Now I'm a strong believer of letting students read what they like, yes we need to guide them to have a well rounded background but I think that helping them find books that they want and like to read, and then letting them read them, will really help them in their personal and educational growth. I remember back when I was teaching physics and a student had just finished reading a Clive Cussler book from the classroom library, he had done the associated work for extra credit and then came to me and said that he really liked that book, that it was actually the first book that he had really read in high school and he was wondering if the author had written any others. Of course I let him now that yes Cussler had quite a few other books and I gave him a pass to the library so he could go get another. I'm always saddened when I hear of students who are so aliterate, in that they just don't read for pleasure (although they do read their text messages). If a student can find something that they like, no matter our own feelings on that book or author, we should support that child's interests and help them find more to read. I know that this can be tough, even though I try to have a wide range of reading, I don't see any way for me to read everything that comes out.
There are a number of tools that you can use to guide students (and yourself) to help them find more books to read. One easy way is to start with an online bookstore, you go to the book you like look at the suggested associated books. In amazon you can see what others who liked this book also liked. A recent graphical display tool that works with Amazon and just came out is YASIV. With Yasiv, you can type in the name of a book or author and it will use Amazon's resources to graphically display other associated/liked books, and double clicking on a different book re-centers the map. Other similar tools with a graph display are YourNextRead (MyMap) or the Literature-Map. Both of these tools produce interactive maps based on your initial input. With YourNextRead, you list a book that you liked, and the system generates a web of eight related books or you can change to the MyMap view for more related books. You can follow down the line for any book you see by clicking on its cover and create a new web of suggestions based on that book. Literature-Map creates a dynamic map of authors, creating a visual map of author names. The closer the authors appear to each other, the more similar the authors are, in that if you like them. You can always reset the may by on an author’s name to recenter the map based on that author.
Some other sites use a similar approach as Amazon, you build a list of books that you like and the system prepares a list of books that others with common book likes have that you don’t. For example What Should I Read Next? asks for a book or author that you liked, and then analyses that to their database of other readers’ favorite books to create a list of suggestions. Another tool, BookSeer, also asks you to list a book and author that you enjoyed reading and it returns with the top recommendations from book sources like Amazon.com and LibraryThing. LibraryThink has it own recommendation engines, on for recommending and the other for un-recommending. LibraryThing’s BookSuggester using a listed book to check that book in all the libraries of LibraryThing’s users to see what else they have and their recommendations. Perhaps the more interesting one is the LibraryThing UnSuggester tool, or as I think of it “and now for something completely different,” is a recommendation or un-recommendation system that looks for books that are different from the book that you list. So if you didn’t like a book, it will find books that were different from that that you might want to try. If you liked to book, then it is a list of books you might want to avoid.
If you want to try some book exploration though a variety of literary metrics, you'll might like to try WhichBook.net. At WhichBook you set a series of sliders to indicate how much of a given element you want in your next reading. Do you want a book that is more funny or serious, more happy or sad? The you adjust the points along the continuum, press go and see what WhichBook identifies for you. Lists of books are generated and displayed on the right side of the screen for your browsing.
Book Seerer: http://bookseer.com/
Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/
LibraryThing’s BookSuggester: http://www.librarything.com/suggester
LibraryThing’s UnSuggester: http://www.librarything.com/unsuggester
What Should I Read Next?: http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/