I Paid an Expert to Pick What I Read | Trying Out BookRiot’s Tailored Book Recommendations (TBR) Service

I paid an expert to choose what I read

Hello my lovely lemons! I’ve got a very interesting post today. About a week ago I signed up to BookRiot’s newsletter. And, as it turns out, I’m very susceptible to email marketing and had some spare cash. I got an email about their Tailored Book Recommendations (TBR) service, where you tell them all about what you like to read, and an expert sends you recommendations. Not that I don’t already get enough recs from you lovely bookish folks, but I was interested in what a ‘professional’ had to offer. So I decided, what the heck, let’s give it a go!

Instead of a dog photo this week, please appreciate the alpacas I met at afternoon tea at a little local farm!

Signing up

So, since I’m in the UK I had to go for the Recommendations Only plan. (If you’re in the US they have an option where you get hardback copies of the recs sent to you!) You fill out a questionnaire with different questions to help your biliologist (the person assigned to give you recs) get a better idea of what you like to read. You can choose to pay quarterly or annually, and you get 3 recommendations every 3 months. I just went for the quarterly option since I’m only trying it out (partly just for a laugh and so I could write this post about it) so it cost me a grand total of $15. That probably sounds like a lot to get 3 books recs when you can get hundreds from blogs for free, but like I said, I thought this would be an entertaining experiment and I had the spare cash to do something fun. Plus if I get some really good expert recommendations I can pass them on to you all!

So far this post has been written as I’m signing up. I’ve just paid my $15 (about £11.00 to me) and it says I’ll get my recommendations within two weeks. So, I’ll hand things over to future-me now!

Getting the recommendations

Hello my loves! I’m back, a little more than 2 weeks into the future. I’ve received my recs and had a few weeks to mull them over, though I haven’t gotten to reading any of them yet. Okay, let’s not get ahead of myself – it’s time to discuss the recommendations!

So, when you receive your recommendations they come as a lovely letter from your bibliologist, telling you all about the books, how they fit your request, and why they think you’ll like them. I have to admit, my requests were quite eclectic when I was filling out my profile, so I was really happy with what I got. My recommendations were for a Sci-Fi, a Fantasy, and a YA Contemporary. All of them are diverse and queer, and they really do tick all the boxes of what I asked for! I was also pleased that I’d only heard of one of the books before, so it made getting the recommendations feel worthwhile. Let’s look at them in more detail!

Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

One of my prompts was that I wanted books similar to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. According to my bibliologist Laura, this one hits that mark in that it has “a wonderful and diverse cast of queer characters, lots of cool aliens, and an intricate and beautify drawn world.” It follows a Princess on the run who teams up with “a trio of unlikely characters” including her rival and her secret lover. This sounds super exciting and I’m very keen to get into it.

The Way of Thorn and Thunder by Daniel Heath Justice

The Way of Thorn and Thunder by Daniel Heath Justice

This book was recommended based on my love of The Priory of the Orange Tree, since it also “takes all the Euro-centric, white-centered ideas about epic/high fantasy and turns them on their head.” Apparently it features all the classic elements of an epic fantasy, but with queer, trans and Indigenous characters at its core. I really love when a genre so strongly associated with straight white men is rewritten in a more inclusive manner. Adult fantasy is a genre where I really struggle to find recommendations that aren’t the same few ultra-popular books, so I was really pleased to be told about this hidden gem.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

I’ve seen this book around before but it’s never really been on my radar. My bibliologist recommended it as it’s both funny and emotional, dealing with serious issues like coming out, and racism in the queer community. Honestly any book that can make me laugh and cry is a winner, so hearing that this is “hilarious but also moving” has me sold on it.

Final thoughts

So there you have my recommendations. I did think about saving this post until I’d read them all, but I’m impatient and thought it would be fun to do a second follow-up post. First impressions? I’m really happy with the recommendations, especially since two are books that I’d never heard of before. Obviously I can’t judge too much without having read them, but I got exactly what I asked for and the books sound right up my alley. It was lovely to get the personalised letter with the recs, and I’m hyped up to read them now.

Was it worth fifteen dollars?

Objectively, probably not. This is the kind of service you can get for free by asking a librarian or the staff in a bookstore. But I can’t deny the quality of the recommendations, and it does have an added selling point – the people who recommend the books are all from traditionally marginalised groups. That way you know you’re getting books that are approved by (and feature) queer folx and BIPoC. I guess I’ll be able to answer this question better once I’ve read the books. If they all become stand-out new favourites that I recommend for the rest of time, then this will have been worth it, because I likely never would have found them otherwise.

