RogerBW's Blog

Decision fatigue and reading order 04 June 2020

I noticed recently that I've got a lot of incomplete series on my reading list, and decided to do something about that.

Because I'm me, this consisted of writing a recommendation algorithm. It's a very simple one: the priority of the next book in a series equals the number of days since I read the last one (in most cases, based on the date I posted a review of it, since I don't keep that detailed a list), divided by the number of books left in the series. So if there are lots of books to go, they are a lower priority than the series that I'm closer to finishing (because that's a way to reduce the total number of series I'm reading in parallel). It remains to be seen how well this will work; when a new series entry comes along, that series will drop down the priority list, which seems perverse.

I also have some very broad genre tags (so far "mimetic" for books set nominally in the real world, "fantasy" for everything from Graydon Saunders to Jeaniene Frost, and "SF"), mostly so that I can say "I've just read a fantasy book, so give me something next that isn't fantasy".

The feeling I get, though, is that the algorithm doesn't have to be perfect, or even particularly good; it just has to say "hey, look, here's a highest-priority item", and then instead of havering and ending up reading something short I have an actual specific recommendation. I don't have to follow it (I'm not making a game out of getting my series-finished numbers up or anything like that), but given a single title labelled "this is highest priority", so far I've been happy to take that as the next thing to read. Is this what decision fatigue feels like? Everything in the queue is something I plan to read eventually, and since I'm currently not working to a nomination or voting deadline the order in which I read them doesn't really matter.

This doesn't help with the books I've got queued up that aren't part of a series, or that are volume one of a series I haven't begun, but it's a starting point.


  1. Posted by Jon Hancock at 12:09pm on 04 June 2020

    My approach is more along the "pile books up on the desk or drop ebooks in a folder" line, otherwise I'd have to add "writing a recommendation algorithm" to the list of things I've yet to finish.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:57pm on 04 June 2020

    I tried that. That is how I ended up with 179 books on the Kobo. This is plan, er, I think we're up to about E by now.

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