Think about all the barriers that we have to overcome every time we pick a new book to read. Is this the kind of book I usually like? Is it too heavy? Too light? Will it bore/scare/offend me?

Opening up reading choices

Think about all the barriers that we have to overcome every time we pick a new book to read. Is this the kind of book I usually like? Is it too heavy? Too light? Will it bore/scare/offend me? There are many psychological barriers which prevent readers from taking risks with their reading.

Readers tend to drift into comfort zones, always reading the same authors or the same genres and limiting their reading adventure by cutting off whole areas: 'I only read factual books,' 'I never read American books,' 'I hate science fiction.' In reality, of course, these readers would find something to please them if they allowed themselves to explore.

Often, even if we want to try something different, we don't know where to start. Or if we take a risk and it doesn't work out, we end up feeling like it's somehow our fault for making a bad choice.

One of the ways of avoiding this is by offering readers a surprise. What is a surprise? It can be charming, intriguing, unpleasant, boring, disappointing or a revelation. In any event, a surprise is something you can accept or reject – it is not a recommendation or a task.

If you can think about ways to offer surprises to readers, you can break down a lot of the barriers that stop us choosing one for ourselves. As promoters of reading we need to respect readers and their choices, but also to understand that we can intervene in readers' choices and encourage exploration.