Thursday, August 19, 2010

We've all been here ...

... and probably on both sides: When book recommendations go wrong. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


  1. "All of this raises a number of rather disquieting existential questions. Does this mean, when a fellow book lover gives you a book you hate, the person didn't really know you, or had an erroneous idea of you in their mind? Does it mean you don't really know yourself? Does it mean the self is fundamentally unknowable, at least through the contents of a bookshelf?"

    I love this article...

  2. I didn't love The Unbearable Lightness of Being, even though I too had been assured that I would. However, reading it did in turn lead me into reading both Ignorance and Slowness, two works which I did love. I refuse to commit myself to saying that anyone else would, however.

  3. None of the above.

    People recommend books that THEY love, hoping you might love them, too. It's not that they don't know you, although to be blunt there are lots of things we never know about each other till they crop up, it's that they are trying to share their pleasure.

    For myself, I always accept a book recommendation as a kindness, as something of genuinely good intent. AND I sometimes tell those who know me best the absolute truth, which is that the more people who recommend a book to me the less likely I am to hurry to go read it. Lots of folks get caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment, which has an element of ephemeral fashionability to it. And I prefer to wait past that time. Therefore I almost never read best-sellers while they're still on the best-seller list, or if that's the period of time in which friends keep recommending them. (And face it, many best-sellers are crap anyway.)

  4. P.S. When recommending a book I never say, "You'll love it!" or any of that over-the-top language, which for the most part is one of the reasons people get turned off.

    I only say, "I liked this book, you might as well." Make it clear that YOU liked the book, and that they MIGHT like the book. And make it clear that you won't take it personally if they don't.

    I think a lot of the trouble here is a kind of emotional blackmail, wherein people try to subtly coerce others into sharing the same opinions they share.