NPR books

NPR’s Book Concierge

What is this thing?

The Book Concierge is NPR’s annual, interactive, year-end reading guide. Mix and match tags such as Book Club Ideas, Biography & Memoir, or Ladies First to filter results and find the book that’s perfect for you or someone you love.

How are the books selected?

Each fall, we reach out to our staffers and trusted critics and ask them to nominate their favorite books of the year. They respond with hundreds of titles. Then, the editors and producers at NPR Books sit down with a huge spreadsheet of responses; we select our favorites, resolve duplications, note omissions and consider the overall mix and balance of books recommended.

Why isn’t this just a list?

Back in 2013 the NPR Books staff was suffering from an acute case of list fatigue. So we teamed up with our friends at NPR Visuals, and started to think about a site that would be more Venn diagram-y than list-y — a site that could help you seek out the best biographies that were also love stories, or the best mysteries that were also set in the past. We wholeheartedly believe that human beings are capable of absorbing new information in formats that are 1) not sequentially ordered and 2) wait … dammit! and 3) never mind.

But no, really, I just want to see a list of books

We got you. To view these books as a list of titles rather than an array of covers, you are welcome to select the “List” option in the upper right-hand corner of the site.

So what’s the deal with these tags?

At NPR Books we’re all about discovery: Helping you find your next great read — the mystery you can’t put down, the memoir you recommend to all your friends. In 2013 we hashed out a basic taxonomy that was both functional (i.e., Biography & Memoir or Kids’ Books) and fun (i.e., It’s All Geek To Me and Let’s Talk About Sex). Over the years we’ve refined our filters and added new tags — The States We’re In and No Biz Like Show Biz are recent newcomers.

The names are cute, but what do they mean?

The States We’re In is for stories of the American experience both true and fictional. It’s All Geek To Me is for deep dives on particular topics — trees, personality tests, tiny houses, you name it. In The Dark Side you’ll find dystopias, serial killers, true crime and people behaving badly in general. Eye-Opening Reads will give you a new perspective on the topic at hand, whether it’s the state of philanthropy or a new pair of shoes.

How do the books get tagged?

Our critics and staffers make suggestions, but to ensure we are applying tags consistently, the producers and editors at NPR Books consider and discuss every tag on every book.

That must take a very long time

YUP.

Can I look under the hood?

If you want to know more about how the Concierge was designed and coded, you can read about the process here. And if you’re curious to see the code and adapt it for your own project, you can check it out here.

If I click on the links and purchase one of the books, does that purchase help NPR?

Yes. And you can read more about how that works here.

Thanks for visiting the Book Concierge — we hope you find something wonderful to read today!

Beth Novey, Petra Mayer, Rose Friedman and Ellen Silva, NPR Books

Project Credits

This edition of Book Concierge was published on Dec. 3, 2019.

Previous editions of Book Concierge: Annette Elizabeth Allen, Jeremy Bowers, Nicole Cohen, Danny DeBelius, Camila Domonoske, David Eads, Juan Elosua, Rose Friedman, Alice Goldfarb, Christopher Groskopf, Geoff Hing, Clinton King, Becky Lettenberger, Wes Lindamood, Petra Mayer, Beth Novey, Katie Park, Christina Rees, Shelly Tan, Glen Weldon, Matthew Zhang

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