How teens choose books
24 апреля 2018 2098 Читать на русском

How do teens end up choosing one book over another? For their parents’ generation, the options were clear—and limited: pick a book from the (often small) collection at home, trade with friends, or head to the library. People hunted after good books and friends lent each other books for one night only—books that were sometimes just blurry photocopies. Now everything has changed; many more books are published, the Internet offers up most of the world’s literature, and book review and recommendation sites abound. So how do today’s teens choose their books?

To find out, Papmambook asked our “Book Expert of the XXI Century” contest winners.

Aleksei Antonov

Aleksei Antonov, 14, Novocheboksarsk 
Winner, First round, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2014)

I have my own mini-library at home. There are several ways books end up there. Adults might suggest a book. I’ll check it out and if it draws me in, I read it. I don’t like reading from a computer screen but I don’t mind looking for a book online, reading reviews. Sometimes, you get tired of reading what you have at home and can’t come up with an interesting book to start next. In that case, I just punch “What to read” into the search engine and find something. But I get the book itself at the library or a store.

If I do discuss my reading, it’s only with my classmates and only when we’ve been assigned to read it in school. Never my leisure reading. If I really like a book, I’ll tell others about it, and then, well, it’s on them to read it.

Georgy Shandarchuk

Georgy Shandarchuk, 11, St. Petersburg
Winner, First round, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2014)

That moment when you encounter a new book is always the most interesting. It usually goes like this: I walk into a library—maybe I’ll even close my eyes—go along the book displays and touch the books—and suddenly I know: I have to read this book. Sometimes my intuition doesn’t work for some reason. Then I ask a librarian, or my literature teacher or my dad. Asking kids my age for advice doesn’t work, because many of them don’t read at all and those who do don’t read what I like. Our home library is small for now and though the books are truly interesting, there aren’t enough of them for me. That’s why we bought an e-reader, which I use a lot. Mom also often reads aloud to me, usually about the history of St. Petersburg.

Dmitriy Ivanov

Dmitriy Ivanov, 14, St. Petersburg
Winner, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2014)

I don’t often ask my friends for reading recommendations. Literature teachers might suggest something, but usually I choose books myself. At home, we have plenty of books on all different subjects, and the collected works of many authors. Overall, I’m happy with our home library. Sometimes, I take a book because I read the blurb and I liked it. Sometimes, I find books randomly. At the bookstore and the library, I also choose books on my own. If I ask my parents to get me a particular book, they buy it.


Ida Bashkatova

Ida Bashkatova, 14, Kaliningrad
Winner, First round, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2014)

My grandparents live in a village in the countryside. My grandpa has a huge library, lots and lots of bookshelves in every room. I stay there and it’s like another world where I discover books and authors for myself—those that interest me or have intriguing titles. Grandpa started building up the library when he was younger, when he first started his studies. Then my dad continued the tradition. Now I add my own books to it. All my relatives, young and old, collect books—for us, “book” is a sacred word. For the whole family, time spent reading is well spent. 

Sometimes I discuss books with my peers, but it’s usually those we’ve been assigned. Kids my age don’t read much.

I am also a patron at many libraries. I visit them to see what kind of books they have where, so I know which libraries have more or less material on a particular subject.


Maria Dizhur

Maria Dizhur, 14, St. Peterburg
Winner, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2014)

At bookstores, I’m often drawn to a pretty cover. Since I study design, I’m interested in the book’s layout, in the intentions of the illustrator. If I buy a book at the store, it’s because it has an unusual format or illustrations, or a special font. I can always get the text on my e-reader, that’s not an issue. 

Plus, my mom’s a librarian. There are also a few people in my class that I enjoy discussing books with. I often read reviews online, and I write them myself as well.


Anya Lenskaya

Anya Lenskaya, 14, Moscow
Winner, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2013)

There are three ways I might choose a book. The first is by the name of the publishing house, if it’s one I’m familiar with. The main ones for me are “Samokat,” “Pink Giraffe,” and “KompasGuide.” I go to the bookstore, preferably a large one, look for the shelves with books from those publishing houses, and choose what I find interesting.

The second way is reading books from the school curriculum, that’s not going anywhere. We often get a reading list in school and we have to choose one or two books. All the books on the list are usually on one subject, or by one author, or from one time period. Then we have an interesting discussion in class.

The third way I choose books is by following recommendations from Mom or adults I know. I don’t usually discuss books with people my age—instead I tell them about what I’ve read. People often approach me and ask me to tell them the plot of a particular book. Our home library takes up an entire room. I think it has the books of several generations. If I need a book for school, I’m 99% sure we have it at home.



Matvey Bernshtein, 14, Moscow
Winner,“Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2014)

My reading often depends on my parents’ choice. I’m always curious to know which books they read at my age, which books were significant for them, and I read them myself. But I don’t always have the same impressions. Then there are books I choose myself. I try to choose books by authors who write in a particular style or who write about what interests me, or whom I just like generally. Sometimes I find books randomly—I just take what I see. Usually it’s the title that catches my eye. If I see something unfamiliar in the title, the book draws my attention. 

We have a home library for the whole family that my parents started and I add books to it, too. There are several people in my class that I read and discuss books with. 

I do go to the library. Once, the librarian recommended some good books, but usually I choose for myself.


Alexandra Dvoretskaya

Alexandra Dvoretskaya, 10, Yaroslavl
Winner, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2013)

Usually, I get book recommendations not at school but at a club I go to in the local arts center. We organize games, theatre productions, and lots of other interesting activities. The kids there are older than in my class and they recommend books that are worth reading. I once did a survey on what my classmates read. There were a few people who read good books, like Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland. But many didn’t read anything beyond the school curriculum or they still read books that they are probably too old for.

I also get fiction recommendations at the library. Librarians spend their entire lives in the land of books and know it well. Finally, if I like the book of a particular author, I want to read the rest of their books as well. 


Ksenia Polkovnikova

Ksenia Polkovnikova, 13, Kameshkovo
Winner, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” (2013)

I choose books by genre, usually. My favorite genres are fantasy classics and science fiction. I also pay attention to the author. If I already know his works, I take the new book without reservations. Sometimes a cover might draw my attention. I’m not usually mistaken in my choices. I’ve never ended up with a bad book. Maybe they don’t want to end up with me either.

Generally, I discover books for myself. For some reason, people’s recommendations don’t work on me. Both friends and adults give me advice on what to read but I rarely follow it. For example, I recently discovered George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, after reading an essay on it by another girl on the Papmambook website. The essay really struck me and I took it as an important, friendly piece of advice. And the book really did captivate me.

Translated from the Russian by Alisa Cherkasova
Originally published in 2014

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