One of the things which I am supposed to do is advise people on what to read. For me, it is easy to recommend science fiction and fantasy, as well as some novels and books on the alternative energy. I also take the time to sometimes read things I don't like. I am not a fan of urban fiction, yet I tried to read Eric Jerome Dickey (I didn't like it), and Omar Tyree (I liked it).
When I started at my first job in Brooklyn, one of my first jobs was to read and discuss a list of books with other librarians. This was a sample of the most popular books including the classics, trashy novels, true crime, romance, and mysteries. It was an enlightening experience. I did not like reading much of the material, but I did it anyways. I would have never read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote if it hadn't been a book I was told to read.
I also admit, because of this, I have read romance novels (Elizabeth Lowell is one of my favorite authors), Westerns ( Louis L'Amour is my favorite western writer), and a variety of genres which I would have never read.
One of the things I do all the time is watch what people are checking out. This is a way to not have to read everything. People tend to read a specific genre, even if I haven't read the books, after a while, I begin to recognize the popular titles in a genre. For example, in urban fiction, I recognize Zane, Noire, Relentless Aaron, Michael Baisden, Terri Woods, even if I haven't read any of them. People ask for the same style of books over and over again.
In a similar manner, I also look at the new books when they come in. It gives me an idea of what is available immediately for people to check out. I check every other day to see what is on the shelf. Occassionally, I will also look at the books which have just been returned for the same reason.
In addition to keep up with what people are reading, I look at the New York Times Bestseller List and the Publishers Weekly Bestseller list. This is important. A lot of people are constantly looking for the latest bestsellers. Sometimes, I can even preempt the bestseller list figuring out which books might appear on the bestseller lists.
Books are advertised everywhere. There are numerous advertisements on the subways and buses if you go on mass transit. I have even seen a few billboards on the highways with book titles.
Another tool which we keep for readers advisory are bookmarks and sheets recommending specific genres. We have bookmarks for art books, mysteries, reference books, business books, and urban fiction. We also a full page list of African American authors. This way we can give readers a standard selection of items to look at.
Each type of genre fiction also has a trade publication attached to it if you want to keep up with a specific type of book. Romantic Times is the trade magazine for romance books, Locus Magazine is the trade magazine for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Also some ethnic or racially oriented magazines have bestseller lists. There is an Ebony bestseller list for African American books.
In addition, some publishers have imprints which are quite popular. There are the BET black romances, Arabesque Romances, Harlequin Romances, and The Hardcase Crime Series. Being aware of which imprints a person likes makes it much easier to find books. Usually there is a small symbol attached to the publishers imprint. Baens symbol is a rocket ship on the spine with the word Baen across the rocketship.
Also some publishers focus on a specific subject. For example, if I want a good travel series, I might look at Lonely Planet, or Frommers. If I wanted military science fiction, I would probably look at Baen Books.
In addition to imprints there are series which people will read, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Star Trek, Nancy Drew, R.L. Stine is practically his own imprint, Goosebumps, and others. The latest series which looks like it will be popular is the CSI (Crime Science Investigation) television series has come out with a series of paperbacks.
Paying attention to what people want to read is a decent part of my job and any librarians job. A few inexpensive trade paperbacks which include short annotated recommendations for genre fiction are The 100 Best Graphic Novels, Horror: Another 100 Best Books, Science Fiction The 100 Best Novels, Fantasy The 100 Best Novels, and The Crown Crime Companion, The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time. They may not be the most recent books, but they should contain at least a few book recommendations worth reading.