. 

Luckily, if you too feel that WWII has been done already, you can use NoveList to explicitly exclude the time period from your search results. We’ve added the many time periods we use to describe books to our help page, which should help you craft the perfect search. Feel free to slap a NOT SW "Second World War era (1939-1945)" field code search onto whatever you’re looking for in NoveList, and you’re set. Just like that — no more WWII books!

We’ve also made it easy to select a time period from the left-hand Refine Results menu after executing a search. If you find your search results contain one too many titles from a time period that doesn’t appeal, click the Time Period limiter to view your options, and click More to expand your selection to even more available time periods. 

While we’re being honest about books we don’t like, I’ve found it helpful to identify story elements I know will be deal-breakers. A fun way to do this is to search for a book in NoveList that didn’t connect with you and see which appeal terms specifically rub you the wrong way. This useful self-knowledge can help whittle down a larger list of results to those titles that will truly speak to you during your holiday layover. 
While I’m drawn to the compelling writing style and character-driven storyline of Stephen King’s It, the creepy and menacing tone, clowns, and violence all make this title a no-go for me. If I’m experiencing a bit of decision fatigue when I’m looking for my next read, my own personal list of appeals and “anti-appeals” can help me navigate to the more promising candidate. 

Here are a few search strategies for avoiding stuff in books that you just don’t like. Add these to your current search string in NoveList, and see all of the books you wouldn’t like anyway disappear from your results:

  • When chivalry and castles are too retrograde: NOT SW Medieval period (476-1492)
  • When the period dialogue from Masterpiece Theater gets you down: Honestly, just stick to searches with SW 20th Century OR SW 21st Century
  • When you just don’t want a slow-paced book: NOT PC Relaxed pace
  • When you never want to meet another Pennywise again: NOT (DE "Horror" AND DE "Clowns")
  • When you would prefer your books free of violence, sex, or harsh language: GN Gentle Reads
  • When you’d like your books to possibly include violence, sex, or harsh language: NOT GN Gentle Reads
  • When chariots are indicative of a much larger problem: NOT (SW Bronze and Iron Ages (3500-27 BCE) OR SW Ancient Egypt (3100 BCE-640 CE) OR SW Ancient Greece (800 BCE-640 CE))

As both a reader and librarian, I know it’s incredibly helpful to focus on what resonates with readers when you do Readers Advisory. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find a great recommendation for a reader when you’ve not taken the time to understand what they like. That said, if you’re working with a reader like me, it can be dangerous to ignore the very real anti-appeals and turn-offs that might sink an otherwise solid recommendation. 

So this year, give some negativity a chance. Sprinkle Boolean logic’s least popular operator NOT around your NoveList searches and take some satisfaction in the knowledge that you’ve avoided books you weren’t going to like in the first place.   

Want to learn more about how NoveList Plus can help you help your readers find the right reads (and avoid the wrong ones)? Take a two-minute tour.

Sam Stover is a Product Manager at NoveList. 


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