If you're feeling bereft having finished your book, it can be hard to know where to turn for advice on your next read. If your friends and family members are anything like mine, they'll be keen to foist books on you that you must read - but it can be embarrassing to admit you hated the book that changed their life (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho springs to mind), and aggrieving to realise how much valuable reading time you've lost wading through dross. Going it alone and simply stacking your trolley with whatever books are on Tesco's 3 for 2 offer tends to yield similarly unsatisfying results. Here are a few suggestions for places to try for recommendations that will hit your literary spot.
1. Online tools There are a number of online tools for generating book recommendations. They generally don't have a huge pool of books to draw from, and are quite limited in scope. Whichbook has a number of categories that allow you to set your reading preferences on certain scales: e.g. 'Happy' - 'Sad'. It's a bit simplistic, but its kind of fun to play with: I experimented with setting the preferences to maximise both 'Disgusting' and 'Lots of sex', and it yielded Filth - Irvine Welsh, and American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis, so I suppose it works after a fashion.
2. Book blogs These days the Internet is awash with book geeks blogging about their latest reads. Some are eclectic, based on an individual's reading patterns, others are genre-specific. There are so many that it should be relatively easy to find kindred spirits, particularly if you're into genre fiction.
3. Book reviews in the papers It sounds obvious, but reviews in the press can be a reliable source of recommendations. The best way to use papers is to find a publication or reviewer whose opinions you respect and check it regularly to see what's getting hyped. Lots of review sections have twitter accounts (try @GuardianBooks) so you can get regular recommendations this way.
4. Major book awards For example The Costa Book awards, The Man Booker Prize, The Nobel prize for Literature. This can be good for picking up brilliant established authors. However, it's best not to get too obsessive with this one - I had a friend who decided to work his way backwards chronologically reading a work by the Nobel prize-winner from each year. I'm not sure how far he got, but the prospect of ploughing through the lectures on Swedish medieval farming history by Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam (Nobel Prize winner 1916) would be enough to send me running back to Richard and Judy's book club.
5. Amazon.com recommendations Generally I find online store recommendations annoying, but if you do buy lots of books this way then they can be useful once they've been tweaked a bit. They are best for telling you the certain books that 'everyone' has read, and getting said book into your hands quicksharp - if you're still cringing at the memory of being the only one at your book club meeting who hadn't read Life of Pi.
6. Literary festivals and events To take your bookwormery to the next level, check out festivals and events showcasing upcoming and established authors' work. Besides the big literary festivals Hay, Cheltenham and Edinburgh, there are numerous one-off events at bookshops that are sometimes free, and it's fun to hear people read their work.
7. Local independent bookshops In my opinion there's no substitute for heading to your local indie bookshop for a browse. Unlike in Tesco's, the staff will be real enthusiasts and more than happy to help you out with some recommendations.
For your next read, you might like to try Honest Publishing, for fiction and non-fiction by unique writers neglected by the mainstream.