Just in case this needs to be said: I don’t think you need to spend money to get book recommendations. Asking readers or librarians for recommendations is free. You’re reading a book blog right now – there’s a whole community of us recommending books non-stop just because we love to! But this was a very fun experiment and I am glad I did it. Will I carry on my subscription? Probably not. But I’ve had a lot of fun with this and it’s given me some great ideas for future posts. (Like seeing how many book recs I can get from the people of Goodreads for free!)

I really hope you enjoyed this post, because I had the best time making it. I literally spent those two weeks checking my inbox non-stop to see if my letter had arrived. If you want to look at this service yourself, here’s the link: https://mytbr.co/ I don’t think I need to say it, but this isn’t sponsored. I just love you all so much I decided to spend $15 making this post. 😅

Let’s have some fun in the comments: ask me for a recommendation and I’ll try to do my own mini TBR service! And of course, let me know if you would ever do something like this!

Love and lemons, Abi

10 thoughts on “I Paid an Expert to Pick What I Read | Trying Out BookRiot’s Tailored Book Recommendations (TBR) Service

  1. This was such a fun, unique post, Abi! I loved reading it. 😀 The alpacas are adorable! Not sure if you saw this on the blog, but I got to go to an alpaca farm and oh my god, their fur was so soft. I love alpacas so much. 🥺 In any case, I’m so glad the recommendations worked out for you. When I started reading the post I was scared they’d give you recommendations you have already read, and so I’m happy that wasn’t the case. Really looking forward to what you’ll think of all these books – hope they’ll work well for you. 😊

    I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t do anything like this – while I’m not against paying for a service like this, I have enough books on my TBR as is, and I constantly keep adding to them. 😅 As for what recommendations I’d want.. hmm, maybe a more serious fantasy with diverse characters. Also, diverse horror, though I know you don’t really read horror. Great post, Abi! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, I’m so glad you liked it! I don’t think I saw your alpaca visit (which post was it? I’ll have a look!) but they really are so soft!!

      Yeah, I was slightly worried about that before I signed up but they do ask for your Goodreads so they don’t suggest any duplicates. Yeah, I’m excited for them too! I found Thorn and Thunder on Scribd so I’ll probably try that one first. 😊

      Yeah, I get that. Looking at my TBR I probably (definitely) didn’t need any more recommendations, but I just wanted to find a few books that fit really specific criteria so I thought this could help. And it definitely delivered on those super specific requests!

      Okay, I haven’t read it myself but for diverse horror I’m going to say The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling. It’s a claustraphobic psychological horror with an f/f relationship! For diverse fantasy I’d say Priory of the Orange Tree is my favourite that I’ve read. I’m not too good with fantasy recs but I can definitely do serious sci-fi with diverse characters. If you’re interested in that try The First Sister, the Wayfarers series, or An Unkindness of Ghosts. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post, what a fun idea! My local bookshop offers a similar service and I’ve always wondered whether to give it a go. The Book Riot version does stand out for having bibliologists from groups traditionally marginalised in publishing so I’ll definitely take a look. It would make a wonderful gift for someone bookish! 📚❤️ X x x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahhhhh Abi this was so interesting I didn’t know people had services like this (well I knew about getting actual physical books) but this is pretty cool because you can chose whether you want to read them instead of just being lumped with books 😂
    Sorry for being gone so long & love the alpacas 🥺💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was the first time I’d heard of one quite like this where the recommendations are personal to you. I had a lot of fun trying it, and I totally agree about not being saddled with books you might not want 😂

      Glad you’re back, I hope you’re doing good! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oohh this is so interesting to read! I always hear ads for this service in bookriot podcasts and wondered how well it works, so I’m glad to hear that it seemed to work well for you. I hadn’t even heard of Unconquerable Sun or The Way of Thorn and Thunder before this. I’m always happy to find new adult SFF recs too, so maybe I’ll have to check those out!

    I think I agree that this wouldn’t be necessary for me, since I’m surrounded by books in most aspects of my life and I can find book recommendations pretty easily, but I can definitely see how this could be useful for someone who has super specific tastes or struggles to find books they enjoy. And I love that they have such diverse recommendations!

    Also, “bibliologist” is the coolest title I’ve ever heard. Should this be my new career aspiration??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, as soon as I heard of it my curiosity took over. I definitely didn’t need more books to read but I just couldn’t resist finding out what they would recommend me! Glad you find some new titles from this. I’ll be doing a follow up post reviewing the books once I’ve read them so I’ll let you know what I think!

      Yeah, I probably wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you’re looking for something specific. There wouldn’t be much point getting such tailored recs on a random prompt, and you have to fill out lots of questions about what exactly you’re looking for.

      It’s SUCH a cool title and you should definitely pursue that bibliologist lifestyle 😆

      Like

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